Let’s face it, travel is disruptive, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Whether it’s an interruption in sleep schedule, exercise program or family time, there’s a gadget, app or destination that tackles the issue head on. That’s something to keep in mind if a frequent traveler is on your holiday shopping list.
Sound Oasis sleep mask
Forget the raccoon-disguise that mashes your eyelashes against your lids and slides sideways in any position other than lying flat. Sound Oasis, makes a variety of sleep masks that do more than help you sleep in uncomfortable settings like planes and buses. Their products are billed as sleep therapy.
I tried the very basic Glo to Sleep (GTS 1000) on a 7-hour, overnight flight. The adjustable Velcro head strap was easy to use and the padding where the mask meets the face is soft, effectively and comfortably blocking out light. Glo to Sleep has four blue bars in each eye cavity that light up. Looking at these focal points is actually soporific. I found the mask lived up to its billing at the reasonable price of $29.99. The illumy deluxe model includes lights that mimic sunset and sunrise, a time-zone adjustor and visual alarm clock and costs a lot more at $149.
Aaptiv exercise app
Travelers often leave their exercise routines at home which is a mistake because regular exercise actually increases energy levels. The audio workout app, Aaptiv is a personal trainer that can be carried along in even the smallest bag.
Aaptiv provides audio workout guidance for a wide variety of activities including “running, elliptical, race training, strength training, and indoor cycling.” When the app’s publicity manager told me that this subscription service was a big seller with airline workers at $9.99 a month or $99.99 a year, I asked Les Abend, an airline captain, author (check out his new book, Paper Wings) and CNN talking head and international flight attendant Judith Landgren to test drive the product and report back.
Both found the workouts sufficiently challenging to work up a sweat for any level of fitness and Judith appreciated always knowing what was coming next. “The treadmill run was easy to follow. The trainer tells you when to increase and decrease the speed with enough time to do it. While you are running he advises on how to breathe and how to step properly,” she said. “They always explain at the beginning of every program what the class is about, how long it is going to last and how fast you are going to do it.”
Since the program is audio only, Judith and Les missed not being able to see the trainer’s demonstrations. “I’m an old dog,” Les told me. “Learning new tricks requires me to at least see a demonstration of an exercise.” He also thought the playlists and the instructors’ motivational talk was designed for much younger demographic.
On the upside, both found the workouts suitably varied and motivating. Because her airline flies to some remote locations, Judith appreciated being able to download sessions, so she was not reliant on a wifi connection to access the app. She truly could take her workout anywhere.
Little River Inn family getaway package
The most delightful gift for travelers may be the one that the giver can share, the gift of travel. A number of hotels offer activity packages year-round, inspired by the season. These are stress-free presents because the resort provides the activities, all the guests have to do is show up.
I tried the Family Adventure Package at Little River Inn in Mendocino, California this summer, for a two-day get-together with my daughter Marian and her new baby. Who had energy to plan? At the Little River Inn, we didn’t need to.
The $1,500 family of four package includes two nights in an ocean view room, breakfast, and tickets to three adventures; a sea kayak tour, dairy farm tour and an hour-long ride on the Skunk Train. For a new mom and 4-month old, that was two too many activities, but hey, no one was forcing us to do anything.
The charming wedding cake-style Victorian inn overlooks the Pacific Ocean and from the porch outside Marian’s room we could just sit and enjoy the spectacular view and watch armies of hummingbirds zooming from flower to flower. If baby June got fussy we just ducked inside.
The adventure we did not want to miss was the morning ride on the Skunk Train, a restored logging train that runs between Ft. Bragg and Willits. As the steam-powered locomotive chugged along, we gaped at the 600-year old redwoods on either side of the track, before heading back to the inn’s rocking chairs and the garden view restaurant where the food was great and the service hospitable.
Most of all, we just enjoyed each other’s company which is why travel is the very best gift of all.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.