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Summer Road Trip Checklist: 5 Best Traveling Products

Dawn on Blue Ridge Parkway

Dawn on Blue Ridge Parkway (Photo credit: Kay Gaensler)

Gearing up for the annual family road trip consists of more than just your basic map and compass these days. Useful and convenient products can help families navigate the open road with ease— enhancing the unforgettable experience of a road trip.

Whether driving across the country or down the street, here are five summer road trip essentials to keep on hand for any family adventure:

  1. Energy Water:  Perfect for keeping energy up during long drives. Water can help travelers stay alert and energized for the entire trip.
  2. RoadTrippers: Pre-plan entire trips from start-to-finish on this simple, map-based app. Discover must-see local attractions, like quirky museums and retro diners, in each stop along the way. Every attraction has a detailed page for ratings and reviews, adding photos and saving for future road trips.
  3. Mini Rolling Picnic Table/Cooler: Avoid hunger pains and gas station food by packing a rolling cooler filled with healthy snacks. Transform this cooler into a mini picnic table by unfolding the side panels and attaching two foldable stools.
  4. Energy Bars: Keep energy bars on hand to quickly satisfy any hungry traveler. The health conscious bars come in many brands and varieties.
  5. Go Pro: Never forget a moment of your family trip by filming with Go Pro, a compact video camera. Go Pro has many amenities, such as built-in Wi-Fi and a water proof case, that provide professional quality pictures and videos during any adventure.

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13 Disney-Inspired Princess Homes You Can Rent For A Fairytale Vacation

13 Disney-Inspired Princess Homes You Can Rent For A Fairytale Vacation (via Wicked Good Travel Tips)

Every young girl has dreamed of being a princess.  For more than 75 years, Disney princesses have captured our imaginations and transported us into magical worlds that only exist in our daydreams. HomeAway.com, the world’s leading vacation rental…

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Have A Brainy Summer At The Franklin Institute In Philadelphia

Have A Brainy Summer At The Franklin Institute In Philadelphia (via Wicked Good Travel Tips)

Starting on June 14th, Philadelphia will be host to the largest permanent exhibit totally dedicated to the brain and neurology. The Franklin Institute has constructed a 53,000 sq. ft. expansion, the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, to house an…

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Bed and Breakfast Getaway Inns With Unforgettable Scenic Views

Bed and Breakfast Getaway Inns With Unforgettable Scenic Views (via Wicked Good Travel Tips)

Vacation-worthy Bed and Breakfast Inns With Great Views Who doesn’t appreciate a beautiful view? Here in New York City, it’s hard to come by a great view in a private setting. New Yorkers often find themselves gazing out their windows in a daydream…

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Road Tripping – Five Favorite Family Friendly Sites in Chicago

Road Tripping – Five Favorite Family Friendly Sites in Chicago (via Wicked Good Travel Tips)

Road Tripping in Chicago : Five Family Friendly Sites Chicago, Illinois is among the most popular tourist destinations in the country. In 2012, Illinois welcomed over 100 million tourists with 46 million of them visiting Chicago. With museums, great…

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My first-rate experience in VIA Rail Canada Business Class


I love train travel.  Travel by train is as much about the journey as the destination.  There’s less hassle than flying, more comfortable than the bus and more relaxing than driving.  

Advantage of the train vs. the plane:  Flying time is perhaps shorter, but waiting in airport line-ups, boarding, and travel between the airport and downtown take so much time that, all things considered, going by train is often faster.

Advantage of the train vs. the car:  A train travels at roughly the same speed as your car, assuming you don’t hit any bad weather or traffic problems.  And since your are not driving, you are free to relax, work or just enjoy the scenery.

Business class costs about 20-25 percent more than an economy ticket So, when I got the chance to take a ride on VIA Rail Canada from Toronto to Ottawa recently, I happily accepted.  Come, enjoy the journey with me.

(video courtesy of Sambatuts, YouTube)

Union Station

Union Station InteriorStep inside this marble cavern of a building and immediately get transported to the heyday of train travel.  Toronto’s Union Station,  designated as a National Historic Site of Canada, is the largest and most opulent train station in Canada.

When I showed my ticket to the attendant he took my bags for me and put them on the train while he escorted me to the Panorama Lounge.

Business Class Lounge

Experience comfort in the VIA Rail Business Class lounge.

2013-06-03 13.38.19 2013-06-03 13.33.14You get exclusive access to the station’s business-class lounge.  Spacious seating and coffee tables and multiple TVs make this a nice way to unwind before or after you board.  Attendants there can help with reservation, ticketing and local entertainment needs.  You also have access to private washrooms, complimentary beverages, magazines and newspapers in both French and English. If you need to get some work done, there is a business area with PC and Mac computers and color laser printer and free WiFi in the lounge.


Staff weighs each carry on bag before you can board.  They are serious about the 50 lb. weight limit.

A staff member weighs each carry on bag before you can board. VIA Rail Canada is serious about the 50 lb. weight limit. However, we had our luggage stowed for us, so this was not a problem.  As a business class passenger you have a dedicated boarding area and you get the chance to avoid the crowds. It made boarding faster, and it added to the feeling of exclusivity.

The Ride

Pretty plush and roomy seats only four per row.  Lots of leg room.  The seats fully recline, which are great for naps, but a little awkward for the person behind you.  The bathrooms are clean and well-equipped.  Internet access was consistent, fine for casual surfing and getting some work done.  Each seat also has an electric outlet to juice up all your gadgets.  Plus, not being cramped in your seat is really nice.

Service and Food

2013-09-17Here is what I experienced.  As soon as we were seated and the train pulled out of the station the server (Costel served us on the train out, and Rohan was there for the return trip) came through with complimentary snacks (pretzels and drink screwdriver with orange slice garnish for me).  We were served at our seats, airplane style.

There was such a choice of local wine and spirits that I couldn't decide.  So I chose all of them.

I  couldn’t decide which local wine and spirits to choose, so I picked them all.

We were treated to newspapers, hot towels before our meals, unlimited wine and cocktails, snacks, chocolates and  juice throughout our journey.  The meals were cooked, not microwaved.  And they were really good.  Real glassware, dishes and cutlery – truly top shelf.  All of the products served are Canadian including the lovely maple chocolates at the end of every meal.

Getting there from Here

You can make a direct connection to these cities on Amtrak:

  • Vancouver, on the Amtrak Cascades line.
  • Toronto, on Empire Service or Maple Leaf lines.
  • Montreal, by the Adirondack line.

1 888 VIA-RAIL (1 888 842-7245)

Travel on Canada’s VIA Rail is a real treat, and train travel as a business class passenger is the best experience in North America, including Amtrak’s Acela.  In my opinion, it is well worth the additional cost.  If you can arrange it, business class is the way to go.



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5 Reasons Why Traveling Solo Can Remedy Loneliness

5 Reasons Why Traveling Solo Can Remedy Loneliness (via The Cultureist)

By Silvia Mordini For quite some time now I’ve come up with all sorts of excuses why I couldn’t travel by myself: My partner didn’t like to travel and I didn’t want to go without him The guilt of leaving my partner and family behind Not feeling…

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Genius Pack luggage offers a savvy way to pack for traveling

74126_319909918110099_1982928111_nMy packing routine usually goes like this:  Think about what I am going to take with me.  Procrastinate until the night before I leave.  That night (or even the day of), panic and throw everything in the suitcase.  Discover, after I am on the road, at least three crucial things (like my toothbrush, curling iron or part of my outfit) that I left at home.  Now, Genius Pack is here with luggage to help the “packing-challenged” or the “organizationally-impaired” like me.

The company sent me the Genius Packer 22” carry-on luggage to test out.  Here is what I found:

  • Easy to handle.  The bag is designed as an upright, but ha a handle on the side for Spinnersversatility in carrying it.  Spinners make for easy maneuvering and don’t add to the stress of carrying or pulling from one place to another, especially when you are in a hurry.
  •  Designated compartments.  Open the luggage and find five interior compartments, labeled for you.  No guesswork about what goes where—underwear, socks and toiletries (which is removable).  There are also zipped pouches for electronics and an optional mini speaker to use with your smart phone. Of course, you don’t have to use the compartments as labeled, but what a relief to know they are there if you need them.  I also maximized space by using separate packing cubes for my tops, pants and other items.

Interior w pocketsThis bag makes packing idiot-proof.  There are labeled pockets for magazines, a water bottle, an optional mini umbrella and a front outer pocket for a charger (also optional) designed to recharge your mobile device directly from your luggage.  The umbrella and charger are sold separately.

  •  Separates clean clothes from dirty.  The  patent-pending technology has a detachable laundry bag that zips into the suitcase, accessible from the outside zippered pocket.  You flatten and roll up the empty laundry bag.  As you put your laundry in, you maximize space by rolling the bag toward the wall.  Excess air goes out of a one-way valve.
  • Coat hookA place for your coat.  There is a strap with a hook in the back of the bag.  You can place your coat on top, stretch the hook over it and latch it to the front.  Hands-free travel.
  • Can tilt forward when fully expanded.  I found that when I filled the luggage, including its two-inch expansion, it tended to be off balance, forcing me to prop it against something for it to stay upright or keep picking it up when it fell over.
  • You can have any color you want, as long as it is black.  Just an aesthetic, but a choice of colors would be nice.
  • Dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 9.5.”  Weight: 8.6 lbs.
  • The Genius Pack 22″ costs $198 (without the speaker, umbrella and portable battery pack)

Genius Pack incorporates its unique organizational designs to all its products, including a 28” upright (not a spinner), garment bag, back pack, business case, duffel bag and “flight bag” that wraps around airplane seat to store all your flight needs such as a computer tablet and magazines.

The bag I used was provided to me by Genius Pack at no charge. All opinions expressed above are my own.

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2013 Must-Have Tech for Travelers — Part 3: On the Go Phone & Photo Gadgets

by expertflyer

Expert Flyer Hot Topics — Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Although we called out some interesting and valuable apps for both business and leisure travelers in parts one and two of our Must-Have Tech series, research by the Collinson group shows that only those apps that are instantly engaging and immediately useful will be kept and used regularly when on the move.

smartphoneThe Mobile Traveler Survey by the Collinson Group also found that to most frequent travelers, the airport and often the travel journey itself, has become an experience to be endured, not enjoyed.  And, aside from airport lounge access, smart phones are among a short list of must-haves for business travelers who want and need to stay connected to work, family and friends.

Here are two companies who offer some interesting options for staying in touch:

  • Wireless Traveler, a leading provider of international phones and services to the travel industry, offers money-saving wireless communications products and services for the international leisure and business traveler.  Among their many cost-saving options is their Global Nano SIM Card ($44.95), which saves users up to 85% on calls using their existing iPhone 5 or iPad Mini.
  • When it’s time to recharge, Innergie’sPocketCell Duo and Magic Cable is a perfect companion for travelers on the go who can’t afford to run out of juice on their mobile phone or tablet.  The Innergie PocketCell Duo can completely charge an iOS or Android phone up to four times and provide about 7 hours of additional power to tablets, including an iPad, before the PocketCell Duo needs to be recharged.  The Magic Cable Trio, which comes with the PocketCell Duo, is an ingenious way to minimize the number of cable you need to charge every mobile device you have on your journey.  The Magic Cable Trio is a single cable that includes a 30-pin Apple tip as well as miniUSB and microUSB tips, which means consumers can connect to more than 10,000 mobile devices with a single cable.  The PocketCell Duo ($89.99) also has two (2.1 amp) USB ports so two devices can charge at the same time.  The company will also introduce a Lightning Tip in April for iPhone 5 users.
taking picture

(c) Courtney Carmody

Everything is relative and, unlike the Collinson Group study, TripAdvisor’s annual business travel survey reported a bit more pleasure associated with business travel.  In fact, 62% of respondents said they “often” enjoy business travel and 18 percent said they “always” enjoy it.  And, 34% said, the best part about traveling for work is “seeing new places.  “We agree, so why not take along some fun gadgets to help you capture and keep some of those business-tourist memories.  Here are a few to consider:

  • The Pentax Q10 is a super-compact and ultra-lightweight camera that is barely larger than a deck of cards, and a great camera choice for travelers who want to achieve digital SLR photographic quality with the convenience of slipping into your pocket.  The Q10 features a new CMOS image sensor and an upgraded algorithm for much-improved performance with amazing image quality and faster autofocus (AF) operation. A special adapter allows hundreds of Pentax K-series lenses to fit on the Q10.  Suggested List Price (with zoom lens): $599.95.
  • With the Photojojo Phone Lens Series you may take full advantage of the camera on your smartphone or tablet while touring a new destination.  Photojojo’s phone lens series works with any phone or device that has a lens on it, including Android or iPhone lenses, iPod Touch, iPad, Blackberry and MacBook.  You can choose from professional quality Fisheye, Telephoto, Wide Angle and Macro Cell Phone lenses. You can get three lenses for under $50.
  • Taking pictures with your mobile phone is certainly convenient, but many times the photo is too dark, skin tones are inaccurate or the overall color just doesn’t seem right.  Now, with the help of Athentech Perfectly Clear iOS and Android apps, you can turn these photos into perfectly exposed and color corrected masterpieces with a single click, and share them with friends directly or post to social media from anywhere in the world. Perfectly Clear from Athentech does exactly that.  The app will render your photos as they should be and will convert good pictures taken with mobile devices into great photos to share instantly.  Manual adjustments can be made if you really want to get creative.  Using Perfectly Clear will have your friends asking, “you took that picture with your phone?”


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This article, 2013 Must-Have Tech for Travelers — Part 3: On the Go Phone & Photo Gadgets, is syndicated from ExpertFlyer Blog and is posted here with permission.

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Help for the hearing-impaired traveler

VitaSoundTravel can be as stressful as it is enjoyable, and a hearing problem is an extra challenge.  Here is a new device designed to help make it easier for the hearing-impaired traveler.

VitaSound Audio released its new Personal Audio Enhancer (PAE-300).  The PAE-300 is the only multi-functional device designed for folks with situational or early-stage hearing loss.  It helps you get higher audio fidelity and better distinguish sounds when there’s background noise, or low sound levels that can make hearing difficult.

When you travel, the noise-cancellation technology of the Personal Audio Enhancer will make the sounds you need to hear clearer and reduce unnecessary background noise if you’re having trouble speaking to someone in a crowded restaurant or on the phone or even if you’re just unwinding after a long day of walking around a new city and want to watch television.

It’s multifunctional, which lets you select the best mode to get the best results depending on your environment. It allows users to hear better in situations where background noise or low-sound levels make hearing difficult.

Four Distinct Listening Modes:

  • Watch Mode for watching TV or movies on airplanes, enhancing what you hear.
  • Talk Mode for conversing with a travel companion or seatmate is easier in noisy environments like waiting rooms, airport terminals or restaurants.
  • Listen Mode improves the sound on a mobile phone or an MP3 player.  You can select an EQ mode for different sound settings.
  • Relax Mode with ambient sounds for relaxation and sleep.

I received a unit, which retails for $399, to review.  There is a bit of a learning curve to get the settings right and achieve the balance you want between focused and ambient sounds. The hand unit is supposed to be paired to the base once, but you may need to pair the two each time you use it.

Using the device also requires you to use earphones plugged into the transmitter, then attached to a cellphone or when in the talk mode, which may feel a bit awkward at first.pae_frontback_boxshot-4_3_rx383_c540x380

In addition to having an audio enhancement device, here are other travel tips for the hearing impaired:

• Try to make all travel arrangements in advance. Once you make your transportation arrangements, request written confirmation to make sure that information is correct. Always tell the ticket representative that you are hearing-impaired.

• If possible, meet with a travel agent to allow the opportunity for lip reading, or if necessary, written exchange to help confirm travel plans. Agents can contact airlines, hotels, and attractions to make necessary reservations.

• Travel information and reservation services are also available on the internet. Be sure to print copies of important information such as confirmation numbers, reservations, and maps.  Keep copies of travel arrangements, including confirmation numbers, easily available.

• Arrive early at the airport, bus terminal, or train station. Tell the agent at the boarding gate that you are hearing-impaired and need to be notified in person when it’s time to board.

• Check the display board repeatedly while waiting in the terminal to confirm your flight destination and departure time as there may be delays or the departure gate may change.  Confirm the flight number and destination before boarding.

• Inform the flight attendant that you are hearing-impaired and ask that any in-flight announcements be communicated to you in person. Consider reserving aisle seats so that you may easily communicate with the flight staff.

• Do not be afraid to ask for help from fellow travelers—most are more than willing to offer help.

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