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Product Reviews/Gift Guide

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Top Products for 2016

Some I never could figure out. Some were just kinda meh. Others, I loved. I received several products to review in 2016 for my various outlets, and some I use every day while others make me smile when I pull them out.

Here is my list of favorite products of 2016.

 

Now I put on a happy face every time I travel with this adorable Smiley Luggage from ATM Luggage. It comes in other patterns, but I couldn’t resist this pattern, especially as it serves as a logo of sorts for my son, a millennial happiness expert and author of the book “Millennials Guide to Making Happiness.” Check out the cove and you’ll see what I mean.

 

Oh, how I’d love the adult version of these 1965 VW Camper Van Play Tents, although it’s a bit too expensive just for me to play in. But our future grandchildren will love the pop-up tent from The Monster Factory. The tent is modeled after the 1965 Split Screen VW Camper Van and is stored away in a VW Wheel bag.
I spend a third of my life now with these amazing sheets. These new hyper-cotton Bedgear sheets were developed to have greater airflow and keep your body temperature regulated through the night. All I know is that they are supersoft and make slipping into bed at night even more of a thrill.

 

I love this line of Dune Jewelry that includes grains of sand from your favorite beach, selected from their huge sand bank. Select your sand then the piece of jewelry you’d like, including rings, earrings, bracelets, charms or even a watch.
I never thought I’d abandon my iPhone. But then I got a Moto Z Force smartphone, and it’s adios to Apple. At least for my phone. It has a shatterproof screen and a battery that charges super fast.
This camera takes amazing photos on its own, and then when I attach the Hasselblad True Zoom, one of several “Moto Mods ” attachments that snap on in a jiff, I can take the most amazing photos of my life. Other attachments include a JBL SoundBoost Speaker and Moto Insta-Share Projector. And my cute Kate Spade backup battery snaps right on and assures I’ll never run out of juice. I loved it so much, I wrote an entire blog on it.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

3 Best Travel Pillows

Freezing my way through yet another arctic plane ride, I asked the flight attendant for a blanket. “We haven’t had those since the ‘80s,” he snapped and scooted away.
It is rare to find pillows and blankets in coach class, and when you do, they are just recycled repositories for germs from passengers past. So I prefer to take my own to ensure a small measure of comfort. These are three pillows I’ve found that are worth dragging around the airport and onto the plane.

The new JetComfy travel pillow attaches to your armrest.
The new JetComfy travel pillow attaches to your armrest.

Jet Comfy

I’d never seen a product quite like this before. Jet Comfy was created by a two gentleman who met in a hotel bar in Tahiti, and after lamenting the uncomfortable flight they had endured, decided they could create a better travel pillow.

This new product is designed to support your neck while in a seated position. The compact pillow extends, then attaches to your armrest where you can adjust it to a comfortable position. It has a removable microfiber cover over 2” of memory foam. As a bonus, it has two built-in power packs for recharging your devices. Comes in blue and grey: on sale for $49.99.

Cabeau-Fold-n-Go-Blanket-Cabeau-Blue-2-1024x1024
The Cabeau Fold ‘n go Blanket is also a pillow.

Cabeau Fold ‘n Go Blanket

Made of high-quality fleece, this blanket wraps me in warmth. My favorite feature is that it’s also a pillow to perch under my iPad on my lap or put behind my back for lumbar support. A Velcro handle makes it easy to attach to my suitcase when it’s not in use. It’s machine washable, a mandatory feature for anything that touches the inside of an airplane. Comes in blue and charcoal for $19.99.

Thanks to the Cabeau Air Evolution I actually slept on my 14-hour plane ride to India.
Thanks to the Cabeau Air Evolution I actually slept on my 14-hour plane ride to India.

Cabeau Air Evolution

I was a bit skeptical about this double-decker inflatable pillow, but I love it. The raised sides offer support for my neck and the removable velour cover is super soft. There’s a media pouch to slip my phone or earbuds in and it folds down into the size of a soda can for easy transport. Comes in grey and blue for $19.99.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Slip into SlipIns

SlipIns can be worn in the water, and out. © Rick  Rickman
SlipIns can be worn in the water, and out. © Rick Rickman

Their line of clothing started as a way for Robin Chesnie to stay warm while surfing. Rather than wearing those heavy wetsuits, she and her partner Rick Rickman developed SlipIns, a stylish line of surfing and exercise clothing in fun and festive patterns.

The lightweight items fold up small and are quick-drying, making them perfect for travel. And they provide 60+ SPF, important for protecting our skin. SlipIns range from $75 to $150.

Walk Tall with Oka-B Wedges

These new Emery wedges from Oka-B are super comfortable. And isn't the box beautiful?
These new Emery wedges from Oka-B are super comfortable. And isn’t the box beautiful?

Before we talk about the wonderful new wedges from Oka-B., we have to talk about the box. Shoeboxes have a short lifespan in my house. Take shoes out; recycle box. Not this one. Have you ever seen such a gorgeous box? The colors, the bird, the flowering tree branch. I want to frame it for my office wall.

Now on to the shoes. Despite having a higher heel than I usually wear, the Emery peep-toe wedge is so comfortable. And you have to love a shoe that is fashionable and easy to keep clean. Just wipe it down, or if you’ve really made a mess of them, throw them in the washing machine.

The Emery is $56 and comes in 10 colors. If you decide to ditch it, can I have your box?

Taste the World

The Try the World box from Japan. Good thing I have an English book to translate what the products are.
The Try the World box from Japan. Good thing I have an English book to translate what the products are.

I love the box subscription trend, and have found one that combines two of my favorite things – food and travel. Try the World delivers a box of gourmet foods sourced from around the world, focusing on a different country each time.

These boxes contain 6-7 products, delivered every two months. Because Try the World works with small producers, each box may be slightly different. With a subscription you get free shipping, free returns and you can cancel any time.

My beautiful close-to-Tiffany-colored box from Japan arrived the other day. I dug through the red crinkled paper to pull out items like an okonomiyaki kit, which I can use to make an omelet-like pancake with savory toppings. I also got ginger paste, blueberry matcha tea, gummy candies, traditional Japanese caramels, soba noodles and a seaweed snack.

The products were accompanied by a beautiful Culture Guide of Japan with instructions and recipes for hosting a traditional Japanese tea ceremony and make-your-own okonomiyaki dinner date that even included a Spotify playlist of Japanese songs.

Individual products, such as Palmiers butter cookies from Morocco, chestnut cream in a tube from France and black truffles and mushrooms from Italy are also available.

While most of us can’t always be traveling the world, with these boxes we have the a chance to enjoy flavors from across the globe. Or try a few that remind us of visits to our favorite countries.

Best Summer Shoes: A Pair of Pons

When it was finally warm enough last spring to ditch my boots, I started wearing a pair of Pons Avarcas. I violated a cardinal rule by taking them on a long trip without really wearing them to ensure their comfort. Next to having clean underwear, a comfortable pair of shoes is key to my enjoyment of any trip. I wore these for hours, walked for miles, and had no problems.

Just a few of the more than 80 versions of Pons Avarcas for women
Just a few of the more than 80 versions of Pons Avarcas for women

I have the beige in the classic style, which also comes in 19 other colors. I just counted up more than 80 versions of the women’s shoe, with metallic, glitter, and animal prints, in various styles including wedge and Mediterranean with an ankle strap.

Originally worn by workers in Menorca, a small Spanish island in the Mediterranean, these soft leather sandals are still made there and are now available in the United States, thanks to Noelia and Jose Pahissa. When they moved from Barcelona to California 10 years ago, Noelia brought along a few pairs of Avarcas sandals from her native country. After receiving many compliments, she and her husband decided Americans would enjoy Avarcas and founded Pons Avarcas to sell the authentic versions. The sandals are available for men, women and children. Prices for women’s start at $77.

Fragrance on the Go

BlackOnyxIt’s a beautiful black onyx bead bracelet with pretty crystal spacers. But wait, there’s more! The filigree charm holds fragrance beads so your fragrance goes where you go, simply by slipping on this lovely bracelet.

Select your signature scent from six Lisa Hoffman fragrances by using the iScentify fragrance finder on the website. Adjust sliders to indicate your preferences. Do you love citrus, woody or soft floral scents? Or maybe you’re more into green and powdery.

With no worries about getting perfumes through security or having it spill in your suitcase, this fragrance jewelry collection from Lisa Hoffman Beauty is perfect for travel. The fragrance jewelry is also available in necklaces, pendants, cuffs and even earrings. Prices start at $65.

Why I Still Use Guidebooks – and Reader Giveaway!

The photos in DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are gorgeous, but what may set them apart are the illustrations inside
The photos in DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are gorgeous, but what may set them apart are the illustrations inside

While my primary research tool for travel has switched from Post-it note marked pages in guidebooks to notes from TripAdvisor and colorful boards on Pinterest, my book cases are  lined with dog-eared guidebooks from recent travels. Here are a few  reasons I like guidebooks.

I’m not always connected to the Internet

While I do travel internationally a fair amount, it never seemed worth the cost to add one of those expensive data plans to my iPhone. Rather than be stuck mapless and clueless on where to get my next great meal (both anxiety-inducing conditions for me), I often carry ripped-out pages from guidebooks, or better yet, take photos with my iPhone. During my recent trip to Berlin, I found the new Fodor’s Berlin indispensable for its maps and restaurants suggestions while I was out exploring. And its small size made it easy to tuck into my bag.

• I love to look at beautiful photos and conduct research at my leisure

Yes, there are plenty of gorgeous photos on the Internet. But there is something about paging through a book while sitting on my front porch or best of all, during the flight to my destination. I had not been familiar with DK Eyewitness Travel Guides until I got one for Italy. It has more than 1500 photos, 48 maps, 322 illustrations and plenty of information. The color-coded  sections and extensive index are especially helpful, the latter an area I’ve found deficit in other guidebooks.

An illustration can depict some things a photo can't - for example, an inside look at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
An illustration can depict some things a photo can’t – for example, an inside look at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

• It’s more efficient for finding information

While that may sound counterintuitive — Google is my BFF — the problem with searching on the Internet is that I get so distracted. It can take me hours to book a single hotel stay because I get caught up in all the TripAdvisor reviews, which then reference restaurants that I have to view the menu of, and shops that I may want to visit. Which may remind me of something I need to buy to take on my trip. Next thing you know I’m bidding on a trench coat on eBay and don’t have a hotel room!

They make great presents

Guidebooks are always appreciated. Even people who don’t like to carry them on trips love to use them for research prior to their trip.

Reader Giveaway!

One lucky reader will win a four-pack of books on NYC, London, Ireland and Paris, valued at $100. Just comment below on which one is your dream destination and you are automatically entered the four-pack of guidebooks. Double your chances by also commenting at @GirlontheGo and include @dk_travel. (Sorry, limited to residents of US and Canada only.)

Photographs and text reproduced by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House from Italy. ©2014 by DK. All rights reserved.

Best Travel Bag

My new favorite travel bag — the Tablet Messenger Bag from jill-e Designs
My new favorite travel bag — the Tablet Messenger Bag from Jill-e Designs

You would think that as a travel writer, I’d have the whole packing thing down — able to do it in my sleep, right? Well, you’d be wrong. Each time seems to be a struggle and it always starts with which handbag to take.

The requirements of my travel handbag are many:

• must be large enough to hold my iPad, wallet, headphones, tissues, lipsticks etc. for the plane ride

• must close at the top with a zipper so I don’t lose anything in the security line or during the flight

Product Review: P-cubed Pants

These P-cubed Pickpocket Proof Pants were perfect for hiking in Banff National Park, although I didn't really have to worry about thieves out in the wilderness.
These P-cubed Pickpocket Proof Pants were perfect for hiking in Banff National Park, although I didn’t really have to worry about thieves out in the wilderness.

I generally don’t get all that excited about new pants — they are like the boring friend who has to come along for the ride but you are more interested in the cute tops and sweaters.

But the P-cubed Pick-Pocket Proof Pants are something to be thrilled about. They come with lots of secure anti-theft pockets to hold phones and credit cards and they are made out of comfortable, quick-drying nylon but feel like cotton.

I took these with me on a trip to Banff in August. We did a lot of hiking and with variable weather changes, I appreciated that these pants can also be rolled up and buttoned for a capri-style when the weather got warmer. I didn’t worry too much about pickpockets — I was more concerned about the grizzly sightings — but I did use the pockets to house my camera and other small items. P-cubed Pants are available in grey, khaki and olive at  www.clothingarts.com for $99.95.

 

 

 

 

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