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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.