It’s always a challenge to find good gifts for travelers. Those unique travel gifts–the ones that are really useful, or evocative of a journey, or just plain fun—can be tricky to get just right. Even though we’re nomads ourselves with few belongings, we still get excited about the perfect accessory, great luggage, or even a good book to spark our wanderlust.

So whether you’re looking for gifts ideas for someone going traveling, an armchair aficionado, or even yourself, read on. Inspiration is just ahead.

Note: If you’re interested in a gift that you see suggested here, please consider using the links we’ve provided below. We participate in the Amazon Affiliates program, where we make a small commission from these sales, at no extra cost to you. It’s one of the ways we keep things humming here at Changes In Longitude, while providing free travel advice to our readers. Thanks!

Unique Travel Gifts

Gifts for Photographers (under $50)

Scarf Camera Strap:

Scarf camera strapWe gals love to accessorize, and our camera is no exception. I was thrilled to discover this scarf camera strap this year, which is a fabulous combination of function and style! Not only is the scarf pretty (and oh, so chic!), it’s also softer around your neck than a strap. As an added bonus, there’s a good-sized hidden pocket inside, which is perfect for carrying a few extra doo dads, like your phone or passport or lipstick. I also love that it comes in over a dozen fabric designs, so you can choose one to suit your personal style! Available on Amazon:  Scarf Camera Strap

Versatile & Stylish Camera Bag

Stylish Camera BagMost 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 comes in “basic black” as well as the “outback” shades pictured here. 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. Available at Amazon: LowePro Sling Camera Bag

Best Travel Gifts for Him

Underseat Rolling Luggage:

A few years ago we discovered the joys of rolling totes. They’re the perfect carry-on–large enough to carry chunky items, yet small enough to fit under the seat of most aircraft. (Which means that no matter how full the flight is, you won’t have to check it.) Until recently, most of the totes available were of the “girly” variety (such as my Delsey tote). But Michael started using this Eagle Creek Wheeled Tote this past year, and loves it’s versatility (and its “manliness”), coupled with the legendary Eagle Creek ruggedness. Purchase on Amazon: Eagle Creek Rolling Tote

Versatile Men’s Travel Shoes

best travel shoes for menWhen you travel with minimal luggage (like we do) you need shoes that multi-task. Michael likes these loafers from Olukai. The nubuck leather is super-comfy, comes in a selection of (manly) shades and works well to jazz up an outfit. Best of all, the nifty fold-down heel converts them to a slipper or casual shoe in no time (which also makes them great for packing!). Get them on Amazon: Olukai Men’s Loafers

Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums 

Roadster Guide to America's Classic Car Museums(We couldn’t leave this one out!). Perfect for the gear head or classic car buff in your life, this book is the most comprehensive collection of car museums around. Including all sorts of quirky auto-related attractions such as the wacky Carhenge in Nebraska (yes, it is a Stonehenge replica made out of old cars!), the 2nd edition of this informative guide contains more than 300 museums and attractions. Perfect for your next road trip! Full disclosure: I know the author personally & he’s a good guy 😉. Available on Amazon: Roadster Guide.

Travel Gifts for Her

Lightweight Rain Jacket for Travel:women's travel raincoat

A raincoat is an indispensable travel accessory for me. I like one that looks good for city travel, yet is still functional enough for “light outdoorsy” activity. This one comes in a bunch of great colors, two different lengths, has a detachable hood, and an adjustable drawstring waist (perfect for layering). It’s reasonably priced, too! Available at Amazon:  Lightweight Raincoat

The Best Flip Flops EVER:

best travel shoes for womenFlip flops are incredibly versatile for travel. What makes the Fit Flops brand so special is the combination of comfort and durability–they seem to last forever. I have literally walked miles in these shoes for days on end. A slightly dressy pair is perfect for strolling through a European capital, scampering on the beach, or even as slippers in your hotel room. They weigh almost nothing, and fit easily into your suitcase. And they come in a TON of cute styles and colors, too! Available at Amazon: Women’s Fit Flops

Fun Travel Gifts

Framed Scratch-off World Travel Map

World travel mapTravelers love to keep track of where they’ve been, and what better way than this world map, where you scratch off destinations as you visit? We like this one because it includes US states as well as all the countries of the world. Once scratched-off, the map reveals cool local icons, such as the Eiffel Tower in France. Plus it’s already framed, so you can just pop up on the wall and scratch away! Purchase on Amazon: Framed Scratch-off World Map

Atlas Obscura: The World’s Quirkiest Travel Booktravel book, world travel guide

If you really want to get off the beaten path, this is the book for you. Jam-packed with sights all over the world that are quirky, curious or just downright odd (such as Carhenge in Nebraska), Atlas Obscura will have you pining to hit the road for all sorts of parts unknown or unexplained. They’ve also just released a kid’s version, perfect for fostering curious would-be explorers! Available from Amazon: Atlas Obscura & Atlas Obscura for Kids

World Countries & Constellation Globe:

World travel map and constellation globeAnyone who loves to travel needs a globe. We can never resist spinning one to see where we might land next! This one is especially cool: it shows the countries of the world by day, and then lights up at night to reveal the constellations above. This is a terrific way to get kids interested in the world around us as well as the skies above. (But let’s not forget the kids-at-heart: I would SO love to have this in my suitcase!) Available from Amazon:  Illuminated Constellation Globe

Ultimate Journeys for Two

A National Geographic guide written by the World’s Longest Honeymooners (aka our friends Mike & Anne of the blog HoneyTrek), Ultimate Journeys for Two is the best gift for couples seeking some adventure! Taking inspiration from their six-year journey across the seven continents, they’ve compiled their absolute favorite 75 destinations and savviest tips for couples adventure travel. With gorgeous photos, this book is inspiring, helpful, and FUN! Grab it on Amazon or have it personalized by the authors.

Luggage Gifts

Best Travel Suitcase: Our Fave LuggageBest suitcase for travel; best luggage gifts

For the past few years we’ve been singing the praises of the Travelpro Maxlite Series. (See our in-depth review here.) We love the 21″ spinner; it holds an incredible amount of stuff (and even has an expansion panel), is easy to maneuver, super-sturdy and ultra-lightweight. (Although it does come in larger sizes if you absolutely MUST pack that extra pair of shoes!) The newest version has managed to shave off another 1/2 pound! Available on Amazon: Traveler Maxlite 5 Luggage

Worldly (& Wacky) Luggage Tags

Luggage tags make fun travel gifts are a great way to differentiate your bags from all of the others on the baggage carousel. For that retro “grand tour” feel, check out the collection of tags that look like vintage travel posters from Pacifica Island. If something whimsical is more your style, how about Star Wars’ BB8 and R2D2 (or a whole slew of other comic book heroes)? Either way, your bags will stand out in a crowd! Find them on Amazon:      Star Wars Luggage Tags & Vintage Travel Poster Luggage Tags

Whatever your destination(s) for the coming year, may the Force be with you, & happy travels!😊🌎

If you liked our list (or want to send some not-so subtle hints), please share this post. Here’s a ready-made pin for Pinterest:Unique Travel Gifts, #funtravelgifts, #scarfcamerastrap, #uniquetravelgifts, #travelgiftsforher, #besttravelgiftsforhim, #giftsforphotographersunder50, #giftsforsomeonegoingtravelling

Larissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

After 5 years of full-time travel, it was time for a suitcase upgrade. After an exhaustive search with specific criteria, we both chose the same model (which is a first!). Following is our Travelpro Maxlite Spinner review.

Because we are permanent nomads, reliable suitcases are a requirement for us. Continuous transit from place to place warrants luggage that is both durable and easy to maneuver. For the past five years we’ve each traveled with a 2-wheeled 22-inch suitcase. They’ve been great, and are still perfectly functional, but pulling  them along was starting to wear on our middle-aged shoulders.

Michael’s old suitcase was a Travelpro, so upgrading to the same brand was a logical transition for him. I had been using a suitcase by Eagle Creek, and wanted to look at this brand as well as a few others before making a final decision. But, regardless of brand, we went through a pretty thorough analysis before making a decision. After all, suitcases are a vital component of our lifestyle.

Travelpro Maxlite Spinner review: 

The logical choice of suitcase style was 4-wheeled suitcases, also known as “spinners.” Spinners allow you glide the bags along on all four wheels, requiring less effort than the “tilt and pull” motion used with 2-wheeled models. Although spinners have been around for some time, when we last purchased luggage five years ago they were new and still not sturdy. Back then the specialty luggage shops we consulted didn’t recommend spinners for frequent travelers.

The technology has advanced quite a bit in the past few years, so we had plenty of spinner options this time around. But we still wanted the durability and features of our tried-and-true 2-wheelers. Regardless of brand, we knew there were several must-have features, so we created a list of specific criteria for our new suitcases:

  • 21-or 22-inch size: We wanted something small enough to fit into overhead bins on most aircraft, yet large enough to handle the rigors of the baggage carousel if we checked our bags.
  • Ultra lightweight: Even wheeled suitcases have to be lifted now and then. There’s no sense starting with a heavy suitcase, then adding more weight to it upon packing.
  • A sheltered wheel well: Many spinner suitcases have wheels attached directly to the bottom of the suitcase “box.” This works fine, however it makes the height of the bag taller, sacrificing storage space, since the body of the suitcase is elevated a few inches off the ground. Dimensions are critical for carry-ons, where every millimeter counts; you don’t want empty wheel clearance counting toward your space requirements. Well-designed spinners have the wheels counter-sunk into the main body of the case, making them lower to the ground. It keeps the outer dimensions smaller while preserving interior storage space, and also provides some protection to the wheels.

TravelPro Maxlite Spinner, counter-sunk wheels, Changes in LongitudeThis bag has more storage space than other suitcases of similar exterior dimension, thanks to counter-sinking the wheels into the body of the bag. 

  • “Convertible” wheels: Spinners glide easily along flat surfaces, but on bumpy surfaces (like cobblestoned streets) it’s still necessary to pull them along like two-wheeled suitcases. Rickety spinners don’t make this transition well and the result is dragging a reluctant suitcase that behaves like a rusty shopping cart, with wheels twisting awkwardly. Well-crafted spinners swivel into 2-wheeled mode with ease.

Well-designed spinners make a smooth transition from 4-wheel to 2-wheel mode, for traveling on bumpy surfaces.

  • Outside front pocket: This comes in handy for stowing items we want easy access to when passing through security, such as liquids or a tablet computer.
  • Soft-sided, with sturdy rip-stop fabric: Soft-sided luggage has a bit more “give” than hard-shell cases, which allows us to squeeze in that extra shirt or (in Michael’s case) dress. Hard-shell cases also don’t come with outside pockets (see above). Rip-stop fabric resists accidental tears and stains. If it does get torn or punctured, rip-stop will prevent the tear from blooming into a huge slash across your suitcase.
  • Large open interior compartment: We’ve learned from experience that this provides the greatest packing versatility, allowing us to fit more inside than bags divided into multiple “organizer” compartments.
  • Deep suitcase with a shallow lid: We find it easier to pack more into a deeper suitcase box. This configuration is also best suited to hotel luggage racks, where you can place the open suitcase with the lid up against the wall. “Half and half” suitcases, which basically split in the middle when opened, don’t work on a luggage rack. They must be splayed out on the floor, taking up valuable hotel room real estate.

Travelpro Maxlite Spinner Review interiorA large, open interior with a shallow interior lid pocket is the packing configuration we find the most versatile and efficient.

  • Durable telescoping handle, with dual posts: Telescoping handles have multiple stop points, making them sturdier than the slender tube handle with a single stop point found on cheap suitcases. Adjusting the handle height can also make the bag more easy to maneuver when switching from 2- to 4-wheeled mode. We don’t like bags that have a single-post handle, even if it does telescope  (surprisingly a feature on several good brands). It’s difficult to secure a carry-on bag with a trolley strap to a single-post handle; the carry-on ends up flopping around to the back of the suitcase, which is a tripping hazard and a general nuisance. (For more about the trolley sleeve, see our post about The Perfect Wheeling Tote Bag.)
  • Inside lid pocket that opens on the long side of the case: Although we don’t like interior organizers, a single pocket along the shallow lid does come in handy for separating dirty clothes, lingerie, or toiletries. The zipper of the pocket should run along the long outside spine of the suitcase–meaning access to the pocket will be at the top when the open suitcase is sitting on a luggage rack with the top leaning against the wall. We’re amazed at the number of manufacturers who put the zipper either at the top end near the handle, or on the inside spine, either of which makes whatever is housed inside slither out upon unzipping the pocket. We also avoid pockets where the zipper splits it into two separate pockets.

TravelPro Maxlite Spinner, interior pocket opening, Changes in LongitudeAn interior lid pocket that opens along the outer spine provides easy access to contents when the bag is sitting on a luggage rack. Pockets that open at the end or the inner spine cause clothes to slip out when the pockets are unzipped.

  • Moderately priced: We set a budget of $250 per suitcase. We believe in paying for quality, but we weren’t interested in getting anything too expensive or flashy. Cheap bags typically do not stand up to the rigors of travel; the zippers split, fabric is prone to tearing, and the wheels wobble or fall off. Designer brands scream “this is an expensive suitcase, and there are valuable items inside,” a beacon to thieves in airports and train stations. We’d rather be a little less obvious and slip under would-be crooks’ radar. (Plus our underwear and socks aren’t that valuable anyway.)

The winner: Travelpro Maxlite 21″ Spinner

As we reviewed our criteria, the Travelpro Maxlite 21-inch spinner kept coming out on top. We love the super-light weight (less than 6 pounds!) and easy maneuverability. And the clever counter-sunk wheels give the bag more interior storage than other bags of similar overall dimensions. As an added bonus, the bag has an expansion panel in front if we choose to really go hog-wild and pack a down parka or something.

Michael got his first; he liked the fact that it was slightly smaller than our old 22-inch 2-wheelers. I wasn’t quite sold: I have a pretty limited wardrobe as it is, and I wasn’t keen on eliminating any clothing items. I was worried that all my clothes (well okay, my shoes) wouldn’t fit into the reduced dimensions. I used Michael’s new bag for my wardrobe packing test. To my surprise and delight, I was able to pack everything from my old suitcase into this new, slightly smaller bag . . . and I didn’t even need to use the expansion panel. We had a winner!

Travelpro Maxlite 21 inch spinner reviewOur “his-n-hers” TravelPro 21″ Maxlite Spinners, don’t they make a cute couple? (Michael’s is “he-man” black, I opted for a more feminine blue.)

The bag has an MSRP of $280, but I purchased it on Amazon for about $120–well within my budget. They come in a few different colors, so we didn’t have to get the exact same bag (which makes things easier when packing).

After 4 months of traveling with these bags through Europe we can report they’re performing well. They’ve fit into overhead bins, and handled being chucked in the luggage hold with no problems. Wheeling them through airports and train stations has been a dream–and a welcome relief to our aging shoulders! We’re looking forward to several years–and many more interesting destinations–with these suitcases.

If you like what you’ve read, click the following link to purchase the Travelpro Maxlite on Amazon.


Like it? Share it on Pinterest!As full-time nomads we need rock-solid luggage. This TravelPro bag was a winner for several reasons--read our field-tested review|Best spinner luggage|spinner suitcase review|TravelPro luggage spinners|TravelPro Maxlite luggage|luggage review

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Every year readers ask our suggestions for gifts for travel lovers. Whether it’s luggage, gadgets, clothing items, or even nifty travel-themed doodads to have at home, we travelers have our favorites. When compiling a list of Christmas and holiday gifts for travelers, we like to include things we’d like (or already use) ourselves. So whether you’re looking for travel gift ideas for him, travel gift ideas for her–or just want some inspiration for yourself–read on for our 2017 suggestions.

Note: If you’re interested in a gift that you see suggested here, please consider using the links we’ve provided below. We participate in the Amazon Affiliates program, where we make a small commission from these sales, at no extra cost to you. It’s one of the ways we keep things humming here at Changes In Longitude, while providing free travel advice to our readers. Thanks!

Travel Gifts for Men

1. Portable Hair/Beard Trimmer

gifts for travel lovers 2017No one wants to look like a shaggy dog while traveling (or if they do, I can guarantee their wives aren’t happy about it). To stay groomed while on the road, Michael likes a cordless trimmer that can handle the intricacies of his beard, yet is robust enough to cut his hair. The internal adjustable settings means minimal extra attachments, making this a compact, lightweight multi-tasker. Available through Amazon: Travel Hair & Beard Trimmer.

2. Toiletry Kit/Organizer Gifts for travel lovers 2017

Michael’s been using this kit from Eagle Creek for many years. It’s got lots of pockets to keep his odds and ends organized, yet still manages to roll up compactly for easy packing. The attached hook is handy for hanging in a hotel bathroom or closet, putting all the pockets within easy reach. Eagle Creek products wear like iron; no fraying or tearing or stuck zippers. Purchase here on Amazon: Eagle Creek Slim Toiletry Kit.

3. Silk Thermals Base Layer Shirt

2017 Gifts for travel loversPacking for every weather eventuality can be a challenge if you don’t want to bulk up your suitcase. We’ve found the perfect solution to be a silk base layer shirt. They add a cosy layer beneath your clothes, but are ultra lightweight (both in your suitcase and on your person), take up almost no room in the suitcase, and dry quickly if you need to hand wash in the hotel sink. We wouldn’t travel without one. Available on Amazon: Silk Thermals.

4. The Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums

2017 Gifts for travel lovers | Guide to classic car MuseumsIf someone on your gift list loves cars, or road trips (or both), this is the perfect gift. Written by Michael (yes, the husband in this blog’s traveling duo), it covers over 250 museums and quirky attractions all related to cars. It’s really good, but don’t just take my word for it; the book has received rave reviews in Hemmings Motor News, Hagerty,, The Detroit Free Press and The Philadelphia Inquirer! It’s available on Amazon: Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums.



Travel Gifts for Her

4. Pashmina Scarf

Gifts for travel loversThis is probably my most useful–and versatile–travel accessory. It’s handy around the neck on chilly days, used as a fashionable wrap over a dress in the evenings, and is a cozy blanket or neck pillow on a long flight. After a few attempts at cheaper versions, I now won’t settle for anything but those made of a silk and cashmere blend. This combination produces a scarf that’s soft, warm, ultra lightweight, and resists snags and pulls. They come in a variety of colors to accent any travel wardrobe and are indispensable. Purchase it on Amazon: Pashmina scarf.

5. My Favorite Wheeled Tote

2017 Gifts for travel lovers | rolling tote for teachersTwo years after purchasing the Delsey Wheeled Tote, I still swear by it. It is the perfect carry-on. It manages to fit my computer, toiletries and lots of other goodies while still fitting under an airplane seat. After flying over 50,000 miles it’s still sturdy, and has saved my aching shoulders as I whiz through airports. As a bonus, these totes are also great rolling bags for teachers; I also use it when teaching at Drexel University. It’s a handy way to get across campus with my laptop and assorted books and papers. I bought my Delsey wheeled tote on Amazon. (Note: you can also read my full review of it here.)

6. Multi-Tasking Skin Lotion

We gals love our creams and lotions, but that can be a challenge when we’re trying to pack light. Fortunately, I’ve found one that’s multi-tasking: Everyday Coconut Replenishing Eye Cream by Alaffia. Don’t be put off by the name, this lightweight cream works well as a facial moisturizer under makeup, and is a wonderful night cream as well (I just apply a bit extra). It’s reasonably priced, jam-packed with natural ingredients, and sales go toward promoting female empowerment in Africa. All good stuff. Plus, it comes in a 3-ounce tube, which is just perfect for carrying on board your flight (and will multi-task for 3-4 weeks of travel). I love this stuff. Purchase it here on Amazon: Alaffia Replenishing Eye Cream.

7. Travel Make-up Kit

Space-saving is the name of the game when packing. One way to minimize bulk in your toiletry kit is to have all your makeup in one handy package. I love these compact kits, but they’re difficult to find in stores. Fortunately you can find them online; my fave is Lancome’s Absolu Au Naturel kit, which includes whatever I need in one slim, light case.  The tones are subtle, so I know they’ll match whatever I wear, including mascara (a rarity in these types of kits). Available on Amazon: Lancome Absolu Au Naturel Makeup Palette.

Unique Travel Gifts

7. Decorative Globe with Pins

We travelers love to reflect on our past journeys while we plan our next adventure. One way to keep the inspiration going is with a globe that helps you keep track. Our current fave is this metal globe with magnetic pins. We can color-code places we’ve been, want to go, etc. Just perfect for fueling wanderlust! Purchase on Amazon: Metal Globe with Magnetic Pins.


8. World Travel Map with Pins

If wall art is more your style, we recommend this framed World Travel Map. It’s mounted on foamboard, and comes with a set of colored pins for tracking your travels (and wannabe journeys), just like the globe listed above. We’ve spent many hours gazing at these maps to plan our next adventure. A perfect gift for home or office. Available on Amazon: Framed World Map with Pins.


9. A Shower in Paradise 

2017 Gifts for travel loversThere’s nothing like a nice hot shower for a quick imaginary getaway. Shower curtains can be whimsical and fun, but we particularly like this Curtain to Paradise: the gorgeous deserted beach scene framed through the image of a sliding glass door. It’s so realistic it’s easy to imagine you’re just a few steps from a dip in tropical waters. Purchase here on Amazon: Travel Inspiration Shower Curtain.

Old Stand-bys, Always in Style

10. Sturdy, Reliable 4-Wheeled Suitcases

2017 Gifts for travel loversSince we virtually live out of our suitcases, we’re very particular about our luggage. After going through an extensive evaluation last year, we both upgraded our luggage to the Travelpro Maxlite Spinner. It’s reasonably priced, light, super-sturdy, and has lots of nifty features, like an expandable pocket. (Check here for my full review of this luggage.) We use the 21″ size, but Travelpro makes 25″ and 29″ models if you are looking for something larger (or a whole set). If someone on your gift list is looking for new luggage, you can’t go wrong with this suitcase. We heartily recommend it. Purchase it here on Amazon: Travelpro Maxlite Spinner Suitcase.

11. Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader 2017 Gifts for travel lovers

Michael the Luddite resisted this one mightily, but now he’s glad he’s joined the 21st century. Instead of of carrying reams of books, he just loads them onto his Kindle. He recently upgraded to the Paperwhite model; the built in light is a boon to aging eyes (as is the non-glare surface). An added bonus is the ability to get books online anywhere in the world. (Note: we recommend buying the version without “special promotions.” Those are advertisements that pop up as you’re reading your book. We think it’s worth the extra few dollars not to have that distraction.) Available exclusively through Amazon: Kindle Paperwhite e-Reader.

Last, but not least

12. The Amazon Gift Card

If you’re still stumped about the perfect gifts for travelers on your list, consider an Amazon Gift Card. They’re always the right size, available in any dollar amount, and will give the recipient plenty of options for travel inspiration. You can purchase them here:


Amazon Boxed Gift Card (a physical card to be given in person or mailed)

Amazon e-Gift Card (delivered via email: perfect for last-minute gifts!)

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 2018. 😊 🌍

Something on this list you’d like yourself? Share it . . . Pin it!

gifts for travel lovers

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)

Perfect travel purse: The City Safe 100 Bag by PacSafe 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.Perfect travel pants: Pick-pocket proof pants by Clothing Arts

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, Perfect travel fabric: merino woolcome 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. Perfect travel smartphone case: thule-shock-proof-phone-case-milneSmartphones 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.

Perfect travel guide for vintage car lovers: Roadster Guide to classic car Museums

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

Perfect travel suitcase: Travelpro 21" four-wheeled suitcase handling the streets of Oslo. Photo by Michael MilneAs 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.

7: The Perfect Travel Tote with WheelsPerfect travel tote with wheels: Delsey quilted rolling tote

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

Perfect travel camera: Canon EOS Rebel SL1Travelers 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. Perfect travel camera bag: lowepro-passportsling3_withinsertThe 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)

The Perfect Travel shoe-Keen Sage Slip-onI 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.

Perfect travel guide to Philadelphia: Philadelphia Liberty Trail by Milne (cover)11: The Perfect Travel Guide to Historic Philadelphia

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

how-to-grillroadfood-guide-sternOverseas 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.

14: The Perfect Guide to Plan Your Next Journey100-countries-5000-ideas

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 Doby 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. 😊 🌍

The Best Men’s Travel Shoes

Larissa has written about the best travel shoes for women, but now it’s my turn to talk about the best mens travel shoes.

I have only two pairs of shoes with me, both by Ecco. I’ve worn Eccos almost exclusively for about 20 years. They are cut slightly wider in the toe box so they accommodate my size E foot (somewhere between wide and regular).

The pair that I wear almost daily is the Track 5 plain toe low. It’s a brown nubuck style that’s generic enough to go with anything. They were already several years old before the trip started so I thought about getting a new pair. But I figured they’d just get beat up anyway so I decided to wear them as long as they’d hold up. So far they’ve held up great.

best mens travel shoes

The Eccos were great for a steep hike up to the Tasman Glacier on the South Island of New Zealand.

They started their journey in August, 2011 at the top of the Rocky Steps in our hometown of Philadelphia. Some of their adventures so far have included: hiking along the Great Wall of China, climbing to the top of the ancient ruins at Angkor Wat, spending the night in a cave at a Bedouin camp and yet still looking stylish enough to wear on the streets of Paris.  They even survived being left outside during a torrential downpour in Bali where the next morning they were as full as bathtubs. They dried out by evening and were ready to wear to dinner.

For warmer weather I wear their Cerro yak leather sandals. I bought them at The Walking Company store in Philadelphia. The salesman explained that yak leather is soft but highly durable. The Ecco web site sounds like it is describing the latest in fighter plane gizmos with these shoes: full length Receptor Technology and side stabilizer frames. I wondered where the ripcord was. Ecco does not recommend them for water use but they’ve gotten soaked and lived to talk about it.

If you’re looking for durable, comfortable shoes that aren’t so bulky they look like you forgot to take them out of the box, I highly recommend Ecco shoes.

Please note: These shoes were my own purchases and I am not paid to endorse Ecco. (Oh how I wish.)

UPDATE: February, 2017. After a decade I am still wearing the Ecco Track 5 Plain Toe but I’ve been wearing them so long the model is now called Track 6.  The pair I’ve been wearing were made in Europe. I notice that some Ecco shoes are now made in China, so check first on the model you’re interested in. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t pay a premium price for Chinese made shoes.

Like this? Share it on Pinterest!Mens travel shoes|best travel shoes for men|review Ecco shoes for men

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Four years of constant travel have made me a stickler for luggage. During this entire time I’ve been on the search for the perfect wheeling tote bag, one that could hold my computer and a few other assorted accessories. I wanted something to supplement my standard 22” suitcase.

Ever since we started our nomadic life I’ve used a large shoulder tote from Baggalini for my computer. It’s been sturdy and reliable, and is okay when I strap it on to my suitcase to wheel about the airport. But when I check luggage I’m left with a heavy bag to slog around the airport on my shoulder. I needed something like my existing tote bag, but on wheels.

Perfect wheeling tote bag-underseat - 1This Delsey rolling tote easily fits under an airplane seat

My list of requirements for the perfect wheeling tote bag was simple, but specific:

  • 2 wheels, with a telescoping handle
  • Large enough to hold my computer while it’s in a protective sleeve
  • Small enough to fit under the average airplane seat
  • Narrow enough to navigate airplane aisles easily
  • Lightweight—no sense starting with a heavy bag, then adding more weight
  • A large open compartment that could store virtually anything (note: there are many wheeling briefcases available, but the pockets are designed to store files. They don’t work if you’re looking to pack a camera, shoes or anything chunky.)
  • A trolley sleeve—that simple strap on the back that allows you to slide the bag onto the handle of your main suitcase. (For those times I’m wheeling all my luggage around together.)

Perfect wheeling tote bag - 6It took 3 years of research, but I finally found the perfect wheeling tote bag, the Delsey Quilted Rolling Underseat Tote. I’ve had a few of their bags in the past, and they are well-constructed and reliable, so I felt comfortable purchasing this one. The price–around $80 plus shipping from either Amazon or eBags– seemed reasonable.

It’s boxy enough to store a few chunky items, yet it still fits easily under an airplane seat (or in the overhead bin), so no tussling with the airlines about bringing it aboard. There’s a “portable office”-like set of pockets in front, which is handy for storing documents and work-related stuff, along with some outside pockets that give you easy access to a water bottle.

The quilting gives the bag a little protection against bumps (but I still wrap my computer securely—this isn’t marketed as a “shock-proof” bag). It has decent straps, which make it easy to lift, plus that all-important trolley sleeve for attaching to my suitcasePerfect wheeling tote bag - 1

The trolley sleeve, which allows a bag to slide over the handle of a wheeled suitcase, is a MUST for any carry-on bag.

I purchased the bag a few months ago and have field-tested it on our 3-month trip through Europe. It has fit nicely under airplane seats and wheeled smoothly through airports, train terminals and city streets. It’s also lovely to not have a 20-pound weight hanging off my shoulder.

Kelsey Rolling Underseat Tote-InsideThe bag has also worked well as an “overnighter” on the few occasions when we left our vacation rental for a quick trip. I can stow a change of clothes, a pair of shoes, my cosmetics and still have room for my computer.

It’s a bit heavier than my old reliable shoulder tote, but I rarely have to carry it for any distance. It’s either strapped to my other larger suitcase using the trolley sleeve, or I’m breezily pulling it behind me on it’s own two wheels.

It’s the perfect wheeling tote bag—I’m SO glad I’ve finally found it!

If you’ve found this post useful, please Pin it to your travel boards!After 4 years of research I finally found the perfect wheeling tote bag for travel.

Note: when Michael saw it he was so jealous he ordered one for himself. Fortunately it comes in dark colors that aren’t too “girlie” for his he-man sensibilities.

I purchased the perfect wheeling tote bag from Amazon.

28581550060_131210d7e7_mLarissa and Michael are your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive our free quarterly newsletter with updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

Before we left last August I wrote a post about what I’d be packing for a year. I made some good choices, but there’s nothing like experience to tell the tale. Now, after over nine months of travel, here is a status report on that most female of items: shoes.

I said that I would be bringing four pairs of shoes but I added a 5th pair just before we left, and I’m glad I did.  I know, I know, my husband only brought two pairs, but that’s a guy thing. Here’s a review of women’s travel shoes I packed and how they’ve worked out.

Review of women’s travel shoes

Keen Hiking Sandals:

review Womens travel shoes keen sandals

The Keens in action truffle hunting in the mud on a wet day in Italy. The sandals are waterproof but Larissa is not, hence the plastic bags.

        • The plan: I chose sandals over hiking shoes/boots because I knew I’d be in warm climates and wasn’t planning any really heavy-duty trekking. I also wanted a shoe that would be easy to pack. I chose the Venice H2 by Keen because they were open enough to feel like a sandal, but sturdy enough to provide support on long walks. They are also waterproof.
        • The result: Good choice. I wear them when we’re out for a long day of walking in a non-city environment (they are not particularly chic). They are comfortable and sturdy. The waterproof aspect makes them easy to clean off in a sink or tub if I get them mucked up a bit. An added bonus is that I can wear socks with them, which makes them cozier on chilly days.
        • Here’s how to buy women’s Keen shoes.

City Walking Shoes:

      • The plan: I lived in Philadelphia and appreciated a good pair of walking shoes that were dressy enough for city living. A few months before we left I purchased the Helika loafer by Waldlaufer in a black patent croco pattern, which would match my mostly-black wardrobe.
      • The result: Good strategy, unreliable shoe. They looked nice, and were sturdy and comfortable . . . until they broke. Yep, broke. We were visiting Ho Chi Minh’s tomb in Hanoi on a rainy day and my foot felt wet. I assumed I had stepped in a puddle, but when we got back to our hotel I saw the entire sole had split in two. The shoes had only minimal wear, and I had spent $168 for them. Since I was on the other side of the world, I couldn’t take them back to the store. I replaced them with a pair of Italian-made Fly Flot loafers, style #33217, which were about $90 in Israel. Decent-looking, comfortable and, so far, sturdy.

Waldlaufer shoes review problem

The Waldlaufer shoe with its cracked sole.


      • The plan: Multi-purpose, easy to pack and comfortable for walking. I packed a pair of black Fit Flops Walkstar Classics that were already a few years old. I figured I could replace them with something cheap if they broke.
      • The result: Multi-purpose, easy to pack and comfortable for walking. No need to replace them, the things wear like iron. It turns out if I wanted I could buy replacement Fit Flops in almost any country I’ve visited, they seem to be the go-to comfort shoe for women everywhere.

Ballet slipper flats:

review of womens travel shoes Puma Zandy Ballerina

While they don’t make me as graceful as Natalie Portman in Black Swan, they’re pretty comfortable.

      • The plan: These were the last-minute addition to my packing list. I wanted something closed-toe that I could wear without socks and were also dressy enough to wear with skirts. I got a pair of Puma Zandy ballerinas, which are sort of a hybrid between a simple sneaker and a shoe.
      • The result: Good choice. Their athletic shoe heritage gives them a little more support and sole cushioning than a typical shoe, meaning it’s great for walking. They’re a little sportier than a shoe, but can still work with skirts. They also take up very little space in my suitcase.
      • Here’s how to buy Puma Zandy Ballerina shoes.

Heeled Sandals:

Womens travel shoes Aerosoles Sandal

These Aerosoles were great at home but are not the best for travel.

      • The plan: I wanted something a little dressier for going out. I couldn’t imagine an entire year without heels. I brought along a pair of Aerosoles Hedge Maple sandals that I had field-tested at home before leaving.
      • The result: Okay, I blew this one. My least-worn pair of shoes, and probably a dead weight in my suitcase. They’re comfortable, but a little too confining for serious walking. The wedge soles take up valuable space in my suitcase. I probably would have been better off with a simple pair of slings. As I write this I realize these sandals will not be making the move to our next destination. Hey, that’s liberating!

Bring shoes that are comfortable, multi-tasking and sturdy. Fortunately there are several manufacturers that manage to put together all of those features in a decent looking shoe.

Like it? Share it . . . Pin it!I strip down to the bare toes to share my best--and worst--travel shoes for women, based on 5 years of full-time travel

Links to other articles you might find helpful:

A woman’s guide to packing cosmetics

A woman’s guide to packing for a year

What types of shoes have you found useful while traveling?

(NOTE: All these shoes were my own purchases, these are not paid endorsements.)

To follow our journey around the world in search of the tasty and quirky and receive valuable travel tips “Like us on facebook” or subscribe.

I had one concern about what to pack for a trip that would be a year long, (no, not getting along with Michael), I was worried about having enough stuff.  I wasn’t too concerned about clothing—that could be washed and used again.  But what about make-up?  And hair goop?  I couldn’t pack a year’s worth of moisturizer and mascara, etc.  All those little bottles add up.  And what was I going to do somewhere in the middle of nowhere when I needed more deodorant?

During our trip planning I read lots of information about restricting what toiletries you take along.  Most of them were tips any traveler has already figured out, like pack little bottles of shampoo. Or better yet, pack none and count on the hotel to provide them.  This is fine for a week or two, but what about a year?

The rest of the tips I found focused on travel that involved mostly camping, trekking, and general wilderness-type experiences.  This didn’t really apply to our journey, which meant the book I read that stated “you won’t need makeup” definitely did not apply.  (This tip was written by a guy, by the way—no doubt one who does not wear makeup.)

It turns out I needn’t have worried.  I’ve managed quite well, and even picked up a few tips along the way. . .

1. You can buy almost anything, anywhere.  It’s a global world we live in, folks.  I’ve found consumer goods I’m familiar with everywhere.  Companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble sell their products worldwide.  I even found Secret Solid Antiperspirant (Powder Fresh fragrance, my favorite) in a little street kiosk in a tiny village in rural Vietnam.  Dental floss?  No problem at a Cambodian supermarket.   From time to time I’ve made small compromises on brands or varieties, but it’s been pretty easy to get what I need.

2. Airport Duty Free shops are a great source.  Virtually every major world airport provides plenty of opportunities to spend a little more money before leaving their country.  In addition to the usual vices—liquor, cigarettes and chocolate—duty-free shops boast cosmetics counters that rival most department stores.  The prices are reasonable and all the major brands are available.  Particularly fun, and practical, are the “travel kit” versions of many well-known products that can only be found at these airport locations.


3. Buy local.  Some countries, such as Australia, have heavy import taxes on offshore products.  The Earth Therapeutics moisturizer I use at home cost three times as much there.  Scanning the shelves I found products by Sukin, an Aussie company that had a similar philosophy of using organic, plant-based ingredients.  Their prices were more in line with what I expected to pay, and I found that I was very happy with their moisturizer.  In Israel, where Ahava is based,  a much more complete array of their products is available than anywhere else.  Their creams that feature Dead Sea mud are really kind to your skin.  (As a corollary to this I have discovered that largely Muslim countries do not have a large choice of hair care products, since most women wear veils.  They do, however, have a great makeup selection.)

4. Find products that multi-task.   I’ll admit it:  I’m of a certain age and I like my variety of moisturizers: daytime, nighttime, eye cream, body lotion for the shower.  It turns out they are mostly the same, and vary only in concentration.  Now I only have one that I use for everything and dilute or apply more as necessary.  It makes packing much easier.  The trick is to find something you like for your face (no mineral oil or paraffin products), and you can use it everywhere else.

5. Sometimes less really IS more.  I discovered in the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia that makeup just melts off your face.  (And that is not attractive at all.)  I found a good light moisturizer with sunscreen and wore a little waterproof mascara and dusting of face powder.  I still felt human, but after a day traipsing around temples I didn’t look like a day-old ice cream sundae.  In the desert in the Middle East, the dry climate had my skin clamoring for moisture.  Beef up the face cream, forget the powder and drink lots of water.

What other tips have you discovered in your travels?

Click the link on tips for what to pack for a trip

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

One of the questions we often get is: how do you pack for a year? Packing for long-term travel is actually not as daunting as it sounds. We basically packed for a week-long vacation that will happen to be repeated many times. After our first four months of travel we’ve learned a few things, so some items have been tossed (Michael’s sport coat), and a few have been picked up (lightweight hoodie).

Based on our experience so far here’s a current inventory of what we have with us:

Note: This list has been updated to represent what we travel with after 8 (!) years on the road as full-time global nomads.



  • 2 Pairs of Pants
  • 1 Pair of yoga/warm-up pants
  • 1 Pair of Shorts
  • 2 Mid/Long-sleeve woven shirts (no-iron cotton)
  • 2 Short-sleeve woven shirts
  • 3 Tank top/camis
  • 2 T-shirts
  • 1 Lightweight cotton hoodie
  • 1 Merino wool long-sleeve t-shirt
  • 1 Knit Sundress
  • 1 Knit Cardigan
  • Week’s worth of undergarments
  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 2 nightgowns/sleep shirts
  • 1 Bathing suit
  • 1 Lightweight raincoat
  • 1 Straw hat (the squashable/packable kind)
  • 5 pair of shoes— (I know, I know: Michael only has 2 pair—but my feet are smaller so I can pack more):  1 pr. Keen hiking sandals, 1 pr. flip flops, 1 pr ballet slipper/flats, 1 pr. city walking shoes, 1 pr. mid-heel sandals


  • 1 Belt
  • 1 Watch
  • Costume jewelry:  2-3 ea. Bracelets, necklaces, pairs of earrings
  • 1 Sarong
  • Toiletry kit
  • Makeup kit
  • Hairbrush (but NO hairdryer)


  • Notebook computer
  • Canon EOS Rebel SL1 digital camera. It offers the same features as the larger Rebel T5 in a smaller, lighter body.
  • iPhone, unlocked with global T-Mobile plan to work in any country
  • Earbuds with microphone



  • 2 pairs of pants
  • 1 pair of  shorts
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 2 short sleeve shirts
  • 2 pairs of Ecco & Keen shoes (one walking, one hiking sandal)
  • 1 belt
  • 7 t-shirts
  • 7 pairs of underwear
  • 7 pairs of socks
  • 1 bathing suit If I need one I buy one along the way.
  • 1 lightweight hoodie One lightweight zipper sweater.
  • 1 hat (these vary along the way depending on the country and use)


  • 1 notebook computer
  • 1 iPod Touch/ear buds
  • 1 portable JBL speaker
  • 1 Kindle   (Replaced by iPod Touch)
  • 1 Sony DSC-WX350 point-and-shoot digital camera (Replaced by iPod Touch)
  • NO cell phone
  • 1 cheap Timex Expedition watch

Other Stuff

  • Writing tablet and pens
  • Pocket calendar
  • Toiletry kit with the usual items

Shared Items

  • Fold-up world map
  • Inflatable globe for trip planning
  • Fold-up umbrella
  • Travel alarm clock (Use phone or iPod Touch)
  • International electrical adaptor
  • Fold-up cotton shopping bag, nylon made from recycled plastic bottles that has lasted years
  • Collapsible daypack
  • 1 Phillies rally towel (just in case)
  • Rocky statue (serves dual purpose as backscratcher) We no longer travel with a Rocky statue, but we still have the memories.


Delsey quitled bag

Looking at the list on paper it sure seems like a lot but we fit it all into the following luggage:

We’ll probably make further adjustments along the way but after four months on the road what we have now seems to be working.

Some people are difficult to shop for; you know the type, the proverbial man or woman who already has everything. However, if you are shopping for a traveler the job just got easier. There are many nifty travel gifts and thought-provoking books for travelers, be they the type that likes to board a canoe to journey up the Amazon or just read about it from the comfort of their favorite chair. Here are some items that have come in handy on our year-long around-the-world journey.

Part of the fun of travel is the planning process, deciding where to go in the first place. A detailed map or globe is an essential visual tool for this activity.  From Amsterdam to Zurich, Streetwise Maps (under $10) publishes a series of city maps that are practical for travelers. We favor their Worldwise Map that covers the entire globe. Printed on sturdy tri-fold laminated cardstock, they open out to 19.5” by 8.5” but fit easily into a pocket when folded.  A good old-fashioned globe (cost varies) is a must for the travel buff. There is nothing quite like spinning a globe to plan the next adventure, or even to just fantasize about faraway lands. In this changing world make sure to get one with current country names and borders. A terrific choice for anyone on a budget is a large fold-out World Map (under $10 or FREE for AAA members). Make it more personal by including stickers in multiple colors for your traveler to mark places they’ve been or want to visit. This is a great gift for kids to give; they can help attach the stickers and learn about geography at the same time.

Once en route, there are plenty of gadgets that can enhance the experience and smooth out bumps in the road. The muffin-sized JBL Portable MP3 Speaker ($39.95) packs a roomful of sound for those times when you’d like to share the music with someone else. The Undercover™ Hidden Pocket ($12.00) is a practical money pouch by Eagle Creek worn inside the trousers. It comes with two tabs, one black and the other brown, that slip unobtrusively over belts while valuables are protected inside. When not being worn around town it’s a handy place to store currency and travel documents. Most luggage looks pretty similar when it’s coming off the baggage carousel. Savvy travelers make theirs stand out for quick identification with colorful luggage tags: our motto is “the funkier the better.” We bought our zebra-striped tags for about $2.95 each.

AAA Membership ($65.50 for Keystone AAA) is not a gadget but it still comes in handy. AAA discounts are available for many hotels, attractions and car rental companies; free items include maps and tour guides. They have reciprocal agreements with many countries overseas so these same benefits are available when traveling internationally. For an active traveler, a membership in AAA more than pays for itself.

When they’re not roving about, travelers love to read about it. 100 Countries 5000 Ideas: Where To Go, When To Go, What To See, What To Do by National Geographic ($26.95), we’ve used this book extensively as a guide for planning our around-the-world trip. Each country is laid out in a few pages with pros and cons of visiting and advice about what to see, along with sidebars highlighting the best time to go. Specific information about health issues, language, currency and contacts is a valuable resource. Loaded with pictures and maps, 100 Countries 5000 Ideas, is the single best guide to suggest destinations for a global journey.

Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences ($22.99), from touring fairy-tale castles in Europe to finding the best steamed dumplings in Shanghai to the best place to witness a winter solstice this book will trigger many ideas for your next journey.  One of Michael’s favorites is the tour of the legendary sewers of Paris. Road Trip USA: Cross Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen ($29.95), as a fan of road trips we absolutely love this book. It’s perfect for the driver who likes to meander slowly across America while avoiding the monotony of the interstate highways; an adventure where the getting there is more important than the destination. The Moleskine City Guide (about $20) is made by the company whose legendary journals have been used by famous travelers from Hemingway to Chatwin.  This new version is now available for over fifty top worldwide cities, including Philadelphia. Each journal includes maps and a street index along with plenty of blank pages to jot down your own personal memories. Moleskine calls it “the first guidebook you write yourself.”

If you’re still flummoxed and insist on buying a gift card, get one at a specialty luggage store; we bought our travel gear at Robinson Luggage in Philadelphia.  Avid travelers can lose themselves for hours in a shop like this.  They carry well-designed gadgets, wallets, purses and tote bags in addition to suitcases, so any dollar amount will do.  For someone with wanderlust, just an excuse to spend time surrounded by the trappings of travel will be a gift in itself.

Or if you’re really desperate you can wait and see what the guy in the red suit brings.

Maybe Santa will bring you a Little Rocky statue

Travel Tips:

Moleskine weekly notebook

Moleskine weekly notebook

Since we’ll be in the road for a year choosing our travel accessories is important. To make it into our suitcase the top gadgets have to be light, functional and add to the enjoyment of the trip. Here are some tips for our top travel gear:

1) Unlocked smartphone –  Michael no longer has a cell phone and is loving it. No voicemail to check! Larissa ended her contract and unlocked her phone.  She can buy a prepaid SIM card in each country and make local calls cheaply. Plus she can still access all the music stored on it so she didn’t bring an MP3 player.

2) JBL portable speaker – We love listening to music but there are times when ear buds don’t quite cut it, particularly for sharing. About the size of a cupcake, it packs a powerful sound and has an MP3 slot.

3) Amazon Kindle – Michael the Luddite resisted this one mightily but now he’s glad he joined the 21st century. Instead of carrying reams of books he just brings the lightweight Kindle. With 3G access he can download books practically anywhere and even check e-mail.

4) Moleskine Weekly Notebook – Okay, in this area Michael is still a Luddite. He’s never figured out how to keep a calendar on any type of electronic device and places his trust in plain old paper and pen. It’s also fun to put stickers on it from each country. Just like our six-year old niece does.

5) SONY 14.1 megapixel Cyber-shot camera – 99% of the pictures and video on this web site have been taken with this handy pocket cam. It’s small and reliable. We considered getting a separate video camera but opted to carry less. We’re glad we did.

6) Apple MacBook Air – We are a mixed marriage, Larissa is Mac and Michael is PC, but we somehow manage to make it work. Larissa loves this nifty little device and it is incredibly light. She also brings a Cisco USB/Ethernet adaptor since the MacBook Air doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  In some countries where there is no Wi-FI it is handy to be able to plug in.

For those who care about such things, Michael uses a Toshiba Portege which is also sort of light. It’s just not as cool. (But it does have an Ethernet port and DVD player to watch movies.)

7) Klipsch earbuds with microphone attachment – Excellent sound quality for music and the mic enables it for phone use too.  It comes in handy for Skype calls that are in a somewhat public place.

8) International electrical converter/adaptor – The key here is that it is a converter AND an adaptor. Don’t get a device that just does one.  It needs to convert the voltage (the converter part) as well as enable you to plug your home devices into any type of outlet (the adaptor part).  Otherwise you run the risk of frying your equipment.  Ours is compact, lightweight (about 6 oz.) and has a nifty design that switches plug styles for any country in the world.  We purchased it at the local AAA office.

9) Timex Expedition watch – Michael purchased this watch over ten years ago for about $22.  He’s worn it just about every day since then and it’s never failed. There are dual time zones, a chronograph and an alarm. Apparently it’s also water-resistant for 100 meters but he wouldn’t know, he’s never swam that far. But he can keep it on for washing dishes.

10) Theraband exercise straps – Those multi-colored straps that are familiar to anyone who has undergone physical therapy. Incredibly light and functional as a portable gym. They might even get used before the year is out.

11) Charmin To Go – Emergency mini-roll of toilet paper. You know how you carry an umbrella to guarantee it doesn’t rain? Same thing with this item. It’s still unused and we’d like to keep it that way.

Little Rocky with new friends in Sydney

12) Miniature Rocky Statue –  Dual purpose tool that is not only a great icebreaker in crowds it is also a most excellent backscratcher. Don’t leave home without it.

What gadgets do you bring on trips?

You may also want to read Larissa’s perspective on packing for a year.

Changes in Longitude Larissa & Michael Milne at Arctic Circle

We’re Larissa and Michael, your typical middle-aged couple from Philadelphia who’ve been traveling the world full-time since 2011, seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive updates and valuable travel tips subscribe to our free travel newsletter here.

Michael has already written a few posts about getting rid of our stuff and how we are going to pack for this year-long trip.  Based on our prior travels I’m a pretty efficient packer.  (Truth be told, this all started when we were getting ready for our honeymoon almost 25 years ago. Michael watched me preparing a different outfit for every day and declared, “I’m marrying you, but not your luggage. If you pack it, you carry it.”)  So I’ve gotten pretty good at the whole mix-and-match wardrobe thing.

Larissa packing for a yearThis is it for luggage for a year of travel

But I’ve never had to worry about packing for a year so I’m wondering about a few things, like . . .

Will I have the right clothes for every occasion?  Probably not.  We’re not planning on climbing any mountains or herding yaks on a regular basis so we won’t be bringing clothes for those activities  Therefore anything we might do that requires specialty clothing will likely be a one-off experience. So we’ll either buy what we need or make do with what we have.

My more immediate “fashion concern” is whether I will have the right items for strolling around a city, going out to dinner or a light hike in the countryside.   I’m packing mostly multi-purpose garments; basic black separates with a few splashes of color here and there.  I don’t need to look like a fashionista everywhere I go, but I don’t want to look like something the cat dragged in either.

So my preliminary solution:  “accessories!”   I’m counting on sturdy pants, shorts and shirts that can take some abuse, with some costume jewelry and a scarf or two to dress up an otherwise mundane ensemble.  I’ll also be relying on my “miracle sundress” that I can dress up or down.  (Will this be enough?  Not sure.  Stay tuned for an update somewhere on the road.)

Will I get tired of the clothes I bring?  Probably.  (Will I get tired of Michael? Possibly.) No matter how many permutations I might try to create with this set of separates, I am bound to get bored with them by week five or six.  I am not going to ditch everything and start over, so what’s my plan?  Again. . . “accessories!”

In virtually every country I’ve ever visited I’ve found a market or bazaar that sells inexpensive trinkets and baubles.  This includes the US where they call it Target. They are not the best quality, but it won’t matter to me, since I will probably replace them in a month or two.

What about shoes?  A true woman’s question if there ever was one.  This is one topic to which I’ve given much thought.  No matter where you are, trudging around in uncomfortable shoes can tarnish an otherwise great experience.  I’m bringing shoes that are sturdy (but not ugly—I don’t like ugly shoes), comfortable and can multi-task.  After much deliberation, I’ve narrowed the selection down to 4 pairs:

Low-heeled loafers:  black patent leather, which will go with everything I wear, closed-toe (for bad weather, and visiting religious sites where open-toed shoes are considered offensive).

Hiking sandals:  good for city or country walking, waterproof.  I like the ones made by Keen—super sturdy and comfy.  (Michael thinks these are kind of goofy looking because of the black rubber cap toe, but I think they have a sort of nerdy charm.)

Flip Flops:  I have a pair of Fit Flops, which are really comfortable for walking, will be great for using at the beach or pool, plus they’ll work with a casual dress. I can also use them as slippers

Mid-heeled sandals:  (my big indulgence) Let’s face it girls, I can’t go away for a whole year without at least one pair of heels.  I’ve tried this pair out; they are comfortable for walking and dress up any outfit just because of the heel (I guess they sort of fall into my “accessories” category too)

The points I make above are based partly from experience and partly from what I think (read:  I hope) will work.  I will be reporting back from time to time on just how well (or poorly) I planned, and will highlight particularly useful (or useless) items.  And no smart remarks from you, dear reader, on seeing me in the same outfit twice!

See you from the road. . . Larissa

Related post: Our favorite travel accessories and gadgets

Click the link to see if Larissa made the right choices with her shoes: review of women’s travel shoes.

We’re global nomads who have been traveling the world since 2011 seeking off-beat, historic and tasty sights. To receive monthly updates and valuable travel tips subscribe here.

One of the frequent questions we get is, “How do you pack for a year?” The short answer is that you don’t. It would be pretty burdensome to carry every item we are going to use or wear for twelve months. The last thing we want to do is travel around the world looking like a laden down pack mule scaling the high Sierras. Basically you have to treat long-term travel like a 10-day trip that you are going to repeat many times in a row; in our case over 50 times.

Accordingly, you only need enough clothes for about ten days. When we were shopping for clothes for the trip we realized pretty quickly that most of the stuff we were looking at was made in the countries we’ll be visiting (China, Vietnam, Indonesia) so why not just buy it there instead at a much cheaper price? Granted we’ll still have to carry it around but since we’ll have spent so much less for the items, pitching what we don’t need along the way will be much less painful.

Leaving for the airport on Day One - this was too much so we soon pitched a few items

We’ll be traveling to either warm or moderate climates and will (hopefully) avoid the extremes of freezing weather and snow. That eliminates the need to pack bulky items like fleece jackets, hoodies and sweaters. If it does get chilly someplace then we’ll buy something to use at that location and give it away when we leave. You don’t have the luxury to carry something to deal with every contingency and, really, why would you want to? 

We are renting apartments most places so we’ll have access to a washer and dryer. A few rinse-and-wash items will make the final cut for those times when the sink in the room is the only nearby laundry facility.

Our backpacking days are behind us so we are at the wheelie phase of our lives. It’s much more comfortable than schlepping everything you have on your back. So we are each bringing a 21″ rolling suitcase and a carry-on bag that can hold a laptop, items for the plane ride and items we don’t want to risk checking. We will also bring one extra day bag for us to share to hold miscellaneous items.

One of the bulkier items tends to be reading material and guidebooks. Michael the Luddite broke down and bought a Kindle so that will cut down on many of the books we have to carry. Larissa prides herself on being an extremely efficient packer and clothes folder. On her many business trips in the past she always had the smallest suitcase among her colleagues. It helps that she’s rather small and compact herself.

The old rule of thumb, pack what you think you need, and then get rid of half of it, applies even more to long-term travel.

Here’s a list of what we packed.