11 December 2013

15 Last-Minute Gifts for Your Favorite Traveler

14 days til Christmas and you're struggling to come up with gift ideas for your favorite adventurous friend or family member....maybe you procrastinated, maybe you don't know what they would be interested in, maybe the whole Thanksgivukkah situation left you too baffled to shop. Whatever the root of your struggles- never fear! I totally have you covered. From practical to stylish, fun to convenient, this list should make your search a little easier. PLUS I included direct links right to these marvelous products so I basically did half the work for you (you can thank me later). Happy shopping! 

1. Luckies of London Scratch Map via The Grommet: A great gift for any globetrotter! Scratch off the places you've been to show off your travels, hang it on the wall for a bit of artistic flair. Because, let's be honest...there's nothing an avid traveler loves more than a map! 

2. The Brooklyn camera bag from ONA Bags: The ultimate in style and protection for your favorite adventurer's most prized traveling possession- their camera. Incredibly stylish and incredibly spacious (holds SLR camera, lenses, and personal items), they'll be snappin pics with the best of 'em. 

3. Cocoon GRID-IT via The Grommet: As is always the case, the smallest, most important items one needs immediately inevitably fall to the depths of your bag. But Cocoon GRID-IT comes to the rescue! This handy organizer wrangles all those items into one convenient spot. It even comes in 3 sizes for your size/space needs. Love it! 

4. 4-in-1 adapter from Flight 001: Is this the most exciting gift on the list? Maybe not. But let's face it- nothing says "I love you and I'm happy we're friends" like giving your buddy the ability to charge their phone in any country. A sure-fire winner. 

5. The Vinni Wine Bag via Flight 001: For your favorite wino- this super awesome reusable bag suspends your wine bottle in an inflatable cushion, facilitating easy and convenient transport. Whether they want to bring along their favorite vintage or bring back a new-found favorite- this is the perfect gift. 

6. The Around the World Leather Watch from Urban Outfitters: The ultimate timepiece for your favorite traveling chica. It's quarter after Russia, it's noon in Paris, and it's time to start traveling. 

7. The Jackery Giant portable charger from Jackery USA: One of my personal favorites. Relatively cheap for its comparatively large rechargeable power capacity, this charger is a literal powerhouse. It's able to charge 2 devices via USB port simultaneously, holds its charge for 6 months, gives the iPhone an extra 220 hours of power, AND currently on sale at Amazon. Check out the review from Glide Magazine for additional Jackery options. 

8. Aviator Flat Metal from Ray-Ban: The classics are classics for a reason. High-quality sunglasses are a travel essential, and hey- it just doesn't get any more classic than Ray-Ban. Stylish. Practical. Perfection- we all win. 

9. The GE 50246 Smart Home Door Stop Alarm via Amazon: So your adventurous compadre is off on a backpacking trip. You've seen the movie Hostel and are obviously extremely concerned for their safety. Solution- buy them this. A battery-powered alarm to tip them off to any possible intruders...and put your mind at ease for the duration of their adventure.

10. The Olympus Tough TG-2 iHS Digital Camera via Amazon: Waterproof, shockproof, crushproof, freezeproof- this camera is practically indestructible and the perfect gift for anyone preparing for an underwater adventure. Very reasonably priced and one of the best rugged cameras on the market (check out this review from Digital Photography Review)- your favorite traveler will love you forever.

11. The Classic Satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Company: Because nothing says "seasoned traveler" like a satchel. We've all seen Indiana Jones. Shown here in "vintage," however there is a marvelous range of colors and a variety of sizes to make your satchel totally customizable. 

12. The Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon: Take it from someone who lugged 3 giant Game of Thrones books around Europe for 2 weeks...a Kindle is a brilliant gift for any book-loving traveler. Hugely praised for it's incredible battery life, excellent lighting, and speedy processor this is by far the e-reader of the year. Your traveling bookworm buddy will love it. (If you're interested, the internet is FULL of rave reviews for the Paperwhite, including this one from PC Mag.)

13. The Victorinox Champion Plus Knife via Amazon: THIS TOOL HAS EVERYTHING- needle, screwdriver, scissors, corkscrew, bottle opener, and so much more- you'll be prepared for anything and everything. Whether you're out in the wilderness and need to chop the head off your fish or you're heading out on the town and need to take care of that pesky nose hair...this is your tool. You'll start to wonder how you ever lived without it! (Plus, a steal from Amazon at 60% off the regular retail price of $100. Doesn't get better than this people.) 

14. SleepPhones from Sheep Acoustic: If you've ever tried to sleep with your headphones on or listen to music with your earbuds for 3+ hours, you may have experienced some discomfort if not downright pain. Maybe you'll feel a little silly in your fleece headband turned ultra-comfy headphones...but it's totally worth it for the comfort factor alone. You'll be blissfully listening to music for hours or counting sheep in no time. 

15. Your last resort: Wallet with cash. Can't find anything you like on the list? Short on time? Any traveler will appreciate some local currency for their next trip. Hit up your local AAA and exchange some of those fine US dollars for foreign currency- it will most definitely be much appreciated. 

Are any of these gifts on your Christmas wish list? What gifts are you giving your traveling buddies this year? 

09 December 2013

Backpacking 101

My lovely familia in Cinque Terre, Italy (June 2013)
187 days ago, I returned from a life-changing backpacking trek through Europe with my family. As hectic and crazy and way too short as it was, this was by far the most amazing trip I've ever taken and the best time I've ever spent with my family. 

Initially I was not 100% on board with the whole backpacking idea and spending 12 days living out of a minuscule pack that I had to cart around everywhere. You see I'm that girl you spot in the airport dragging multiple overstuffed bags behind her, a pair of rain boots that didn't fit in one hand, passport/wallet/keys in the other, and 2 pairs of sunglasses perched on her forehead. I am a walking, talking, textbook case of the overpacker. (See, I was a Girl Scout for 2 weeks so I take being prepared pretty seriously.) Needless to say, packing up 2 weeks of my life in a backpack was something of a challenge for me. However, despite my desire to stuff as much into my pack as possible and disregard my own personal good sense to not pack those giant 5 inch wedges that took up so much precious space (yet, I packed them anyway), I did, in fact, make some very good packing choices. 
The Herschel Little America Backpack
(from herschelsupply.com)

So here are my recommendations to anyone planning a short backpacking adventure. Trust me, they'll serve you well! 

1. a sturdy backpack: This here was mine- the Herschel Little America backpack. While perhaps not ideal for a more outdoorsy trip, my Herschel pack was perfect for the extensive train travel and almost constant moving around we did. Super roomy, stylish, extremely comfy shoulder straps, and made in America- what more could you want in a backpack?! 

The Totes mini umbrella
(from totes-isotoner.com)

2. a teeny, tiny umbrella: I got mine from Totes, but any small, compact, sturdy umbrella is a marvelous traveling companion. Small enough to fit into your bag or pocket, I was immediately grateful I packed this when, on Day 1, we waited outside the Musee d'Orsay for half an hour in the 40-degree Paris drizzle. Weather is unpredictable everywhere, so unless you're off to the desert, I highly recommend you bring a mini umbrella along. 

The Vapur Reflex
(from vapur.us)

3. the Vapur Reflex: Just look at this incredible water pouch! This little guy is reusable, collapsible, flattenable, eco-friendly- the ideal anti-bottle water-carrying device. It even has a handy side clip so you can strap it onto your bag or your person for even greater convenience. You can avoid purchasing pricey airport water bottles, bring it along on your hike, and then pack it away easily when you don't need it. Now I can't even imagine life without my Vapur! Highly recommended. 

4. a backpack cover: A brilliant idea by my mother, Valerie. It rained about half of our trip and the backpack cover not only keeps your clothes dry but also adds an additional layer of security against anyone trying to get their grimy paws into your pack. 

Check it out- I fit ALL THIS in my backpack
(disclaimer: I did not include the wedges. I don't recommend taking
anything so ridiculous.) 

5. a color scheme: This may seem silly or foolish BUT when you have limited space and NO LAUNDRY ACCESS, every article of clothing counts. Take a few hours, plan out your outfits and make sure you have enough to mix and match in the event of inclement weather, or the washing machine not working, or someone dropping gelato on your lap. Because that will probably happen if you are accident-prone like myself. Just look at all the stuff I fit into my backpack! I had plenty of versatile pieces, definitely a plus considering the 45 degree+ range of weather I experienced while in Europe in the spring.  

So those are my wise words of backpacking advice! Have you gone backpacking? What are your essential items for a successful trip? 

Inaugural Blogural: Welcome Aboard!

Me and my dad Bob at the Pantheon, Rome (June 2013)

Hello, and welcome to my blog! 

(By which I mean, thank you friends and family members for stopping by and being supportive today!) Anyway, it's 1am in the midst of exam week and I should absolutely be studying or sleeping, however while watching West Wing reruns, I was hit by a brilliant idea- I SHOULD START A TRAVEL BLOG. So here we are.
Nice, France (May 2013)
And who am I exactly? Well, I'm Meggy- an adventurous scholar, an avid reader, an intrepid explorer, a cuisine connoisseur...basically I'm a wanderlust-crazed college student biding my time until my next big adventure. Travel is my passion, food is my life, Harry Potter was my childhood. And this is my blog- where I shall share my adventures and experiences and aspirations and we can all talk about it together. So, why did I decide to start this blog? Well, in spite of my spontaneous decision to launch myself headfirst into the blogging world, I've been thinking about the idea for some time now, for a number of reasons, including:

Pont de l'ArchevĂȘchĂ©, Paris, France (May 2013)
1. Because I absolutely LOVE traveling (obviously) and I LOVE talking about all things travel-related. (And, this propensity to discuss travel ad nauseam has at times strained my personal relationships. For example, my dad Bob doesn't care for me interrupting his work to discuss the fjords of Norway. Luckily you're here voluntarily, so this works out perfectly for all of us.)

2. To bide my time between larger, grander adventures. Not only will I regale you with stories of distant lands, I will also check out the local scene and tell you about that too. I, as I am sure happens to others driven mad by wanderlust yet confined to one place for long periods of time, sometimes overlook the little adventures one can have close to home. I love to hate my hometown, Buffalo NY, but there are hidden gems here too. Trust me, it's not all beer and snow and chicken wings and losing sports teams (although there certainly is plenty of that to go around.) 

Glorious Florence, or in Italiano- Firenze (June 2013)
3. To quote a line from an Oscar Wilde play, "I'm so full of interesting information, I feel like the latest edition of something or other." In my 21 years I've accumulated quite the wealth of riveting information which I am just DYING to share with any interested parties. 

4. And finally, the driving force behind this blog is because approximately 6 and a half months ago, I had a life-changing adventure which truly solidified my case of wanderlust and my undying, relentless passion for travel- and I will tell you all about it in the coming weeks. 

So that's my story! I am beyond excited to jump into this next big adventure! Welcome aboard!