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Gift Guide Number One - Traveling

written by

Aliceson Bales

posted on

November 8, 2023

Note - This blog contains affiliate links.

I am so glad to welcome my sister, Ellen West, to the blog today! She’s an amazing travel advisor and all around expert. (If you need confirmation on this just ask me sometime about going to France IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR PROTESTS this past spring.) She’s here to share her favorites for traveling. I have most of these products because she recommended them to me and I do love them all. And if you’re looking for Ellen on social media, she’s on facebook (Ellen West) and Instagram (@ellentravelswest).

As a travel advisor, I’ve spent more than 2 months in Europe this year. So, I’ve had plenty of time to evaluate many travel items on the market. Here are my top ten products at a price point that leave you with money to travel. And with Christmas around the corner, many of these make great gift items.

1. Travelpro suitcase – I travel carry-on only (COO), exclusively. Therefore, I need a work horse of a suitcase. I selected a two-wheel option because it offers more interior room than the 4-wheel spinner. Let me go on record by saying that not everyone should travel COO. I have many friends who would not be my friends if I tried to convince them they needed to travel without checking a larger bag. However, COO offers you more freedom and flexibility. Remember, you can COO on the way to your adventure, but check the bag on the way home after you’ve expanded it to hold your souvenirs. 

2. Vera Bradley Weekender Travel Bag – If you COO, you will need a larger personal item. This is my choice. It has a trolley sleeve, roomy interior, and pockets for organization. I even throw it in the washer after every trip.

3. This is actually 3 and 4 because I couldn’t choose just one: Travelon purse and backpack - On my last trip, I guided a group which required that I carry a few extra items and keep my hands free. Therefore, I purchased this slim backpack to take. I don't know if I will ever take another trip without it. I also took the purse which I used when I didn't need the larger backpack. I have traveled with this purse numerous times. Notice it can be carried as a traditional cross-body or as a fannypack/belt bag by changing the straps. Why Travelon? They have locking zippers, RFID-blocking pockets, and slash-proof straps.

4. See above. 

5. Toiletry Bag - As with many other women, I have multiple toiletry/make-up bags because none of them seem to be just the right size or shape. This one is exactly what I needed! It has a hook for hanging, multiple pockets for organization, and lays flat for easy packing. At only 2" thick, this bag fits in my shoulder bag or in the top of my suitcase much easier and still holds even more thanbulkier toiletry bags.

6. Reusable Shopping Bag – I give these bags to clients and take several of these on every trip. Without a doubt, I use this every day I travel. Generally, in Europe, you need to provide your own bag when purchasing groceries or souvenirs. You may also opt to buy a bag, but it is usually paper. These reusable shopping bags fit easily in my little Travelon purse mentioned above and expand to carry anything I buy or my jacket I no longer need to wear. Also, I love that I can sling it on my shoulder and still be hands free.

7. Power Bank – Don’t travel without a power bank - ever. You underestimate the amount of battery you will use when taking photos and videos. Plus, if you are using a navigation app on your phone, that will consume battery life as well. You don’t want to be stranded in an unfamiliar area with a dead cell phone and no way to contact your hotel for directions or a cab for transportation.

8. Packing Cubes – It’s a quandary when packing: to use packing cubes or not. I generally find it best to lay my larger clothing pieces flat in the bottom of my suitcase. However, I always have smaller t-shirts, scarves, hats, socks, etc. that need to be in cubes for organization. I particularly like these because you can choose if you want to compress your items. Beware, I’ve returned several other sets of compression packing cubes with zippers that get hung in the fabric. I’ve had no issue with these.

9. Eye Mask – All eye masks are not created equal. These are stretchy, stay in place, and have domed areas for maximum eye comfort. The reasonable price tag convinced me to give it a try, and now I use it every trip.

10. Airfly – This little beauty can make your plane ride or group tour even more enjoyable. How? It allows you to use your own personal Bluetooth earbuds instead of the cheap freebies provided by the airline or tour company. You simply plug this into the seatback entertainment center or the tour company audio device. Then, you use your wireless earbuds. You don’t have a wired connection to the plane seat or the audio device. And when you’re home, you can even use it at the gym. 

Thanks so much for joining us today! I hope you find things you love on this list for you and/or your loved ones. 

And if you're wondering about the picture for this blog post, we took that beauty after hiking up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame of la Garde in Marseille, which we surprisingly visited because, again, France was knotted up with protests. We felt completely safe and even welcomed all over their lovely country so I'm not complaining, just observing. It was just that we were supposed to be on a riverboat cruising to Lyon but instead were in Marseille (which was completely and utterly breathtaking!) And since I was there with my sister/travel advisor everything went smoothly and wonderfully. We had so many fun adventures we would never have had without her expertise and skill traveling fast and loose. And this is why I'll never travel without a travel advisor - someone who can have my back when everything falls apart.

Happy cooking AND traveling! 😉

Aliceson (and Ellen)



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