I’ve been traveling for 40 years now. In that time, I’ve learned a thing or two. This page is a collection of travel resources for you to use if you are looking for accessories to help make your travel a little bit better.
Disclosure: You’ll find that some of the links below are affiliate links. If you buy anything that I earn a commission on, there is no additional cost to you. I might earn a small commission from any purchases you make while browsing these products and services. I offer only links to products and services I’ve used in the past, or that I use today. Please only buy these products if you need them or feel that they will enhance your travel experience.
Travel Guides and Books
I have to admit here that I first bought one of the Rick Steves travel guide books in 1979. It was called Europe Through The Back Door. I carried it all over Europe as I backpacked through 11 countries. Those were the good old days! Rick’s books have since accompanied me on many more European vacations. I first learned of Rick and his travels by watching PBS and seeing some of his travel shows. I have the 70 episode collection of travel shows on DVDs. I think I’ve seen them all at least twice. The latest guide books I used was for a trip to Italy – his Venice 2012 and Florence and Tuscany 2012 guide books. Both were so helpful that I am sure my wife and I saw things that we would have otherwise missed or not known about. That’s the beauty of a good guide book. You get walking tours, eating and sleeping advice, transportation and travel tips focused on the exact place you’ll be visiting. I can’t recommend Rick’s books (and videos) enough. I wouldn’t travel with anything else. I just like Rick’s travel philosophy and his easy-going demeanor.
I recently bought a copy of Matt Kepnes’ book called How to Travel the World on $50.00 a Day. I’ve been a reader of his travel website for quite some time. I’ve enjoyed the great articles and photos he shares. If you want some really good ideas on how to travel on a very tight budget, get his book and devour it. You’ll save the cost of the book many times over just by following one or two of his excellent tips for saving money and traveling smarter. It’s one of the best travel resources out there and well worth the money to purchase it.
I’ve also used the Fodor’s travel guides for a trip we made to Greece in 2010. It was quite good and had all we needed to get around and to find a place to stay. We were a little apprehensive about going to Greece, because we just didn’t know very much about the customs and certainly couldn’t speak the language. It was a relief to review the book and find out how to get around. We took a 3 night cruise and saw some of the Greek Islands and also stopped in Turkey for a brief visit. All-in-all, the Fodor’s guide was well written and provided the information we needed. They offer guide books for destinations all over the globe, so check them out.
I guess I don’t need to tell you that Amazon.com has everything you could need in the way of guide books, maps, audio books and accessories. I recommend visiting them and browsing for all your guide books.
Travel Gadgets and Accessories
Computers and files – OK, I’m biased. I have a 15″ Apple MacBook Pro and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It wasn’t always that way, though. I used to carry a Dell Inspiron notebook with me and I was happy with that for a long time. We all have our preferences. But you need to also have a back-up for your photos and video. It’s a must these days, because they can be gone in a flash if you’re not careful. Get yourself a good 1TB (yes, Terabyte) USB portable hard drive and use it to make a regular back-up. Then, I recommend going to Carbonite.com and getting hooked up with their online backup. That way, you can lose your back-up hard drive, and you’ll still have a drive in the cloud. I heard someone say once that “you don’t have your files properly backed up until they exist in at least three places.” I say – save files to your computer, and if possible keep the SD card with the video and photo files intact and separate from the computer (in case of theft). Don’t reuse the SD cards until you have the data backed up. Then back up your computer to the 1TB drive, and allow the Carbonite back-up to completely back up your computer files. There, an almost perfect solution to file back-up while on the road! Note: I’ve had two USB thumb drives suddenly fail on me. I lost all of the files on them. As long as you do your backups, you’ll never lose it all. All it takes is getting into the habit of backing it all up.
Travel adapters for your electronics – It’s really odd the first time you have to plug something in to a 220 outlet in Italy or France. You’ll be unsure if it’s safe to plug straight in with an adapter, or if you will need a voltage convertor. When faced with connecting to power in a foreign country, it pays to take a set of travel adapters with you. I have a nice set of Samsonite adapters that I’ve used in London, Paris, Rome and Switzerland. I’ve always had enough plugs to charge whatever I needed. These days, there are so many things that are battery powered that it is a must to have adapters. I’ve also got a Kensington travel adapter that provides all sorts of plugs for use in many countries. It’s a bit bigger than most adapters, because it does so much more than the standard adapter does. On the rare occasion when you need a 110VAC to 220VAC transformer to convert the voltage (use this whenever you’re not sure), it pays to have one in your suitcase. I carry one with me because not all devices that you bring will work on 220VAC power. You can seriously damage your belongings if you plug a 110VAC device into 220VAC power. I forgot to use a transformer when I hooked up my wife’s hair dryer (110VAC only) to 220 while in Italy. We got a lot of snap, crackle and pop and some sparking. Had to throw that one away.
Photography and Video
I used to carry around a big Camcorder designed to use 8mm tape cartridges. It was pretty good at the time. However, I also had to tote a small camera with me for still shots. That meant that I had twice as many cameras to worry about getting stolen or lost. I try to relax when traveling, but I do admit to sweating over the loss of computer, camera, passport and credit cards. Those things need to be watched carefully so they don’t disappear.
I like to carry a small camera in my pocket, so I don’t have it slung around my neck where it is an easy target for thieves. But a camcorder doesn’t fit easily in a pocket, so I combined the two and purchased a Canon SX40-HS camera that is fairly small, but has an incredible zoom feature that lets you take wide angle shots as well as impressive telephoto images. Rather than list all the features, go to Amazon.com and see the reviews on it. I’m very happy with the HD video it takes as well as the 12 megapixel photos. It is so much better than using tape!! I can change the SD card and go right back to taking video and photos. I’ve been buying 16GB SD cards that provide and hour of HD video or something like 5,000 photos. Awesome! If you’re like me and want to avoid a big camera and a lot of lenses, check out this camera to see if it would be a good fit for you. Or shop Amazon or eBay for the right camera and accessories.
Luggage and Packing Supplies
Packing cubes – It pays to be organized. It’s so much nicer to have a suitcase with all your items neatly contained in sections so they are easy to find and all together. Packing cubes are just the thing to make travel a bit nicer. I’ve used packing cubes to keep my clean clothes separate from everything else. When you arrive at your hotel, just pull out the cube with the clean clothes in it and put them away or separate them from your suitcase. Whatever you like to do when you arrive. Everything stays nice and fresh and neat. Another great use for packing cubes is to keep your shoes in. I hate shoes coming in contact with everything else. Instead of using plastic bags, I have a cube just to keep shoes in. The packing cubes help to use all of the available luggage space if you pack the right way. Another great travel aid are the vacuum packing bags. Suck all the air out of the bag before you pack it and it’s take up a lot less space. Try it on your next trip!
Money belts and security purses – Pickpockets are a fact of life in many high-tourist-traffic countries. You’ll be at risk anywhere there are crowds, noise and confusion. You can avoid being a target pretty easily, but it will require a change in the way you think and act. First of all, you need to get a money belt of some kind that you wear under your clothes. Second, don’t carry a wallet in your pants or a purse with money, credit cards and documents in it. Keep everything of value in the money belt and don’t take it out unless you are in a restroom or somewhere private. Never let a potential thief see where you keep the valuables. Keep a small amount of money tucked in a shirt pocket or in a pants pocket with a button or zipper on it. Keep only what you will need for the day handy. Only access the small money when you need to pay for something. If you do lose your pocket money to a thief, your trip won’t be ruined. You’ll just have a travel story to tell your friends when you get home. If you lose a purse or wallet with credit cards, money or passport, however, your trip could come to an abrupt and premature end. Keep your valuables safe and hope that a thief will target someone else. Don’t be an easy target. Thieves love easy targets.
Women can carry a theft-proof purse, but you can still have the purse snatched and then you lose everything inside. The theft-proof purses have cut-proof straps and stainless steel mesh sewn into the bag to prevent a thief from cutting the bag open and getting to the contents. They also have zipper latches that keep a thief from being able to easily open zippers. These purses are definitely better than a regular purse, but remember not to carry anything you can’t afford to lose in it. Use your money belt for valuables. Search Amazon.com or eBags.com for all of the travel accessories.
I’ve had travel insurance on most of my trips, but (knock on wood) I’ve never needed it. It’s a good idea to insure a trip, especially if you have already paid for a lot of non-refundable costs (non-refundable tickets, hotel rooms, tours, cruises, etc.). Sometimes things come up and you are wise to insure the trip so you don’t have a big loss… just in case. For trips where you can cancel reservations and such without any penalties, insurance is not as useful. You’ll have to be the judge of whether it makes sense for you. Sometimes to save money, I purchase non-refundable airline tickets and take a chance that nothing will go wrong. I once paid for a 7 night cruise and then had to cancel it. I then found out that the money paid was not refundable and that if I wanted to take another cruise, I could use the money already paid. However, it was a year later that we were finally able to go on the cruise. By that time, the price of the cruise had gone way up and I had to pay another large sum to book the cruise (it was in Greece). Lesson learned the hard way. It was a great cruise and still worth the extra money.
The other important advantage to having insurance is the help you can get 24 hours a day by calling the insurance carrier if you have a covered problem. They can assist with so many things that might come up. You can get medical coverage in case of illness, theft insurance, and all kinds of coverages for things you might not even have thought of. Review some of the various carriers, like AllianzTravelInsurance.com, WorldNomads.com and Travel Guard and pick a plan that is affordable and gives you the coverage you need.
Hotels, Hostels and Apartment Rentals
So how do you save money on lodging these days? It’s getting expensive to stay in hotels all the time. Why not consider stepping out of your comfort zone a little bit and trying some budget ideas that will actually pay dividends (you’ll get to live in a more residential area and meet local people)? Today’s hostels can be a really good value for the traveler. Check out hostelbookers.com. You don’t have to share a room at most places – you can get a private room with a bath. The money you save might extend your trip a little. Or, you might consider renting an apartment for the duration of your stay and living like a local! Our last trip to Italy was wonderfully enhanced by renting apartments in Milan, Florence and Venice. We had a kitchen in each one and a bedroom with a full bath. We were able to come and go as we pleased. And we got to meet the owners, who were so kind and helpful and ready to answer our questions and recommend things to see and places to eat. One of the owners even met us at the train station and showed us the way to the apartment so we wouldn’t have a problem finding it. It made our trip that much more enjoyable. Being able to keep food and wine in the refrigerator and cook our own meals was also nice. We’re planning to do this again on our next vacation. We used Airbnb.com and Homeaway.com to find our apartments. They’re a great service for the traveler and will only get better as their services improve over time. Give them a try!
I hope this travel resources page has been helpful and that your trip plans come together well. By saving a few dollars here and there, you can stretch your travel budget, stay longer and go a bit farther. Have a great trip!