Traveling is not just a rewarding sense of fulfillment and adventure; it’s a lifestyle. Whether you’re on a year-long “discovering me” circumnavigation, or a three-day trek to your favorite big city, the point is travel requires some pretty serious skill. And the more you practice, the better you get.
But you can’t travel well without the right gear. Unless you’re the hardest-core vagabond there is, who jumps on a plane with nothing but a wallet expecting to wing it every step of the way, you’ll benefit – and enjoy – these travel-savvy companions.
For the holiday season, I’ve compiled a list of my favorites – both supplies I own, and also those I desire. Consider them as gifts for the wanderlust-suffering globetrotter in your life as I share my favorite choices over the coming weeks.
Today’s gift ideas are…
1. Rick Steves’ Convertible Carry-On Bag
Ideal for: Backpackers, travelers on multi-destination trips, and travel done primarily via trains, busses, and planes
Best price: $59.99 (red, orange and navy only) on ebags.com (other colors $74.96)
Specs: 21″ x 14″ x 9″ (fits most airlines’ carry-on restrictions); comes in 6 colors. Includes attached security pouch inside, and two mesh laundry bags.
Review: The absolute perfect solution for the mobile traveler. After endless research on the various backpacks available (and there are a lot), this one won by a landslide. The perfect combination of durability, convenience, and price, Rick Steves’ signature style convertible carry-on is a true gem. This bag has no wheels and no internal frame, but the ergonomic shape lends itself to at least some structure when full – depending on the contents. It’s lightweight (a mere 3 lbs.), versatile, and can be used as a backpack or handheld bag: padded shoulder straps tuck away behind a Velcro compartment for storage, and two handles (one on the top and one on the side) offer carrying power. There is a plethora of zippered compartments, a slouchy internal pocket for easy access, and an attached separate security pouch at the very bottom for hiding important documents (i.e. copies of plane tickets, contact info, etc.)
The bag is pleasantly expandable, offering a seemingly endless storage capacity for accumulating items – or squishing down to fit in tight places. When full to capacity, it still fits in overhead compartments on planes, and even beneath most seats. The material is tear-resistant and waterproof, and stays remarkably clean.
My experience: I used this bag on a two-week trip from the Netherlands to Austria to the Czech Republic in September. I am adept at packing lightly, and after my skillful preparation for the trip, this bag was literally half full. I even threw in a few travel “luxuries” I normally would omit in any other not-as-efficient bag, and had extra room for an additional jacket, souvenirs, and acquired goodies along the way. It traveled by plane, train, and bus through three countries, got rained on, stepped on, and thrown about in the bus cargo hold, and still looks brand new. I hid plane tickets, contact info, my passport, and credit cards in the bottom pouch, and used the included mesh bags for my dirty laundry – which stayed entirely separate from my clean clothes, and thus never created a smell.
I wore the bag on my front when dodging shady characters in the Prague metro stations, ran with it in the airport, and slipped it effortlessly beneath the seat in front of me on the transatlantic haul back to the U.S. It is by far my new best travel friend.
2. Rick Steves’ Civita Day Pack
Ideal for: any traveler
Best price: $19.95 on Amazon
Specs: 14″ x 11″ x 5.5″; comes in five colors
Review: Lightweight (it is virtually weightless and nonexistent when empty), yet sturdy and tough (it was kneaded to death by a young, clawed kitten when I stayed in Vienna and has not a single tear), water-resistant, stretchable, and comfortable. This nylon bag is perfect for cramming your jacket, camera, notebook/journal, tickets, snacks, umbrella, and anything else you could possibly need on the go during your sightseeing days. And the best part: it makes a fabulous pillow for dorms and trains. Simply stuff a jacket or sweater inside, flip it over to the non-zippered back, and catch some much-needed Zzzz’s.
Stay tuned for more gift ideas!