If you’re anything like us, the holiday season took you a little bit by surprise this year. Can you really believe there’s only two weeks until Christmas? To help you with your holiday shopping (so you can get back to planning your next adventure) we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite, road-tested products for the travelers in your life.
1. Knock Knock Pack This! Pad
Thankfully, Knock Knock’s Pack This! Pad has you covered. With an exhaustive list of items including “motion-sickness remedy”, separate clothing categories for dressy and casual, and every electronic device (and charger!) you could think of, the only thing you have to worry about is getting out the door.
2. Travelon Hanging Toiletry Kit
These days, packing your toiletries is hard work. For starters, there’s the dreaded 1-quart-bag restriction…should you pack those items separately? Forget about it and hope for the best?
The Travelon Hanging Toiletry Kit is large enough to accommodate all of your essentials PLUS your 1-quart bag, with room to spare for jewelry, shaving supplies, hair tools, and more. Yet it’s compact enough to fit in a roll-aboard carry on with ease. When you arrive at your destination, simply hook it to a towel bar, doorknob, curtain rod…you get the picture. Especially useful for bathrooms with less counter space, as frequently found in small apartments! Our tester was thrilled with its capacity and organizational features, and will be taking it on all future trips, long or short.
3. Josie Maran Argan Balm
Airplane travel can be less than luxurious, and the nearly zero percent humidity can wreak havoc on our skin and hair.
Happily, we’ve discovered Josie Maran Argan Balm, a densely moisturizing balm packed with natural and organic emollient ingredients. Our community manager gave it a try after cross-country flight, and it instantly restored life to her dry hands and lips. And because one can never underestimate the power of a multi-tasking product when packing for a vacation, this stuff doubles as a cuticle cream, face serum, and even a hair tamer. What’s not to love?
BONUS: Use promo code HomeExchange at checkout for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more through December 31st
4. Herban Essentials Towelettes
No two ways about it: travel is a dirty business. From crummy tray tables to mysterious sticky spots on your headrest, we always find things we’d like to give a good scrub when we get into a plane, train, or rental car. But as much as we hate germs, we hate harsh, damaging chemicals and artificial scents even more. Luckily, Herban Essentials doesn’t much care for chemicals OR germs. The family run company’s Towelettes use 100% pure essential oils like lavender and eucalyptus and are naturally antibacterial – and since they’re chemical-free, they’re perfect for use on hands. Try the orange variety, our favorite!
It’s a fact that no matter where you go, you’ll need an extra bag. Whether it’s collecting shells on the beach in Mexico, doing some heavy shopping in New York, or hitting the farmer’s market in Paris, you’re going to need a place to stash those finds. Why not do it the eco-friendly way with a sturdy reusable tote? The Baggu bag comes in every color of the rainbow and its uses are endless. Beach bag? Check! Picnic basket? Done! These little guys fit as much as three plastic grocery store bags, slip comfortably over your shoulder, hold up to 50 pounds (that’s a lot of baguettes!) and fold down into their own 5×5” pouch. They’re even machine washable!
6. RuMe ID Luggage Tag
Lost luggage is a total nightmare and has the potential to ruin a whole trip. Tip the odds of finding your missing suitcase in your favor with the RuMe ID Tag. This high-tech helper has a QR code on the back (which you easily register before using it) that will let whoever finds your bag know how to get in touch with you and where to send it. You can update it for each trip you take, and even include a personal note or reward for its safe return. Plus, these cool tags are made out of 100% recycled, durable aluminum. Happy luggage, happy planet!
7. Lo & Sons OG Bag
We’ve been on the hunt for ages for the perfect weekender bag to double as a “personal item” for airplane travel. It needed to be stylish enough to carry on its own so that we wouldn’t scream “tourist” once we arrived at our destination, durable enough to hold up to heavy travel, and have a ton of compartments and pockets to help us stay organized along the way. Enter the Lo & Sons OG Bag, which may well be the perfect travel companion.
The OG bag is lovely to look at and comes in a range of perfectly neutral colors. It features a water- and stain-resistant nylon interior and exterior, genuine leather straps, and shiny gold or silver hardware. But this bag is much more than just a pretty face. Hidden inside its walls is the patented internal support strap system, which means that the bag will never slouch or pull and all of the weight inside will be evenly distributed. Our community manager tested out the bag’s signature feature while speeding through Chicago O’Hare airport to make a connecting flight with great success…all of the items in her bag stayed firmly where she had left them, and the OG held its shape beautifully.
In addition to the internal strap system, the OG features a bevy of pockets and compartments: a padded laptop sleeve, a document/tablet sleeve, two open slide pockets, and a zippered pocket in the main compartment PLUS an external compartment with pen slots, id sleeve, phone sleeve, a key fob, and a “secret pocket” for travel documents or cash. Better still, there’s a zippered pocket along the side of the bag for your shoes, keeping them separate from your clean clothes and laptop. And if you’re using it in addition to a rolling suitcase, the OG has a convertible back pocket that unzips into a sleeve so that you can slide it onto your luggage’s handle.
Photo via Lo&Sons
The amount of stuff we packed into our OG is pretty incredible given its unassuming size: A 13” laptop, weekly planner, notebook, a collection of photos, toiletry kit, quart bag, travel blanket, neck pillow, makeup bag, pens, wallet, phone, keys, DSLR camera, a few snacks, and extra socks for the plane. Even after being shoved under the airplane seat, it looks as good as new. The OG is a little pricey, but we recommend it without hesitation.
BONUS: Lo & Sons is offering 20% off all orders through December 31st with code HOLIDAYSALE2013
Disclaimer: All above products were provided to HomeExchange.com for review, but opinions are our own.
Judy lives in Redondo Beach, California and has spent the last 20 years working with HomeExchange.com – in fact, she was our very first Team Member! She usually travels with her partner, David, and together they’ve done swaps all over Europe and North America. Over 20 exchanges…and counting!
The most amazing country I have visited so far is…
Italy. I have been to Lago Maggiore, Venice, Rome, and Sicily, and after each visit I have wanted to return for the food, the people, and the culture. It is such a special place.
A language I simply adore…
Portugese. It sounds so beautiful, especially when sung.
My favorite meal/dish…
The best time of the year to visit my city…
A local neighbourhood in my city that I recommend staying at…
The best day trip from my city…
The Getty Museum
Top 3 places to eat like a local in my city…
Charlie’s, Ichiriki, and Chez Melange
A place to catch a live band…
A secret spot…
On a weekday in the fall, you’ll have the whole huge beach to yourself!
The most amazing thing I have done during a home exchange holiday…
Climb The Preikestolen in Norway back in the late 90′s. Don’t attempt if you’re afraid of heights! It is one of the most amazing views I’ve ever seen. I would love to be there for a great sunset.
Something I always carry in my baggage…
One thing you can’t miss if you visit my city…
The Pacific Ocean
The first thing I do when I arrive to a new exchange home is…
And the first thing I do when I come back to my home after the exchange…
If I could exchange with any place in the world for a whole year I would definitely go to…
Want to exchange with Judy? Check out her listing!
We asked our Facebook fans:
How do you make yourself feel at home when you travel?
Here are some of our favorite answers!
The whole world is my home, so I feel at home anywhere I go!
I bring my favorite blanket, pillow, and teddy bear.
I bring all of my medicines…just in case!
I bring little packets of my favorite spices and a small bottle of hot sauce.
I don’t want to feel at home when I travel!
I always pack a scented candle and my eye mask.
I find the closest Starbucks…
I make the best out of every situation, just like I do at home!
I keep photos of my pets on my phone…I miss them when I travel!
I bring my slippers…so comfortable and perfect after a good day of sightseeing.
I make sure I have some coffee for the morning, then I light some candles and pour myself a beer.
I unpack my clothing and hide my suitcases so I don’t have to think about going home!
What’s YOUR favorite way to make yourself feel at home when you travel? Share your tips in the comments!
Photo via flickr
Meet Wendy, an adventurous exchanger from The Hague.
After reading an article about home exchange, I started browsing around on HomeExchange.com. Inspired by all of the amazing places I could visit for free, I took my chances and emailed a retired couple from South Africa. Within a week, all of the details were arranged and travel plans were set!
We’ve recently returned from our stay in our home exchange partners’ beautiful homes in Johannesburg and Mossel Bay, and I can honestly say that we had the BEST time ever! We explored Krugerpark, went shark diving and whale watching in Mossel Bay and Hermanus, and even had some special tour guides – our exchange partners’ children! They showed us soma amazing places that we would have never known to visit had we traveled the “normal way”.
After finishing off our holiday with a hospitality exchange in Cape Town, we returned to our own house…which was even cleaner than it had been when we left! This trip was a great experience and I hope to enjoy many more home exchanges in the future!
Want to exchange with Wendy? Check out her listing in The Hague, Netherlands.
Without a doubt, food is one of the most genuine (and delicious!) ways to experience a new culture. Now that you know how to eat like a local, we’re sharing guest blogger Marta Carnero’s picks for the top ten bites worldwide. Get ready…your mouth is about to start watering!
Guest post by Marta Carnero
Some of the most famous chefs in the world, including Carme Ruscalleda, Ferran Adrià, and the Roca brothers, have put Barcelona (and Catalonia in general) on the culinary map, turning the city into a world reference. While it’s important to be careful with the tourist areas, where it is more than likely you’ll be taken for a ride, you should definitely visit some local places like Tickets, which has a waiting list of several weeks, Shunka, Koy Shunka, or Dos Palillos, a temple of authentic Asian cuisine. A must? The “patatas bravas” at Bohemic and any Pinotxo Bar rations in the well-known Boqueria Market.
Highly influenced by French cooking, Belgium is simply a breakthrough for food lovers. In fact, Belgium the same number of Michelin stars per capita as France. Besides drinking beer, the Belgians like to eat a lot and eat well. Be sure to try the essential and delicious mussels and fries, prepared in every way imaginable (a well-known restaurant in Dinant has 33 varieties on its menu!)
Few countries are as touristically complete as Greece: art in every corners, sun, islands with idyllic beaches, and cuisine that we simply adore. Although each region has its own specialties, such as tomatokeftedes in Santorini, sun-dried octopus grilled and cooked on the grill in Naxos, or fresh fish in Mykonos, you will always find quintessential national dishes on the menu like moussaka, dolmades, or tzatziki and of course the most popular Greek fast food, gyros.
Like any good island, the supply of fish and seafood here is more than excellent. While it is true that it would be a sin not to try a good Irish stew accompanied by a pint of Guinness, you can’t pass up the opportunity to have a little treat with a lobster from Galway Bay or a plate of crab claws. My advice? Be seduced by the scallops with black sausage and cream from McDonagh’s, which has been standing for over 100 years.
The Mediterranean country is much more than pasta and pizza. During our trip to Italy we tried dishes from Rome and Tuscany, such as the Bistecca alla Fiorentina (eaten almost raw), Trippa a la Romana, and the famous Calamares a la Romana, the recipe for which was inherited by Spain.
Our recent trip to Japan was delightful in every way, but its cuisine is even more remarkable. In the three weeks we were in Japan, we never repeated a dish: okonomiyaki, takoyaki, kushikatsu, tonkatsu, gyoza, fresh sushi… all without emptying your wallet. Don’t forget to try the sensational Kobe beef or Hida veal. After you do, nothing in your culinary life will be the same.
Tot think about Madrid is to think about local Spanish beers, squid sandwiches, and tapas. The finest restaurants rub shoulders with the most traditional pubs where locals relax from long hours in the capital, and where there is a dish never absent from the weekly menu: the traditional Cocido Madrileño (Madrilenian Stew).
The absence of pork leads to a strong presence of chicken, lamb, beef, and fish in a kitchen with its own identity, spicy taste, and strong smells, from the finest French-influenced dishes served in five-star hotels to typical tagines or couscous. Do not forget to drink a freshly squeezed orange juice in the Jemaa el Fna Square in Marrakech for about $0.60 or sample the fresh oysters at the port of Casablanca.
It’s almost impossible not to find a restaurant specializing in any country or type of food you could want in the Big Apple. Deciding on just a couple of bites is complicated, but we can surely recommend hamburgers from Shake Shack, Lombardi ‘s pizza, Joe’s Shanghai dumplings, or Papaya King hot dogs. And for a special dinner, Per Se, a Three Star Michelin restaurant with views of Central Park.
The Portuguese have in their cuisine one of the best hooks to catch the traveler. Cod is the quintessential national fish for. In addition are the sausages and homemade soups and stews, heavily influenced by Brazilian roots and truly compelling.
About the author
Marta Carnero is a journalist-turned-blogger with two passions: traveling and gastronomy. She lives in Madrid, but was actually born in Salamanca. Maria likes to share her walks with her other half, Jota. Both are looking forward to their first home exchange in New York. You can follow them on Twitter and Instagram.