For those of you in the audience at the NYT Travel Show – THANK YOU!
I’ve highlighted the apps and gadgets that I mentioned during the seminar so that you can click directly on the word and it will take you either to the company’s website or to an Amazon page where you can buy it.
I look forward to any feedback you provide and please feel free to contact me through social media or the contact form on this website anytime.
THE GEAR I CARRY
Number one – The right suitcase:
This is what I suggest you splurge on – $200 and up –
Splurge on the right luggage for you.
Computer Case/Bag – Briggs and Riley Cabin Bag
Inside, I always, always, always, have ear plugs. I use these Vibes Hi-Fi earplugs – but any old ones’ work in a pinch.
Also – good headphones – my favorites right now are these Bose noise-cancelling ear buds – the SoundSport free. But a lot of people I know prefer these over-ear versions – no matter what noise-cancelling can be real life-savers – for sleep especially.
For work – I always have my laptop, an iPad, I put all my chargers in Ziploc Bags and use a label maker at home and these little twist ties to keep them organized. I’ve tried those GridIt organizers – I prefer this.
If I’m going a big work trip, I’ll bring a power strip along in my checked-in suitcase too.
These are the single most important gadgets to my life. Without out these – I’m basically dead in the water.
I use a whole combination of these:
Starting with this Skyroam Solis – which is also a mobile WIFI hotspot – plus charges your phones up to three times in one day. (By the way, it’s $8 a DAY – not a month …)
The Skyroam Solis (click here to go directly to the company website) connects users with mobile WiFi on the go and gives you instant access to secure, unlimited data in 100+ countries. So it gives you the convenience of going from one country to another without configuring local SIMs, updating plans, incurring roaming charges or overage fees, shareable on up to five devices simultaneously.
My phone case is the Mophie Juicepack Air (be sure to get the right one for your phone model) – which gives my phone 30+ hours of extra battery time.
The Mophie Powerstation USB-C XXL to keep my laptop, tablets, and smartphone charged always, and in all ways.
This little Griffin charger for my Apple watch…
And when I’m mostly outside and can’t plug in? The waterproof Solar charger by Outxe keeps me connected on the go.
Another awesome charger? My main suitcase:
It’s the Bluesmart Series 2 –
It connects wirelessly to an app on your smartphone so that you can remotely locate it, lock it, and even weigh it.
There’s a built-in SIM card and GPS, so you can find it anywhere in the world…
…A built-in battery lets you charge your phone up to six times…
The battery is lithium and you can’t take it out – which some airlines have banned checking – so that’s why I only use it as a carry-on.
For overseas travel – I have this one adaptor travel plug – by Go Travel – it’s a world adaptor and twin USB charger in one.
Tiny jumprope and resistance band – gotta exercise! I also use the Johnson&Johnson 7-minute workout app.
For safety I use this RoboAlarm by Basu.
I’ve been mugged in Moscow, chased in Chicago, and nearly kidnapped in the Kazbek.
Having a little screamer like this is helpful. I’ve tested a lot of others that are like personal panic buttons and can one of your contacts in an emergency – but this is the one I use most.
The last essentials are — ready? A paper clip. I don’t leave the country without one. If you have an iPhone, you’ll need it to swap out SIM cards. An ear-ring back works great for this too.
And extra hair-ties – these little rubber bands that tie my hair back are some of the best MacGyver-like gadgets to have with you – bar none.
APPS AND TOOLS TO SOLVE COMMON PROBLEMS
Travel 3.0 and “experiential” vacations that everyone’s talking about.
These cater authentic, challenging and participatory experiences …
… defined by trust: Of strangers in foreign lands.
Where human connection is about more than just uploading selfies and social media updates …
… it’s not about watching a new culture …
… but immersing yourself in it.
For this – I really like AIRBNB EXPERIENCES:
These are still fairly new: but now the app that connects with places to stay – connects you to locals around the world offering unique vacation experiences too:
Like violin making in Paris …
… or running a marathon in Kenya.
Some of the experiences are genuinely mind-boggling …
… and definitely worth building a vacation around.
Another big trend? Doing what I did growing up: exploring places like Alaska,
And building entire trips to places effected by climate change …last chance travel – last chance to see glaciers before they all melt…
… including the Arctic, Columbia Ice Fields in Canada and parts of New Zealand …
Another great tool no matter for immersive and authentic travel no matter where you go is:
An app called ‘Spotted by Locals’ … it’s a $3.99 app that gives you recommendations on where to eat, shop, be entertained and more – all from people who actually live there.
… away from the tourist traps towards the hidden gems …
… across 67 cities right now and growing.
It’s all available offline, so you do not need to stress about burning through your minutes.
Beach-Inspector.com: offers detailed insight into more than fifteen hundred beaches!
From Europe and Africa to the Middle East and Asia …
… including the quality of beachside parking …
… the watersports available …
… the range of places to eat…
… and the demographic of other people there…
… essential if you don’t want to spend an entire vacation listening to kids playing right by you … or vice versa!
Back to my question about whether you’ve noticed a price spike in the middle of your ticket search? It happens all the time.
The easiest way to fix it is to change browsers or delete your cache. Once the airlines are onto the fact you’re buying a ticket – it doesn’t help them to lead you right to the lowest price.
The other thing me and every single frequent flyer I know does? Use tools like
Kayak, Google Flights, Skyscanner and Hopper… do a quick search of all of these:
THEN go book directly from the airline’s own site.
That ALWAYS gets you the best price, and cuts out the middle man –
That goes for hotels and cars too.
I’ve shown up with Expedia reservations that the hotel or car rental company never received.
Also – As much as we all like brand new experiences each time we travel …
it pays to be loyal to a specific brand to take advantage of their rewards benefits I use Southwest, Virgin America – which is now owned by Alaska.
My friend who fly’s all over the world uses United. Racking up points does get you free stuff.
An app called SeatGuru.com helps you find the best seat on any airplane. Like on Southwest, rows 11 and 12 have a critical few more inches of legroom.
While you’re getting ready to head to the airport, you can easily monitor the security line situation using MiFlight, which crowd-sources wait times from other frequent fliers. It’s like Waze – but for security lines.
You’ll know whether you can breeze right through the security screening hub or need to brace yourself for a massive line, before you even set foot inside the building.
At the airport… Loungebuddy is the simplest way to get into airport lounges – whether you’re a member or first class flyer or what-not – it’s great to eat free food, and have a comfy place to rest – especially if you’re flight’s delayed!
I could not survive without TripIt:
It organizes your travel plans in one place and deliveries beautiful full itineraries.
… sends real-time alerts.
… and just this last week added security wait times too.
If you really run into the stuff of travel nightmares:
Oversold, cancelled, stuck on the tarmac – you always deserve more than a free drink voucher or $50-bucks. Seriously –
Here are a few gems you should know about too:
And app called AirHelp deals with getting cold-hard cash for messed-up flights. So does
getservice.com… which automatically helps you recoup money on delayed or cancelled flights…. Even going back over the last 12 months.
The apps file claims on your behalf.
The fact that frequent flyers save in the region of 600-bucks per year …
… says as much about the time we waste traveling …
… as it does about the necessity of apps like this as well.
And guess what?
If you are bumped from your trip don’t accept a voucher.
If an airline doesn’t arrange new travel within two hours …
… the US Department of Transportation (DOT) requires they compensate you in cash, up to $1,350!
Airlines are also required to tell you that you can get a check on the spot.
As for getting on the next flight …
… remember you won’t be the only one who got bumped!
Jump on your phone to find an alternate flight – STAT.
Once you do – show your phone to the folks at the counter.
Remember to stay calm … and keep your tone helpful.
Guess what? If there’s only a first class seat available …
… It’s your right to get that seat – and no extra charge!
Going straight to Twitter works wonders too – not to rant about how awful they are – just a DM to their specific account – which has worked miracles for me with Virgin America, JetBlue, — Southwest – my top three favorite airlines in general…
… but even Delta – American and United – which have worse customer service overall …. are getting on board with this whole idea.
In fact, all the airlines I know of now have Twitter accounts specifically to deal with customer service – and it works two-three times faster than trying to get someone on the phone.
A well-timed rant can work – but use it sparingly. You have to rise above whiners and complainers – sound credible and be good PR for them when they fix your problem.
The tech tool gethuman can also help you find better numbers to call and speak with an actual human too.
And while we’re on the topic of getting money back — and app called ‘Pruvo’ can help you
… secure better room rates if you’re staying in a hotel…
… even after you have booked!
It keeps scouring the web to find better prices for your booked room.
… and I know some people who’ve actually arrived at their destination … only to find that Pruvo has saved them up to a third of the price of their room.
So you have a plan in place. The airfare bought, the travel-like-a-local all mapped out.
Now it’s time to pack!
And there’s one word that is the key to a better experience here:
I use an app called Packpoint …
… which creates a packing list for you.
taking into account where you are going – including the weather forecast …
… and what you plan to do there….
… It also draws upon lists from other visitors to the same location.
….and gets to know your preferences for future trips.
If you fly so frequently packing has become a hassle, DUFL lets you pack your bag once, and then send it to DUFL through their app. They handle everything and make sure your bag’s waiting at your hotel—
… when your trip’s done, DUFL pick up your bag and launder your clothes so you’re ready for the next trip. Easy!
One of the biggest problems on any trip is connectivity – whether it’s to use Google Maps, find a good restaurant, or even just to share a few sights and sounds with the world back home via Instagram or Facebook.
84% of modern travelers… want instant connectivity.
If you’re traveling internationally, jumping online with your smartphone can mean a huge bill—but don’t panic, because there are ways around it.
The easiest—but not cheapest—option is to call your carrier and get a plan featuring international service.
On the other hand, Picking up a local SIM card when you get to your destination is usually the cheapest way to continue your cell service as you travel abroad, as long as your phone is unlocked by the carrier.
But — and this is a big “but” — you have to have your phone totally paid off or pay the remaining balance on the cost of the phone before you’re allowed to unlock it.
Another option is to pick up a super cheap “burner” phone that you only use for travel. You can find them on Amazon – and often even at the airport or convenience-type stores where you’re traveling.
Day Passes can help too:
The big-name wireless carriers don’t actually want you to ditch your precious phone when you hop on a plane to another country.
Check with your carrier and see if they offer day passes – AT&T, Verizon, and even Sprint have some version that’s around $10-bucks a day.
Wi-fi is increasingly easy to engineer – even in the remotest spots.
I use this Skyroam Solis that I showed you earlier.
What’s so great about it –
… creates your own hotspot for about $8 in 110 countries.
… it can connect to all your gadgtes….
…. And you can also use it to charge recharges my smartphone about three total times during the day.
There’s another gadget called the AmpliFi Teleport that goes a step further …
…lets you accessing your favourite streaming chanels like Hulu and Netflix …
… wherever you are.
Or check-in on other smart home gadgets like lights and door locks … or your smart home security system.
… Great way to make sure your teens aren’t throwing the mother of all parties while you’re out of town! Or that nobody’s robbing you blind while you’re away.
A lot of people I know also carry an Amazon Fire TV stick and plug it right into the USB of the TV in the hotel to watch movies and stream shows with a prime account.
Using a WIFI connection and V-O-I-P, voice over Internet Protocol – is a great way to use
Facebook’s voice andvideo calling features, Skype, or any other internet-based calling app like WhatsApp – that lets you have the same conversations you’d have while using your cell service, without the added cost.
I want to tell you a few more insider tricks when it comes to ROAD TRIPS – mainly in the US:
In my experience, Waze is the best at getting you from Point A to Point B – especially in cities and urban areas in the US where it can take advantage of crowdsourcing –
Google Maps everywhere else.
If your car breaks down:
Honk! Is an on-demand roadside-assistance app that can get you a tow truck and a trip to the repair shop typically within 15 to 30 minutes, there’s no membership fees or hidden add-ons that sometimes get you with other services.
If you really want to save cash and just need a way to get from point A to point B, check out Transfercar. All over the United States there are rental cars that need to be moved from state to state, or sometimes even from coast to coast, and the companies will let you drive them there for free — even RVs! Many include fuel, expenses and even insurance!
Does driving sound like too much of a challenge on its own?
You can find super affordable rides to all kinds of interesting places, along with some friendly travel companions, with Tripda. Tripda connects friendly drivers with anyone who might need a low-cost ride. It saves gas, reduces traffic and most important, saves you a whole bunch of cash.
Okay – wrapping up the general travel tips and headache helpers:
——For taking better photos:
When your phone is your main camera – the last thing you want is to run out of space:
The Kingston Bolt: is what I recommend – it’s basically a flash drive for your iPhone or iPad. You can even shoot new pictures and videos directly to the Bolt. Not impressed yet? Consider this: The 128GB Bolt holds 32,000 photos.
For those of you who want to take your travel protography to new heights – GoPro Hero – 6 or looking into the small, travel-friendly drones: like this SELFLY drone that pops out of a phone case – toss it in the air and it shoots videos and photos. Nowhere near as obnoxious as a giant drone.
One more quick hack: I have long hair, and I never go anywhere without an elastic hair-tie or plastic clip of some sort. These are perfect for engineering a makeshift tripod on the go.
… Wrap your phone around a glass of water to take timelapse photos,
… tie it sign or fencepost –
Or even use it on a 17th century canon in historic Fort Havana, and voila! Instant tripod.
(FULL STORY ON OUR PHOTO HACKS FROM CUBA HERE.
——-NOW A FEW OF THE OTHER NEW THINGS I’M TESTING …
Travis the Translator!
It can translate 80 languages with a SIM card or WiFi connection …
… or 20 in offline mode …
… which should be quite enough for any trip. Unless you really are planning a world tour!
The touchpad just requires you to tap the language being spoken …
… and transates out loud.
Push another arrow …
… and Travis translates back into English.
And if you aren’t sure where you are after a particularly big night (!) …
… Travis can automatically pick-up a language.
Or should I say: “simplemente brillante!”
MY STORY ON TRAVIS HERE.
FUTURE OF TRAVEL
Let me take just a minute or two and tell you about the FUTURE OF TRAVEL:
Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t have to worry about wallets or keys, except how much fun you were going to have that day?
That’s what technology is now trying to bring to the future of travel.
Last year I covered the story of Carnival’s first wearable called the Ocean Medallion.
About the size of a quarter – You can wear it on your wrist or as a pendant on a chain, or even just slipped into the pocket of your jeans.
It replaces your room key, wallet, passport…it lets you buy whatever you want on the ship and charges it to your account; it keeps track of your past orders…
It’s similar to Disney’s MagicBand —
Basically, today it’s a Medallion on a cruise ship or theme park…and will soon be a lot more of the way we travel.
And yes … there will be flying cars
or Hyperloop …
and trips to other planets….Someday.
But Augmented reality – so you put on a pair of glasses and look at a statue or street corner and see every notable thing about it – everything that’s happened there.
Even virtual reality are here now… and we’ll see more and more of it in our travels this year.
But what I’m hoping the smartest people on the planet can do this year? Make a travel pillow that actually lets you sleep on planes!!!
The truth is … technology really can take your trip to a whole new level.
But disconnecting from the chaos of our modern world …
…can be the ideal antidote to the stress of day-to-day life.
So I want to close this seminar by telling you about two more sites:
TripsToDiscover.com has a great list of fabulous destinations that offer the chance for a digital detox …
Another site that I’ve used? Funny – it’s called DigitalDetox-dot-org.