Monthly Archives: January 2017

Special Tips For Surviving Holiday Travel

It’s no secret holiday travel is stressful; and while there may be 47 million people heading out for Thanksgiving this year, there are simple ways to make it to your destination (and back!) without losing your holiday cheer. Read on for editor-approved tips that will make travel this season a breeze.

Be prepared. “For me, the strategy is all about advance preparation. Pack snacks, water, etc. into your carry-on in advance (where you can; with airports you have to get the water there, but you get the idea). Have your book in there, your headphones, iPad with pre-loaded movies. These are the essentials that go in the bag that’s closest to me, so that no matter where the delays come from—waiting to board, in transit, waiting for pick-up at my arrival station—I’ve got the things I need to carry me through it.”—Corina Quinn, Digital Travel Editor

Get TSA Pre-Check / Global Entry. “It makes a HUGE difference in terms of security lines, especially on busy travel days.” —Nathan Lump, Editor

Pack alcohol. For the flight… “If there’s one time to splurge on an in-flight beverage, it’s over the holidays. Since it’s the festive season, go for a proper cocktail with this carry-on kit, which has everything you’ll need to make a tasty (and soothing) Old Fashioned on the plane.” —Stephanie Wu, Senior Editor

…and during your stay: “This year, I’m bringing my own DIY cocktail kit to my family’s Thanksgiving dinner, which I expect will make me the most popular person at the table. After taking master bartender Eben Freeman’s cocktail class at Genuine Liquorette, I’m planning to use my newfound skills to create some delicious mixed drinks. All you need is a shaker tin, hawthorne strainer, and jigger or mini-measuring cup and you’re good to go. I’ll pick up some spirits and mixers on the way to dinner.” —Laura Itzkowitz, contributing digital editor

Go carry-on only: “”If at all possible, I avoid checking a bag. Not only will it get you in and out of the airport more quickly, but there’s also no possibility of lost luggage.” —Caroline Hallemann, Associate Digital Editor
Pack athletic clothes. “A brisk walk outside will help you burn off the holiday bloat—AND the pent-up steam that inevitably collects when a bunch of related people spend too much time under one roof. Be sure to pack athletic-wear and seasonally appropriate clothing that encourages you to spend some time outdoors.” —Sarah Firshein, Digital Director

Try Aromatherapy. “I love Tata Harper’s Aromatic Irritability Treatment – it’s an oil that you apply to your pulse points or palms. It smells like a spa, and, like a spa, it induces a relaxing sense of calm and well-being. Use when feeling annoyed or stressed. I love it on long flights (and short subways trips, too).” —Jane Bishop, Style Director

Turn traffic into an adventure. “Install a dashboard car mount for your phone, let Google Maps run, and don’t be afraid of veering off when you see too much red. Apps like Foursquare can help locate cool, noteworthy restaurants wherever you are; after all, unexpected surprises and local finds are one of the best parts of travel—any travel.” —Sarah Firshein, Digital Director

Video streaming services are your friend. “When you simply can’t stand any more redundant chatter between relatives, turn on and tune out. Suggest watching a movie together so you have an excuse to ask your rowdy siblings to keep the noise down. For emergencies, an entire season of Jessica Jones should do the trick.” —Adeline Duff, Editorial Assitant

“Amazon Prime Video is an in-flight savior: it lets you download free streaming shows to your smartphone or tablet for offline viewing, so I’m no longer racking up hefty iTunes charges to feed my media addictions. Rewatching Arrested Development makes a few hours in a cramped middle seat an almost-pleasant experience. Okay, maybe not pleasant, but…better.” —Lila Battis, Associate Editor

Do quick yoga sessions. “Subscribe to a service like Yogaglo, which lets you download yoga sessions that are as short as five minutes. All you need is your phone and a quiet corner–they’ll never even notice you’re gone. PS: You can filter for “stress reduction.” —Sara Clemence, News Director

Get noise canceling headphones. “Having the ability to tune out of the chaos of a train station, airport, or over talkative family members during the holidays is a must. I always bring a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, and have a playlist of both music and my favorite Podcasts ready before I head out the door.” —Ellie Storck, Digital Editorial Assistant

Bring a great book. “If you have something you’re engrossed in reading, it really helps pass the time when you have delays, long flights, etc.” —Nathan Lump, Editor

Keep Your Stuff Safe When You Fly

When it comes to you and your stuff, there is no telling how or when you might be separated, whether briefly or permanently, in your trek from your car seat to your airplane seat and back again.

woman witting on bench in airportHow safe are your belongings when you fly? In just the past few years, TSA employees have been caught running robbery rings and enabling drug trade. If security agents are robbing travelers, imagine what is going on among baggage handlers, gate agents or anyone alone with your stuff for the very brief moment it takes to steal something. Even fellow travelers have been caught nicking stuff from overhead bins during flight. You don’t have to be paranoid and suspicious every moment of your trip; start out by trusting everyone, but don’t make it easy for anyone.

Thousands of airline and airport employees do their jobs every day without even thinking of pilfering your bags. I have flown frequently for the past 30 years, and have been ripped off only once — clearly I have encountered a true heap of honest, hard-working people. But it’s not those normal folks you need to guard against; it’s the one person (or group) who has figured out how vulnerable we are while traveling.

Perhaps the most important thing to know to protect your belongings from that one person along the way is this: the best thieves know not to steal stuff that will be missed any time soon. They want you to figure it out when you get to your hotel room a few time zones away. I’ve come up with a few simple rules that, while they won’t protect everything you take with you, will protect the things that matter most.

All in One Place

Before you leave the house, put the important stuff in one place, and never lose track of it. A friend of mine has taken to putting her most critical and valuable items (identification, wallet, cash, jewelry) in a clear plastic bag that is obvious to everyone. “I ‘hide it in plain sight,'” she says. “Then everyone knows what is in there, they have no incentive to open it to find out what is inside and I can see immediately when I get to the other side of the security machines if anything is missing.”

You may not want to go the full Ziploc route, but a workable alternative is to reserve an obvious pocket of your carry-on bag to hold all the stuff you need in the airport and on the plane but can’t take through a security machine. The benefit of having a single, dedicated location for valuables becomes obvious when you don’t have to rifle your bags to figure out if your wallet is missing, or your boarding pass, or your driver’s license, or your medication, etc. — that 30 seconds before you finally find something in the bottom of a bag can take minutes off your life, oof. If you know exactly where everything should be, you won’t fail to miss it the moment it disappears.

Say It Loud

I have also found it useful to state out loud what I am handing over to an airport security or gate person. When you say, “This has my wallet, my ID and my watch,” and they hear you say it and see you put it down, they may be less likely to try to take something.

Two (or Three) Things to Have on Your Person on the Plane

There are really only two things you need to have on your person on the plane: your ID and a credit card (a third, which does not apply to everyone, is any essential prescription medications — more on that below). If someone steals every single thing you brought with you, these are really the only things you cannot replace quickly and easily, and that you will absolutely need to get you out of pretty much any jam upon landing.

Almost everything else you can replace — there are grocery and clothing stores everywhere — but without both your ID and credit card, you can’t rent a car, check into the airport hotel, buy food or, critically, get on a plane to take you back home.

Some folks would add their cell phone to this list, and they would have a point; if you are in a jam, having all your numbers and an easy way to call them (try to find a phone booth that works these days) could really make a difference.

close up of a credit card sitting on top of a passportHaving the credit card easily available on the plane has an added benefit beyond the safety factor: it’s usually the only way to buy a snack, a drink, headphones or an in-flight movie. Don’t be the person dumping the contents of the overhead bin into the aisle just to buy a turkey sandwich; keep your card in your pocket.

Finally, the third thing to keep very close is any prescription medications; these can be difficult to replace quickly, and being without them could create potentially dire problems for folks with serious medical conditions.

Bury Your Wallet and Cash in Your Carry-On

Once you board the plane, you will have no need for your wallet and cash, as few airlines still accept cash payment for things like food, drinks or (unbelievably) pillows and blankets. My recommendation is to bury these so deeply in your carry-on bag that the only way someone would ever find them would be to take your entire bag and overturn it on the floor back at their own home.

Bag Inside a Bag

Anyone who has traveled extensively since airlines began charging for the first checked bag knows that the gate area of a full flight today looks like the baggage claim area of a full flight several months ago. Everyone has at least one huge bag that would barely fit in a bathtub, let alone into the little metal cages indicating proper carry-on size.

When the overhead bins fill up almost inevitably about halfway through the boarding process, gate agents are forced to check the bags of anyone unlucky enough not to have boarded already, almost irrespective of the size and contents of the bags. (It’s gotten almost to be a joke; on a cross-country flight this long and cold winter, the gate agent announced, “We know it is very cold, but do not put your coats in the overhead bins, or we will check your bags.”)

You never know if they’re going to start taking your stuff from you at the end of the gangway, so my recommendation is to pack a small bag inside your larger bag in case you are forced to check your carry-on. This way you can take your most valuable (and most easily stolen) items, and put them in a small bag you can keep at your feet if necessary.

Anything You Really Care About, Wear It

You’ve heard the saying “You’ll get it when you pry it from my dead hands” — we all hope and pray it doesn’t come to that, but for your most valuable things, this should be a phrase to, well, live by. If you don’t want to lose it, wear it.

What to Let Go

Unless you are going to a truly remote location, you can pretty much buy socks, a toothbrush, a pair of reading glasses, a raincoat, a book or breakfast anywhere. My feeling is that if you can buy it at your destination relatively cheaply, don’t go out of your way to protect it — especially at the risk of distracting yourself from protecting the things you really need. If it’s cheap and ubiquitous, don’t sweat it during your travels.

Beyond the Airport: At the Hotel and in the Car

The airport is not the only place folks have opportunity to rifle through your stuff when you are not looking. Every time you leave your hotel room, you should remember that a large number of people have keys to the room. Read our Hotel Safety Tips to learn how to protect yourself.

Best Products to Help You Stay Healthy While Traveling

You’ve waited all year for your vacation — so why ruin it by getting sick? Adding a few well-chosen products to your packing list can help you fend off germs, protect your skin and avoid common travel discomforts during your next trip. Below are nine must-pack items that will help you stay healthy while traveling.

One thing you won’t see in this list: medicine. You can find our recommended remedies in Medications for Travel.

First-Aid Kit

A small first-aid kit stocked with bandages, antiseptic wipes and other medical necessities is always a wise thing to have on hand, particularly if you’ll be spending much of your vacation outdoors without easy access to a doctor. SadoMedcare offers one affordable, well-stocked kit that won’t take up too much space in your suitcase. An even more compact option is this 60-piece kit, which weighs less than 2.5 ounces.

If you’re flying with a first-aid kit in your carry-on, remember to double-check it for any items that might not make it through airport security. Small tubes of antibiotic cream, for instance, should go into your quart-size plastic bag of liquids and gels, while sharp items such as lancets or large scissors could be confiscated. Small scissors (with blades shorter than four inches) are fine.
Flight Ear Plugs

For fliers who experience ear pain during take-off and landing, ear plugs that help regulate pressure can be a godsend. Many travelers also find them helpful when driving through changing elevations in mountainous regions. EarPlanes and Flite Mate are two popular brands.

Pill Organizer

It can be tricky enough to keep track of your medication schedule at home; add jet lag, a different daily routine and a new time zone, and having a pill organizer can literally be a lifesaver. Stuff Seniors Need and Ezy Dose offer travel-friendly pill cases that don’t take up too much space.


Sunburn not only causes pain and unsightly lobster skin but can also contribute to heat exhaustion. (The Mayo Clinic says that “having a sunburn reduces your body’s ability to rid itself of heat.”) Banana Boat offers a set of six travel-size bottles that will keep you and your travel companions protected.

Note: If you’re planning on snorkeling, do the environment a favor and choose a reef-safe sunblock; chemicals found in most sunscreen brands, particularly oxybenzone, contribute to coral damage. Here’s one reef-safe option. The bottle is too large for a carry-on, so put it in your checked bag or pour it into a smaller travel-size container if you plan to fly with it.

Nasal Mist

In Avoiding the Airplane Cold, we reported that the low humidity in airplane cabins can dry out the mucus membranes in your nose, which are essential in preventing illness. Keeping these delicate tissues hydrated with a saline nasal spray during long flights could help you fend off germs from the guy coughing behind you. Ayr and Simply Saline are a couple of choices worth considering.

Antibacterial Hand Gel and Wipes

If you’ve ever been grossed out by those studies of how many germs are all over your airplane tray table (spoiler: a lot), you’ll understand why these made our list. Use an antibacterial wipe before using the TV remote in your hotel room or the seatback movie screen on the plane; use the gel when you’re eating on the go and can’t make it to a sink to wash your hands.

Recommended wipes include those from Wet Ones and Purell, both of which come in convenient travel packs. For travel-size bottles of gel, try L’Autre Peau (these come with carabiner clips so you can attach them to your daypack) or Bath & Body Works.

Water Purifier

Back-country hikers and travelers in developing countries where the water isn’t safe to drink will benefit from packing some form of water purifier. Our top pick is the SteriPEN, a UV light that destroys bacteria, viruses and protozoa. We also like the LifeStraw, which is lightweight and effectively filters the vast majority of bacteria and protozoa. (It is not effective against viruses.)

Another interesting option is the GRAYL, a reusable bottle that works a bit like a French press to remove viruses, bacteria, protozoa and some chemicals as you force water through it.

Insect Repellent

Mosquitoes, ticks and other creepy-crawlies can transmit nasty diseases ranging from malaria to Zika. Traveling to an affected area? Stock up on insect repellent to use during your trip, and consider treating your shoes and clothing with permethrin before you leave.