Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Gadgets’

How you can win a Hotcakes Ceramics travel mug

I just announced the winner of our RAGGEDedge Gear toiletry bag giveaway, so it’s time to post a new travel goodie that one lucky reader can win! Here’s what we have up next – a handmade travel mug courtesy of Hotcakes Ceramics. I love the mug because it’s perfect for the everyday traveler.

This lime green mug (keeping with Friendly Planet Travel’s color scheme) is decorated with a butterfly design, and holds 16 ounces of your favorite drink.

It comes with a locking lid to prevent spills, and is dishwasher safe and microwavable. Jump over to the Hotcakes Ceramics Etsy page to learn more about the mug or check it out on the Hotcakes Ceramics website.

Here’s how to enter to win. Leave a comment on this post telling me where you’ll be traveling with your Hotcakes Ceramics travel mug.

To be eligible to win, you must include an e-mail address where we can contact you! The commenting contest starts today and we’ll pick a winner on Friday, July 29. The winner will be randomly selected from the pool of comments and announced right here on the blog.

Thanks again to Hotcakes Ceramics for letting us give away one of their beautiful travel mugs. Good luck and start commenting! I look forward to reading all of them.

UPDATE: Congrats to our winner Prairie Moon! You didn’t leave your e-mail address (actually, no one did) so please e-mail me with your name and shipping information so we can send your prize.  Thanks for playing! 

Travel gadgets to get you comfortable up in the air

If your travel plans this holiday season include a long, international flight, chances are it’s going to be crowded. In the U.S. alone, 43.6 million people are expected to use air travel this winter holiday period, up 3 percent over 2009. But crowded airplanes inevitably mean noisy passengers.

So how do you block out the noise around you to listen to your music and movies, or get some shut eye? In my search for the perfect travel gear, I found a few gadgets that will help cancel out the sound around you and get you comfortable in your seat.

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. I’m sure you’ve seen fellow travelers slide these headphones on in the airport and as soon as you can turn on your electronics in flight. They cover your ears completely and block out all sound around you.

They might look big and bulky, but are unexpectedly lightweight and comfortable. And I can’t forget to mention that the sound quality from Bose is superb. Crisp, clear sound will make you feel like you’re in a theater. You can try them on at any electronic store and you’ll quickly see why they’re so popular and worth the hefty price tag. Available online for $299.95.

Shure SE535 Sound Isolating Earphones. If you prefer earphones to headphone and your budget permits you a special splurge, these little ones will do the trick. They deliver spacious sound with rich bass while isolating the noise around you. Available in clear or metallic, these earphones also come with a detachable cable for easy replacement if the cables get damaged.

To get the noise isolation, the earbuds have to fit just right. But don’t worry, included are sound isolating sleeves in three different sizes to ensure a customized fit as well as a handy airline adapter that’s compatible with European airplane armrests. Available online for $582.93.

Dreamsacks Airline Comfort Sack. Now that you’ve gotten the noise taken care of, it’s time to get comfortable with a blanket, pillowcase, and eye shade. Unless you plan to fly business or first class, chances are you won’t see any of these items for free on your flight.

And you won’t have to waste precious carry-on space by bringing on these useful amenities, because everything in the Comfort Sack rolls into a 12 inch bag that is less than a pound to carry. Snuggle up in your seat with these accessories and you’ll be resting in no time.

The silk blanket is 43 inches by 72 inches with a 10-inch pocket to tuck your feet in to stay warm. The silk pillowcase is 15 inches by 20 inches, the same size as a typical airline pillow. And the silk eye shade blocks out the light. Available online for $59.00.

Any one of these three items will help make traveling a little more quiet and peaceful. Have any other suggestions that would make traveling smoother? Leave them in a comment on this post.

Thanksgiving wishes and gift ideas for travelers

No matter where you are today, I hope you have the opportunity to gather with family and friends and enjoy the warmth and fellowship of good company, a special meal, and a moment of gratitude for the abundance that fills our lives.

And for those of you who plan to take advantage of the doorbuster deals on Black Friday or shop the Web on Cyber Monday, I’ve rounded up some of our best gifts ideas for travelers to help you with your shopping.

Scroll through the links below to read about our favorite travel accessories and gadgets that I think would make wonderful gifts this holiday.

  • Kiva makes Oprah’s Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. I love Kiva and just found out that Oprah does too. Oprah included a Kiva gift card on her Ultimate Favorite Things 2010. Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

  • Three new travel gadgets to get you going to your destination. Getting through airport security is still a necessary hassle. That’s not to say it can’t be less of a hassle. I looked at how the the scanner bag, portable scales, and Space Bags TO GO help speed you through airport check-in and security.

  • SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing takes the weight off your shoulders. SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing is stylish clothing that actually saves you from having to carry around purses and bags, since every garment has tons of pockets where you can securely stow gear and gadgets. We talk to Scott Jordan, CEO and founder, about what he thinks will be the hottest selling SCOTTEVEST items this holiday.

I hope you find these links helpful and that they make shopping for your traveler this holiday a little easier. And if you have any great gift suggestions let us know about them in a comment on this post. Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Is the new Kindle the ultimate travel companion?

How do you like to pass the time on a long flight? I know some people like to watch movies, play Sudoku, sleep, or read. Melissa, the voice of the Friendly Planet Travel podcasts, likes to read a lot. She just took a trip from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last weekend and got to use her new Kindle 3G.

She knows that I’ve been searching for the perfect travel gear, and offered to write a guest post about her new favorite travel gadget. She thinks it’s the best invention since sliced bread. But read on to see what she says and see if you agree.


I wouldn’t call myself a nervous flyer, but I do like to stay distracted when I’m soaring 35,000 feet up in the air. The less I think about how far off the ground I am, the better. The best way to do this I’ve found is with a good book and some magazines.

I’ve been traveling a lot recently and realized how much space books (especially large, hardbacks) take up in my carry-on bag. Not to mention all the extra weight they can tack on.

I had been eying the new Kindle 3G since the day it came out, and thought it would be great gadget to eliminate carrying books on the plane. Luckily, someone was kind enough to get it for me as a gift just in time for my trip to California.

When I put the 8.7 ounce e-reader in the palm of my hand, I was instantly infatuated. It is so light! I’m able to hold it with one hand without that hand falling asleep. And the battery life is incredible. Turn off the WiFi and you can go a month without charging. I had two weeks to familiarize myself with it before my trip, so I started playing with my new travel gadget.

The 3G model gives you Internet access anywhere, anytime. So having access to the Amazon Kindle Store is a huge plus. You can download a preview of any book you want in the store. If you’re as indecisive as I, you’ll really appreciate this capability.

I perused the sections of the Kindle Store and downloaded a handful of books to preview to determine which book I wanted to read on the flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. I was also able to download previews from my home computer. You can look at books in the store from your own computer and send them to your Kindle. It’s pretty cool and very convenient.

I started reading my first book on my Kindle and was impressed that the display looks identical to a page in a book. Its contrast is set just right and it doesn’t hurt your eyes. It kept getting better from there.

You can move your cursor throughout the page to highlight text and make annotations. By far, my favorite feature is when the definition of a word appears at the top or bottom of the screen when you put the cursor in front of it.

After familiarizing myself with it for a few days, I chose the book I was going to read, “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich. “The Social Network” just came out, so I had to read the book that the movie was based on first. ;) I also decided to subscribe to Businessweek on the Kindle, which is about $10 cheaper annually than the print edition.

So on the morning of my flight, I packed my backpack with the necessities I needed on the plane. I was astonished at how much lighter it was without all the books. I knew I was going to fill that extra space with some souvenirs from Cali. So with my lighter backpack I headed for PHL.

After I found my seat on the plane, I woke my Kindle up from its sleep and started reading. Then I realized that when we were asked to turn off all of our portable electronic devices, that meant my Kindle too. The words “Uh oh” came out of my mouth. Take off is my least favorite part of the flight for me. The loud engines, ears popping, the movement of the plane, are all things I try to avoid experiencing.

This was definitely the one downside of using a  Kindle versus a book. But I quickly grabbed a SkyMall magazine and looked at the crazy gadgets in it until we were allowed to turn on our electronics. For the next few hours I nestled in my seat and just read.

My eyes didn’t get tired. My wrist didn’t hurt. I was able to hold the Kindle comfortably for hours. And I didn’t have to reach into my backpack to grab a magazine when I needed a break from my book. I simply clicked the Home button on my Kindle to get my Businessweek.

By the time we were asked to put our tray tables up and our seat in its up-right position, I was finished my book and watching a California sunset. When I looked at the battery life, it barely nudged during my flight. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to carry my charger around with the Kindle.

If you like to read and read a lot, the Kindle is what you want when traveling. I know some people are hesitant to make the shift from books, but give it a try. You might end up loving it more than you thought. That’s exactly what happened with me.

And its new pricing makes it even more tempting. You can get a Kindle with WiFi starting at $139. Or if you want coverage all the time, the 3G model is just $50 more. If you’ve been using a Kindle for some time, or also just got a new one, I’d love to hear what you think about it. Leave a comment on this post and we can swap Kindle tips!

Peggy’s perfect travel gear: The search is on!

We all take certain things with us when we travel. Whether it’s that tiny wallet, versatile handbag, or favorite jacket, they suit our needs well and make travel enjoyable.

But there might be some other accessories out there that could make your travels easier, safer, and more fun. So that’s why I’ve started a search party to find the perfect travel gear.

Our new blog series, “Peggy’s perfect travel gear” will tell you about the great items I find — from jackets, dresses, books, gadgets, music, and more — that will be beneficial to have on Friendly Planet Travel tours or traveling in general.

A member of the Friendly Planet team personally visits every Friendly Planet destination, follows the itineraries, and experiences all the great sites you see on our tours. So we consider ourselves pretty good judges of the types of accessories that are good to have when you travel. We’re kicking off the series this week, so keep your eyes peeled to the blog or bookmark our travel advice tag. And along the way I hope to have some more giveaways of the great travel gear I find!

Should you bring jewelry on vacation?

I’ve given a lot of advice to my customers on what they should and shouldn’t pack when traveling on one of our tours. One question I get asked frequently by women is whether they should pack their jewelry.

My answer is yes and no. Bring the less expensive pieces so you can still accessorize and dress up, but leave the pricey jewels at home. It’s not worth the risk. The last thing you want to do is spoil your trip if you lose expensive jewelry or someone swipes it from you.

In fact, it’s no secret that even on the fanciest of luxury cruises, many of the world’s rich and famous wear fake jewels. Plus, when you travel with Friendly Planet, you’re visiting some of the most exotic locations in the world where you can buy unique pieces of jewelry. Look at your trip as a way to expand your jewelry collection. ;-)

While I’m on the topic of accessories, let’s talk handbags. I can’t leave my house without my purse, let alone the country. The last thing you want to do — whether on vacation or at home — is put it down or hang it on the back of your chair at a restaurant and lose track of it. My trick is to carry a purse hook in my bag.

It’s a small, lightweight hook that latches on to the table you’re sitting at. Place the handles of your bag on it. Now your purse is hanging under the table next to your legs, rather than on the ground or on the back of a chair. The hook costs only a few dollars and is well worth it.

It’s little tips like these that make packing for a vacation less stressful. If you have other questions about what you should or shouldn’t pack, write to me or post a comment. Also, check out some of the packing tips we’ve been getting on our Space Bag TO GO contest.

We’re asking people to share their best packing tips to enter to win one of eight Space Bags TO GO. If you want to share yours, go to the original post and leave a comment. All of the details are there. You just might be one of our lucky winners!

Reminder: Share a packing tip, win a Space Bag TO GO

We’ve gotten some terrific packing tips for our Space Bag TO GO giveaway. Thanks to those who have shared their tips so far! I wanted to remind everyone that the deadline to enter is on Friday, April 16 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

To enter, share your best packing tip in a comment on the original post. All of the contest details are there. I have eight Space Bags TO GO to give away, so enter to win before time runs out!

How you can win one of eight Space Bags TO GO

Some things in life are unavoidable, such as catching a cold, being late for an important meeting, and packing for a trip. Worse, not only is packing unavoidable, it’s also often one of the most stressful parts of a trip.

Frankly, packing is a pain. But I’m about to offer eight lucky Friendly Planet travelers some pain relief. A few weeks ago, I told you about some handy gadgets to get you going to your destination. One of those gadgets was the Space Bag TO GO.

These are bags that you can roll up or push down to compress the items inside, which decrease the bulk of clothing and other soft items. I have found you can fit a lot of stuff into a little space with a Space Bag TO GO.

After I wrote the post, I thought it might be fun to give a few of these bags away on the blog. So, I contacted the company for some samples and they generously provided me nine bags for a giveaway.

One bag I provided to one of our bloggers who is using it now on Friendly Planet’s Athens and 3 Day Greek Isles Cruise. We’ll have more from her when she comes back, including photos, hopefully some video and, of course, feedback about how helpful the Space Bag TO GO was on her trip. I still have eight more to give away to you, loyal readers and frazzled packers.

Here’s what you have to do to enter and win: Share your best packing tip in a comment on this post. It’s that simple. Click on “Post a Comment” at the bottom of this post. A comment box will appear. Write your best packing tip and click “Publish Your Comment” when you’re finished.

Here are some ideas to get you started. What makes packing easier and faster for you? What’s your strategy for fitting a week’s worth of clothes into an overnight bag? How do you make sure your shampoos and lotions don’t explode all over your clothes?

Your tips can be as simple as rolling your clothes instead of folding them. Or can be as complex as a detailed play-by-play plan on how you pack your suitcase. Whatever your advice is, I want you to share it here.

VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure you leave your name and an e-mail address where we can contact you if you win. If you don’t leave it and we pick your name, you will not be eligible to win. Eight winners will be randomly selected from the pool of applicants. Deadline for comment submissions is Friday, April 16, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll announce the winners shortly after on the blog.

Note: This contest is open to anyone except employees of Friendly Planet Travel, Space Bag TO GO, and any Friendly Planet Travel vendors.

Good luck!

Three new travel gadgets to get you going to your destination

Whether airport security is getting tighter is still up for debate. I told you about my recent experience flying to Israel, and what has (or has not) changed. One thing is certain. Getting through airport security is still a necessary hassle.

That’s not to say it can’t be less of a hassle, or that traveling from point A to point B can’t get easier. Here are some new gadgets that do just that, by helping you speed you through check-in and security.

The Scanner Bag: In most airports, you’ll have to put liquids and gels into a quart-sized plastic bag for easy inspection. The Scanner Bag is a handy accessory that makes that task easier. It works like a luggage tag, but unfolds to reveal mesh pockets that hold your items. It attaches to your carry-on luggage and rolls along with it through the scanner. Now you can forget the plastic bins and bags, and stop worrying about collecting them up in a hurry after your belonging emerge from the scanner. Everything stays together, neat and tidy.

Portable scales: Most travelers collect souvenirs and other momentous, and think nothing about carrying them back in their luggage. But if your items increase their weight of your luggage over the airline’s prescribed limit, you’ll be hit with a surcharge. Certainly you could mail the items back home. But that’s not always practical. A better solution would be to bring a digital portable luggage scale with you. They’re inexpensive, easy to use, and tell you exactly what your luggage weighs before you arrive at the airport. That way you can rejigger your luggage to remain under the airline’s threshold, and know exactly what you need to include in your carry ons.

Space Bags to Go: For short trips, some people like to cram everything they need into a single carry-on bag, so they can skip the baggage check and pickup. If that describes you, you know how hard to can be to actually get everything you need into a single bag. It’s almost like a Three Stooges skit. Just as you think you have the bag filled, it pops open and your stuff flies out. Sound familiar? Then you need the Space Bag to Go. Simply put your items into the Space Bags, and roll up or push down on the bag to compress the items inside. Once compressed, you seal the bag and everything stays put. You can significantly reduce the bulk of clothing, towels, and other items. Carry more stuff while carrying less luggage! Who wouldn’t like that? The manufacturer claims you can carry 300 percent more. That sounds optimistic to me. But I do know the Space Bag does help scrunch more items into a duffel bag or traditional suitcase.

Have any suggestions for other helpful travel gadgets? Let me know! I’ll share them here.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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