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Fashion & Beauty Travel Technology Travel Trends

9 Great Crossbody Bags for Travel

Crossbody bags are the ideal daypack for travel—they are more secure and foil pickpockets better than over-the-shoulder purses or backpacks, and they don’t immediately mark you as a tourist. The best crossbody bags for travel are ultra-lightweight or have anti-theft features, like these nine great bags.

Travelon Anti-Theft Crossbody Messenger

Travelon’s versatile Anti-Theft LTD Crossbody Messenger can be worn as a crossbody bag, or you can detach the strap and carry it as a clutch. Either way, it’s lightweight (weighing just over nine ounces) thanks to its travel-friendly and easy-to-clean stain-resistant nylon exterior. Like all Travelon bags, this one is designed to be hard to steal, with slash-resistant construction and locking compartments. There’s even RFID-blocking material built into the credit card and passport slots. An internal clip holds your keys securely, which is perfect for travel.

M.Gemi Crossbody Bag

A sharp, sophisticated crossbody optimized to stay in style season after season is a splurge any woman should be willing to make. Handmade in Tuscany, this crossbody from M.Gemi is detailed with sharp linear accents and dressed in rich tumbled leather. It’s a statement piece for sure—and one that’s absolutely worth it.

Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

Timbuk2’s Messenger Bag is a classic for a reason: It has a padded, air-mesh strap to prevent shoulder pain (even if you overpack it), padded compartments for electronics, specially designed flaps that help keep out rain, an internal water bottle pocket, and a removable cross-strap.

[st_related]10 Best Foldable Travel Bags and Foldable Luggage[/st_related]

Pacsafe Metrosafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Sling Backpack

Pacsafe’s Metrosafe Anti-Theft Crossbody Sling Backpack is a unisex option that holds a ton (including electronics in a special padded organizer pocket). Although lightweight, this bag has a hidden stainless steel wire embedded in the strap, which prevents thieves from slashing it. There’s also a security buckle built in that can be attached to something solid (like a table leg) so you can put it down without worry during a meal.

Baggallini Big Zipper Crossbody Bag

Baggallini quilted big zipper bagg with rfid

Never dig around in the bottom of your bag for an elusive item again with the Baggallini Big Zipper Crossbody Bag. This purse has five external pockets (including three secure zipper ones) and multiple interior compartments to keep everything organized. The nylon fabric is lightweight and water-resistant, so it will stand up to the rigors of travel.

[st_related]The Best Toiletries Bags for Every Trip[/st_related]

Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Slim Double Zip Crossbody Bag

Travelon anti-theft classic slim dbl zip crossbody bag

As its name implies, this bag is designed to keep your stuff safe, with anti-theft features such as a security flap, steel-reinforced strap guards, and RFID-blocking pockets. You can even fit this slim-profile crossbody bag under your jacket for extra protection.

Healthy Back Bag Microfiber

AmeriBag small classic microfiber healthy back bag

AmeriBag’s Healthy Back Bags have a unique, ergonomic design that contours to your back and distributes weight evenly. The microfiber version is the lightest and is also water-resistant. Inside, there are spots for your water bottle, pens, cards, and anything else you need.

[st_related]The 9 Most Stylish Laptop Bags for Travel[/st_related]

Sechunk Cotton Canvas Leather Messenger Crossbody Bag

Sechunk canvas messenger bags shoulder crossbody purse daypack

For days when you need to carry just a little bit more, the Sechunk Cotton Canvas Leather Messenger Crossbody bag is just 8.46 inches by 1.57 inches by 10.24 inches,  so it fits all without being oversized. Fill the leather-trim canvas bag with all your in-flight essentials.

Dagne Dover Andra Crossbody

The Dagne Dover Andra Crossbody is one of the trendiest crossbody bags on our list and comes in a variety of colors. This minimalist bag has lots of organizational pockets to store all your belongings on the go. Wear it as a shoulder bag or across your body.

Don’t see one you like? Check out more crossbody bags from Amazon here.

Looking for Our Favorite Footwear for the Season? Check Out Allbirds

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse loves crossbody bags for travel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline and on Twitter @CarolineMorse1 for fashion and travel photos from around the world.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Air Travel Airline Industry News Health & Wellness Travel Technology Travel Trends

So Long, Middle Seat? What Plane Seats Might Soon Look Like Due to COVID-19

Plane seat manufacturers have released some crazy iterations of new cabin designs in the past, typically aiming at increasing the number of already-cramped seats on board. You might remember the standing Skyrider 2.0 “seats” conceptualized for short flights, or these stacked lie-flat beds from hell for longer flights—both of which saw hypothetical designs that never materialized.

But now, with a global pandemic in full swing, it seems the same seat makers are focusing more on protecting passengers than packing them into plane cabins. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an interesting focus on banishing the middle seat.

Aviointeriors, the same manufacturer that designed those standing plane seats in 2018, is revealing its latest plan for post-coronavirus cabins: Shields for personal space and a reversed middle seat.

Janus plane seats Aviointeriors.

It’s a far cry from riding an airplane like the subway a la the Skyrider 2.0’s standing design, and looks almost (dare I say it) comfortable, considering there’s no sharing arm rests, accidentally invading what few inches of personal space your neighbor has, or dealing with a coughing or sneezing neighbor. It does, however, beg the question of how larger people who require more than one plane seat would be accommodated, and whether or not seats would be able to recline.

Aviointeriors says “this arrangement allows all three passengers to be separated with a shield made of transparent material that isolates them from each other, creating a protective barrier for everyone. Each passenger has its own space isolated from others, even from people who walk through the aisle.”

Studies have proven that aisle seats are more likely to be subject to passing germs that can get you sick—window seats are exposed to fewer germs. It’s also worth noting that this new Avio design somewhat echoes Spirit airlines’ pre-pandemic switch to staggering middle seats on some aircraft, which gives middle-seat passengers more elbow room.

Aviointeriors has also designed a more simplified solution for plane seats: Seat-attachable glass shields called Glassafe. This simply adds dividers between the aisle, all three existing seats, and the window:

glassafe Aviointeriors plane seats.

These shields seem like an easier short-term solution, which begs the question of whether or not airlines could employ them soon. Video and photos posted by passengers in the U.S. have recently shown crowded planes are still flying, even with passengers in middle seats, and have recently made waves online. And with airlines and flight attendant unions speaking out about the need to protect passengers and themselves, this may be one quick-to-deploy option. Social distancing will likely need to go on for longer than just these few months—infectious disease expert Deborah Birx recently said distancing measures might be essential through summer 2020.

In the long-term, though, we may see the need for plane seats to be redesigned to divide passengers more—which could be just one of many ways travel could be changed forever by the COVID-19 pandemic.

More from SmarterTravel:

SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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At Home Experiential Travel Family Travel Fashion & Beauty Holiday Travel Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

The Best Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Check out the best gifts for your favorite female traveler to give this Mother’s Day—bonus, most of these Mother’s Day gifts are under $100.

Travel-Related Mother’s Day Gifts

Bellroy Travel Folio

Help your mom stay organized while traveling with this chic passport holder and travel wallet. She can keep the whole fam organized since it fits two passports, four to eight cards, cash, and multiple boarding passes. This zip-up style also has RFID blocking technology, which protects documents, cards, and passports from RFID skimming, i.e. electronic pickpocketing. The environmentally-certified leather wallet also comes with a three-year warranty.

LifeProof Wake Phone Case

Give mom a protective and sustainable phone case, no matter what model phone she has. This case is both drop-proof (from two meters), easy to grip, and helps the environment through a donation on the company’s behalf to select charities.

iLive Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds

If mom isn’t the most tech-savvy, then these affordable wireless earbuds might just be the perfect gift. This pair supports true wireless and Bluetooth capabilities and comes with a charging case of its own.

Keebos Crossbody Phone Case

Go totally hands-free with this useful and inexpensive phone case; it’s a crossbody bag, wallet, phone holder, and protective case all in one. This Mother’s Day gift is perfect for walking the dog, circling the park, or grabbing a coffee.

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Home

YETI Lowlands Waterproof Outdoor Blanket

From beach picnics to lining the back seat of the car for your family pooch, YETI’s outdoor blanket is an ideal gift for the no-fuss mom. It even comes in a convenient carrying case and is machine-washable. Other standout features are that this comfy blanket has a waterproof layer and that it easily shakes off pet hair.

Artifact Uprising Wood Block Prints

gift ideas for mother's day

Gift mom a personalized photo album with this simple yet beautiful woodblock stand. Send 12 of your favorite travel photos to Artifact Uprising and the company will print them on thick card stock and voila—you’ve got a personalized gift within days.

Other places to shop customized prints include Etsy, Framebridge, and Shuttterfly.

COSORI 12-in-1 Air Fryer Toaster Oven

Whether she’s cooking for additional family members in quarantine or perfecting some of her favorite recipes, this multi-purpose toaster oven will be a delightful surprise. Not only is it reasonably priced, but it serves as an air fryer, toaster oven, broiler, rotisserie, and more. The 12 presets include: pizza, roast, airfry, toast, bagel, bake, broil, cookies, rotisserie, dehydrate, ferment, and keep warm. Plus, there’s an included recipe book (featuring over 100 ideas) for even more cooking inspiration.

EcoVessel Wine Tumbler

Take your favorite drink on-the-go with these triple-insulated, stainless steel tumblers. Priced under $20, it’s an ideal gift for the mom who loves a park picnic or day at the beach.

ChappyWrap’s Places Blanket

While the jury’s still out on our summer vacations, remind mom of one of her favorite places with an ultra-plush blanket from ChappyWrap. With maps of locales like Cape Cod and San Francisco, you can keep her cozy during stay-at-home orders.

Mother’s Day Gifts, Clothing & Accessories

Keds Women’s Clipper Jute

This pair of stylish slip-on shoes from Keds make for the perfect understated, yet practical gift for mom. Wear them now around the house and save them for the next family beach vacation. The versatile style means they match with almost anything and the slip-on style makes them ideal for errand running and city walking.

Rothy’s Bag Collection

We’ve already expressed our love for Rothy’s latest bag collection, and we think the line of bags and pouches also make for great Mother’s Day gifts. All of the accessories are stylish and practical for both future travel and use around town.

Hari Mari Sydney Slides

Keep mom comfy and fashionable with these spring and summertime sandal staples. Between the premium leather, memory foam footbed, and on-trend style these shoes have it all. Not only do they match almost everything, they’ll be her go-to pair of shoes all summer long.

Plaka Slipper Socks

I’ve already raved about these in my review, but these slipper socks are the perfect inexpensive gift for mom this Mother’s Day. The sock-like upper is flexible and soft while the cushy rubber bottom lets you grab your mail, take the dog out, etc. without having to put real shoes on.

Cotidie Evelyn Drape Waist Shirt

Gift mom this classic shirt, with a twist. The moisture-wicking and stretchy material mean this shirt is the queen of double-duty. Whether she’s a frequent flier or just likes to look chic (but make it comfy) at the grocery store, this athleisure brand has got you covered.

Ministry of Supply Swift Wide Leg Pants

These lightweight pants are the stylish ideal travel pant, but can also be worn easily around the house. The stretch crepe material is airy and breathable and will look good with either a sweatshirt or blazer.

Bleusalt

Fair warning, you may want to steal this gift, but know it will bring the utmost coziness to your mom. So, let her enjoy it. Bleusalt’s environmentally-friendly and sustainable beechwood fabric is literally a dream, so anything you pick will be a win. But, if you need help choosing, The Classic Shirt and The 2 Yard Wrap are my go-tos.

MZ Wallace Metro Pouch

It’s a clutch, it’s a pouch, it’s a diaper holder, it’s anything you need it to be. We adore this line of bags (also available at Nordstrom) for its waterproof nylon quilted material and packability.

State Cashmere

Spoil mom with high-quality cashmere, but not at the expected price tag. State Cashmere offers dozens of styles under $100 as well as a wallet-friendly and lightweight spring line, made with cotton cashmere. Or pick something out from the travel section, think socks, blankets, and wraps.  

Mother’s Day Gifts, Beauty

Dyson Airwrap Hair Styler

Gift mom the latest in hair styling innovation, with Dyson’s minimal heat hair styler. It’s a smoother, curler, styler, and dryer all in one.

Pro Tip: Also check this product’s Amazon listing for potential price reductions and Dyson will price match.

TULA Skincare Best Sellers Travel Kit

Cult-favorite skincare brand, TULA, offers some of their best-selling products in a convenient and reasonably priced, travel-sized kit. It’s a perfect way to test out the facial cleanser, day and night cream, sugar scrub, and moisturizing primer. And while you’re at it, throw in the brightening eye balm and sunscreen to your cart for yourself (we won’t tell).

DW Home Candle

Remind mom of her favorite scent with a budget-friendly candle from DW Home. We love the Calming Waves and Tranquil Lotus scents for uber relaxation during this crazy time.

Athena Club the Go-Tos Set

Help mom make her skincare routine healthier with Athena Club’s the Go-Tos set. At just $25 this gift set includes the brand’s Dewy Body Lotion, Soft Face Wipes, and All Day Deo. Each product is made with good-for-you ingredients and smells fantastic.

Subtl Beauty Stack

Mom will thank you for this life-changing makeup gift. Meet Subtl Beauty’s stack, the ultimate travel-friendly makeup on the market. Build her a custom stack by choosing a lip stain, concealer, highlighter, bronzer, and/or shine control powder and voila, all her makeup’s in one place.

More from SmarterTravel:

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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Air Travel Health & Wellness Travel Trends

5 Charts That Show COVID-19's Impact on Air Travel

How much of a hit has air travel taken during the COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer: Like nothing anyone has seen before. Even airline experts with long memories can’t remember a comparable impact of some critical event. Yes, 9/11 stopped air travel cold, but the immediate effect lasted weeks, not months. And the nation had a visible system in place—TSA screening—squarely aimed at preventing similar events in the future.

And while statistics vary depending on source and assumptions, public data makes clear that U.S. airline passengers are down about 90 percent for this time of year. International passengers are down at least as much, and domestic air travel in many parts of the world is also down, or shut off completely. Rewards site Upgraded Points recently put those staggering numbers into visuals, which offer a holistic view of the situation thus far.

Here’s what stands out in terms of the about-face COVID-19 has forced upon travel, and data visuals by Upgraded Points that illustrate them.

While very few people are flying (which we’ll refer to as foot traffic), air traffic is higher. As of late-April, about half of all U.S. domestic flights are regularly being canceled despite a 90 percent drop in foot traffic.

The discrepancy between foot traffic and flights is explained by one simple fact: The recent U.S. stimulus bill that offered rescue funds for airports and airlines requires that U.S. airlines continue serving the points they usually serve—which they are doing, by flying virtually empty planes.

Similar effects are seen in Asia and Europe, where foot traffic is down at least 75 percent and many airlines are not required to continue service.

For example, Porter Airlines has suspended all flights, as has RyanAir and Royal Air Maroc. More carriers have suspended all international service, including South African Airways, Turkish, Avianca, and Qantas. The number of daily commercial flights flown globally has decreased by 76.5 percent.

Airlines are having a tough time finding places to park their idle aircraft. As an odd consequence, Southwest is, for now, the world’s largest airline in terms of seats flown per day.

Airports are taking a similar hit, and with a drastic reduction in passengers comes a drastic reduction in workers. Several big multi-terminal fields have concentrated flights into one or two terminals and closed the others. 

All this means big-time economic losses: 4.6 million job losses are projected in the U.S alone in 2020. Sources estimate a loss of 4.6 million jobs in the U.S. travel industry—and counting. It’s no surprise that most airline stocks are tanking. According to International Air Transportation Association (IATA), only Asia looks to lose more passenger revenue this year than North America.

Currently, airlines are offering some very attractive fares, both for the near and long term. Transcon economy round-trips, for example, starting at less than $300 for travel in May; you can (but probably shouldn’t) fly to London for less than $400. But premium-cabin fares are still high.

At present, most airline schedules show minimum service operations through September 30, which is about when U.S. stimulus money is expected to run out. At this time, nobody knows whether conditions will allow airlines to start rebuilding schedules by that time or face widespread closures. For now, most states remain closed or in some state of closures.

The ancient curse “may you live in interesting times” certainly applies to today’s airlines and travelers alike.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Travel Trends Women's Travel

The Best Travel Leggings of 2020

Whenever I travel, leggings are a must. They’re the perfect travel-day outfit, especially when paired with a baggy sweater or long shirt, for a chic but comfortable look. There’s so much to love about a good pair of travel leggings. They’re slimming, they stretch, and they don’t take up tons of room in your suitcase. Plus, should you feel the need to utilize the hotel gym or join a pop-up yoga class, you’ll be ready for a workout.

The Best Travel Leggings

Below I’ve divided the best travel leggings into the three most useful categories for travelers: the best leggings with pockets (to hold your phone and documents), the best leggings to make a fashion statement (to show off your personality), and the best leggings that don’t look like leggings (to travel comfortably incognito).

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Travel Leggings with Pockets

Lululemon Speed Up Tight

The sleek cool Speed Up Tight has sweat-wicking fabric and four-way stretch—and four pockets. With two side pockets large enough for your phone and two waistband pockets perfect for tucking away cash, these leggings are a great choice for the active traveler with stuff to carry.

The North Face Motivation Pocket 7/8 Tights

From the North Face, the Motivation Pocket 7/8 Tights provide support and storage. They feature two discreet thigh pockets, an extra-wide waistband, and are also available in a similar cropped style.

Core 10 Onstride Run Full-Length

With both mid-rise and high-rise waistband options, Core 10’s Onstride Run Full-Length Leggings are customizable for everyone, and they come equipped with a drawstring for adjustability. The two side-panel pockets and a stylish behind-the-knee mesh detail prove that these travel leggings combine function and fashion.

alo High-Waist Cargo Legging

The High-Waist Cargo Leggings from alo features numerous pockets throughout the leg but are stylish enough to run errands in, and comfortable enough to work out in. They’re also available in multiple colors, such as black, bone, and olive branch.

Clever Travel Companion

The Clever Travel Companion leggings pack comfort and security into one ultra-functional pair of pants. These leggings for travel are equipped with two zippered pockets. The first is big enough to hold your phone and passport; the second slightly smaller pocket is still large enough to fit your credit cards and keys.

[st_related]The Best Travel Pants for Men and Women[/st_related]

Travel Leggings That Make a Fashion Statement

Outdoor Voices 3/4 Two-Tone Leggings

With blocks of navy and black, the 3/4 Two-Tone Warmup Leggings are chic while still maintaining an athletic look, which makes them great for both the airplane and a jogging trail. The material is sturdy, comfortable, and opaque, so you won’t have to worry about anything showing through. If you’re a big fan of the color block style, make sure to check out the Outdoor Voice’s tri-colored Zoom Leggings, too.

Columbia PFG Tidal™ Legging

Up for some serious adventure or maybe just a day hike, but want cute leggings that still work? Sturdier than the average yoga pants, the PFG Tidal™ Leggings will perform well in the great outdoors. Made of moisture-wicking and UPF 50 sun-protecting fabric, these travel leggings are smooth to the touch and even include a large pocket on the side.

Girlfriend Collective Trail Compressive High-Rise Legging

For a fashion statement that’s extra comfortable and eco-friendly, the Trail Compressive High-Rise Leggings from Girlfriend Collective really deliver, and come in a slew of gorgeous colors. Made from 25 recycled water bottles, sizes also range from XXS to 6XL, so there is truly something for everyone.

Beyond Yoga High Waisted Alloy Ombre Midi Leggings

With bright blue coloring and plenty of shimmer, there’s a lot to love about these statement-making leggings. The metallic splatter ombre is a unique plus.

Palazzo Leggings

If your flair is a little more bohemian, check out these high-waist lounge pants for a fashionably daring set of pants that are just as comfortable and flattering as any pair of leggings. They’re affordable, available in lots of different patterns, and fabulous for flying.

Travel Leggings That Don’t Look Like Leggings

Betabrand Dress Pant Yoga Pants

If you want to make sure you’re maintaining a little class while staying comfortable on your flight, check out the Dress Pant Yoga Pants from Betabrand. Made of comfortable, stretchable material, they’re totally chic. I love that they come in multiple colors and are perfect for a business-casual look.

Wit & Wisdom Jeggings

If you need jeans to complete an outfit, but dread the discomfort of wearing denim on a long-haul flight, get yourself a pair of jeggings like Wit & Wisdom’s Jeggings, made of lightweight stretch denim that can be worn around the city or to a casual dinner. No one will ever know the difference.

Blank NYC Faux-Leather Jeggings

Sport a lean silhouette with an edge with these super-stretchy faux-leather and faux-jeans leggings from Blank NYC. These flattering jet black jeggings are also very comfortable and will go a long way in your travel wardrobe.

More from SmarterTravel:

Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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At Home Booking Strategy Miles & Points Security Travel Technology Travel Trends

Non-Emergency Passport Applications Have Halted

Were you planning to apply for, or renew, a passport this spring? With the rolling governmental measures in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do so. The State Department is limiting in-person service at passport offices to emergencies in which travelers need a passport for an international trip within 72 hours because of a “qualified life-or-death emergency.” And mail-in renewals are being discouraged due to “significant delays.”

The State Department defines that emergency in-person service as only for “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family (e.g., parent, child, spouse, sibling, aunt, uncle, etc.).” A more complete list is available on the State Department’s website.

However, if you have travel plans on the far horizon (or hope to) you can still apply for renewal by mail, with some caveats. Expedited service is not available, and the State Department notes that you can “expect significant delays.” It’s unclear how long that delay will be, and it’s worth noting that for a renewal you’ll need to mail in your current passport with the renewal application. The department urges travelers to “please consider waiting to apply until we resume normal operations.”

Even if you qualify for emergency in-person service, options are currently very limited: The State Department says that passport offices in Atlanta, Connecticut, New Orleans, New York, and San Juan (Puerto Rico) are among those completely closed until further notice. And many of the other acceptance facilities, such as court clerks and post offices, are either closed or no longer accepting in-person passport applications.

At any in-person facility you will need an appointment, which you can make through the National Passport Information Center here, or by calling your local court or post office. For that appointment, you’ll need a completed application, supporting documents, proof of the life-or-death emergency, and proof of international travel specific to the emergency.

If you have an application in process, the State Department will continue to process it, but you can expect those undefined delays. Check the State Department’s website for details and application tracking.

The State Department says these current limitations will remain in effect until “normal operations” resume, which is clearly a very uncertain deadline at this time. If you will need a new or renewed passport in the near future, bookmark the above links for up-to-date information.

Our Favorite Items for the Home

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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9 Whimsical Spring Flower Blooms We're Dreaming About

You don’t need to be a nature expert to appreciate the seas of colorful flowers that mark the end of winter each year, or to get lost in photos of them. Some of the world’s biggest and best spring flower blooms turn travel-worthy spots like national parks and famous cities into a sea of color.

The World’s Most Whimsical Spring Flower Blooms

Here’s where to look for a breathtaking dose of color in spring, and which ones offer livestreams.

Editor’s note: Due to COVID-19 concerns, the U.S. State Department is encouraging potential visitors to reconsider all travel. Read more here for updates on the situation and information on when it might be safe to travel again to destinations like the ones below.

Mount Fuji, Japan

Spring flower blooms

Every April and May, pink-hued flowers blanket the meadows at the base of Mount Fuji. The Shibazakura Festival marks the occasion, drawing crowds who stroll through the electric-pink fields and snack at the many local food stalls that set up to offer Japanese buns, ramen, soups, and more. During the peak spring flower bloom this is one of the most photogenic places in the world. You can livestream the blooms here.

Death Valley, Southern California

spring flower blooms

Southern California’s parks are home to many different types of spring flower blooms, and they come to life earlier than most thanks to the region’s warm climate. Death Valley National Park and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are popular for yellow and purple desert flowers that peek through the cracked desert floor as early as March. The Antelope Valley’s California Poppy Reserve becomes a sea of yellow, orange, and red poppies around April—and can look like a scene straight out of the Wizard of Oz. The small orange variation of poppy happens to be the state flower of California.

The California Parks Department offers a poppy live-stream here.

Keukenhof, Netherlands

spring flower blooms

If rainbow palettes of tulips don’t come to mind when you think of the Netherlands, it’s time to venture beyond Amsterdam. Spring is a great time to head into the countryside to discover windmill-dotted fields of bright tulips, which often bloom as late as May. The Flower Bulb Region is home to vast tulip farms as well as public gardens like Keukenhof—one of the largest botanical gardens in the world, and home to seven million flowers. You can virtually tour the gardens here.

Western Australia (September)

spring flower blooms

Take your pick of Western Australia’s incredible array of wildflower trails in September—the southern hemisphere’s spring. Guided or self-driven spring flower bloom tours are available in wildflower-blanketed Perth, along the Coral Coast, and as far north as Pilbara. Options include the Esperance Wildflower Trail, wild orchids south of Perth, and rainbow desert blooms in Broome to the north.

Valley of Flowers National Park, India

spring flower blooms

India’s Valley of Flowers is both a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its six miles of alpine flowers and rare, protected wildlife. Nestled between the Himalayas and the sacred Ganges River in Uttarakhand, the valley has 1,000 different species of flowers, including daisies, poppies, rhododendrons, lavender, and more. Hike along its waterways and through pastures blanketed in spring flower blooms—just keep an eye out for Himalayan black bears.

Monet’s House and Gardens, France

spring flower blooms

Claude Monet’s mesmerizing flowers don’t only exist in paintings. See the lavender and lily pad-filled settings that inspired his works in Giverny, France, where you can visit the Impressionist artist’s house and gardens. The grounds are separated into two main gardens: one around the house that includes an orchard and bulb flowers like daffodils, and an enchanting Japanese water garden across the street.

Texas Hill Country, U.S.

spring flower blooms

Combine wildflowers with wineries in Texas Hill Country, west of bustling Houston. Spring flower blooms come early to the Lone Star State, so you can get a jump start on summer by heading to Fredericksburg or Brenham to see the region’s famed bluebonnets—which the nearby Bluebonnet Wine Trail is named for. Stop at wineries and spot classic Texan ranches along the way.

Kew Gardens, London, England

Spring flower blooms

Spring flower blooms don’t have to require a trek from the city, especially if you’re in London. The U.K. capital has an abundance of gardens that come to life every spring, and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its 300 acres house 27,000 colorful plants, and are thick with tulips, poppies, peonies, and cherry blossoms each spring. The gardens even offer online educational horticulture courses so you can learn to identify species of plants.

Tidal Basin, Washington, D.C.

washington monument with cherry blossoms tidal basin.

Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin is famously popular in spring for the thousands of cherry trees gifted to the park by the mayor of Tokyo, Japan, over a century ago. The pink and white buds explode into peak bloom all at once in a matter of just a few days, typically in March or April. The National Mall’s live webcam is here.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Fashion & Beauty Health & Wellness Outdoors Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends Women's Travel

10 Best Workout Clothes and Tools for Travel and Home

Finding the motivation to work out while on vacation is no easy feat. I try and stick to my normal exercise routine as much as I can while I travel, and this list of the 10 best workout clothes and tools helps me stay in shape on the road—and at home between trips.

Vi Headphones and Fitness Tracker

Say goodbye to tangled headphones, wearing a Fitbit, and paying for expensive fitness-tracking apps—the Vi headphones and corresponding app are the ultimate travel workout companion. With a variety of earbud sizes and clips, these wireless headphones are comfortable and won’t fall out once you get the right size.

If you run outdoors at home and on the road, the Vi Fitness app is a great way to track your runs and mileage. Hikers and cyclers can also benefit from the activity tracker. Dubbed a “personal trainer,” the activity monitor tracks things like speed, heart rate, and distance. It also adapts to your fitness level and personalizes workouts. Plus, the app links to your favorite music streaming service.

Takeya Water Bottle

A reusable water bottle is an essential workout item for travelers, and I especially love Takeya’s insulated stainless water bottles. The handle is great for travel, since you can hook it onto the outside of any bag, and it’s easy to carry around the gym. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps water cold for hours, and the narrow mouth is great for grabbing a quick sip mid-workout.

Zella Live In High Waisted Leggings

Built from moisture-wicking fabric and fitted with a no-slip waistband, these stretchy, figure-sculpting leggings keep you cool as your workout warms up. They’re comfy enough to wear in other situations as well, including on the plane or while working from home.

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Wipes

Don’t forget one of the most important things to do after working out, even on vacation: taking care of your skin. I am obsessed with these facial cleansing wipes from Burt’s Bees for a post-workout refresh. Whether you don’t have time to hit the shower or you need some immediate rejuvenation, these wipes, made from white tea extract, cucumber, and aloe, are a must. I even use them over my whole body sometimes if I need to skip a shower.

Adidas by Stella McCartney Sports Bra

This mesh-backed sports bra is one of the best workout clothes you can travel with because it doubles as a bathing suit top. The full coverage bra is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, so it won’t stink or stay wet for long after sweating or swimming.

 

Nike Dri Fit Head Tie

Nike makes a great moisture-wicking headband that fits any head size. I typically find myself shifting any sort of headband during a workout because it sits too far forward or back—but you won’t have that problem with this one because it ties.

L.L.Bean Coolmax Nano Glide Multisport Socks

I swear by L.L.Bean socks (with styles for both men and women) for working out. The quick-drying, breathable fabric and thoughtful cushioning on these moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet cool and dry during any activity. These socks are also designed to reduce friction inside your shoe to prevent blisters.

Hoka Bondi 6 Running Shoes

I always travel with my Hoka Bondi 6’s, because I can wear them to the airport with a travel outfit or put them into my carry-on, where they don’t take up too much room. These shoes (available for men and women) are extremely flexible and comfortable for workouts and provide incredible sole support; that’s actually part of Hoka’s mission as a shoe company.

Salomon Agile 250 Running Belt Pack

I cannot say enough how much I love this running belt pack from Salomon. It miraculously fits a phone, keys, and some cash or cards. It doesn’t move while running, and I’ve worn it for stationary workouts as well to hold my phone. It takes up zero room in your suitcase and helps make your workouts annoying armband-free.

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Lululemon Break a Trail Jacket

This Trail Jacket from Lululemon is an ideal choice for hikers and others who love to exercise outdoors. The fabric is both water-repellent and wind-resistant, so the jacket will hold up in any climate. The hood is designed not to bounce when you move, and there are vents in the fabric so you don’t overheat. There’s even a hidden pocket for your phone.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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How Hotels and Airlines Are Helping During the Pandemic

I sometimes get so used to bashing travel suppliers—especially airlines—for the many ways they abuse travelers’ rights, that I often overlook the good they do. Especially during this global pandemic, travel suppliers are doing a lot of good.

From providing free hotel stays for health workers to donating huge sums of money, here are some of the ones we’re seeing step up.

Hotels Stepping Up During the Pandemic

Hotels are offering free or low-charge rooms to communities for housing both caregivers and non-COVID patients. Standout individual hotel offers in hard-hit New York City include those from the Four Seasons Hotel, which was the first hotel in New York City to begin providing free stays to healthcare workers responding to the pandemic.

The Plaza Hotel, Room Mate Grace Hotel, Palace Hotel, St. Regis Hotel, and Yotel are now counted among the hotels hosting health care workers and non-critical patients free of charge. More broadly, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a major hotel trade association, notes that more than 6,500 hotel properties that are adjacent to medical facilities across the country are offering temporary housing for health care workers, noncritical patients, and/or the homeless:

“To help match and streamline the process, the [AHLA] is working to create a Hotels for Hope database at the federal level with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as at the local level with industry partner state associations. Local, state and federal government officials will be able to search willing properties based on geographic location.”

Very few are doing it for free, but many are doing it at very-discounted rates. Some are providing food or other support to medical communities. Examples include:

  • The Sophy Hyde Park Hotel in Chicago has opened its rooms at no charge to medical staff respondiong to the pandemic at nearby University of Chicago Medical Center.
  • Caesars Entertainment has donated more than 250,000 pounds of food to a variety of food banks and charities, along with gloves, masks, and hand sanitizers.
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air have provided hundreds of meals to first responders and medical personnel.
  • The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon has arranged with Multnomah County to serve as a homeless shelter.

Airlines Doing Good During the Pandemic

Airlines are also doing their part in fighting the pandemic. As befits their status as the generally top-rated U.S. airlines, Delta has offered free transportation to Georgia, Louisiana, and Michigan for medical professionals, and JetBlue has offered free transport for medical personnel and some stranded college students. JetBlue has also donated a million frequent-flyer points to the Red Cross for travel to support its vital work. United is offering free travel to health workers heading to New York. Airlines around the world have removed seats from regular passenger planes, providing added cargo capacity to ship medical supplies where they are needed.

Airlines around the world have also notably intensified their cleaning and disinfecting procedures to keep their fewer operating planes free of the virus. They’re also rightfully ensuring travelers maintain safe physical distances from each other: A few lines, including American, have stopped assigning middle or every-other seat to maintain social distancing.

And keep in mind that the travel industry is taking a big financial hit from the pandemic. Much of what individual suppliers are doing to minimize effect is as much public relations as it is a public benefit. But, in a difficult time, travel companies are clearly stepping up to help the effort. Kudos to them.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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Fashion & Beauty Travel Trends

9 Cozy Sweatpants You Won’t Be Ashamed to Wear in Public

Whether you’re crammed into an economy class seat or holed up at home for weeks at a time, sometimes fashion can go out the window in favor of comfort. Now you can have both with these cozy yet stylish sweatpants that you won’t be ashamed to wear in or out of the house, on a food re-supply run, or on a long flight.

Alternative Fleece Jogger Pants

You can’t get any cozier than fleece-lined sweatpants. Alternative’s Fleece Jogger Pants are made from an environmentally-friendly eco-fleece, and have pockets for warming your hands or carrying your phone. The tapered design makes these look more stylish than sloppy, and they are available in both a men’s version and a women’s version.

Adidas Essentials Superstar Track Pants

Adidas originals superstar track pants.

When it comes to sweatpants, there’s no look more classic than the three-striped design from Adidas. This sporty essential has an updated look in the Superstar Track Pants, available in styles for men and women. The tailored fit creates a slimming effect, and the matte finish adds style to these cozy sweatpants.

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Uxcell Women’s Plus-Size Jogger Pants

Uxcell’s Plus-Size Jogger pants come in a variety of colors and sizes (up to a 4X). They’re made from an ultra-soft fabric that won’t make you overheat. The design features two side pockets and an elastic drawstring for a custom fit.

Lululemon Align Jogger

Lululemon align jogger.

Made out of incredibly soft fabric, Lululemon’s Align Jogger sweatpants are even more comfortable than they are stylish. A mix between legging and jogger, these are definitely sweatpants you can wear in public. With a high-rise design and a waistband that won’t dig into your skin, you can look and feel great on your next trip.

American Giant Classic Sweatpants

The jogger silhouette is very on-trend right now, so you’ll fit right in wearing American Giant’s Classic Sweats to the airport or coffee shop. Made out of a super-soft 100 percent cotton French terry, these sweatpants are warm without being bulky. Pockets in the front and back can hold your keys, phone, and other essentials.

Brooklyn Athletic Men’s Twill Jogger Pants

Brooklyn athletic men’s twill jogger pants.

Available in multiple colors, Brooklyn Athletic’s Twill Jogger Pants offer men sweatpants that can look almost professional. The skinny cut and cuffed ankles add to the clean line of these sweatpants, without sacrificing on comfort. Plus, with two back pockets, these sweatpants have extra functionality.

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prAna’s Cozy Up Pant

prAna’s cozy up pant.

With odor-reducing features and SPF protection, prAna’s Cozy Up sweatpants offer so much more than comfort. Available in two neutral colors with interesting seam detailing, these sweatpants make a statement for that perfect athleisure look.

[st_related]10 Stylish Jeans So Comfortable You Can Sleep in Them[/st_related]

Lands’ End Mid-Rise Sweatpants

When comfort is key but you still want to look pulled together, enlist the help of sweats that could be mistaken for actual pants. Lands’ End Mid-Rise Sweatpants has a soft spandex blend and a slim fit with trouser styling. These sweatpants are perfect for long-haul flights and unexpected delays at the airport, and come in extended sizes, both on the XL end and the XS end.

[st_related]The 9 Best Travel Hoodies[/st_related]

Urban Outfitters Woven Jogger Pant

Urban outfitters woven jogger pant.

For a pair of fashion-forward sweatpants that won’t break the bank, Urban Outfitters’ Woven Jogger Pants are a great option. These stretchy and high-waisted sweatpants are a fashionable twist on classic sweatpants. They’ll look great on the plane without sacrificing comfort.

Looking for Our Favorite Footwear for the Season? Check Out Allbirds

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Jamie Ditaranto and Caroline Morse Teel contributed to this story.

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REAL ID Documents Can Be Submitted Online

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has pushed its REAL ID deadline back once again, this time to October 1, 2021, due to complications created by the coronavirus pandemic. This may seem like a long way off, as most people procrastinate going to the DMV for as long as possible, but the months can fly by quickly. And if put off, you might not be able to fly domestically with your ID.

But if you still don’t have REAL ID-compliant form of identification (more on that in a moment), good news: DHS will now allow you to submit your documentation electronically beforehand. Your state’s DMV website should have more information when you go online to complete the process.

This should save time when you visit the DMV (or AAA office) to complete your application. That’s good news, since Chad Wolf, the acting DHS secretary, has said two-thirds of Americans still don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license.

“Ensuring every state is REAL ID compliant by October is one of the department’s top priorities,” Wolf said. “While progress has been made, the real work is still ahead.” 

If you do submit electronically, you’ll still need to bring hard copies of your documents with you, but submitting them online will save time at the DMV and mitigate the risk of showing up with invalid or incorrect documents and having to start over. I saw this happen to someone when I got my own REAL ID at the RMV, and rest assured, the only thing worse than spending time at the DMV is having to go home and do it over.

What Is REAL ID, Again?

The REAL ID Act of 2005 essentially established nationwide standards for the issuance of identification. Why? Because up until now, Americans have carried a hodgepodge of IDs, mostly issued by states, each their own differing standards. Each state sets its own criteria for acquiring an ID as well as its own rules for what information is included on the ID itself.

Post-9/11, the government decided this was less than ideal, passed a law fixing the situation, and gave states what turned out to be about 15 years to comply. (The original, actual deadline was in 2016, but non-compliant states received extensions.) And so, here we are.

The primary implication of the law concerns travel. Starting October 1, 2021, all domestic travelers must bring a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other form of identification when they fly. This includes passports, but few people use their passport when traveling domestically, so the government has been working to raise awareness of the change and the deadline.

Readers, are you ready for the REAL ID reality?

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12 Popular Podcasts to Discover Right Now

Podcasts are perfect entertainment. Pop in your earbuds and you can keep up with the latest headlines, learn something new, or have a laugh. Here are 12 of the best podcasts to binge on next time you find yourself with some down time.

Armchair Expert

Armchair Expert

Join celebrity actor/comedian Dax Shepard as he interviews famous actors, actresses, comedians, and more public figures from, you guessed it, his armchair. Armchair Expert is nearing its 200th episode (at the time of writing) and has featured guests from Ashton Kutcher to Monica Lewinsky.

The Daily

The Daily

The New York Timesmost popular podcast makes it easy to stay up to date on U.S. politics on the fly. Journalist Michael Barbaro interviews a different Times reporter every podcast to talk about the latest news in 20 minutes or less. From updates on the White House to environmental disasters, The Daily provides expert news analysis and tells you everything you need to know. 

The World Wanderers

The World Wanderers

This travel podcast features two young adventurers who share their advice for making the most of a trip. If you’re looking for more destinations to add to your bucket list, this is the perfect podcast for you. Each episode highlights a new location (think Iceland and Guadalajara) or discusses how travel can lead to a happier life. 

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness

Queer Eye fans, take heart. Jonathan Van Ness brings his curiosity and delightful sense of humor to this informative podcast. Van Ness explores a new topic in each episode, from female entrepreneurship with Reese Witherspoon to what white people need to know about racism with Andrew Ti. Listen carefully and you’ll also hear Van Ness’ hilarious attempts to speak in British and Australian accents.

Science Vs

Science Vs

Are vitamins effective? Is veganism good for the environment? Science experts answer all these questions and more with witty commentary and interesting stories. This podcast makes science easy and fun to learn on the road. You might even find that the conversations about vaccines and the Zika virus are helpful during your travels.

Skimm’d from the Couch

Skimm’d from the Couch

The two co-founders of theSkimm, a popular daily newsletter for young people, discuss female leadership and entrepreneurship. From interviewing Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, to Arianna Huffington and the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie, theSkimm’s founders will make you want to start a business as soon as you get home from your trip.

Death, Sex & Money

Death, Sex & Money

There are some conversations that are rarely discussed in public, and those are the focus of the podcast Death, Sex & Money. Host Anna Sale talks to journalists, a Supreme Court justice, and actors about tough topics like fertility and heroin addiction. This award-winning podcast will make you think deeply during and after your travels.

Invisibilia

Invisibilia

Invisibilia will leave you contemplating the meaning of life, relationships, and more. This NPR podcast explores the unseen forces that control human behavior. From how we create emotions to the societal expectation to pursue money and happiness, this podcast will change how you see the world.

The Habitat

The Habitat

Imagine giving up everything you own for one year to live in a tent on a remote Hawaiian mountain. That’s what six strangers did when they pretended to live on Mars for a NASA experiment. Discover the difficulties, triumphs, and evolving and devolving relationships of these strangers isolated on a fake planet. After you finish the episodes, check out the other addictive podcasts from Gimlet, the company behind this series.

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Serial

Serial

With three seasons available to binge, this riveting series is the podcast that started it all. As one of the first podcasts of the modern podcast era to earn critical success, Serial talks you through unsolved murders, the story of Bowe Bergdahl, and more. Host Sarah Koenig engagingly narrates tales of deception and desertion. Give it a listen and see why millions of fans tune into this hit podcast.

Wild Ideas Worth Living

Wild Ideas Worth Living

The podcast brought to you from outdoor retailer REI Co-op takes a deep and thoughtful look at what it means to be outdoors and travel. Most episodes are interviews that tell a unique story about the outdoors, whether it be singer Mike Posner’s trek to walk across the U.S. or a man who trains a donkey to be his running partner.

Women Who Travel

Women Who Travel

What started as a Facebook group for female travelers to connect and share stories has become Conde Nast Traveler’s wildly popular podcast. Women Who Travel tells the stories of female entrepreneurs, travelers, and pioneers in the industry. Episodes are released weekly by staff editors.

How to Listen

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018 and has been updated with the latest information. Ashley Rossi contributed to this story.

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Healthcare Abroad: How to Find an English-Speaking Doctor or Clinic

Sweaty, squinting, and red-eyed, I exited the cool waiting room’s automatic sliding glass doors. I got in the DiDi rideshare car outside the international clinic, preemptively thanked the driver, and opened my heavy paper bag of new medications: antibiotic eye drops to use every five hours, saline solution to use every six, antibiotic tablets and painkillers to take every 12, and cough medicine for whenever I felt like I couldn’t breathe. A receipt listed the out-of-pocket prices of my bloodwork appointment plus the medicines: $3,000—which I luckily didn’t have to pay thanks to the travel insurance that covered my unexpected need for healthcare abroad.

Pulling away from the small storefront of the Nanjing international clinic, we idled in traffic about a block away. I stared up at a behemoth building, a black glass skyscraper marked by red neon Chinese symbols that flashed and changed on its glass every several seconds. The parking lot was jam-packed with both cars and people.

“What’s this building?” I asked my local guide, who was accompanying me in the back seat. “A movie theater?”

She looked at me and smiled slightly: “That’s the hospital.” I felt my swollen eyes widen, and redirected them to my bag of medicinal loot.

I don’t recommend getting sick in China (as I did in mid-2019). But if you’re going to come down with bronchitis and a bacterial infection on vacation, somewhere with ample tea and warm hospitality is not a bad place for you to be. I unequivocally do recommend, however, having travel medical insurance—preferably from a company with a user-friendly app you can pre-download on your phone. It’ll afford you the luxury of entering and exiting a clinic to see an English-speaking doctor abroad in a fraction of the time that a 3,000-bed hospital would ever be able to see you.

How to Find the Right Healthcare Abroad

Because I have a medication allergy, I felt it was crucial I saw an English-speaking doctor so I could be confident in the prescription I received. While navigating the many international clinics in the college city of Nanjing, I learned a lot about how to responsibly find covered healthcare abroad. Here’s how to purchase and navigate medical travel insurance, find a good doctor or clinic, and ensure you won’t be stuck with the bill.

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Plan Ahead

Researching your insurance options and purchasing medical travel insurance coverage for your specific needs is the first step to being able to find healthcare abroad, and there are a number of things to consider. If you’re going to be participating in adventure activities like kayaking, scuba diving, or hiking, make sure you purchase a policy that doesn’t exclude “dangerous activities.” Travel insurance policies with good medical coverage will also include worst-case scenario expenses up to and including emergency medical flights home and repatriation of a body, which would otherwise cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

You’ll also want to know the general state of medical services in your destination so you can make an informed decision in an emergency. For example, I knew public hospitals in China often have hours-long wait times, so instead I pounced on an available appointment at a private international clinic that my insurance covered.

If you aren’t familiar with the country you’re visiting, the U.S. State Department’s Consular Information Sheets are a good place to start to see what type of medical services will be available to you once you’re there. Select your country and look for the “Health” section. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has destination-specific health information, and the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT) provides free destination-specific health information as well.

Know Your Medications

Knowing the generic/medical names of common medications can be helpful when you’re talking to a doctor about your prescriptions or hunting for over-the-counter remedies in a foreign country. Many doctors abroad speak English, but they might not know what the brand-name medication you take contains since it’s not available to their patients. Keep in mind the following generic medication names in case you need to purchase them from a pharmacy:

  • Advil/Motrin= ibuprofen
  • Aleve= naproxen
  • Tylenol/Excedrin= acetaminophen
  • Bayer, others= aspirin
  • Benadryl= diphenhydramine
  • Dramamine= dimenhydrinate
  • Bonine= meclizine
  • Pepto-Bismol= bismuth subsalicylate
  • Robitussin= dextromethorphan
  • Antacids= calcium carbonate, aluminum hydroxide, or magnesium hydroxide
  • Imodium= loperamide

Choose a High-Tech (and 24-Hour) Medical Insurance Provider

Keep your standards high when it comes to purchasing travel medical insurance—you are paying for it, after all. Straightforward insurance that gets you healthcare abroad doesn’t need to be pricey to come with a high-tech app and 24/7 support: It’s easy to weigh options and seek out one that has both thanks to search-and-compare options like SquareMouth and InsureMyTrip.com. (Also note that, like most private insurance companies in the U.S., Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover healthcare abroad.)

The specific insurance provider you choose will probably depend on your preferences and possibly your home location, but there should be options available that have high-tech features like an app no matter where you are. My coverage for healthcare abroad was with GeoBlue, which offers an app with covered doctor listings by country and fast 24/7 phone support. If you have a credit card that offers travel insurance, read the fine print to make sure it offers the medical support you could need; if it doesn’t, buy your own separately.

[st_related]How to Buy International Medical Insurance, the Other Travel Insurance[/st_related]

Locating the Right Doctor Abroad

The CDC lists some resources that can help you locate a doctor abroad, and states that the nearest embassy or consulate in your destination should also have doctor recommendations. But the only way to see a list of providers in your destination that are covered by your insurance is typically via the medical insurance company’s app or customer service line—which should offer 24/7 contact, in case you’re visiting somewhere with a tricky time difference. International travel clinics are usually named as such, and when in doubt you can call the office to confirm; those with bilingual doctors typically have an automated recording that will prompt you to select a language.

Payment Approval and Proof of Insurance

Approval of funds from your insurance company can be referred to as “direct payment approval” or “direct deposit approval,” and you might need this authorization sent before you even set foot in a doctor’s office. It guarantees that the insurance company will pay the provider directly so you don’t have to. Whether or not you’ll need one varies depending on the destination and type of doctor/clinic you’re visiting, but it was necessary for me in China—so I was happy to have an insurance provider that was readily available to confirm coverage to the clinic I was visiting, especially because it was 2:00 a.m. at home at the time of my appointment.

You’ll probably also need proof of insurance. Keep your insurance card, or at least a digital copy of it, handy in case you need to provide a policy number or contact info to the office you’re visiting. Many clinics require both proof of insurance and an accompanying payment approval before letting you see a doctor. And if direct payment isn’t required or doesn’t occur via your insurance provider for the healthcare you received abroad, you’ll likely need to file a claim with your insurance company as soon as you can—don’t wait too long to file one and risk finding out you’ll be billed.

Know It’s Worth It

Travel insurance can feel like a waste of money if you don’t end up using it, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need it in the future. The slight chance that you might need emergency or even routine healthcare abroad makes travel medical insurance a necessity for every international trip. No one can anticipate if and when they’ll have a medical emergency, and not having coverage when you need it can be the difference between going on vacation and letting a doctor’s visit put you into debt.

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Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in July 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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The 8 Best Amazon Top Sellers Under $11 (Plus, the Most-Wished-for Item)

Travel inspiration comes in many forms , including the ever-updating list of Amazon top sellers. From stay-at-home games to travel-friendly wallets, these gifts under $11 offer plenty of inspiration and fun at an affordable price. Here are some of our favorite top-selling Amazon items for 2020.

Amazon Top Seller in Calendars

An Amazon best seller in calendars, the 2020 National Geographic Parks & Monuments Wall Calendar is a page-turning source for travel inspo month after month. Continue your journey, each month visiting a new United States national park or monument.

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Amazon Best Seller in Toys and Games

jenga-game

Among the best-selling products on Amazon’s toys and games list is the perennial favorite block-stacking (and toppling) game, Jenga. Unplug and gather the fam around this wholesome classic.

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Amazon Best Seller in Cell Phones and Accessories

screen-protector

Keeping your phone’s screen scratch-free is so simple it’s silly not to protect it. Yeah, it’s a sound investment to stick an $7 screen protector on your $1,200 phone, and as the second most popular item on Amazon’s cell phones and accessories list, it’s a tried, true, and affordable option.

Amazon Top Seller in Clothing, Shoes, and Jewelry

hanes-sweatshirt

Scandinavians have a saying: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Perfect for layering—one secret to surviving icy winters—is the Hanes Men’s Ecosmart Fleece Sweatshirt. This best-selling item on Amazon’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry list comes in 28 colors and up to 5XL in size.

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Amazon Best Seller in Accessories

rfid-wallet

Minimize the bulk—and the chance of falling victim to identity theft—with the help of this slimmed-down RFID-blocking wallet. Another item on Amazon’s clothing, shoes, and jewelry list, it comes in dozens of colors and styles.

Amazon Best Seller in Books

An Amazon best seller in books, Where the Crawdads Sing is a New York Times-best-selling title that’s also under-$10 right now. The book has frequented the best-seller charts since it debuted in 2018.

“A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature….Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Amazon Top Seller in Video Games

PS-gift-card

The top-selling Amazon gift in the video games department is the $10 PlayStation gift card. Your recipient knows the game they want, so why not make it easy on everyone with a gift card?

Amazon Best Seller in Pet Supplies

squeaky-pet-toys

You may regret the purchase when the incessant squeaking starts, but one of the former best-selling items Amazon for pets is this squeaky plush toy. At $9 and without stuffing, it’s at least affordable and mess-free.

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Plus, the Amazon Most-Wished-for Item

Not under $11: The most-wished-for item in Amazon’s home and kitchen category is currently the Pure Enrichment MistAire Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier, which moisturizes the air for as long as 16 hours so you can sleep rested and wake up feeling refreshed rather than with a dry, scratchy throat this allergy season.

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Senior Editor Patricia Magaña Figueroa writes about travel. Follow her @PatiTravels.

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Airport In-Flight Experience Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends

10 Best Inflatable Travel Pillows

The best inflatable travel pillows allow you to fall asleep even in a packed economy section. If you’ve tried basic U-shaped inflatable travel pillows with no success, you’ll want to read about these revolutionary options that actually prevent the dreaded head-bob.

Inflatable Travel Pillows to Get the Best in-Flight Sleep

These pillows all have unique features that address the most challenging upright-sleeping problems.

Eagle Creek Exhale Neck Pillow

It’s amazing that a tiny little buckle can make such a big difference in comfort—Eagle Creek’s Exhale Neck Pillow takes the standard U-shape neck pillow and adds a small clip in the front that draws the two front ends together, thus eliminating that awkward empty spot that allows your head to fall forward and wake you up. It’s pretty genius.

Travelrest Pillow

If you’re a side sleeper, the Travelrest is the best inflatable travel pillow for you. This unique design looks like a cushioned seatbelt—it can be attached to the side of your airplane seatrest, headrest of a car, or just worn across your body. Even though the pillow is large, it inflates quickly and deflates into a small package that’s easy to pack.

Xflyee Inflatable Travel Pillow

Xflyee’s Inflatable Travel Pillow is designed to provide neck support and is easy to store when not in use. The pillow is also slip resistant, so you don’t have to worry about your head sliding around in the event of turbulence.

Travelon Self-Inflating Travel Pillow

Don’t love blowing up your inflatable pillow on a crowded plane? Travelon’s self-inflating travel pillow fills with air with just a quick twist of the side vent. Its bow-tie shape makes it one of the best inflatable travel pillows if you’re looking for back/lumbar support.

HOMCA Travel Pillow

If you just want to put your head down and go to sleep, the HOMCA Travel Pillow actually allows you to do that (assuming the person in front of you hasn’t reclined all the way back). It inflates to a height of 21 inches, so you can rest your head face-down. There’s a face cradle in the top (like a massage table) that allows you to breathe, and arm holes in the side, so you can hug the pillow to keep it in place.

AirComfy Inflatable Travel Pillow

This insanely comfortable pillow from AirComfy has a removable micro-velvet case for easy washing and comes with a handy carrying case for easy packing. This product also features a built-in air pump, so you can inflate it without having to blow into a tube.

Maliton Inflatable Foot Rest Pillow

So far we’ve covered the best inflatable neck pillows, but we’d be remiss not to mention this inflatable foot rest from Maliton. This pillow’s height can be adjusted to fit any body type and is designed to align with the dimensions of an airplane seat.

Hoodie Pillow

The Hoodie Pillow feels like sleeping in your favorite sweatshirt—if your favorite sweatshirt offered an eyeshade and neck support. A cozy hood with adjustable drawstrings can be pulled over your eyes to block out light and keep your head warm (and also separate you from a less-than-clean plane or train seat), while the attached inflatable pillow supports your head.

Inflatable Camping Pillow

Looking for the best inflatable travel pillows for camping? This one from Trekology is ultra-lightweight (just 3.1 ounces) and folds up to be smaller than a soda can, so you will barely notice it in your pack. It inflates quickly to be a full-size pillow, and is ergonomically designed to cradle your head while you sleep.

Klymit Pillow X

Upgrade your airplane seat with the Klymit Pillow X, which makes for a much more comfortable seat cushion. The Klymit’s x-pattern also makes it a great camping pillow, as it centers your head and will prevent neck pain.

Check out more inflatable travel pillows on Amazon. For other pillow options, see The Best Travel Neck Pillows from Tripadvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent company.

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Caroline Morse Teel can’t sleep on a plane without one of these inflatable travel pillows. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.