The month of August is when parents of school-age children begin to switch gears in anticipation of the start of a new school year. It is also the time when many folks try to squeeze in one last quick summer vacation - either with or without the kids.
If you are planning a late summer vacation of your own, here is a rundown of some of our favorite travel accessories to help you get the most out of your trip.
- The Nook (Barnes & Noble).There is nothing more relaxing than kicking back and reading your book of choice on the beach. However, when it comes to the best format for reading the book, the Fly.com team is divided. Several folks are loyal to Kindle, but others (like Steve Clarke, Senior Producer and Director of Search) swear by Barnes & Noble's Nook because it prevents the eyes from getting tired when reading for long periods.
- Headphone Splitters. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you and your travel partner want to order the same entertainment during your flight, but you don't want to pay for the same movie twice? Or maybe you have downloaded some TV shows to your iPad for your kids. This is where a trusty headphone splitter comes in. The Belkin Speaker and Headphone Splitter works with iPod models, portable DVD players, CD players and MP3 players - allowing two people to watch (or listen to music) at the same time.
- Multi-Use Power Plugs. If you are someone who travels far and wide on a regular basis, you may want to invest in a multi-use power plug. Warren Chang, Vice President and General Manager of Search, recommends the Tumi Electric Ground Adapter, which allows you to power up in 150 countries!
- Solar Chargers. Solar energy technology can be a great and environmentally friendly way to charge USB devices like your iPhone or iPad, especially in an emergency - so long as you have access to sunshine. The Poweradd™ Apollo Solar Portable Charger claims to charge all iPhones 3 to 4 times, a Galaxy S4 more than twice and an iPad 1 to 2 times.
- Resistance Bands. Is there no gym where you are staying? No problem. Resistance bands, like this one from Black Mountain Products, will help you exercise anywhere. Best of all they roll up small for packing!
- Ultraviolet Water Purifier. The SteriPEN is a fast and portable UV water purifying wand that uses ultraviolet technology (the same used in water treatment plants) to kill bacteria, viruses and protozoa, and provide safe drinking water anywhere.
- Nap on the Go. Okay, so this one may look crazy, but the Ostrich Pillow comes at the recommendation of our friends at Quinn PR. And I have to say I'm tempted - especially if it delivers on the promise of giving me a much-needed nap!
- Rest Your Feet in Economy. If, like my mom, you struggle with swollen ankles following a long flight, this one could be for you - and even more so, if you can't afford to pay for premium seats with built-in foot rests. The Inflatable Travel Footrest allows you to relax anywhere (including on planes), and, more importantly, it helps reduce swelling, increase circulation, and reduce muscle strain and fatigue.
- GoToob. If you have traveled by plane in the last decade you are no doubt aware of the TSA 3-1-1 limitation for carrying liquids in your hand luggage. GoToobs are a handy way to help organize your liquids into TSA-friendly increments and are a go-to product for a couple of members of the Fly.com team.
- Stash Sandals. These sandals are comfortable enough to wear on the beach, but the real utility of Stash Sandals is as a mobile safe. The secret tray in the sole slides out to hold personal items and slides back in to make sure no one knows they're there. Pretty neat!
- Souvenir Shopping. I don't know about you, but in the past, I have found myself flying home with more luggage than I flew out with - primarily because I have a bad habit of going overboard with souvenirs. If you want to save on the unnecessary expense of purchasing various random "extra" bags, consider the one-time cost of a foldable suitcase instead.
- Portable Sleeping. Once upon a time, back when my eldest was born, the only option for portable sleeping when traveling with your baby or toddler was a not-so-light (or small) travel Pack-N-Play. But then my friend John introduced me to what he jokingly called the "dog kennel." The PeaPod is truly great for road trips, camping and air travel, and it collapses down to a very small size.
- The Melissa & Doug Trunki. I know I've talked about the Trunki before, but it really is the perfect travel accessory when flying with young children. Its unique design enables you to not only pack your child's favorite toys and travel necessities (like a blankie, change of clothes and snacks) as hand luggage, but it also provides a ride for your child when their feet get tired at the airport.
- No Spills. Let's face it, traveling - or going anywhere - with little kids can be messy. That is why we are ending with, what is technically, two recommendations that will help you keep spills to a minimum. The Wow Cup has been tried and tested over and over by Steve Clarke's daughter, who has confirmed that, when used correctly, it really does prevent beverage spills. Similarly, based on my own experience with kid snacks, bypass the Gyro Bowl and instead choose the Munchkin Snack Catcher to minimize cheerio disasters.
Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at Fly.com and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.