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Monday, April 23, 2018

Review: Travelon Active Anti-Theft Packable Backpack

Use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% to save 20% off any Travelon purchase.

Do you tend to pack extra bags for your trips or get to your destination and dump out your personal-item size bag to use as a day bag? I'll admit, I've overpacked just trying to plan my trip around the city or my travel back home, but Travelon knows that people want bags that are functional for more than just one thing, so they created this anti-theft backpack, that is also packable, so you can bring it along without much fuss. 

Most backpacks are bulky, and the ones that aren't tend to be really flimsy and not suited to taking along to touristy destinations where you might be targeted by thieves. I saw this bag at the Travel Goods Show last year and knew it was a must for travelers, especially those who have children or like to go on day trips or just want an extra bag for purchases. 

The Active Anti-theft Packable Backpack is compact, even when it's zipped into its pocket. The front and back is slash-proof, which will be instrumental when it is open. I had no issues restoring this backpack to full size or folding it back into its pocket, which is a big plus, because sometimes these bags are like trying to refold a map and you just give up.  The structure of the pocket makes it easy to pack up to toss in your carry-on when you're done with it or before you leave home.

Think you might need an extra bag when you're out and headed to the shops or the farmers' market? just pop it in your purse and you're good to go. In fact, I was able to get it into my Boho bag (review coming soon) without having to take anything out of it. I love that.

Now, let's look at the backpack at full size. The front and bottom are made from the slash-proof pocket, which means you don't have to worry about thieves cutting the bottom of your bag to get your valuables to fall out. Your straps also have slash-resistant construction, giving you more peace of mind when walking around in crowded areas. 

As you'll see, because the front and back of the pocket make the front and bottom, your backpack has structure and a flat bottom. The fabric is also a bit reflective, so you'll be seen even when walking around at night.

This backpack is simple and doesn't have a ton of pockets, though it has a lot of space for your stuff. You're not going to lose anything inside, because you forgot where you put it. Keep extra clothing inside, pack a picnic for lunch and a blanket to sit on, bring our suits and snacks to the beach. This has room for all of that, without being bulky, even when packed full. 

The front has a zipper pocket that's large enough for a tablet or a book, but you can use it for all those little odds and ends you pick up or for snacks that you know the kids are going to want the second you get on public transit. 

Inside, there is just one pocket, and it's RFID-blocking. This way if you have to carry around your passport or a spare credit card for emergencies, you won't be worried that your info is going to be stolen by electronic thieves. And because the pocket (which closes with a velcro tab) is along the back wall of the backpack, it's extra safe. 

This security pocket is actually pretty deep, allowing you to keep a wallet in there, passports for the whole family, or whatever else you want to keep safe.

Now, let's talk about the rest of the anti-theft features. Beyond RFID blocking and slash-resistant construction in the most important parts of the bag, you also have the ability to lock both zippers. The zips are like tiny caribiners and clip quickly and easily to tiny d-rings on the bag that are subtle and not immediately apparent to those who wish to steal your belongings. Nobody's going to be able to unzip your pack without you knowing if you use the clips to lock them in place.

Again, this isn't a huge bag, but it is just big enough for all the things you need to take for the day or to carry around with purchases you've made along the way. It's lightweight and the perfect size for me, because even full, this isn't going to hurt my back or weigh me down. The straps are fully adjustable, so if you want it to fit snugger, it's easy to do that, even when you're on the go. If you're taller, just let the straps out. The straps are nicely padded as well, so they aren't going to cut into your shoulders. Even your kid might find this to be the ideal size for them to carry around all day.

This bag has two mesh pockets on the sides. Use them for water bottles, an umbrella or whatever else you may need easy access to. I put my reusable bottle in one side and sunscreen in the other, because those are both things I'll use throughout the day. And now my hands are free to shop, ride a bike, play games in line at the theme park and so much more. 

Don't you need a packable bag that's packed with all the security features you get in a bigger, more complex or more expensive bag? I think you definitely do! Remember, Mother's Day, Father's Day and Graduation are all coming up and this is a price point everyone can get behind for a gift. Maybe include some other little travel goodies along with it to make this gift even cooler. (Tip: Travelon has tons of travel accessories to choose from.)

More details:
Where can I buy it? Travelon website
How much is it? $40 (but use my code SHEREENTRAVELS20% to save 20% off your purchase)
What colors does it come in? Black (shown) | Charcoal
Additional specsOpen: 10.5" x 17" x 6" Packed: 10.5" x 6" x 1", Polyester and 420 D Nylon

If you love Travelon as much as I do, or you just want to know about new items or how to use current items, find them on social media: 

Disclaimer: I was provided with the Active Anti-Theft Packable Backpack for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

TSA PreCheck is the Best Money You'll Spend Traveling

I have been traveling  at least three times per year pretty consistently, so 3 1/2 years ago we signed up for PreCheck (shown everywhere as PreΓΌ), because as much fun as it is to stand in line with a hundred other people and take half the stuff out of my bag and take off my shoes and get x-rayed, we decided we traveled enough to spend the $85 each to apply for it. 

Listen, I understand why the TSA exists and why the procedures are so important. The above inconveniences don't really even bother me, except when I'm stuck behind the person who hasn't done any research or read the 48373602 signs in the airport and in the line and on their ticket and haven't taken out their laptop, put their liquids in a bag at all, taken off their belt and emptied their pockets or even gotten their ID out to show the security desk. Come on, people! They make it easy to be prepared. Just because it's annoying doesn't mean that they won't make you do it.

So, considering I would rather spend less time waiting in line and more time waiting at the gate (or, more likely, eating, shopping, people watching and scrolling Instagram), spending that money was a no-brainer. Did you know that if you are approved for PreCheck that you are able to breeze through security for FIVE YEARS  at any American airport that supports it without taking off your shoes, belts, hats or jackets, without taking out your laptop, without segregating your liquids from your other toiletries?! For real. 

The PreCheck lines are crazy short. The most we've ever seen was 10 people and usually there are even less. Your pass-through time is cut down considerably, too. In fact, you basically get through the metal detector and wait for your bags to be scanned. It's fast, but not nearly as fast as you are not having to take off shoes and watches and remembering to take that random tissue out of your pocket. Plus, you don't have to wonder exactly what the agents are seeing on the screen that makes you look like a terrorist. 

Eric took his hat off as we were coming back home from Vegas and it fell out of the coin bowl - you know, the one that looks like a dog dish - and was annoyed that he didn't just put it on the conveyor belt. The agent, never looking away from the screen, just said "you should have just left it on." I'm not sure we actually knew you could until that point. But now we do and our trips are even easier.

Now, you're probably wondering what happens when you travel internationally. We do every few years, but didn't think it was enough to do more than PreCheck at this point. If you do, then instead of PreCheck, you'll want to apply for Global Entry, which automatically includes PreCheck and only costs $15 more. I actually didn't think I knew that when we applied, and probably would have done that instead had I known. So, if you travel at all internationally, just head to your nearest PreCheck office (we visited the one in McCarran Airport when we were already on vacation) with your passport, ID and credit card. Global Entry requires you to fill out forms online beforehand though.

You may need an appointment, so call ahead before just showing up. They take you back one at a time to answer a bunch of background questions. They're all easy and give the government insight into who you are, so they can check you out and make their decision. It takes up to four weeks to hear if you're approved. We got our approval letters in just two weeks and were really surprised by how fast it was. These letters contain your new travel number, which you enter every time you book an airline ticket. 

Whether you use a paper ticket or an eticket on your phone, you'll see PreCheck designated on it and can go directly to that security line and get on your trip faster. You should still get to the airport as early as you would without it though, because you never know if the PreCheck line will be closed (this doesn't usually happen) or there will be some other annoying delay. I say two hours for a domestic flight and three for an international flight. Traffic may suck or the airport may be crazy packed, so you need that bit of padding.

I don't regret for a second having spent the money on PreCheck and will immediately sign up for Global Entry once it expires, even if I only plan two weeks of travel a year. Some people pay that amount per trip to check a bag, so why not get five years of frustration-free airport visits instead? I'll update on how easy it is to re-up when the time comes. 

Have you signed up for or used PreCheck on your trips?
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