One of the things about doing a lot of travel, is that after a while, I've discovered some tools that really work for me! I've also invested in a few things that I wish I hadn't! Here is a review of some of my favorites and at least one that didn't work out as I would have hoped! As an independent travel blogger, I have not been provide any of my favorite travel items by the manufacturers to review. I bought or borrowed all of these items myself and in the case of the ones I love, use them regularly. In other words, no one paid me or gave me free stuff just to say something nice about it! I'm saying something nice, because it works for ME!
First up is something new I tried that fits all my favorite things!! (click on the title for a link to the site)
Is there anything more disgusting than having to leave things in the seat back pocket of an airplane seat? Here is a place where people leave their used chewing gum and tissues. Don't even get me started on the "motion discomfort" bags!) And this is the place I'm supposed to leave my water bottle, snacks and eye shades?! Oh, sure it gets "cleaned" between flights...a crew comes through with rubber gloves and throws out all the trash, and that's that. But if they are wearing rubber gloves to do the job, why would I want to put something that goes into mouth or over my eyes in the same pocket...eww! So when a friend of a friend recently created the "Airpocket", I loved the idea and had to try it! My friend wanted to support her friend by purchasing one, but doesn't fly much. When she learned I not only travel but write about it, she happily lent me her Airpocket for a shake down cruise. I took it along on a flight from Boston to Seattle.
What I Like:
It's sanitary- The Airpocket is made of neoprene, so I could tuck it into the airplane seat back pocket without a worry about whatever germy thing had been there before. I knew I could swab it down after a trip, but it would keep my sleepy time stuff and ipad nice and clean inside it!
It's commodious- It fit far more of my things than I expected. and because it has dividers inside (pockets in a pocket!) It made finding things and returning them easy.
It's easy in and out of a larger bag- (or you can hook it over the handle of a roller bag) This is especially handy when the cabin crew is exhorting everyone to "move it, move it, move it!" I just grabbed the strap and pulled out everything I needed in my seat and could stow the bag quickly.
Below is a video of me packing the Airpocket and you can see how much it fits and how easily it slips in and out of my backpack.
Some things that didn't work for me:
It was mistaken for a purse in the exit row- I put the Airpocket in the seat back pocket of my "Even More Space" Jet Blue flight and immediately the flight attendant said it had to go underneath. This won't be an issue unless you are seated in the exit row, but I often am. But it was easy to pull out of my back pack once we reached altitude due to the nice big strap!
It is a little dark in the interior- There are some red accents inside, but on my night flight home, I had trouble finding some of my items due to all that black neoprene. I have a bikini with bright yellow neoprene accents, and I think it would make a really cool and functional contrasting interior for the Airpocket.
I recently read about these shoes/slippers in a travel magazine. Some folks wear them right into the airport, those would be the folks who like this new "barefoot" fitness craze. For someone like myself who is just one tiny step away from orthopedic shoes, I use them as slippers...over my support hose!
What I like:
For a long time, I just used the free slippers I picked up in some of the fancy hotels, but these take so little space in my bag and behave more like a shoe. They also have a real sole, so I can also swab them down after a trip to the airplane lav (If I'm a little squeamish about the seat back pocket, don't even get me started on the floor of the lav!) Until I get a chance to clean them up, I love that I can put them sole to sole, toe to heel, and flip the heels over on toes and any "icky" stuff is isolated from the rest of my things in my bag! (see video below)
What I like:
I like everything this company makes! I use their luggage tags with a unique QR code and I have a couple of their packable C fold bags that I often bring along as spare luggage or to use as a day bag. If you are a travel junkie like me...their site is dangerous! It's hard to stop once you see how useful their things are when traveling!
This bag is super thin and light, and features 3 zippered pockets. I have found I can keep items organized and easy to find by keeping categories of things in each pocket. For instance I use the top pocket for chargers and cables, the second pocket for headphones and the smallest pocket for my reading glasses, so things don't get hopelessly tangled and in the process of untangling, flung across the cabin of the airplane!
What I like:
I'll be honest, I was a very early adopter...and 18 months ago I cried when dozens of downloaded magazines "disappeared" when the app "self updated" on hotel wifi hours before a flight from Istanbul to Boston. With no hope of downloading magazines on crummy hotel wifi before the flight, I lost my all my reading material for a long flight. The reaction on social media was swift and furious, as hundreds of us early adopters sitting in airports ranted about the loss of our downloaded library! Luckily, they responded quickly, and within a few versions, this is a fabulous app, which keeps your library and downloads quickly! On one device I can bring any of hundreds of titles, and they don't weigh much or take up space in my carry Depending on your subscription, a library can be shared by a few devices or people in the family. It's quickly become the only way I read magazines and I can have as many titles as the Hudson News stocks for the price of 3 of them purchased at the airport store. (even all those back issues I've been meaning to catch up on) And best of all, you can read a trashy celebrity magazine and who would know!
What I like:
Or, "why I bought it"...I loved the idea of luggage that would charge my electronics, and that it would have an app that would track it's location. It also can weight the contents when you lift it by the handle. I ordered the Bluesmart as part of an Idiegogo campaign. I should have followed the lead of the venture capitalists who passed on this, thus requiring the designers to crowd fund.
Some things that didn't work for me:
Unfortunately, during my shake down weekend, I discovered a lot of the features either didn't work, didn't matter, or turned out to be downright annoying! Right off the bat, all those features and space for the battery made for a large carry on bag that doesn't really fit my usual amount of stuff inside. It's the biggest carry on in my closet and most likely wouldn't "fly" on most European low cost airlines. It fit what I needed for a weekend, but would not have worked for a week or a trip where I needed extra equipment for activities (snorkels or binoculars)
Then many of the features that would be extremely useful in a bag you plan to check, are useless in a carry on bag. And this can ONLY be a carry on bag because it has a lithium ion battery which is listed as a prohibited checked item on planes. (see FAA regs here) In addition to the weighing feature being wildly inconsistent, requiring multiple tries to figure out which number was "right", this feature is also on the list of "doesn't matter" features for a carry on bag because I have almost never had to have my carry on weighed (only ATN air to Papeete weighed our carry ons) Generally, only checked baggage is weighed. Although the auto locking, location and notification features worked well with the app, for a carry on bag, it's rare you let any carry on bag out of your sight for even a minute, lest security would descend on it within seconds as an abandoned bag, no GPS needed! A location feature would be very helpful for a checked bag; if it's not on the carousel, you could immediately tell the baggage crew exactly where it is, but that brings us back to the fact that you can't check this bag!
Lastly, the annoying features- I didn't like having to turn on my phone, open the app on my phone, then unlock the bag every time I wanted to quickly access something in it (there is an included emergency key you'd need to carry in case your phone dies) I also found the blue steady and blinking battery indicator lights to be very disruptive in a small hotel room. It's hard to sleep with the bag charging and flashing blue LED lights all night, and many hotel rooms might not have a solid door to hide it behind at night.
So now this case is now collecting dust in my closet, and at well over $200, it was an expensive mistake. I guess I might use it if I was taking a trip where I expected lots of "land" (not flying) handling of my baggage, such as tours where the bags are left on the bus and transferred to your room each day by hotel staff, but we don't take too many of these kinds of trips, so it's likely to stay in the closet for a while!
Fortunately, many of the investments I've made in travel gadgets have paid off by being useful and making my travels much easier!