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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Gadget Guru is Back with Accessories for Travelers on the Go

As always, your gadget guru is on the lookout for the newest and coolest travel products.
Here's a link to this week's TravelTuesday segment on Great Day Washington. Below, details on the items showcased.

Likely the most unusual one that has come to my attention recently is the MTS Multi Threat Shield. Sure, this case looks like your average black laptop bag. And you can fit some small electronics and personal items in the pockets. But the reality is, this is a Maxwell Smart contraption that converts into a ballistic shield protecting you against knife and gun attacks. I kid you not. The MTS Multi Threat Shield from the Force Training Institute can be unfolded in an emergency situation, revealing a three-foot long shield with Kevlar technology inside. Of course, in the case of this case, safety doesn't come cheap. The MTS Multi Threat Shield costs $899.00.
Image Courtesy Security Magazineor



A less alarming, and less expensive, way to protect yourself is with a Travelon Door Knob Stick. Put this $12 gizmo on your hotel room door knob and it will vibrate or sound an alarm if the door is touched or opened. It’s key to remember you are using the device--especially if you are prone to midnight sleepwalks in hotel corridors.


Another user-friendly product is the Rolling Mobile Pro for LiteGear. This carry-on converts from backpack to roller bag. It's designed to comply with all of the newfangled airline baggage rules. What's more, now that some airlines are planning to charge for overhead bin space, Rolling Mobile Pro owners will be comforted to know that this bag fits under almost any seat. For $129.95, you get separate pockets for water bottles, smart phones and laptops, inline skate wheels, a padded air-mesh and a padded telescoping handle.

A more conventional carry-on, although hardly conventional, is the Barracuda number. Sure, there are other collapsible bags on the market, but I find this one folds flatter and is sleeker in other ways as well. First, the collapsible frame offers several storage options, including under the bed or hanging in the closet. The Halo Handle System lets you twist and turn the handle, saving those delicate muscles in the wrists and hands from cramping. A built-in tray provides a portable desk for beverages and laptops. There's also a USB charger, a location tracking and proximity device and a mobile scale included. A TSA-approved lock is built into the case. All of these features don't come cheap. The Barracuda costs $349.00.


The Ventev Chargestand 3000c is a nifty two-in-one portable charger and phone stand that can be used either horizontally or vertically. It comes in quite handy when you are shooting video, as it can serve as a tripod and a continuing power source. As a portable charger, it can add about 12 hours of additional talk time on your battery for only $49.99.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Winter Weather Advisory: Travel Cliches

It's that time of year again. Skies are dark early and temperatures are plummeting. That can only mean one thing--hoary weather cliches are likely blanketing us like a mid-winter snowfall.

Travel writers and meteorologists alike are prone to taking to the slippery slope of winter cliches. But as I rarely deal with meteorologists (although I just did interview one for a story I am doing for The Washington Post on winter preparedness), I will offer my weather cliche advisories solely for the travel set.

1. Although Sun Valley, Idaho (pictured) can fairly be described as a winter wonderland, please don't call it that. Don't call anything that. Winter wonderland is perhaps the tritest and most overused description for cold weather travel destinations. Alpine villages, small towns dressed for the holidays, ski resorts---please resist as Jack Frost nips at your nose rapping "Winter Wonderland, Winter Wonderland." Think of something else.

2. Similarly, I defy you to read a story on an Alpine ski town without noticing the use of charming. Charming villages, charming landscapes, blah, blah, blah. Visit Mr. Roget's neighborhood and opt for a synonym. 

3. Is that view from the mountaintop truly breathtaking? It is often described as such, yet how many times does a view literally leave you gasping for air? That said, I will concede that if you are at the top of a mile-high mountain in sub-freezing temperatures, between the altitude and the chill, your breath might actually be taken away. In that case, you may use breathtaking. Otherwise, save your breath and choose another term. 



Thursday, February 9, 2017

9 Tips for Packing Light


It's the bane of every traveler's existence in these days of airline pay-for-packing schemes. How does one confine oneself, if at all possible, to a carry-on bag?  Here are some ideas. 

Prime Packing Tips

1. Pick a color scheme and stick to it. Many people choose black and white. I find that quite blah. Not to mention that once you spill something on those white pants, they are down for the count. Opt for basics in blue, chocolate brown, or green to stand out from the crowd. Having a color plan allows you to limit purses and shoes (see below).

2. Do the mix and match thing. If your skirts and pants sport patterns, bring solid tops. Make sure you can wear different tops with different bottoms to give the illusion of tripling the size of your wardrobe.

3. Thank goodness for accessories.  They can truly change the look of an outfit. Pop a belt over that flowing dress and you have a whole new silhouette. Those who are handy with scarves can find a million ways to change things up with one small piece of fabric.

4.  Jackets and sweaters can also alter a look. Just add a top layer to an outfit you have been wearing all day and voila, you have a new outfit. Plus, the new layer will serve to cover any stains, man-made or natural, that you may have acquired on your blouse during the day.

5. Ladies, since all of your clothing now mixes and matches, you only need one purse.
I do not recommend choosing
clogs as one of your
three pairs of shoes.

6.  Likewise, you will be able to stick to my famous Three Shoe Rule. Now, I am not saying you can only bring three shoes. But I am limiting you to three pairs of shoes--one for dress (heels); one for fashionable walking (comfy loafers or sandals or flat boots, depending on the season); and one (sneakers) for those workouts I know you do on the road..

7.  Pack lightweight, wrinkle-proof, hand-washable clothing.

8.  Use compression bags. Packing carry-on doesn't have to suck when you use these, because by sucking the air from the bag with a mini-vac, you can basically shrink-wrap your clothing--reducing bulk by half. Travelon Space Mates are also airtight, leak-proof, and cheap (2 for $15).

9. Wear your heaviest clothing (parkas, boots) on board. If you resemble the Michelin Man, so be it.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

SIT UP STRAIGHT: Maintaining Your Posture While Traveling

How to Maintain Your Posture While Traveling--for Shermans Travel Media


Posted in:


Georgie Pauwels
Georgie Pauwels

Even if you were brought up by nuns or were captain in the U.S. Army, maintaining good posture while traveling is nearly impossible. Heavy carry-ons and over-stuffed shoulder bags, combined with long stretches of sitting in ergonomically unfit airline seats, wreak havoc on the spine. If you don’t want to land directly in the chiropractor’s office, here are a few tips to help you protect your back while on the road.

Pack light

It might sound obvious, but bad posture starts with your bags. When it comes to suitcases, the lighter the better. Even if you have to spend a few extra bucks to check another bag, it’s better to bring two smaller suitcases as opposed to one big clunker. Each bag will weigh less, so your body will be balanced while carrying them. And while someone on your flight or train may offer to help you lift your bag, don’t bank on it. You don’t want to be that guy (or gal) who nearly drops his bag on the passenger sitting below. If you plan on taking public transportation from the airport to the hotel, or you know you’ll be carrying the suitcase for an extended length of time, this tip goes double.

Lift with your legs

If you are doing any heavy, overhead lifting, be strategic about how you lift. Break the action into separate stages: To get the carry-on into the overhead bin, first bring it up to top-of-seat level; then, bend at the knees and engage your leg muscles, rather than your lower back, to get the additional momentum you’ll need to get the bag into the compartment.

Stand, often

It’s easy to get settled in your seat on a flight — you’re absorbed by a movie, a book, a nap. But remember to get out of the seat frequently and walk around. Sitting still for long stretches of time isn’t good for any part of your body. Additionally, doing in-seat leg and back stretches — like bending forward or lifting toes off the ground to stretch hamstrings — will make post-trip movement smoother.

Sit up straight

This is likely familiar advice; we may not have listened as kids, but as adults, we can appreciate the wisdom behind it. When on an airplane, train, or car seat, try to sit up straight. Tools that may help you do so include posture shirts or annoying posture-tracking sensors that vibrate when you slouch.

BYOBack and foot support

Lumbar support is essential when sitting for a long time. Bring a pillow specifically designed to keep the lower spine in line. If you forget, roll up a sweater or another thick piece of clothing and stick it between the seat back and the small of the back.
Also, because airline seats are not ergonomically designed, consider bringing a footrest. Dangling or stretched-out legs may cause stress on the lower back. When driving, it’s better to rest both feet on the floor than having one foot on the gas. So, if your car is equipped with cruise control, set it up and put your paws on the floor.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Buon Appetito: Food Tourism in Northern Italy

Please indulge in some recent stories written for Orbitz Blog about Italian food and cultural tourism in the regions of Emilia Romagna and Piemonte. To whet your appetite before clicking on the links, see below. Buon appetito!

How to Eat Your Way Through Emilia Romagna

A wheel of authentic Parmagiano Reggiano
being inspected

Parma ham and other dried meat


Unshrouding Turin


Bicerin--a mix of coffee, chocolate and whipped
milk-- is a local specialty in Turin

The world's very first Eataly is
located in Turin  

Sunday, January 22, 2017

So You Want to Be a Travel Blogger?

I'm Tallin You
I'll never describe Estonia as 'quaint'
The Top 9 Travel Writing Taboos

#1: Avoid cliches like the plague. The Danish in Copenhagen isn't the best thing since sliced bread (since when is sliced bread so great, anyway, I wonder?) When was the last time you really felt like a kid in the candy store? And unless you are trying out a carousel, you don't give things a whirl.

#2: Avoid words you never use when talking. I'm talking iconicquaint, and rustic. 

#3: Just to prove that I am not overly persnickety, I'll allow one quaint or iconic per article. But never, ever use luxe or azure, for sure.

#4: That the grass is green is not newsworthy. That the beach is sandy is not newsworthy. Don't include useless and/or redundant adjectives. Keep it pithy, people.

#5: Can a city boast? Apparently, it can, as "Chicago boasts the best deep-dish pizza in the world" and "Honolulu boasts grand luxe hotels, sandy beaches, and azure skies."  But IMHO, a place cannot boast.

#6: Is Albania the next Italy? I don't think so. But some travel writers do. "The next...." is not merely cliched writing; it is also somewhat pejorative if you think about it (i.e.--the next best thing to sliced bread....but it ain't no slice of bread).

#7: Don't trash the locals or local customs just for the heck of it. If you do, as in this piece I did for National Geographic Traveler  that literally trash talks Albania, provide context and balance.

#8: Maybe it's me, because I simply abhor chick-lit. Articles about your journey of self-discovery are usually a yawn, even to your closest friends. My best advice is to circumvent this form of literary litany. An aside--why is it that 99 out of 100 of self-confessional, self-delusional pieces are written by women?

#9: Never, never, never use the term "something for everyone" in your writing. It's lazy, it's annoying (to me, anyway) and it's simply not true. Don't you be telling me Des Moines has something for everyone. For example, if you are a surfer, where's the beach? New York City doesn't have something for everyone. If you are a climber, try finding a mountain to scale in Manhattan (skyscrapers don't count). Heck, even Sydney, the best city in the world (again, IMHO), doesn't have something for everyone. For example, if you are an astronomer, you can't see the Big Dipper and vast parts of Ursa Major in the Australian night sky. But you can pet a koala.

Which brings me to one more parenthetical point. You can pet a koala, but you can't pet a koala bear. Koalas are marsupials, not bears. Put that in your pouch and ponder. And one more point that may save your life one day: If you want to pet a koala, don't do so by awakening it from a eucalyptus-induced stupor. I can tell you from experience... this not a good idea. A koala awakened abruptly from its languor is a vicious animal. But that's a story to be chronic

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where Women Rule in Washington, DC

Coming to the Women's March in Washington, DC? Take a little time to visit sites dedicated to powerful women.
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While the proverbial White House glass ceiling is still intact (sigh), there are a few places around the nation’s capital where women rule the roost. Sadly, those places are not in the halls of power, still dominated by a (white) male majority. But if you want to focus on the history and accomplishments of women, Washington DC does offer several museums celebrating the fairer sex.

www.nps.org
It’s likely politic to start a tour of dynamic dames at the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The National Park Service added the Capitol Hill museum site to its roster in 2016. The historic building was once home to the National Woman’s Party (NWP), which led early movements for equality and the right of females to vote. When the party purchased the house in 1929, it evolved into a center for feminist education and social change.



Today, the museum honors the Suffrage Movement (it’s named for two early suffragettes--Alice Paul and Alva Belmont), along with the continuing fight for equal rights. Memorabilia includes Susan B. Anthony’s desk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair, a fine arts collection depicting famous women in American history and the wood blocks used to print suffragist literature. There is also a textile collection of banners, capes and costumes used by the NWP while picketing the White House or marching in parades and equality demonstrations between 1913 and 1970.
NMWA/Thomas H. Feld
Next, head to downtown DC to recognize creative women of another character. The National Museum of Women in the Arts calls itself the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to examining the work of a broad array of female artists. The institution has a permanent collection of 4,500 pieces, some of which date back to the 16th century. More than 1,000 artists working in a variety of mediums are represented, including Mary Cassatt, √Člisabeth Louise Vig√©e-Lebrun and Joana Vasconcelos. The museum regularly presents rotating special exhibitions featuring innovative female artists from around the world. The role of the female artist is also explored through film, cultural conversations and artist talks.  

NMWA/Dakota Fine

Statuesque Women

There are statues of Jefferson, Lincoln, Lafayette, Einstein and dozens of other statues around DC dedicated to dudes. Women are not as well-represented (imagine that), but there are some sculpted homages to the country’s fiercest females.
Eleanor Roosevelt statue
Eleanor Roosevelt statue |Flickr CC: Sean Hayford Oleary



Eleanor Roosevelt was likely the first First Lady to take the reins of power and run with them. Among other accomplishments, she was part of the first American delegation to the United Nations and chaired its first Commission on Human Rights. That’s why the life-size bronze of Eleanor stands in front of a UN logo at the sprawling FDR Memorial.
Photo courtesy of washington.org

Roosevelt was a big supporter of Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the country’s early civil rights activists. Bethune devoted her career to improving the lives of African Americans through education and political and economic empowerment. She founded a private school for African-American children, headed up the National Council of Negro Women, and was a special assistant to the secretary of war during World War II. Her memorial in Lincoln Park features the elderly Mrs. Bethune with two young children. Bethune is also celebrated at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.



Vietnam Womens Memoria-washington dc
Vietnam Women’s Memorial | Flickr CC: Jeff Kubina

One of the most touching sculptures on the National Mall may also be among the most overlooked. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is located in a grove of trees near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The 2,000-pound bronze statue by female sculptor Glenna Goodacre depicts three servicewomen, one of whom is tending to the needs of a wounded soldier.

More ideas, including monuments and statues dedicated to strong women, can be found here.