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After five years on the road we’ve developed a list of items that will make perfect travel gift for the voyager in your life (or even yourself!). All of them are products we use ourselves, so we can attest that they do the job. They’re things that are practical, but still fun for travelers. (For most items, follow the links or click on the photos to purchase them on Amazon.)
1: The Perfect Travel Purse (for gals)
I like not having to worry about my purse while traveling through crowded cities and busy airports. My CitySafe CS100 bag by PacSafe is simple and elegant without being flashy, and is loaded with all sorts of nifty anti-theft features to foil would-be purse snatchers.
2: The Perfect Travel Pants (for guys)
Michael refuses to carry a purse, but loves his Clothing Arts Picket-Pocket Proof Travel Pants. They make him feel comfortable in crowds when wandering hands can filch a wallet. They have so many hidden pockets he’s still finding them. Now if he can only find where he put the car keys.
3: The Perfect Travel Fabric: Merino Wool
We recently discovered travel clothes are lightweight wool-based. They take up minimal room in our luggage and are perfect for layering when the weather turns chilly. Our favorites are long-sleeve wool t-shirts made by Icebreaker of pure non-itchy New Zealand merino wool. We’ve never seen a sheep shiver, and neither will you. Darn Tough socks, knitted in Vermont by a family-owned company, come in a wonderful kaleidoscope of colors. Not only are they cozy in any weather; they carry a lifetime money back guarantee. Best of all, because wool is lightweight and breathable you can wear these items in warmer climes as well.
4: The Perfect Travel Case(s) for Smartphones
Do NOT go on a trip without a protective case for your smartphone; and make sure it’s shock-proof. Smartphones are terrific as compact cameras, but without handles or straps they can get jostled and dropped easily, cracking the screen and rendering them useless until repaired or replaced. I learned this the hard way on a trip in the Caribbean, when my phone slipped off a chair and my pretty (but ineffective) cover failed to do the job. Now I use a Thule case, which is shock-proof from a drop up to 6 feet; Speck and Otterbox also make reputable models.
5: The Perfect Travel Guide for Vintage Car Lovers
If you know someone who loves vintage cars, or road trips (or both), Michael’s new book: Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions is the perfect gift. It covers over 225 museums and quirky car-themed attractions all over the US. As the patient wife who spent 2 years criss-crossing the country while Michael did his research, I can attest to the thorough coverage and the nifty treasures he unearthed in the process.
6: The Perfect Travel Suitcase
As full-time travelers who literally live out of their suitcases, we know a good bag when we find it. After an exhaustive search, we each selected the Travelpro Maxlite 21″ Spinner as our go-to luggage. It’s light, durable, fits a ton of stuff in a small space and has 4 wheels so we can practically push it along with two fingers. Check out my full review here if you want to know more.
Tired of hauling a heavy shoulder bag through the airport? We were, so we found the perfect rolling tote by Delsey. It’s small enough to fit under airplane seats, with quilting that offers some padding to protect our computers. Unlike typical computer bags, it has a large open compartment to house a slew of other stuff, making it an excellent carry-on bag–or a weekender on it’s own. Click here for my complete review.
8: The Perfect Travel Camera
Travelers looking to up their photography game beyond using a smartphone–without adding a lot of bulk–will love the Canon SL1 DSLR. We chose it because it’s billed as “the world’s smallest and lightest digital SLR camera” and gets great reviews from the pros. It offers the features of bigger models, but also has a slew of automated settings. (So now we can take fancy shots without actually knowing a whole lot about photography.) We travel with the standard 18-55mm lens, which covers most of our needs, keeping our photo equipment light and portable.
9: The Perfect Travel Camera Case
Most camera bags are chunky and bulky, screaming “expensive camera equipment within.” Not so the Passport Sling by Lowepro: it looks like a large cross-body shoulder bag and is shaped to rest comfortably against your hip. The bag’s removable protective inserts allow you to stow as much (or as little) photo equipment as you need. And it even comes in a range of nifty colors if you want something beyond “basic black.” But what I really love is the clever expansion zipper: it gives me room to stow my purse when flying, which keeps me under the 2-carry-on-bag-limit.
10: The Perfect Travel Shoes (for Gals)
I love shoes that multi-task since I keep my packing to a minimum. So I was thrilled to discover the Keen Sage Slip-on, which covers all my “active” needs while traveling. This lightweight shoe has bouncy sole that works for light hiking and city walking; the waterproof mesh upper makes it suitable for water sports as well. With stretchy fabric and elastic laces, this shoe is also comfy for wearing on long flights.
In the shameless self-promotion department, we recommend our first book. Philadelphia Liberty Trail: Trace the Path of America’s Heritage takes a revolutionary approach to our home town’s historic district. It provides 5 distinct walking tours that take you to both well-known and un-sung spots, revealing many surprises about the founding of America at more than 75 unique sights. It also won a 2015 Book-of-the-Year award from the Society of American Travel Writers.
12 & 13: The Perfect Travel Food Guides
Overseas we travel extremely light. But we when are driving on US road trips, and have a trunk we can store stuff in instead of just our suitcases, we bring along two indispensable food guides. Roadfood by Jane and Michael Stern and How to Grill by Steven Raichlen. Roadfood provides tips about regional foods and hidden spots that make tasty travel more memorable. Because we usually rent places for a month or more, and Michael always travels with BBQ tongs, a grill is often available at our rental apartments. How to Grill is the best guide we’ve ever seen to creating perfect barbecue and also learning about regional types of barbecue across America. The sauce splattered pages attest to its extreme use.
We’re often asked how we decide where to go next. Here’s our favorite book for learning about travel destinations. 100 Countries, 5,000 Ideas: Where to Go, When to Go, What to See, What to Do, by the good folks at National Geographic, provides succinct yet evocative descriptions of many potential travel spots. It’s fun to read and dream about your next journey.
Bonus Pick: The Perfect Travel Tip
The best trip–whether it’s around the world or around the corner–is the next one you take. Just go already! And best wishes for happy travels in 2017. 😊 🌍