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Ten Essential Travel Products

Ten Essential Travel Products

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There are a lot of different things I could live without when I travel, but I don't want to. Here are ten essential products I use on the road. 

  1. Sleep headphones. Hotels are noisy. Toilets flushing, people talking loudly in the halls. I can't handle the noise and earplugs annoy me. I discovered AcousticSheep SleepPhones* years ago and LOVE THEM. I recently upgraded from my corded Classic sleepphones to the Simple and then again to the Effortless. This way I can use them for running as well. Click here for the review for the Classic version. Click here for the review for Simple. Click here for the review for Effortless.
  2. Sleep Mask. Any light can be disruptive to sleep. The photoreceptors on our skin can detect light in our room, and pure darkness puts us in the best state. Since hotel curtains never shut entirely and there is light coming in from under the door, I wear a sleep mask. My mask of choice is the super affordable Dream Essentials Contoured Eye Mask (buy on amazon*). It doesn't lay flat on your face (it's a bra for your eyes!), is adjustable, and lightweight. Click here for the review.
  3. Meditation app. Calm.com has hundreds of meditations, sleep stories, music tracks, and masterclasses. I have an anxiety issue when I can't sit on the aisle. It's a little ridiculous, but also serious. I'm not just being a diva. They have several off-line meditations just for plane anxiety. I use this to keep me calm (no pun intended!).
  4. Travel chopsticks. I eat with chopsticks as often as I can at home because it slows me down and makes me feel fancy. For travel, I use the Titaner Titanium Foldable Chopsticks*. I pull these out so I can avoid plastic ware or picking things up with my hands on the plane.
  5. Magnesium. I don't recommend a lot of supplements, but feel completely safe recommending magnesium. About half the US and European populations are deficient, and we need it for over 600 reactions in the body. Taking it in the evening can help with sleep and also contribute to a healthy poo in the morning. Admit it, you get hotel constipation too, right? I like Natural Calm* packets to travel without the mess.
  6. Cleaning wipes. Any kind will do. Pre-COVID people would snicker at me when I would wipe down the plane seat and lap tray (did you know they only cleaned those things once daily, if at all?). Now it's not so funny. Don't forget yours!
  7. Laptop backpack. As a professional speaker, the eBags Pro Slim Junior laptop backpack is THE. BEST. BAG. EVER. I can count eight other speakers who use this backpack. There are just enough pockets (too many and things get lost), padded areas for your laptop and tablet or e-reader, a holder for your drink, and outside pockets to stow your passport and global entry card for easy access. 
  8. e-Reader. I don't go anywhere without my Kindle Paperwhite. I like the paperwhite because it's easier on the eyes and terrible to go online with so I don't get tempted. If I had to get a new one, I would pick the Oasis* model because it's waterproof and has an amber lighting option to cut down on eye strain.
  9. Portable standing desk. There are many affordable, lightweight versions of portable standing desks. I've been using the StandStand bamboo model for over five years and wrote most of Beyond Travel: A Road Warrior's Survival Guide on the desk while on the road or at a state park!
  10. Travel charger. I like the Belkin 3-outlet USB travel charger. Even when my husband and I are traveling together, it's easy for us to both charge our devices. I also use it in airports when there isn't a USB port available.

There you have it. Ten things I can't live without when I travel. What can you not live without when you hit the road?

 

*Indicates an affiliate link where I make a few coins at no extra cost to you.

Ten Essential Travel Products

Staying healthy while traveling

Staying on-point and motivated when you’re traveling or vacationing is the opposite of what you’re supposed to do, this is a precious part of the year when you should be enjoying yourself, relaxing and recouping. That doesn’t have to mean that the health and fitness goals that you’ve spent all year working towards are left behind.

Traveling in itself can be extremely tiring and dehydrating, from the flying to the transfers, to the opportunities to try new foods and activities, it can be a very fun yet fitness-compromising time. Two things that are especially important when you’re traveling are to stay hydrated and well rested. Being tired and thirsty is likely to make you feel hungrier than you really are, not only that you’re more likely to gain weight and feel lethargic, which isn’t a great combination when you’re trying to maintain a level of activity.

The following graphic put together by De Vere Hotels contains 8 simple yet practical things you can do to decrease the effects of travel on your body and remain fit and healthy:

Fifteen Ways I Stayed Healthy, Worked Well and Played More in Dubai.

Fifteen Ways I Stayed Healthy, Worked Well and Played More in Dubai.

I recently had the honor and privilege of working with 100 of the top executives of Emaar Properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Emaar is the top real estate firm in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world. Dubai is now one of my Top Three favorite cities (Tokyo and London are the others…and San Francisco, okay that’s four!). I can’t wait to go back and explore more. I found the people generous and kind, the vertical city architecturally appealing, the food delicious and the general feeling of safety, much more so than many American cities.


I wanted to combine Working Well and Playing More, or in more industry terms, bleisure travel, and stayed a couple of days after my presentation. Coming from the US where the trip door to door was around 27 hours, it was a must for me. The first part of the trip I stayed in Emaar’s beautiful Address Boulevard Hotel, which is connected to the largest mall in the world, Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world. Emaar is building an even more towering structure that will be done within the next decade. The last two days I stayed at the Emaar Address Dubai Marina hotel a short walk from the gorgeous beach.

View from the Burj Khalifa

Model for the next tallest tower.

Before I give my steps, a short note about Emaar. My 2.5-hour workshop was on Energy Escalators during the Dubai #30in30 challenge to exercise 30 minutes a day for 30 days. This challenge to become the most active city was initiated by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Executive Council for Dubai Government and fits along with my #25in25 challenge that starts December 1 and I’ve been doing with my family since 2003. In my tour of Emaar’s state of the art office, I saw exercise bikes in the middle of the open space, meeting rooms with standing desks and tables (shown to increase focus and productivity in meetings), and two treadmill desks that were facing each other. Two people were doing a walkie-talkie while I was there.

This state-of-the-art facility, which houses one of the most advanced teams in the world, has the same issues we all face no matter where we live or what we do. When the CEO and the top leaders are very healthy, they sometimes forget that the rest of their workforce needs a boost. This was not the case with Emaar. I believe it is smart, caring, thoughtful, kind, inspiring, motivating, forward-thinking and cost-effective to invest in employees by bringing someone in to speak to them and let them know that they understand that to be productive, you must be healthy, and they go hand-in-hand.

Now…..for the steps!

Working Well

  1. I processed email only once per day and instead did a search for someone’s name if I was looking for a response. (I use Inbox When Ready so I don’t see my emails unless I want to…equivalent of working off-line in Outlook). This was so I didn’t get caught up in things that could wait until I got back.
  2. When I did process, I scheduled some emails to go out after I got back, so the thread didn’t continue while I was there.
  3. I decided on my Top Three Tasks each night before and only did those things first in the morning. If I had time to do anything else I did, but not at the expense of playing.
  4. I asked if it could be delegated or eliminated. If a recurring task didn’t have to be done that week, then it got deleted for that time frame.
  5. I worked in the business lounge during both of my layovers so I could relax and watch movies on the plane (something I rarely do at home).

Playing More

  1. I set communication expectations very low for family, friends and even my husband. I don’t like to feel pressured to email, text, call, etc., especially with a nine-hour time difference which makes it difficult. I don’t want to spend what little time I have visiting somewhere, worrying about being back in my room for a video call. My husband and I would do a quick “are you available in 30 minutes” message and that was sufficient to make sure we spoke every day.
  2. I used Voxer app to communicate with Kevin and one friend. I could text and send voice memos. I like that I can see what has been read.
  3. I don’t take many photos. I want to experience whatever I’m doing through my EYEballs and not an iPhone. Feeling like I should take a photo of everything cool starts to get stressful for me and I end up only looking for opportunities. I also didn’t send any while I was there or post on social media (yes, I know….crazy!) because I didn’t want to waste a single moment uploading, tagging, and describing the photos. All that could be done when I got back.
  4. I took a half-day sightseeing tour and a tour of the Burg Khalifa. I’m okay with doing a touristy activity because….that’s what I am! I try to do something like this wherever I go.
  5. I moved my body. A colleague of mine said Dubai wasn’t a walkable city. I disagree. Maybe in the summer months because of the intense heat, but I covered 4, 5, 7, and 14 miles on consecutive days. I only took the metro once because I wanted the experience As a side note, their trains have female and children only cars. Why has no one thought of that in the US to help women feel safer? Coming from someone who was assaulted on the DC metro during rush hour where no one helped me, I would choose that car in a heartbeat.

Staying Healthy

  1. I drank a packet of Natural Calm magnesium every night. Don’t pretend you don’t get constipated from flying. It can’t be helped due to the altitude and air pressure on the plan. Save yourself some uncomfortable mornings and buy them for your trip.
  2. I used eBoost during the day for just that…a little energy boost! It is a blend of green tea extract, electrolytes, antioxidants, B-vitamins and nootropics. It also helped me drink a lot more water which I needed due to the dehydration from the plane.
  3. I kept my food rules of no sweets during the week.
  4. Moved my body as much as possible. On the plane, I got up at least once an hour and did ankle circles, flex and points. In Dubai, I walked everywhere I could (see above).
  5. When I got back home, I didn’t play the hero. The first two nights I went to bed at 7pm because I needed to and the third night I went to bed at 8. There is no shame in my sleep game, and when I need to sleep, I do. Jet lag can affect you cognitively for 6-11 days, which is why I would not make the emotional decision to keep the stray kitten we found the day after I got back (no worries….he is safe).

Am I perfect….of course not. I drank more coffee than I would at home, partly because the nine-hour time difference made it difficult and partly because I discovered traditional Arabic coffee and that I also like cappuccinos.

Bonus! My new Betabrand Infinity Vest was indispensable during this trip. I wore it at some point every single day. The pockets each have an inside zippered pocket that perfectly fits phone and passport. I never carried a purse or bag once.

There you have it. As an employer, give your staff a day or two on either end to explore a new city, especially for international travel. As the traveler, have a plan in place for both Working Well and Playing More to set yourself up for success and still be productive.

How to avoid pound packing when traveling for business.

How to avoid pound packing when traveling for business.

There aren't any healthy options.
The company is paying for it.
It's a tough life on the road. I deserve this.

Are you “pound packing”?

Extended Stay America released results of a survey of 2000 of their frequent travelers. Eighty-six percent (86%!!) gained an average of three pounds when away from home for two or more weeks. If you are a frequent business traveler, that adds up fast. When I first started my job as a Clinical Research Associate, I called it the Travel 20. Similar to the Freshman 15, but we have something different to blame it on.

Here are five things to be aware of that can make you pack more than clothes.

  1. Limited access to healthy options. I'm not going to pretend for one minute that eating on the road is a breeze. It requires purpose and planning. Eating in airports is a crapshoot. Only 76% of the busiest airports even offer one low-fat, high-fiber, low cholesterol vegetarian entree with vegetables, fruit, whole grains or legumes (Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine).  When we eat near an airport or hotel, often it's one of a handful of same restaurants with different names – Ruby Tuesday's, Applebees, and Chili's. Restaurants are getting better and the requirements to report nutrition information is helpful, but it's still not easy to find ingredient lists. Who in that restaurant is determining that the meal is healthy enough to put an icon next to it? Someone that doesn't realize that soybean oil isn't a health food and that there is barely one serving of vegetables in the entire entree?
  2. Fast Food. In airports, there isn't much of an option, which is why I try to bring my own food or stop at a grocery store on the way (yes, they still exist, even when you travel!)
  3. I'll have what she's having. You eat what your spouse fixes you. I get it. Your spouse doesn't like vegetables. That doesn't mean that you can't prep some veggies on Sunday and throw on top of whatever is served. My husband makes grits on Sundays. I throw sauteed onions, spinach or whatever else I have prepped on Sunday on top. Voila. Vegetables added, and he didn't have to do anything.
  4. No time for grocery shopping.  A gynecologist or grocery is pretty much a toss-up for me in the fun category. However, I make 75% of my meals, and most of them are from scratch. How do I handle my anti-love for the supermarket?
    1. Amazon Subscribe and Save –  I've turned several clients onto this beauty. I get all of my paper goods and a LOT of my dry goods here. I save at least 15% off the already low Amazon price, it comes to my door on a schedule I choose, and I can easily change it if needed. My next order consists of cayenne pepper, single-serve bags of almonds for Hangry snacks, Wild sockeye canned salmon, miracle shirataki noodles, Julia's organic grits, Kleenex, hemp hearts, toilet paper, Jyoti canned dal, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, tahini, pre-cooked individual servings of quinoa (great for mobile work and lunch-packing), coffee and supplements. Whew! It also saves me from buying unnecessary stuff that I always found ended up in my cart. I love it so much, I'm shocked when people don't use it once they know about it!
    2. Community Supported Agriculture – I use Papa Spuds, local to Raleigh-Durham. I consider them one of the best because I have full control over what comes in my box, delivered to my door every Wednesday. I can choose from a variety of fruits and veggies but can also get chicken, beef, fish, pork, eggs, cheese, milk, mushrooms, coffee, chocolate, honey, and condiments. There are even pasta, bread and pizza crust options.
    3. What's left? Frozen and refrigerated foods like fruit, yogurt, kefir, and my beloved rice flour tortilla shells. I order these online and pick up during a designated time or use Instacart and have them delivered to my door. Most stores now have this amenity.
  5. I don't know what's healthy. There's too much conflicting information?!?!?!? Set aside time 1-2 days a week. I choose Sundays to turn on a timer and do as much food prepping, cooking, steaming and baking as I can. There are also assistants that you can hire to do this for you! Yes, it's true! I have an angel that comes in on Thursday and chops all my veggies from my CSA box. There are now even meal-prep services that make meals at your home, like FoodFairy.com or deliver food to your door, like myfoodprepper.com.

Are you willing to try any of these methods to improve your nutrition and avoid pound packing?

Five Baby Steps to Healthy Eating on the Road

Five Baby Steps to Healthy Eating on the Road

You know you need to eat better.
Your doctor may have told you that your blood pressure, cholesterol and/or blood sugar are getting too high.
Your pants are a little too tight, and your jacket is getting snug.
But with all the travel, unlimited per diem, airport eating and business dinners, how do you know where to start for healthy eating on the road?

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