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*These are all things I actually use on vacation; they’re great gift ideas*
#1. My Camera
I highly recommend investing in a good camera, especially for an avid traveler. I started out with disposables, then I moved on to digital cameras at age 11. I was going right through cheaper cameras so at age 17 I decided to finally splurge on a $750 camera. The Sony A33 has turned out to be a fantastic investment as I know I can take pictures faster, the picture quality is better, I have new features (such as blurring out what’s in the background or panorama mode) and I really enjoy using it. Cameras can be a great Christmas gift as they are easy to pick out and are great for the special occasions. Don’t always chase after the name brands (Nikon or Canon), the Wolf Camera manager told us that the Sony’s were a much better bang for your buck for the price range we were interested in. He said to get a Canon that was the same quality I would have had to pay $1400. Even if you want to get your camera somewhere else (the guy over the cameras at hhGregg told me I probably know more about the cameras they had than he did, let me remind you that I was age 16!) I still recommend going to a reputable Camera store to hear what the real experts have to say, you never know – they may even have a sale going on. Cameras at places like Sam’s Club may seem to be the cheapest but may be an older model that won’t offer all the features you’re looking for. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!
A friend said “Why buy a camera every three years when you can buy one good camera and keep it for 10 years?” She was absolutely right. Notice how cameras today look just how they looked 10 years ago. All black, with basically the same features.
My thoughts on warranties: I was at a free Ritz Camera class (check with your local store for times and dates) and someone said “Why would I get a warranty when I’m going to want a new camera every few years anyway, they’re always coming out with new technology, right?” The class “teacher” responded by telling her that his camera was 13 years old and that he thought it worked even better than most new cameras!
With that said, A warranty on my camera would have been $200 or $300 dollars, which we thought was outrageous. Think about your last camera, how many dents are in it, have you ever dropped it? He said that you could purposely drop (he had one customer who had purposely run over their camera!) your camera and they would replace it for free (of course they’re not going to replace a so called “stolen” camera) with the newest model available. We decide not to go with the warranty, too expensive. Instead, I got a nice case to protect the camera.
#2. An Updated GPS
The second thing every traveler deserves to have is a good GPS. Consider that when buying your next vehicle, it’s always convenient to have it built in to your car. I’m sure you could get some sort of GPS on any Smart phone or you could always purchase a Garmin. Nothing is more frustrating than being lost and not knowing where to go next. A GPS can be helpful even when your driving around your own town, nobody knows every street and every address of a big city, it pays to be prepared. Our $100 Garmin has been a real life saver. A traditional, paper map always comes in handy, as well.
#3. A Hybrid and/or Electric Car
I’m sure you’ve heard the buzz on the Toyota Prius, The Nissan Leaf or The Chevrolet Volt. The Prius has actually been out since 1997, meaning they’ve had time to perfect it and make it more affordable, while the other two cars mentioned just came out in 2010. In fact, over one million Prius have been sold in the US and with gas prices rising, I’m sure that number will be rising. The Prius has evolved in a great way, even since 2009, the last year they had the XW20 model (what I currently have now, it receives an average of 44 mpg…how do I know that? They have a screen that tells you exactly how good of gas mileage you’re getting). We bought a 2008 model in 2010 with about 50,000 miles on it for 15 grand USD. They are affordable, sporty and really help for those of us who hate throwing out your cold, hard earned cash on gas. It has become a great first car for me as well as a fantastic family car that’s big enough to take on long trips. The Prius remains the most practical of the 3. A new Chevy Volt can cost upward of $35,000 USD while a new Prius can be purchased for just $22,000 USD. In late 2011 Toyota rolled out the all new Prius V model, which will be a larger, extended hatchback wagon, which features over 50% more interior cargo space than the model they have now. But what I’m considering buying is the all new Prius Plug-in Hybrid.
I am also considering the Chevy Volt (but I’m still having a hard time paying 40K for a non luxury vehicle). Although I must say that the Volt is very sporty looking and include some luxury features that can’t be found in most cars.
Think about it…are you the one who carrys that big RV around, or are you a “Frequent Flyer.” If you drive more than fly then I highly recommend doing your traveling in a Prius because getting there can be a huge fly in the ointment.
4. A Smart Phone/Laptop/Tablet
Lets face it, pretty much everyone can afford a really nice phone. The Apple iPhone 4S starts at just $200, the iPhone 4 is just $100 and the iPhone 3GS is only $50. What kills your wallet is that they force you to pay for internet access, even if you don’t want it ($20-$30 a month!, use the internet in places that have wifi and you‘ll save a little). That little screen sure can get annoying at times, yet it comes in handy when traveling! If only the iPad was pocketsize! Having a computer in your pocket can be great to use as a GPS (as mentioned previously), for finding great, nearby restaurants (with apps like Urbanspoon), finding attraction prices, theme park ride wait times, tip calculators, ebook forms of popular guidebooks, currency calculator, time translator, even your very own flashlight! The Frommers app is free and includes much of the things mentioned above. It comes in handy for longer trips, especially, when you haven’t quite gotten everything planned out (it can turn into a job!) Laptops are also great for vacations, stop in the closest library or Starbucks or Panera Bread. Of course many other restaurants have wifi too. Again, the Apple brand is always best. You aren’t just buying the brand name. Apple laptops can exceed $1000 while other laptop brands are just $500. Look at it like this, you’ll enjoy it twice as much and it’ll last twice as long! Teachers and students may be eledgible for generous discounts from Apple. BestBuy puts Apple computers on sale occasionally, as well. Be sure to bring your ipod, they can keep you or your kids entertained; boredom on the flight or car trip down sucks and you need to do what ever you can to prevent that from happening. I can still remember crying, as a young child, on the trip down to Florida! That portable DVD player was a life saver!
5. North Face Jacket or SCOTTEVEST
You’ve seen those jackets that say “The North Face”, but do you own one, ever thought about it? I had seen these jackets for years but always felt like it was silly to pay $150 or even more for a jacket, just because it had the Northface words on it. But I finally decided to break down and get one. They are very hard to find on sale, but one way or another Rock Creek Outfitters had a 20% sale on them and we took advantage of it! Dicks Sporting Goods has a much larger selection of these cool jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and more. Not only do they make you look great, they are thin yet keep you very warm. I bought the Denali jacket and my white rat terriers fur has gotten all in it! What a mess -great for a non pet owner. I’ve thought about just leaving it in the car or being more careful when I get inside the house. It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared, especially when you’re not sure what the weathers going to be like, the posted temp. and what it feels like with the wind are two completely different things.
I recently purchased a SCOTTEVEST jacket and I absolutely love it! After seeing Scott on ABC’s Shark tank (one of my favorite shows), I couldn’t help but consider buying one of these jackets, which feature dozens of pockets that are designed specifically for travelers. They offer the first and only line of iPad-compatible clothing. In fact, they even have clothing that is compatible with the 1″ MacBook Air.
6. A Good Pair of Sunglasses
Invest in a fashionable pair of shades to improve your look and protect your eyes. The celebrities wear them so why can’t we? I’ve never wanted to try contacts, so I was pleased to hear about prescription sunglasses. Oakley is one of the most popular brands around, so I looked into them. It turns out that they were going to charge us $500 for the prescription sunglasses when their regular sunglasses were just $120. So I decided to go with Raybans instead which were equally fashionable at half the cost. Sure, you can go to the dollar store and get a pair of sunglasses that are just a $1 but they may break before your next trip and you know a good pair of Oakleys, Louis Vuittons, Gucci’s, Prada’s or Raybans will last for years to come and you’ll feel confident about wearing them.
7. A Comfortable Pairs Of Shoes
Nothing and I mean NOTHING is worse than coming back from a trip to New York City with blisters covering your feet. Don’t always pick out the shoes that look the best – pick out the pair of kicks that feels the best. Save your dress shoes and high heels for a nice dinner or for the office, not vacation! I love wearing Crocs because they are easy to put on (no socks required, some even have fur in them!), can get wet when it rains or on a water ride at a theme park and they are fairly comfortable. Try them and you may be pleasantly surprised. They are affordable ($30) and the off brands just don’t cut it. Nothing’s worse than coming off Splash Mountain or Dudley Do Rights Ripsaw Falls on a cold, windy day, with socks drenched to the bone. We also always like to bring our ponchos on water rides! We may look crazy but it sure helps, especially in the winter! Keep ‘em in your purse, say it’s in case it rains, but look at the people coming off these water rides and you may have a different reason to use them! Lately I’ve been getting into wearing “Sperrys,” which are boat shoes, they’re also made to get wet. They can scratch very easily but they look very fashionable and feel great. Thinking about bringing those flip flops you paid $2.50 from from Old Navy? Save those for the beach, most flip flops are very bad for your feet and they can get very uncomfortable, not good for theme parks.
8. A Good Suitcase
I will never forget my first trip to Las Vegas when I had to carry my aunts heavy suitcases around the McCarran International Airport. Why? Because they didn’t have rollers! I’ve heard countless stories about airport nightmares, and really, you can do a lot to prevent that. Invest in a good suitcase that will make it through the “behind the scenes work” to get to your final destination. Think twice about really bright colors because dirt will show easily… but at the same time, I doubt you want your plain old everyday black suitcases because they can be very hard to recognize at the airport conveyor belt (we always put a brightly colored ribbon on our suitcases. When shopping, think “what is the most comfortable to carry/roll, which would allow me to stay the most organized and which suites my overall needs/wants the best”. Those with an unlimited budget will want to go top of the line with Louis Vuitton luggage. What about putting locks on your suitcase? My aunt did this and unfortunately, they busted some of these cute little golden locks open and threw them away! Nothing I travel with is all that valuable anyway, and if it is, I keep it in my carry on. Same goes with money!
9. A Journal/Schedule/Guidebook
Last but most certainly not least, I like to either keep a journal/notepad in my pocket where I can look at a preplanned schedule, confirmation #’s, or just to write down good experiences that you may want to reflect back on a few years later or stuff you want to tell others. My phone battery always has a chance of dying and the information I put into the notepad is so easily lost–that’s why I love writing it down the old-fashioned way. The notepad or the calendar within your phone is another great option for this. Having a schedule mapped out and giving a time and a place for most meals and places you want to ensure you that you have time to do what you plan and that you don’t get home wishing you would have done more, are both important elements. Consider buying the latest guidebook for the place you’re visiting (or even an old one, check out your local used book store). It never hurts to be over prepared and it’s always nice to be able to flip through to the nitty gritty.
10. I’ll let you decide…Did I mention everything? I’d love to hear your comments!