Each year I participate as an expert panelist in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards in the wine country travel segments. This project inspires me to consider what trips people will take to experience their favorite aspects of wine: hotels, restaurants, tasting rooms, festivals and regions.
It also gets me in mind of how much prep and planning it takes to make vacation time valuable and stress free. Inevitably, the efforts of packing enter the fray. What to bring? What to wear? How to plan for seasonal and weather influences? How to get it all from A to B?
This year I kept my eye out for perfect products to elevate wine country travel. Call it cool hunting, or ease shopping. Here are my recommendations, in time for the gift season:
I have one huge tip which I was able to use this year: Alaska Air Wines Fly Free Program. Check it out for west coast U.S. travel. It’s awesome!
My CALPAK Ambeur Carry-On Luggage ($165) is likely my most essential travel accessory of all. It is lovely to behold (I get compliments all the time) yet it’s rugged and practical. I’ve used it for weekend trips and week+ international trips, carrying on all the way and with enough room to bring home a treat bottle of wine wrapped in my clothes inside. This is the the luggage I use for all of my trips. Buy here to get $15 off your first order over $150 USD.
One of my favorite discoveries this year is my KeySmart Urban 21 Commuter Backpack ($239.99). I also have the Urban Passport Wallet ($79.99). When I first got my backpack, I was surprised at how compact it seemed, yet full of space for my laptop, charger, books, water bottle, passport, wallet, and other items I needed to keep handy. This is a next-gen backpack, with ripstop woven fabric and RFID-blocking microfiber compartments to keep data safe and organized in a sleek and seamless design. It’s also waterproof. I wish I’d had it when I took a train to work everyday. Buy here (select Urban Gear) and get free shipping in the U.S. on orders over $25 USD.
I tried something totally new to me, and I also asked my daughter to give it it whirl. It’s called a Bandit ($25), and it looks like like a combo of a bracelet and a hair tie. It goes around your wrist (or water bottle, cell phone, whatever) and hides a little zipper where valuables tuck away. It’s a small space, so don’t plan on putting anything huge in there, but it is ideal for cash or your boarding pass (folded up). It’s great for hand-free ease that keep something important at one’s fingertips. Choose from many cool colors, plus it can get wet. There is also a scrunchie version called Bunchie, but I haven’t tried it out yet. Buy here with code SHIP35 to get free shipping in the U.S. on orders over $35.
This year I had some trouble with my skin. When I was in California, where the humidity is quite low, it was very dry. I also spent time in South America late last year, when it was winter at home but nearly summer while I was on my trip. This takes a toll on skin that has been shrouded, let’s say, in cool weather darkness. I found a cool product for SPF needs, which also includes an after-sun element. COCOOIL Natural Skincare is a line of cruelty free, fair trade, cold-pressed organic coconut oil products that are made in Australia. It’s very unique because the consistency is a light-weight oil, rather than the thick smear that can be common in sun protection. I got the COCOOIL Vacay Bundle ($84.97) which includes SPF 30 Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, Ocean Spray, After Sun with Lime, and a tote bag. I’ve ended up using the After Sun with Lime oil on my face almost daily, now that I’m home. It actually penetrates through winter dryness and smells quite refreshing. Note: this pack contains amounts that are too big to haul through security in a carry on. Buy here and get free shipping over $50. If you register for the newsletter, get 15% off your total.
In this same frenzy to get my skin right during and after travel (it was a tough year!) I also tried a new tool: TrophySkin’s MiniMD Mini Handheld Microdermabrasion System ($99). It buffs skin to remove cells and dry flakes that build up. I was a bit nervous, having never tried such a thing, but it was easy and my skin did feel quite smooth after I was done. There is a guide book that comes along with it, and I’d recommend giving it a try a time or two at home before using it on vacation, so you have the hang of how it will impact your skin. Shop here and get free shipping on all orders. If you register for the newsletter, you’ll be eligible for a discount and monthly drawing.
One of the things that throws me off (heck, it throws everyone off) when I travel is jet lag and this sort of blah feeling from being out of my routine. This summer I tried Voke ($59.56/60) tabs, which are chewable super food nuggets. These are designed to improve focus and reduce fatigue, which is what caught my eye for travel purposes. I like that you take one in the morning and one after lunch, which is helpful to spread the benefits throughout the day. They come in individual packets, containing two tabs per day, so they are easy to toss into a bag for a trip. Shop and subscribe here—with a subscription you can save 15%.
Mizu’s 360 V7 Everyday Kit ($59.95) is a 21 oz stainless steel water bottle which includes a straw and a detachable filter. This summer my husband and son took an 85 mile hike over the course of several days. They had to carry all needed items in their backpack, including water. This experience caused me to think a lot about porting water and I looked at several systems on their behalf. While this one is relatively small and heavy compared to what they ultimately chose, it is actually wonderful for typical travel. I love that it has a filter included, which can be quite useful in everyday situations as well as times when the water system is less than reliable. Also: 100% BPA Free and 100% Recyclable. Shop here and take 15% off if you register for the newsletter. Free shipping over $50 in continental U.S.
I got super excited when I received Cindy Karen’s Toronto Classic Blazer ($178). When I travel for work, I’m often in front of the people I’m meeting and interviewing immediately, so getting off the plane looking less than professional isn’t an option. Cindy Karen’s products are “inspired by her life on the runway–an aviation runway that is,” as she says. Karen grew up at her grandparents’ Flabob Airport in Riverside County, and she parlayed that experience to create a line of clothing for travelers. Here’s the thing about the blazer: it cannot be wrinkled! It looks totally fresh no matter what happens. It’s soft and yet structured and really does “work” for air travel fashion. The one thing I’d add: pockets. Cindy Karen will offer 25% off everything on the site for Black Friday x Cyber Monday. Use discount code CKNEWCUSTOMER at checkout for 10% off of your first order and free shipping.