by Terry Gardner
Need some last minute suggestions for holiday gifts? Check out these quick items. They’re guaranteed to make any traveler’s heart flutter with joy.
Here are two smart suitcases, a camera bag and a backpack – one can weigh itself and the others are very lightweight.
The Penalty Fee Preventing Suitcase (PFP Suitcase): No one likes getting hit with a penalty because a bag gained weight on vacation. This 26-inch gray hard-shell Hammacher bag has four spinner wheels and a built-in digital scale to prevent any overweight luggage fee. The interior features a separate top compartment, zippered pockets and compression straps. On its own, the suitcase is 31 x 21 x 10.75 inches and weighs 10.5 pounds. Prior to a three-week trip through China with this bag, I considered its weight a flaw. But after traveling by plane, train and bus around China, the PFP Suitcase came home with just a few scratches. So now I think those extra couple of pounds helped shield my bag and belongings from rough handling ($149.95).
Eagle Creek Gear Warrior AWD International Carry-On: Eagle Creek’s ultra-light, expandable international roll-aboard only weighs about six pounds. It has interior and exterior compression straps, two zippered exterior pockets and a zippered mesh interior pocket. This road warrior’s clever design even offers interior packing space between the wheels! It’s available in black, smoky blue and tan/olive. It measures 13.75 x 21.5 x 7.75 inches and weighs about six pounds ($259).
Peak Design Everyday Messenger: A camera bag that can hold a DSLR camera, multiple lenses, a 15-inch laptop, SD cards and even strap on a tripod. Peak Design partnered with an adventure photographer, Trey Ratcliff to create a bag that can adapt to a traveler’s gear and style to make it a fit for any adventure. I loved toting my camera and lenses around Australia in May using this weatherproof messenger bag. My favorite features are the bag’s easy-to-close MagLatch closure and the flexibility of its origami-style dividers. Although two side pockets make it easy to stash a phone and keys, I wish it had a water bottle pocket. The bag weighs 2.2 pounds and comes in Heritage Tan or Charcoal ($219.95).
Osprey Tempest 20: This durable nylon day hiking backpack totes between 11 and 20 pounds. It has become my must-pack travel companion, and I’ve noticed many women sporting Tempests on trips I’ve made to Alaska, Louisiana and Utah. It’s great for hiking, biking or a walking tour. My favorite features include its torso adjustable harness, the two zippered hipbelt pockets, the wide opening of the main compartment, the lid-lock helmet attachment and it’s quick stash side pockets that are great for holding a reusable water bottle. Tempest also has an external hydration sleeve for hikers that prefer a hydration pouch to a water bottle. The small/medium-sized bag measures 20 x 10 x 9 inches and weighs about 1.5 pounds. Male hikers and bikers might enjoy the similarly designed Talon 22 ($100).
A bit of this and that from necessities to luxury
Some travelers want cheaper phone calls while others feel photo storage or a piping hot cup of coffee in the hotel room is more critical. Here are three offbeat items: a pre-paid SIM card, a versatile hard drive and a very smart coffee/tea cup.
Mint SIM: This is the perfect gift for families trying to keep their kids connected via text and calls without breaking the family piggy bank. In the last few years, most U.S. carriers have introduced prepaid plans. Given the savings, paying in advance makes sense for a lot of families, especially if the top priority is unlimited talk and text. Mint SIM operates using T-Mobile’s network, which is stronger in certain areas of the U.S. Be sure to check the coverage map before choosing this gift. When I tested one of its sim cards around Los Angeles in October, I was impressed with both voice and data – especially given Mint SIM’s significantly lower prices. From the map, LTE coverage seems to be stronger in the Midwest and on the East Coast than in many western states. And in November, Mint SIM cuts prices by 20 percent!
Prices vary, but a 12-month Unlimited Talk, Text and Data plan with 2GB of LTE data costs $199. And international calls can also be made when you add money to your account. Although some calls are cheaper to landlines, you can call Canada, China or India for a penny a minute.
Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro: Whether you are shopping for a smartphone shooter, a DSLR shutterbug or a gift for the whole family, this portable hard drive could prove priceless. Beyond photo storage, this gadget can charge a USB device or serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to eight devices. It has an SD 3.0 card reader, a 10-hour 6,400mAh battery and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi for 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz connectivity. On my mid-October trip through China, I loved being able to upload images daily and enjoyed faster 5.0 GHz Wi-Fi in various hotels ($199.99 for 2TB and $229.99 for 3TB).
Ember: Until I began toting around this smart coffee/tea mug, I never realized how quickly my coffee got cold. This cup is pricey, but it is truly brilliant. And it’s perfect for peeps that want their beverages at just the right temperature. Its unique design includes a patented microprocessor controlled heating system and a patented phase change cooling system. You can adjust the temperature by rotating the cup’s bottom or via its free iOS or Android app. Note: Ember is currently on backorder, so you might have to wrap up a picture of the mug with a note that reads: “Arriving in February.” It’ll be worth the wait ($149.95).
Terry is a freelance journalist who contributes to several newspapers (print and online) and websites, including the Los Angeles Times Travel, Chicago Tribune Travel, Dallas Morning News, Travel Weekly and Global Traveler. She writes a syndicated monthly travel app column for Chicago Tribune and is passionate about travel, the environment, wildlife, scuba diving and adventure.