After two years of little to no travel, even the most seasoned road warriors may feel a little rusty. This holiday season, add a few items to your wish list that will enhance your future travel experiences. Or, if Santa is being a little Scroogey, take yourself on a shopping trip and stock up on new travel gear and gadgets that will make your 2022 trips smoother in some way. Here are a few ideas.
Up, Up and Away
Packing light not your thing? Well, it might be a good time to learn. Upheavals in air travel are likely to continue as staffing runs short and airlines offer fewer flights. In a November interview, Washington Post travel reporter Natalie Compton shared her “big tip” for future air travel. “If you can,” she said, “don’t check a bag.” A high-quality, lightweight (4-to-5-pound) roll-aboard bag that is as large as possible but still qualifies as a carry-on might become your best friend, especially as you maximize its limited space with compression bags, packing cubes and other handy packing tools like Matador FlatPak toiletry bottles. TSA approved, they’re not bottles at all, but waterproof pouches topped with a clever loop to hang in the shower. The company claims FlatPaks are five times lighter and take up three times less space than traditional TSA-approved toiletry bottles.
On the Road Again
If your conferences are staying closer to home base, you’ll be traveling more by car. To gear up for those road trips, consider installing a smartphone mount. It’s a critical safety feature, especially if you are driving to unfamiliar locales without a copilot. Sturdy holders that attach to the dash or hook into an air vent cost around $25 and hold a smartphone steady with a magnetic strip or tension arms. Spend another $20 and get a model that will charge the phone wirelessly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that when a smartphone is mounted at dash level, operating it is more like controlling a car radio and is definitely safer than holding it in your hand and glancing at the screen. For times when cell service evaporates or the GPS seems confused, a road atlas is a fine backup plan. Rand McNally seems to rule the road in this category with several versions, including a large-scale atlas with maps that are 35% larger.
Reaching an Accord With Cords
If your work bag or satchel looks like a scene from “Snakes on a Plane,” it might be time to corral your cords and other tech gear. Ask Santa to drop some Bobino cord wraps in your stocking. These simple rubber devices — they look like a modified figure 8 — come in varied sizes so that cords of varied sizes can be wrapped around them. Costing less than $5, they are a cheap, simple solution to technology tangles. For a more comprehensive solution, invest in a cable organizer, the equivalent of a Dopp kit for chargers, power cords, flash drives, ear buds and other small tech equipment. And, while you are getting organized, get a holder for your vaccination card. There are many styles, some with a focus on fashion and style and others that put practicality first with built-in key rings and lanyards. For international travelers, many passport holders now include a slot for vaccination cards.
Be Prepared, Be Practical
Key chains are good anchors for handy gadgets. Need to open a box or cut a tough price tag off a new shirt? You’ll be glad you bought one of the mini-multitools. Packed with small but effective scissors, clippers, tweezers, screwdrivers and other tools, many versions are OK’d by TSA.
Out at night in the city walking home from a group dinner on a dark street, you’ll be thankful for the powerful but tiny LED flashlight and the whistle attached to your keychain. Nothing gets attention like an ear-piercing whistle blast; it will bring help and might even send an attacker running. REI and other outfitters sell plastic versions that hikers use when they get lost, or you can order a nice metal one from the American Whistle Corp. in Columbus, Ohio, the only U.S. maker of metal whistles.
Don’t Forget To Pack Some Fun
Travel can be a challenge, but it shouldn’t feel like a chore, so pack a few things to keep it fun. A reusable shopping bag that is strong and fits into its own golf ball-size pouch is perfect for stops at a farmers market or a bakery. Baggu and Chico are great brands — I carry a purple Chico bag that’s still perfect 10 years after I bought it at Powell’s Books on a business trip to Portland, Oregon. Compression socks keep your veins happy on long flights, and their colorful designs — polka dots, penguins, tie-dye, stripes, sunflowers, leopard spots — bring smiles. Speaking of colorful fun, Fujifilm’s line of instant cameras, the modern take on what used to be called Polaroids, come in lilac, baby blue and other Easter egg shades. Polaroid and Kodak also make these instant cameras, which sell for around $50 and let you come home from a trip with photos in hand to stick on your desk or share with friends and family.