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Saturday, June 22, 2024

More Affordable Beach Vacations

Got aspirations to go to the beach this summer? Well, you’re likely not the only one, especially since the kids are out of school and the sun is out and that makes people flock to beaches near and far. The problem with heading to the beach during the warmest months is that it is often quite expensive and crazy crowded. Considering most people are just lying on the beach on their trip, it makes no sense to spend a ton of money that you don’t have to. So, here are some tips on how to spend less than expected.

It’s summer, which means you don’t need to take much with you, and you can find a beach location that's not crazy busy with some effort.

It’s summer, which means you don’t need to take much with you. Getting everything in a carry-on will save you checked bag fees and also get you on your vacation as soon as possible after your plane lands. Keep your travel wardrobe to a minimum by taking one nice outfit and then several tops and bottoms that mix and match. This way, even if you took only 3 tops and 3 bottoms, they could make two week’s worth of different outfits. I then suggest taking two pair of shoes that will work with your outfits as well. Normally, I take a nice pair of sandals that can also work with dress clothes and a good pair of walking shoes. This way, you will be prepared for anything. Throw in a pair of flip flops (which I don’t count as shoes, since they take up almost no space) and you’re set for bumming around on the beach or at the pool.

Change Location

Trade in the ocean for a nice lakeside location. Not only will it be a fraction of the price of an oceanfront property (or even an ocean “view” one), but you can do almost the same things you can otherwise. You can lay out on the beach, make sandcastles, go snorkeling, fishing, swimming, jet skiing and almost everything else you can do at the beach by the ocean.

Book a Rental 

Look for an apartment/condo/house rental instead of a hotel. I keep saying this, but it really can save you a lot of money. Many times you can find something for $300-400 per week, when most hotels you find are going to be well over $125/night, and that’s only for two people. On top of the savings per night and per person, you’ll also be able to shop for your own food and make as many meals as you like. I tend to like to buy breakfast fixings, because I don’t usually like to go out for breakfast and I don’t like to rush in the morning. I can eat a bowl of cereal or a bagel while I’m getting ready for the day and I’ve saved at least $8/day just for me alone. A lot of restaurants charge more than that. Heck, you could easily spend that much at Starbucks for a muffin and a coffee. And if you come back in the middle of the day for a nap or to rest your feet, you can make yourself a sandwich for lunch, too!

Go on a cruise

There are tons of deals going on right now, which means you can hang by the pool on the ship and then check out different beaches when you reach port. You also have the option of trying cool cuisines, saving money on food and accommodations while at sea and having a lot of shopping and sightseeing options.

Go South

Head to South and Central America where even during the summer, rates for hotels are pretty affordable. Places like Ecuador and Belize have wonderful beaches and budget-friendly food and lodging. Stay at a more luxury resort for a fraction of the price, which will help you stay on track with your travel budget and also give you more for your money. The beaches are just as good, plus you get to brush up on your Spanish or Portuguese.

Become Unpopular

Head to less-popular locations like Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and other beachfront locations that have late summer travel deals. Many of these are located in the Southeast and in smaller towns, like Daytona Beach. While they may not seem very exciting at first, there are plenty of things to fill your spare time with, yummy fresh seafood and cool day trips as well. Fodor's has this great list of spots to go instead of the most popular beaches in the U.S.

So, if you’re hoping to work on your tan and enjoy some sand between your toes, don’t forget to pack your swimsuit, your sunglasses and a bunch of sunscreen and start booking your flights, which will not be cheap this time of year. Where will you be headed this summer?

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

5 Tips For Traveling with Kids

I don't have kids, so I'm definitely not an expert in traveling with them, but that doesn't mean I haven't traveled with them. Luckily, I could check out and do my own thing, but as a parent, you already know that it can be difficult to make everyone happy. You can do your best to make your trip as enjoyable as possible for all involved, it just may take a bit more planning.

Here are 5 ways to travel well with children, and not declare you're never taking another family vacation as long as you live.

Here are 5 ways to travel well with children, and not declare you're never taking another family vacation as long as you live.

1. Choose a travel goal

It's not always the destination you go to, but what you do there and what you want to accomplish. Talk to everyone and find out what they want out of vacation. Maybe they want to try all the new foods or see a bunch of museums or learn all the history. Find that one goal that everyone can agree on and plan your trip around that.  

2. Include kids in the planning

Nobody's going to be happy if you plan a whole trip without asking for feedback. Everyone has their own wants and needs. Make the planning more fun and the idea of vacation exciting by getting everyone's input. What are a couple things they can't miss? Fit in as many as you can, so everyone is happy and has something to look forward to on the trip.

3. Manage expectations

What happens on the plane? What happens on the train? Howl long will we have to sit in the car? How many souvenirs can we buy? Honestly, these are not the times when you want to just wing it and hope for the best. There's nothing worse than a meltdown because you won't buy them another churro or pair of Mickey ears. If you're going somewhere expensive, like Disney, consider buying affordable souvenirs ahead of time that you pack and can dole out throughout your trip. If that seems unmanageable, then let your kid(s) know the limits. Perhaps they can purchase one souvenir per day or can only spend a certain amount overall. 

4. Plan downtime

As an adult, I need downtime. Without it, I can get cranky, or even sick. Your kids are no different. They probably aren't go-go-go all day at home, so don't try to pack in a billion things each day. Yes, you're on vacation, and yes, you may not get back for a long time (if ever), but you can't expect them to feel any different on vacation than at home. If they normally get a nap, then plan one. If they go to bed at a certain time, it may behoove you to stick as close to that as possible. 

Nobody wants to try to have a good time with a child who's having a full-blown meltdown. I see these families at theme parks all the time. You can't expect your 4 year old to last from 6am-11pm and not be crabby. It doesn't matter how much fun you're having, they are tired. Also, just think: if you go back to your hotel/Airbnb for them to nap, that gives you some quiet time as well. Maybe it's a time for you to just chill or get some time in with your partner or for one of you to go have a little me time. I also use this time to do laundry and check emails or play a game on my phone.  

5. Bring extras

Let's face it. There are a lot of points in a trip that can be super boring: sitting at the gate at the airport, sitting on the plane, standing in line, waiting for food, walking 45x more than you usually do. Bring things to keep your kids occupied. I'm talking games, even if they're just on your phone or tablet. I'm also talking about snacks. As a snacker myself, my purse always has some goodies in it. I can get hangry and mean when I'm hungry. Nobody wants to be around that. Hit the ground running by taking a quick trip to the grocery store when you arrive. Grab some easy snacks, and possibly some fixings for breakfasts or lunch while you're at it. Also, bring a variety of snacks on the plane. If they don't eat them, you have them for other times. 

One of my favorite games to travel with is Fluxx. There are a ton of different versions and it's a game of ever-changing rules, so no two games are the same. I also find that kids pick this up much quicker than adults, which makes it perfect for families.

Need ideas for snacks that are good to bring along? Here are some of my go-to foods:
  • Granola bars
  • Nuts or trail mix
  • Banana bread
  • Carrot sticks
  • Grapes
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Chocolate covered blueberries
  • Meat sticks - I'm a huge fan of the Vermont Smoke & Cure, specifically the beef and pork sticks
  • Mini muffins
  • Salami and cheese
These are all things that are filling, but aren't too heavy or salty or sweet. You can bring a little bit of everything or 2-3 of your favorites. Goldfish crackers are also a great standby, as well as Wheat Thins with or without a cheese or meat option.

Aside from snacks, I find that a notebook and pen + crayons or colored pencils can also go a long way. Or even an old-fashioned puzzle book. And stickers! These are good for all ages. Maybe get them a cheap camera to chronicle their trip their way. It will give them something to focus on. And if you're bringing an electronic of any kind, don't forget extra batteries or a battery back-up.

So, those are my top 5 ways to make your whole family excited by taking a trip instead of dreading it. I'd love to hear about some of your tips, too. What things have made your trips with kids (of any age) more bearable?

Saturday, June 15, 2024

5 Ways to Get More Out of Your Hotel Budget

I'm getting ready to go to three different destinations this summer and, though I normally stay in vacation rentals, I'll be spending two of those trips in actual hotel rooms, so let's talk about how we can budget and learn how to stretch that budget to get more from your room and dollars. Accommodations don't have to break the bank. If you know what to look for or how to book and on what days, you can save big bucks. Imagine what else you can do on your trip with the money you save.

Let's talk about how we can budget and learn how to stretch that budget to get more from your room and dollars.

You can always get a better deal on your accommodations if you know what you want from one or even ask for things you wish were included. In fact, now is a great time to haggle with a hotel for amenities, because the industry is struggling and some things that they normally charge for they may be perfectly happy to include in your booking for free.

Stay in Brand New Hotels

Hotels that have been newly built or totally remodeled often have an introductory period right when they open that offers rock-bottom rates. HotelChatter is a website that not only shows reviews of hotels, but they also list the opening dates of new hotels and update them if they change. The list shows hotels worldwide, so you can search before you book your room.

Go All-Inclusive

I know you’re paying to stay at these places to be entertained and well-fed; most of them also offer free activities in the form of non-motorized watersports and even have nightly entertainment. That’s a freebie in my opinion, though you may feel differently. I suggest pricing out what you would expect to spend on your trip if you didn’t go all-inclusive and see if the savings are significant enough to go one way or the other.

Ask for a Corner Room

While not a a huge deal, a corner will get you a slightly larger room (though sometimes a much larger room), as well as extra windows, usually, meaning better natural lighting. It might offer a better view or even a bigger balcony, if the hotel offers them. Other benefits might be that a corner room is quieter and more private, because there is less foot traffic. You might also be at the end of a hallway, and nearby the stairs, so you'd have a longer walk to the elevator, but closer to an emergency exit.

Stay in a Vacation Rental

If you have a large family, this may be your perfect solution. Rentals are booked per night, not by guest counts, so whether you have three people or eight people in your travel party you pay the same price. The other pluses to a rental are: having more space to stretch out, having a kitchen to cook your own meals in (or at least store some snacks and leftovers), there aren’t 20 potential neighbors waking you up at all hours and many rentals have a washing machine. I wrote a whole post on my love of vacation rentals.

Look for Freebies

Free is always a great price, but if you don’t know how to get it, then it’s not really all that helpful. I love travel freebies and try to maximize them on every trip I take, because that’s less money I have to pay out of my own pocket. The more money I save, the better trip I can take or the more I can put towards a future vacation. There’s also the fact that if you save more, you spend less and suddenly a trip that was a little out of your reach is now within your budget!
  • Free Breakfast – Free continental or buffet breakfast is a fantastic saver! On the low end, say you usually only have coffee and a bagel in the morning, you can save $5 per person, but on the higher end, if you like to eat out and have someone wait on you in the morning, you could be looking at $12+ per person.
  • Kids Eat Free – If your hotel has a restaurant and they offer free dining for kids, this is another big savings. Usually, you can get free meals for up to two kids this way if you purchase an adult entrée. Assuming a kid’s meal is an average of $6, that’s up to $18 per day, per child.
  • Free Wi-Fi – I always like to stay in touch while I’m on vacation, so I tend to bring my iPad and netbook everywhere I travel. This way my husband and I can both check up on what’s been happening while we’ve been gone and also communicate with friends and family. Hotels and resorts sometimes charge for internet service, or you can wait in the lobby and use one of their computers free of charge for a few minutes. Your best bet on this is to find one of the many places that give you free Wi-Fi, because it can save you weekly or daily rates, or those per-minute rates charged by Internet cafés. You also can’t do much business if you’re on a time limit.
  • Laundry On-Site – While usually not free, it’s still a minimal charge to use the machines there compared to the local Laundromat or worse, the laundry services they offer where you leave your bag of clothing and then come back to fresh clothes and a bill. Generally, the machines off-site can range anywhere from $1.75 - $3.00 per load for both the washer and the dryer. If you do laundry out of the country, it can cost almost $8 just to wash your clothes. Anytime I’ve used the on-site facilities, they range from $.50-1.00 for each machine and most times they were free. It’s easy to throw clothes in while you’re resting from your day out walking.
  • Free Coffee and Snacks – Many hotels offer free coffee/tea and snacks (like fruit and cookies) in the lobby. There’s no reason to not take advantage of such things that are included in your room rate. Think about all the times you want to snack during the day while you’re sightseeing. If you had a banana or some other snacky thing that you snagged on your way out, you wouldn’t have to shell out any money again until lunch or dinner. The free coffee and/or tea provided, while not fancy, can save you a trip to Starbucks in the morning.
  • Free Alcoholic Beverages – If drinking is one of your favorite vacation pastimes, there are a few ways to get free drinks on your travels. The most obvious way is to stay at an all-inclusive resort where this is included. I consider it free, because you’re paying for your accommodations, entertainment and food all in one lump sum. Anything beyond that is a plus in my book. Another thing you can do is find a hotel that offers a free cocktail hour. They are kinda few and far between, but if you’re lucky you can find them.
I hope this helps you plan a fantastic trip and find the best hotel room for your needs. 

What are your favorite hotels to stay at and what makes it so awesome?

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Travel Safety for LGBTQ Travelers

Everyone deserves to feel safe when they travel. Everyone. While I hope that everywhere we go is equally tolerant to all tourists, that isn't always the case. There are places I won't go - or won't go alone - as a woman and I know I'm not the only one. Here are some tips on how to travel safely as a queer traveler:

Everyone deserves to feel safe when they travel. Here are some tips on how to travel safely as a queer traveler.
For more places to go, check out Thrillist's collection of LGBTQ destination articles. Matador Network wants you to travel well in Eastern Europe. Maybe you don't want to go that far and the Caribbean is calling.  Learn why Global Entry might be your best investment for traveling as a trans or non-binary traveler. Learn more about your rights before you get to the airport. Find queer-owned businesses with the app Everywhere Is Queer. You can also use it on your desktop to plan your trips without the app. If you are an outdoorsy person and want to get outside, because outside is for everyone, check out Outdoorist Oath, a group looking to make outdoor adventure (and helping our planet) inclusive and awesome for all people. And, last but not least, a list of resources to use before and during your travels.

If you aren't a queer traveler, you can still be an ally when you travel. Support queer businesses and other travelers where you can and provide them a safe person to be around. There's even a webinar from Skyscanner to help you travel with Pride and be a good ally.

Now you can plan your trip, make new connections, find inclusive businesses and make awesome memories. Do you have a favorite LGBTQ-friendly city?

Saturday, June 8, 2024

Pride + Travel

Traveling for Pride is not new, but it seems to be a lot more popular, or easier to share, now. Pride is a celebration and a party, and a sense of community wherever you are. I love the idea that people want to experience Pride outside of their hometown, but also that they may not have celebrations at home, or even feel safe there, so they go where they can be themselves

Traveling for Pride is no new, but outside celebrations, there are other ways you can learn about the history of Pride when you travel.

The LGBTQIA+ community experiences similar discrimination wherever they are, so being able to engage with others is always joyful, celebratory, and has a feeling of understanding. Pride is so accepting and lovely, that I love going to events as an ally. It's one of those atmospheres where I always feel safe in the people around me and I hope that's how everyone feels. 

Outside of Pride celebrations, there are other ways you can learn about the history of Pride when you travel. A few places that are very important to the protest that has gotten us to where we are today:

The Black Cat in Los Angeles might sound familiar to you, as it was the site of a peaceful protest of 200 people in 1967; however, the LA area has many other great places to learn about the city's place in Pride history. 

You already know that San Francisco is sort of a gay mecca, but did you know that it also has the world's first official transgender district? I didn't, and I think that's amazing.

The Atlanta Eagle bar is a leather bar that has moved locations, but still kept its community and welcoming atmosphere, plus it has officially been declared a landmark as of 2020.

Despite all the politics and intolerance of the state of Florida right now, it still houses one of the U.S.'s more important museums for Pride history. The World AIDS Museum in Fort Lauderdale. Wilton Manors is next door and is one of the country's most welcoming and LGBTQ-friendly communities. Now you can frequent a bunch of queer-owned businesses and historical sites, but you can also indulge in some of the many Pride events they put on every June. 

New Orleans is known for it's good times and party vibes, so it's no surprise that Pride has it's foothold there, too. Café Lafitte in Exile opened in 1933 and is the oldest continuously-operating gay bar in the U.S. (according to them). 

New York
Stonewall Inn in New York City is the beginning of most people's knowledge of Pride and where it all went down. But it's not the only landmark in New York that's important. Here are 14 other places to visit while you're there.

If you're traveling to New York during the warmer months and hope to get away from the city, there are even quite a few "gay" beaches, so bring your suit and sunscreen and relax at one of these places.

While religious organizations aren't really known for being that accepting of the LBGTQ+ community, but Dallas's Cathedral of Hope is known as being the largest LGBTQ+-welcoming congregation in the U.S. Their Interfaith Peace Chapel was designed by famous gay architect Philip Johnson.

Before it became known for it's accepting and "weird" reputation, Austin had a small district where the LGBTQ community found a safe space to be themselves and Oilcan Harry's was one such place, known to invest quite a lot in the art of drag, it is the city's longest-running gay bar.

A hotel in Port Aransas known for welcoming everyone, the Seahorse Inn has been a site for activism, art, politics, community, and also leisure and recreation. Not only was Pride a big part of the Seahorse, but you can enjoy the mid-century modern architecture, too. 

I hope this helps you find more Pride in your travels and life in general. We can all use more tolerance, diversity, and rainbows in our world. Do you have a favorite LBGTQ+ business, destination or event?

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Halfway Through 2024: Summer Travels

We are nearly halfway through this year and my summer has gone from busy at home to a busy travel season, too. As you know, I usually spend a week in July in Las Vegas, but this year we won't be doing that. I made it to Vegas in March for the Travel Goods Show, where I was able to meet up with friends and family, along with doing some solo things and spending 2 1/2 days at the show. 

An update on my upcoming trips for the summer/early fall.

This July Leaky Con is coming back to Portland, which gives me another weekend to indulge in Harry Potter. The other weekend of Potter goodness is our annual Wizarding Weekend at the end of July. That's all at home. Eric's fam is having a reunion, too, so I'll be heading to Sacramento to do that and get some quick sightseeing in before I have to be home to set up for my own Harry Potter celebration. 

Photo by Pieter van de Sande on Unsplash

In August, Eric has a work conference in Denver and we had been talking about going there for a few years now in order to check out their Meow Wolf installation, Convergence Station. If you've been following for a while, you might remember our trip to Omega Mart in Vegas. That was so amazing, we've made it a mission to visit all the Meow Wolf locations. 

So, we've booked ourselves into a new vacation rental for a few nights before his conference started and we'll be doing Convergence Station and a couple days of quick touristy things. We'll be there for 3 full days before I come home and he has to do work. I'm definitely looking to pack my days with the best of the city and I'm open to restaurant recs, though I have already made a reservation for brunch at Linger. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

After this, I'll have a pretty big break from travel that will include working our non-profit booth at Rose City Comic Con and repacking my bag for my next trip to...Nashville! I haven't been since I was very little and I don't think Eric has ever been. We'll be seeing all that the city has to offer, but also doing a side trip to Pigeon Forge to do Dollywood and stop at a couple places along the way back. 

That might be the end of our summer, but possibly not the end of our travels for the year. We have talked about the possibility of going to Vegas in early December, but we don't have solid plans for that yet. I'll keep you updated though. And, as always, you can follow me on Instagram for more photos of my trips, closer to when I'm actually on them.

Where are you going this summer?

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Dad & Grad Travel Gift List 2024

It's that time again. Time to celebrate both the awesome dads out there and the accomplishments of those who have made it to the end (so far) of their educational career. If the dads or grads in your life are travelers or getting started on new travels, then you can help them along with some great things to make those trips better and more comfortable and convenient.

If the dads or grads in your life are travelers or getting started on new travels, then you can help them along with some great things.
Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

I'm lucky to have a job where I have been gifted a lot of great travel gear, but I also 

Non-tangible Splurge  gifts - Sometimes you have some extra money and can treat that special person. If you do and you can, here are some things I know they would absolutely adore and can be slipped inside a card:

A night (or more) at a hotel

A gift card or an actual hotel booking is always appreciated, because accommodations can be very expensive. Those coming right out of college may not have savings to stay in a nicer place and though there are many great hostels out there, you might want them to stay somewhere more safe if they'll be traveling alone. 

City cards

If they'll be traveling to a destination that is popular, chances are you will be able to find either a Go Card or a CityPASS for it. The more they do, the more you've saved, but it allows them to skip the lines and they won't have to purchase individual admissions for everything they want to do. We've also found really cool activities this way that we would not have done otherwise.

For the Airport and Beyond
There are always things that are going to make someone's life easier when traveling. I have a lot of them and each trip is a bit different and will require some or all of those things. Here are some ideas for the dad or grad in your life:

Hydaway Collapsible Bottle
When you're spending a ton of time outside, exercising more, getting more sun, you really need to be hydrating throughout the day. If carrying a thermos with you seems annoying, the Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle is one of my favorites, because it can be used for hot, cold, or frozen beverages, which means you can fill it partially and freeze it overnight, then fill the rest with water before you head out, so you have cold water for hours. Once you're empty, you can collapse it down and hang it on your bag or put it in your pocket. It's there for you when you need a refill. It's nice, because even almost empty, it still keeps its shape. $29.95 for 17oz or $34.95 for 25oz

Hydaway Collapsible Bowl
As someone who likes to bring their own food and snacks on the plane, it's nice to have more options than granola bars and apples. When you're on a long flight, having a variety of snacks is nice and makes your trip a lot more enjoyable. I love to bring cheese and crackers as well as grapes, hummus, and carrots. These things don't last very long in a carry-on or at room temp,  but now with a Hydaway collapsible insulated bowl, I can bring those things, then collapse it when it's empty. I've also used food containers on the way home to pack fragile items I've bought, like ornaments. They're also wonderful for camping and road trips. $24.95 for 1.5 cup or $34.95 for 1 quart

Zensah Compression Socks
I have poor circulation in my feet and walking all day or sitting on the plane for hours can cause my feet and ankles to swell and then make wearing shoes and using my feet for anything to be the worst. As we get older, we have different needs, and compression socks are a nice way to take care of your lower extremities and prevent swelling or blood clots and misery. I love Zensah, because you can get both long socks or just leg sleeves (for when you wear sandals with your pants or long skirts). $49.95

GoTubb Containers
Sometimes having your pills for the day is handy, or just having a few aspirin, allergy pills, or your favorite eye serum on your at all times is smart. GoTubbs can do all that and more. They come in multiple sizes and can be used in your carry-on for random things (nuts, candy, CBD gummies, spices) or in your toiletry bag to downsize cosmetics. They are spill-proof, but also easy to open and close, even with one hand, so you don't have to be strong or a genius to figure them out. Pack of 3: $8.99 for small or $11.99 for medium, Pack of 2: large $11.99

Swell Insulated Bottle
Does your dad always have a hot beverage or need ice everywhere he goes? I feel that. I don't enjoy carrying around a lukewarm drink usually. When on the plane, I fill up my bottle with coffee or a sparkling water and it stays the right temperature my whole flight. It's also Earth-friendly, if you're trying to cut down on plastic waste. There are a lot of insulated bottles out there, but I feel like Swell always look pretty and they will last forever (even if you've dropped yours 12,000 times like I have). From $24 17oz+

Travelon Water Bottle Tote
If you're walking around with a water bottle, then you might as well have something to carry it in. I know a lot of people hate carrying around a purse or other day bag, so a water bottle tote is actually the best of both worlds. This one from Travelon is insulated, so if you use it for other things that might sweat, it's not going to leak through your bag, has an adjustable locking strap, is lovely to look at, and also has an RFID zipper pocket to keep the essentials in and then keep extra safe with a locking zipper. $20 with the 50% off sale, or use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% for 20% off other regular price items

Travelon Personalized Air Cleaner
With Covid and all the other gross things going around airplanes and other crowded spaces, keep your loved one extra safe with their own personalized ionizer. It wears like a necklace and keeps the air around you (up to 6 feet) clean of impurities, bacteria, and allergens. So, whether or not you're concerned about Covid, this is great for allergy sufferers, people who can't abide smoke, or just to block all the germs from that coughing guy near you on the crowded train. $21 on Amazon

16" Mini Carry-On
Smaller carry-ons are not only easier to maneuver, but they are lighter and may even fit under the airplane seat. For those with mobility issues or those that can't pick up a heavier/bigger bag, ones that don't have to go in the overhead are a lifesaver. Some of my favorite ones right now are Calpak Hue $165, Travelhouse $89.99, Kroser $68 with a $10 coupon, Hanke $106.99, Bagsmart Tote $35.99

Nomatic Toiletry Bag
There are a lot of toiletry bags out there, but this one is a top contender. It is waterproof and has a lot of spill-proof pockets, so not only will it keep anything inside contained, nothing can get into it either, and you can have it with you in the shower or next to the sink with no worries. It's expensive, but I believe it might be the last toiletry bag anyone ever needs. $74.99 for large version or $54.99 for small version

Coach Seat Luxury Upgrades
Airplane seats and legroom keep shrinking, but that doesn't mean that it has to be torture. In fact, there are ways to upgrade your seat without spending more money to sit in business or first class. 

Airplane Bluetooth Adapter
By now, basically everyone has wireless headphones and I'm not willing to buy some cheapo ones with low quality just to take on the plane. Watch all the shows you want on the seatback screen with a bluetooth adapter. It plugs into the outlet for the earphones and then the screen becomes bluetooth-enabled. You can use it other places, too, so it's multifunctional. $26.99 

FaceCradle Travel Pillow
You need a good travel pillow if you're going to be flying long distances (or even if you're taking a longer train trip or even a passenger in the back of a car. I will never stop touting the awesomeness of FaceCradle. I get such good sleep with this. Eric, who is a very light sleeper, also has gotten some of his best travel sleep with it. It allows you to stretch your neck and back, so you don't wake up needing a massage. $69.99

Cabeau KneedThis
This knee pad is perfect for people who are tall and often find that their knees are jammed in the back of the seat in front of them, or gets knocked a million times when the person in front gets up to use the restroom or stretch their legs. It squishes down when you aren't using it and then unrolls into a nice little squashy pad when you need it. Use it on the plane, long train rides, or even buses and cars that have pockets in the seatback. $24.99

Perilogics Phone Holder
Holding your phone for an extended amount of time while you watch a video or play a game is annoying. Use this Airplane phone holder to keep your phone at eye level and save your neck, while also keeping your tray table up when you don't need it. It can even be used off the airplane. Attach it to a suitcase handle, table, or whatever. $13

Sol Republic Bluetooth Earbuds
While I love some good over the ear headphones, they can be expensive and bulky to take with me on vacation. Sol Republic makes some great products, and these earbuds can't easily fall out of your ears and be lost forever, because they have a strap that goes behind your head. I have some similar to these and they are great while traveling and while at work. $23.99

Fulext Sleep Headphones
If you want to get them something that's more multipurpose, Eric swears by these sleep headphones. You can wear them as an eyemask to listen to your music, podcasts, or sleep apps in bed or wherever you are, but you can also wear it as a headband while running, biking, or working out. The headband is soft and comfortable, the sound quality is great, and they come in a variety of fun colors, or black. $19.99

Airplane Pockets
The seatback pocket on planes can be pretty gross and dirty and the tray table is one of the most touched surfaces on plane. Airplane Pockets are antibacterial and slip over your tray, so you have a clean surface to eat and play on. The other part of the pockets is the actual pockets. There is one big pocket and three smaller ones, to hold all your necessities and keep them organized. $29.99

Serenity Tray Organizer
For those with longer legs or people who don't like things touching their knees while they're traveling, this Serenity Organizer keeps everything on the back of the tray table. Like Airplane Pockets, they are antibacterial, but unlike AP, they are stretchy and turn into a drawstring pouch$45

Living Well On Arrival
Once they get to their destination, there are plenty of items that can make their trip easier and more enjoyable. These are some things I take with me on my own trips.

Travel Espresso Maker
If your dad is a lover of coffee, then it's possible he has the the same problem I have and that's that most in-room makers are terrible, or the coffee provided is weak. If I'm bringing my own coffee anyway, so I don't entirely rely on coffeeshops and go broke, then I might as well bring my own machine. Aeropress is highly rated and the entirety of the contraption fits inside it's own mug. Wacaco uses Nespresso pods, making it easier to use, but it's also heavier. Aeropress Go $49.95  Wacaco $47

Folding Tripod
If your dad or grad loves to take photos, but often goes alone and wants better shots that aren't just selfies or too-cropped pics of just the group and no background, they're going to love this little powerhouse of a tripodtripod. It folds up very small, but it is heavy, so you can use it in a bunch of different positions. Use it as a selfie stick, but also use it as a phone holder or a traditional tripod. I set this up in my room in Las Vegas for taking OOTD pics and I can't recommend it enough. It fits right in your bag or pocket and takes up very little room. $35.95

Keep them healthy and feeling great. There are natural sprays for everything, including those to make your travels way better. Purchase sprays individually, or ones that go together in a kit. They all have a very light flavor. Most are minty and the flavor dissipates pretty quickly. Personal faves include the Sleep Well Kit and the Daily Defense Kit $19.95+ use code SHEREENTRAVELS for an extra 5% off

Lighted Makeup Mirror
A portable Lighted Makeup Mirror is a must for those dark hotel rooms or when someone else is in the bathroom and you're trying to get ready. It has 3 light settings and can mimic natural light, so when you go outside, you look normal and not like a pumpkin or a streaky mess, because you looked fine before you left. This one is rechargeable with a USB and is super slim, so you can fit it anywhere in your bag. $20.99

Laundry Sheets
The easiest way to pack light is to bring fewer pieces and do laundry on your trip. I have all but taken to only bringing laundry sheets with me now, because they take up, virtually, no room in a bag and are pre-measured for convenience. Cheat SheetsCheat Sheets are wonderful for both machine and handwashing. If you know they will have access to a machine, I also suggest TruEarth strips. $11 for 32 TruEarth strips, $5.95 for 10 Cheat Sheets

Pop-up Mesh Laundry Basket
I almost never go anywhere without my laundry basket. It folds down fairly small and it allows me to put it in a corner of my room and use as a hamper until I'm ready to do laundry. Then I can just pick it up and cart it to the laundry room. These basketsbaskets come in a pack of two and have an outside pocket to keep your detergent and quarters in. I always recommend these. $16.99

Travelon Anti-Theft Packable Backpack
A great daypack is really important for getting around, especially if you're spending the entire day out. It can also be used as a personal item on the plane. Travelon knows this and has this great backpack that you can pack in your carry-on to use at your destination or when coming home with a bit too many souvenirs. It zips into itself into a small little block, it's anti-theft, it's a classic black or gray color, has RFID-blocking technology, and is pretty roomy. This could easily be your only bag if you are a super light packer. $55 + a free RFID-blocking wallet, use code SHEREENTRAVELS20% for 20% off, or on sale through Amazon

I hope this list helps you to find the perfect gift(s) for the dads and grads in your life that'll enable them to go far, more comfortably and happily.

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