When you've spent the last year circling the globe you tend to become proficient on how to make your time on the road a tad bit easier. Unfortunately, since there is no real secret to maneuvering the dreaded airport security, I'll leave you with five travel essentials that will at least make the rest of a travel-lovers experience a little less painful.
5. Lap protector
I won't get into the irony of calling a computer you shouldn't put on your lap a laptop, but anyone who has ever spent a lot of time with their personal computer resting on their lower body has experienced the 21st century version of a leg warmer. It turns out the direct contact is bad for your computer (because it doesn't allow the machine to breath), but it can also leave behind burn marks. An easy (and cheap) solution is a lap protector that provides a barrier between you and the scalding surface. Belkin's Laptop CoolStrip is not only affordable, but also compact enough to travel with. Now every time you want to check your email you don't have to check to make sure you're wearing pants.
4. Luggage scale
You know the saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? Well, that's how I feel about paying excess baggage fees. The problem is I also have a problem with over-packing. But thanks to digital luggage scales (like this one from Balanzza), I can stop filling my carry-on bag with my heavy electronic chargers and bulky travel guides in the hopes of getting that scale to drop a few pounds. With this nifty device you simply hook the gadget to your bag, lift, and the weight is displayed right there in black and white. Now you can save yourself the public humiliation at the airport so long as you can remember to weigh your bag ahead of time.
3. Zippered pillowcase
I didn't think you could find so many uses for a zippered pillowcase until I started counting all the ways I put it to use on my trip. 1.) Not only was the zippered pillowcase perfect for covering a hostel pillow that might have more questionable spots than a McDonalds playground, but I also used it to store my valuables (passport, money, etc.) under my head while I slept on planes, trains, and buses. It's easier to catch zzz's knowing that if anyone did go through your bag, all they might get away with is your favorite sweater. 2.) An ideal fix for anyone with allergies. Since I am allergic to feather down this cotton cover gave my skin a layer of protection from anything unknown that might cause me to break out. 3.) Use it to protect fragile items in your luggage that might otherwise get broken or banged up. 4.) If you find that your checked bag is slightly overweight (an "I told you so" is coming if you didn't listen to Tip #4), the zippered pillowcase can substitute for a quick carry-on bag. Next time remember to put it in your suitcase already filled with the heavy items and you'll eliminate the embarrassment of flashing everyone your skivvies while you bend over your suitcase moving personal items from one bag to another.
I'm hoping I'm not the first person to tell you about Skype. But if I am you should really look into changing your friends. Those in the know have been using it for years. It's free software you download to your computer (or smart phone) that enables you to call or video chat with anyone, anywhere in the world for FREE as long as they have Skype too. And even if you have some friends and family who are living in the 21st century without a computer, you can use Skype to call landlines and cell phones for less than a penny a minute. You totally want to be Skype friends now, don't you?
1. Travel toilet paper
Frequent travelers know that the travel section of their local drugstore can be their best friend, but most are too embarrassed to pick up the mini size roll of toilet paper sitting right there next to the dwarfed deodorant. Let me tell you, the only thing more embarrassing than being seen buying toilet paper small enough for the Charmin bear is being in a public toilet in China and not knowing the rest of the population likes to drip dry. See, sometimes it is better to have too much information!
Lisa Costantini is a writer/editor currently traveling the world with her husband working on a project about sport and culture. More information can be found on their website at www.whysportmatters.com. Lisa will be blogging from the road for us as she and her husband travel through Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe over the next several months.
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