Travel Gear Tips from a ‘Gearologist’
Jannell Howell is about to embark on an around-the-world journey that will take her through many countries including Thailand, India, Jordan, and Europe before coming back to the U.S. 15 months ago, she began blogging about her preparations on her site Traveljunkie’s World Tour.
Jannell has discovered a love of researching travel-related gear and services and shares some of her favorite finds with us.
While going through Meet, Plan, Go!’s Career Break Basic Training, I was introduced to some pretty incredible services and gear that I didn’t know existed. In the process of learning more about these newfound products, I found that I REALLY enjoyed the research. I have since completed the Basic Training course, but have continued to explore new items and I look forward to further study which, I admit, borders on obsession . . . perhaps I’ve become a travel gear-ologist?
The PacSafe VentureSafe 25L backpack is my favorite piece of gear so far. The VentureSafe has a deceivingly large amount of space, a padded 13″ laptop pocket and is surprisingly comfortable.
It’s also an anti-theft powerhouse with slash-proof metal ‘exomesh’ within the fabric, zippers that hook and hide closed and extra durable slash-proof straps. I think the VentureSafe is the ultimate traveler’s daypack and am so pleased I got one.
One piece of gear that I can’t wait to see in action is an Alfa 802.11g/n wifi antenna. I got this tip from Anil Polat of FoxNomad (Thanks, Anil!). This palm-size antenna plugs into my laptop via USB port and is said to increase the wireless Internet range so I can search and find more (hopefully unlocked) networks. The Alfa wifi antenna can be used with either PC or Mac operating systems and boasts a strong signal, high speed data transfer rate, and keeps my wireless data secure. I love that the antenna is only 2 ounces and measures 3.5 x 2.5 inches (8.5 x 6.3cm) so it can be packed easily.
Hands down, the best service I’ve used this last year is the Travel Hacking Cartel by Chris Guillebeau. Per the Cartel website, Chris ‘teaches members about glitch fares, round-the-world tickets, padding mileage accounts, earning elite status and much more’. Members get video tutorials on what travel hacking is all about and deal alerts emailed to them on airline mileage promotions, hotel points, car rental offers – even frequent dining programs!
Chris offers a guarantee of at least four free plane tickets a year and monthly memberships start as low as $15 (well worth the information you get) with a 14-day trial period for just a dollar. With the information I learned in the Cartel, combined with some ‘strategic spending’, I’ve earned 94,000 frequent flyer miles in one year – without getting on a flight!
Once I am outside the U.S., I’ll explore Mobal’s global sim card service. I wanted the option to make/receive a regular phone call when I don’t have access to wifi/Skype. Since I will be traveling to more than 15 countries, I wanted to avoid the hassle of getting a new sim card for every country. Additionally, it is much easier to give my family one international phone number to reach me instead of 15+. By using the Mobal sim card in my unlocked GSM phone, I only have to pay for activation once ($9), the card works in over 190 countries without monthly service fees or minimum usage and never expires. Unlike other sim card providers, Mobal charges for calls after I’ve made them.
The best attribute about using Mobal’s sim card is the high quality call signal. The service will automatically connect to the strongest cell phone signal wherever I am. The only downer I could find about Mobal was the expensive call rates (from $1.50 to $3.95 per minute), but I don’t intend on using it often. Aside from testing it (in one minute spurts!), I’ll use the sim card in case of emergency when call quality is the most important.
These are just a few of my favorite items. I am already so confident about these products that I signed up as an affiliate, but will thoroughly ‘test-drive’ them in the coming months and will share my experience with Meet, Plan, Go! – So ‘stay tuned’.
You can read about other travel-related products I’ve studied and I will continue to research MANY more items. I’d love to hear from other travelers about their favorite gear and/or services (I gotta feed my obsession).
– Your friendly travel ‘gearologist’