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5 accessories to keep your electronic gadgets working on the road

Categories: Organization, travel

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With a kid 4 hours away in college, and other kids in sports, we do a lot of traveling. And, like it or not, traveling these days often involves a lot of electronic gadgets, and the gadgets require their own gadgets to keep them working when you’re on the road.

Over the years, we’ve perfected our travel electronics routine and have learned to have certain accessories on hand to keep everything going, and everyone happy. I keep a bag I call (oddly enough) the “electronics bag” with these supplies in it, and it has saved our sanity on the road more than once:

1. Car lighter socket splitter - when everyone’s in the car, there’s never enough sockets to plug things in. so we keep a 3 way splitter in each car. (Shop carefully and be sure to get a quality one for safety, though.)

2. Extra ear phones - Self-explanatory. Someone is bound to forget theirs and blame everyone else for it. Preserve your sanity and theirs by producing that spare set when you’re 100 miles from nowhere.

3. Spare phone charger - Just like the ear phones, someone is bound to forget a phone charger. Occasionally, that someone is me. Fortunately, we all have the same phone, so we just have one kind to keep a spare for.

4. Inverter - This gadget can provide a handy 110V outlet to power small gadgets (again, be careful and buy quality, test it out to be safe) that don’t have a car adapter.

5. FM modulator - If I’m driving kids by myself, once I get everyone settled in the back seat, I like to listen to podcasts. My car is older, and doesn’t have a line-in jack or a place to connect an iPod, so this gadget that uses an FM radio frequency to play your stuff can be handy. They’re not always the best sound quality, but they serve their purpose for me.

What kinds of things do you take on the road to keep your electronic gadgets going? Tell us in the comments below.

5 must-have apps for traveling

Categories: travel

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I’ve been on the road a lot this summer, and even thought it’s drawing to a close, there’s still a lot of travel ahead of me with out of town soccer games and visiting our college freshman 4 hours away.

I rely a lot on my phone to keep information at hand when I’m away from home, and there are thousands of apps out there that can help you do just that, and make your trip a little more organized.

These are some of my favorite apps that I always keep handy when I travel:

Tripit - If you’re not familiar with Tripit, you should be, I love this app. It keeps all of your travel information (reservations, flights, itineraries etc.) in one place. It’s as simple as forwarding your confirmation e-mail (or, you can enter information into Tripit manually) to your TripIt account, and Tripit automatically builds you an itinerary you can access from anywhere. No more combing through e-mails for that confirmation or flight number!

iExit - I’ve recently traveled some by myself with my youngest child, and when it’s just us, I want to make sure our stops are safe and efficient. iExit provides real time Interstate exit information to help you answer that age old question, “Where’s a ‘good’ exit?” Since you shouldn’t use it while you are driving, I’ve taught him to use it, and we look for a good place to stop together.

AroundMe - Just like the name implies, AroundMe is a location app to quickly find out about your immediate surroundings. It’s invaluable for finding things like restaurants or the nearest drugstore when you’re in an unfamiliar city. It shows you a list of businesses in the category you chose, as well as the distance and route from where you are.

RepairPal - This is an app I hope I don’t need frequently, but I’ve used it more than once (just last week, as a matter of fact). RepairPal is a location-based app that lets you find a car repair shop near you, get an estimate, get roadside help and more.

Ambiance - Everyone in my family sleeps with white noise, and when on the road at a hotel or a friend’s house, things can seem awfully quiet at night and it can be hard to get to sleep. Ambiance is an app that provides noises and sounds that can help you sleep, relax or set a mood.

I’m always on the lookout for great travel apps to keep me organized, do you have a favorite one? Tell us about it in the comments below!

What’s in your travel toiletry bag?

Categories: Organization, Uncategorized, travel

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I’ll start this out by saying, I have a bit of a travel-sized item disorder. I spend more time perusing Minimus than I probably should admit, and I have only recently thinned out my hotel soaps and shampoos collection so I may think about these things more than the average person.

Since it’s summer and travel is on the agenda, I’m using my toiletry bag a lot. While I’m not really a minimalist, I pride myself on packing an efficient, yet well-stocked bag to be prepared for a variety of situations. I rarely carry full-sized versions of anything unless I’m going to be gone for quite a while, yet my daughter has never met a super-sized version of anything that didn’t accompany her everywhere she goes. It’s like we’re not even related or something.

I carry a bag with 2 compartments, it measure about 12×8x4. In one side, I carry the items I will use every day, and the other side contains spares and items you don’t want to be without when you’re away from home.

The things I will use every day on a trip include such items as: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, make-up,  makeup remover, shampoo, conditioner, face wash etc.

The other side contains spares of things I’m prone to forgetting such as a hair brush, toothbrush, toothpaste and a razor. It also contains items that may or may not be provided at the destination such as lotion, soap or cotton balls as well as items that I may or may not use, but don’t want to be caught without such as nail clippers, medicine, spare contact lenses, a small flashlight, dental floss, band-aids, some change and a pen.

I go through that side occasionally to check the stock and to think of things I may need to add.

What kinds of things do you carry in a toiletry bag? Are you a minimalist or do you have special luggage just for your shampoo? Any ideas for unusual, yet handy items to have? Do share!

What’s in your glove compartment?

Categories: Organization, travel

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Lest you think I’m obsessed with my car, it’s just that I spend a lot of time in there, and I like to be prepared. We’ve already discussed must-have items for the car trunk, as well as handy items to keep in the car console.

But, what about the glove compartment? What goes in there?

When I was in high school. most of my friends turned 16 before I did, and could drive. I longed to have a car of my own, ready for whatever came my way. I remember one friend in particular who had snacks in the glove compartment (it would be many years later before I realized that she probably had an eating disorder), and I recall thinking it was cool that she could keep whatever she wanted in there.

The day finally came, and I had a car of my own. I don’t know exactly what I kept in there, but I’m sure it was all “useful” stuff crammed in there with the silly things my dad made me put in there like the registration and insurance information.

As an adult, I’ve learned to keep the most important things in there and reasonably organized so they’re easily accessible, but I’m wondering if my “important” things are the same as yours.

What’s in my glove compartment?

(Apparently, I keep a mystery piece of my car interior in there to the right of the sunglasses, too.)

Owner’s manual
Proof of insurance
Car registration documents (it’s debatable if you should keep these in there)
Roadside assistance instructions and phone number
Maintenance receipts
Pen and paper
Extra sunglasses (a must, if you wear contact lenses)
A flashlight
A snack (I keep it hidden in there in case we forget my 4th grader’s snack for school)
Extra straws (yes, they are important)

One thing I need to remember to put in there is a list of emergency contacts. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if I have a list in my wallet, either. I need to get on that.

How about you? What’s in your glove compartment?

What should you pack in a carry-on bag?

Categories: Organization, travel

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I love to travel by air even though it makes me a little nuts, sometimes.

I obsessively check and recheck things (Boarding pass? Phone? Carry-on? Suitcase?) when I’m at the airport, so there’s no telling what I must look like. I live in fear of doing something really stupid and being stranded forever in some airport.

Hey, I never said my fears were realistic.

Even though I usually carry my suitcase on board (It fits, I promise) I’m especially attentive to packing the bag I keep in the seat with me. I’ve spent more than a few hours delayed on a tarmac wishing I’d had a bottle of water or an actual paper book when the electronic ran down.

Also, I really don’t like being bored on long flights, so I’m always balancing just the right amount of essential stuff that’s easy to access with what won’t drive me crazy around an airport all day.

I just got back from a trip over the weekend, and am unpacking, so I thought I’d share what I think is important in a carry-on bag.

1. The bag itself - I’m very picky about the bag I use. First, it’s got to zip across the top (as opposed to a magnet closure) so things don’t fall out of it when you have to shove it under the seat. It also has to be bigger than an average purse, but not like a second suitcase. It’s also a plus when it’s at least somewhat stylish because I often carry it around conferences and meetings.

It’s also got to pass my “one arm scoop test”. I suppose it’s left over from my days of carrying kids around, but the straps have to be long enough for me to get it over my shoulder comfortably using one arm. It’s also got to be really sturdy with the straps fastened solidly to the bag since it’s no fun to have a strap break when you’re on your way to Gate 346C from Gate 2C.

2. Travel documents - I always carry 2 printed copies of boarding passes, and I’ve actually had to use them both before. I also make sure I have paper copies of ground transportation, lodging and meeting information even though I keep that information electronically, you just never know.

3. Magazines - I confess: I read celebrity rags on the plane. They have to be the latest copy, too. Don’t judge.

4. Book - Even though I don’t tend to read them on board, I always keep a book with me when I fly. You never know when you’ll be delayed or batteries will run out on your electronic devices leaving you with nothing to do but stare at people while they decide if they should get up and go to the bathroom, or not.

5. Water - I’m not really one of those people who carries a water bottle around everywhere, but I’ve learned the hard way to keep one with me.

6. Snack - I make sure I have something on the sweet side and something salty, since if I have one I inevitably want the other at 10,000 feet. If it’s an especially long flight, I might bring a sandwich or something.

7. Movies and games - I like to watch movies I haven’t had a chance to see. I load up my phone or table with one for going and one for the way home. I also play games on my phone when I’m in the mood.

8. Jacket - A jacket can keep you warm, and it makes a reasonable pillow in a pinch.

9. Pen and paper - It’s handy for making lists, drawing pictures or compose blog posts when you’re bored.

10. Wallet - I don’t usually carry a purse with me when I’m only going to be gone a couple of days. I put my wallet, sunglasses, keys and essentials in my tote and leave the purse and things I can live a couple of days without at home.

11. Personal items - I keep a hairbrush, mints, lipstick, mirror, nail file, Tylenol, bandaids etc. in my travel bag at all times, so I don’t have move those things from my purse to the bag and back.

12. Cords and headphone - I have a make-up bag just for cords, chargers and headphones for my various gadgets.

Since I usually carry my suitcase on board (Seriously, it fits. I’m not one of “those” people. Why are you looking at me like that?) I also have my clear bag with liquids, but I usually put that in the suitcase after I go through security.

I like to believe I’m prepared for anything that comes my way with one simple bag over my shoulder.

What about you? What goes in your airplane carry-on bag?

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