Are you prepared for the upcoming holiday season? This is not about the recent State Department travel warning. That's a separate story, best summed up by reminding people to be aware and to pay attention to current events. This is important: The "warning" is a lower-level notice than an "alert" and does not mandate that people stop traveling completely.
There are a host of gift ideas that can help you be better-prepared, safer and more comfortable both for domestic and international travel. Further, these gifts for those on-the-go need not bust your holiday budget.
Tina Baugher runs Mermaid Imports at 209 W. Dimond Blvd. in Anchorage. Almost everything is imported from Asia. One of her go-to travel accessories is simple: a fan. "Imagine being stuck on a hot bus or waiting in a stuffy airport," she said. "Just pull this out," she says, as she unfurls a colorful $6 pocket-sized fan from Bali.
Baugher travels frequently to Bali, Thailand and other tropical destinations. "I always bring a sarong," she said. "It's a versatile accessory that I use as a towel, a scarf or a beach wrap." She points to a rack of brightly colored fabric, priced between $18 and $20.
Under the "Be Prepared" category, Shane Langland of Eagle Enterprises (5849 Old Seward Highway) recommends the Alaska Paracord survival bracelet. It comes with a generous length of sturdy parachute cord, waterproof tinder to start a fire, as well as a strip of magnesium (fire steel) and a scraper/knife. The cost: $40.
Langland also likes the "Resqme" tool that acts as a seat belt slicer and window-breaker. "I have friends who are pilots who keep these handy in the cockpit, or use them as zipper pulls on their vest," he said. The compact tool costs $12.
It's always a good idea to pack a pair of gloves in your carry-on. But Langland loves the high-tech "Seirus Heat Wave" gloves that boast a reflective liner. "It's the same concept as the space blankets," he said. "The gloves trap more of your body heat and your hands are instantly warm. For $20, you'll be glad you have it on those rainy December mornings in Seattle," he said.
As a "full safety house," Eagle Enterprises stocks items to protect Alaskans from falls, hearing loss, eye injury and other hazards of everyday life — whether you're in Karachi or Kenai.
John DiScala (aka "Johnny Jet") travels all the time. He is a big fan of the "ScotteVest" products, which boast lots of pockets. "I recommend Scottevest jackets and vests for hiding your valuables and keeping them on your person — as well as for practical travel. The classic Scottevest jacket has so many hidden pockets that it basically serves as a piece of carry-on luggage," he writes.
DiScala also is a big fan of the LifeProof protective phone case. "After dropping my iPhone while in Austria this summer I learned what a bummer it is not to have a phone. If I had my LifeProof case then it would've never happened as they are shock-proof, sand-proof, snow-proof and waterproof," he said. The LifeProof cases are available starting at $55.
These days, everyone is taking more pictures, particularly with their phones. Photographer Rob Stapleton recommends stepping it up with the Gorilla tripod. "From $16 to $100, the Gorilla is great for traveling and easy to use on tabletops or any platform. The legs can be moved and molded to railings or doors or tubing," he said.
Family traveler-on-the-go Erin Kirkland can't sit still long enough to charge her phone or her laptop. That's why she always carries some "portable power" from GoalZero. The Flip 20 recharger features a USB recharger for your device if you happen to be on a plane that doesn't have a charger at the seat.
Kirkland also recommends having kids carry their own stuff. "L.L. Bean still makes one of the most durable packs for traveling kids," she writes. They are priced as low as $29.95
I never thought underwear would make it on to my gift list. But the ExOfficio travel underwear is a must pack item. Aside from being light and comfortable, I'm happy I can wash it in the bathroom sink at the hotel with a dab of shampoo. Since the underwear is plastic, it dries quickly. ExOfficio's newest model is called "Give-n-Go Sport Mesh Underwear." There are a couple of different models for men and women that come six or nine inches down the leg. Cost: $30-$32.
You can order the ExOfficio gear online, or visit their store in the Seattle airport.
Finally, here's a free holiday gift, particularly for international travelers: Sign up for the Smart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP). This advice was included in the State Department's warning earlier this week if you plan to travel internationally. You'll receive occasional updates if there are ongoing events in the areas where you've said you'll be traveling. You'll be alerted to the nearest U.S. Embassy or consulate if you need assistance. Enrolling in the STEP program can speed replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. It's a good idea. And it's free.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.