By Renée S. Gordon
Many potential vacationers feel that travel has become so complicated and stressful that it’s hardly worth the effort. While I agree that the world of travel is ever changing, and in numerous ways more complicated, there are many ways you can make it easier using basic tips and technology. I have included a variety of my favorites that are useful on local and international trips. New applications are constantly being created and a cellphone has become an essential travel tool. It can help you navigate your journey from start to finish.
Planning tools are available on state, city and destination websites. Itineraries, attractions, accommodations, activities, restaurants and special events are listed as well as relevant information and available deals and specials. These websites are a great source of information because they are always current. Make certain that you are visiting the “official” tourism site.
If you choose to take to the air for transportation you can use Hopper, a mobile app to make a cost effective flight booking. The Hopper team predicts airfare costs by analyzing all available information, both past and present, and telling you when it is best to book the least costly airfare. Users enter their dates and Hopper notifies them when the price drops. You can book from the site. Hopper’s accuracy rate is 95 percent. (www.hopper.com/corp/about.html)
The free Safer Travel app is the brainchild of the Caroline’s Rainbow Foundation. It offers general and safety information, interactive maps, links, exchange rates and more on over 300 worldwide destinations from Boston to Beijing. (www.carolinesrainbowfoundation.org/safer-travel-app)
CareZone is a must-have app to have even when you’re not traveling. This is a comprehensive program that organizes your complete medical history. The most important travel feature is the ability to scan your prescriptions so that the list is readily available. Additionally you can set medication reminders, maintain a journal and record the names of your doctors and contacts. (www.carezone.com/home)
The U.S. State Department created and strongly recommends the Smarter Travel app for international travel. Everything you need to know about almost every country, entry information, travel alerts, sites and attractions, is posted. The app also allows access to STEP, the Smart Travel Enrollment Program. The automatic STEP registration links travelers with the US Embassy or Consulate of the country visited to facilitate necessary notifications. (www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/dos/165020.htm)
The State Department also has the Find Your Embassy app. It gives the location of the closest facility as well as a map and directions. (www.usa.gov/mobile-apps)
The “!Emergency!” app uses GPS to figure out your location and provide the emergency number for your area.
Google Translate is one of the best and most effective of the translation tools available. More than 100 languages are offered and can be translated in a variety of ways, speech, writing, photographing, etc. A phrasebook allows you to store translations. Swahili, Xhosa, Yoruba and Zulu are supported languages.
Technological advances extend to travel gear and availing yourself of some of the latest innovations can make your trip smoother. The new TSA-friendly Sparrow II Wheeled Garment Bag is one of those cutting edge products. It features a totally unique TSA-friendly FastPass electronics section that is designed to cradle all your electronics and open flat to glide through the scanner without needing to remove them. The Sparrow II also features a special RFID security pocket and 6000 mAh power bank. This bag is a dream for business and leisure travelers. (www.ec-bc.com/landing)
The 1 Voice Bluetooth Beanie is stylish and serviceable headwear for travel. The beanie has hands-free, built in, headphones that allow wearers to both converse and listen to their favorite beats. The battery lasts from 10-12 hours and that will entertain you on the longest voyage. (www.ivicenyc.com)
Compression socks are a low-tech, high performance product. In everyday use, they have been proven to boost athletic performance, enhance muscle recovery and increase venous circulation, thus lowering the chances of developing muscle cramps, spider veins and blood clots. They’re a boon to travelers on extended flights because they promote blood flow that can prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), a serious condition. Lily Trotter’s compression socks are not the old fashioned “medical” socks from the past. They have unique designs and patterns that match every outfit, add zest to any look and are manufactured in the US. (www.lilytrotters.com)
Time spent in travel can be challenging for children and families. Educator Ruth Rumack has developed a series of books, “The Alpha-Mania Adventure Series”, that incorporates interactive road trip games, reading skill development, phonological awareness and just plain fun. The series is geared for children aged 2 to 5 years. (www.alpha-mania.com)
If you are slightly older than five, you might enjoy some of the latest books that add to your knowledge of certain destinations in a cultural and historic way.
Akashic Books published two such books in 2017, “Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn”, detailing Douglass’ travels and writings in the borough, edited by Theodore Hamm and “Dance of the Karanda” by Peter Kimani, outlining Kenya’s history since its founding.
“Atlas Obscura” is my go to source for more than 10,000 unusual destinations worldwide. The book is entertaining and educational and there is a surprise on every page. You can sign up for the newsletter and have additional information sent to your inbox. (www.atlasobscura.com)
I have two favorite no-tech tips to share. One, don’t take sleep aids on long flights. If there is an emergency, they may impair your ability to function. And two, I unpack everything and put each outfit in an hanger in the closet of my hotel whenever I arrive at a destination. After I wear it I pack it and at the end of the trip everything is packed except what I am wearing home. It saves time and stress.
I wish you smooth travels!