Product Reviews

Product Reviews

How I’m traveling from home with this coffee subscription

Give Atlas Coffee Club a try with 50% off and enjoy a coffee world tour from your kitchen. Click here to redeem or use code BudgetTravel50. Back in the “before COVID” times when travel was more commonplace, one of my favorite things to do when I explored a new location was to experience their unique take on coffee. Like many travelers, I’ve been staying put, but I'm still able to connect to new places and experience new coffees, thanks to our partner Atlas Coffee Club, a 'round the world coffee subscription. Coffee’s first journey around the world Legend has it that the first person to think “hmmm, maybe I’ll make juice out of these beans” was a shepherd in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia in the 10th century. He noticed that his goats became excited and energetic after eating berries. As the word about the magical beans that provide energy spread around the world, methods of growing and cultivating coffee beans spread with it. Starting in Africa and the Middle East, it spread to Europe, where it began to replace the common tradition of drinking beer and wine at breakfast. From there, it made its way to the America’s, where it became a cash crop and one of the highest sought commodities in the world. ©Juanmonino/Getty Images Differences worth discovering Each different culture around the world has its own unique way of growing, cultivating, brewing, and enjoying coffee. In Cuba, it is a tradition to drink a bit of coffee after each meal. The coffee is ground very finely and poured with a bit of sweetness in a small cup (about the size of a shot glass). In Costa Rica, I had the best tasting coffee of my life, ordered right off a coffee cart in the streets of San Jose. In Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee, there are whole traditions and ceremonies around the serving of coffee. It is over after the host has served each guest 3 cups of sweetened coffee. Italy is so renowned for the ways it prepares coffee that its names have become commonplace around the world, such as ‘latte’ and ‘macchiato.’ We all miss travel - but now I’m able to travel through my morning coffee In the “after COVID” times, I really miss getting to experience different types of coffee. That’s why I’m so glad I found Atlas Coffee Club, a coffee subscription that sends a bag of sustainably-sourced, high quality coffee from a new country each month. Photo by: Atlas Coffee Club This month, Atlas Coffee Club sent me a delightful roast from Guatemala. I spent a lovely Sunday morning enjoying a cup of lovely coffee and reading about how coffee is grown in Guatemala: where it is some of the highest quality, sustainably grown coffee from anywhere in the world. I’m really looking forward to trying next month’s coffee, especially since coffee from each country can taste so unique and different - I’ve been craving that taste of place. For less than $20 a month, you can subscribe yourself or buy a gift for a friend, and give them the taste of coffee from all around the world. With over 50 countries that produce coffee, there’s a world of coffee to discover that you probably can’t find on the shelves, and Atlas makes it easy - just tell them how you’d like your coffee roasted and you’ll go on a coffee journey from Papua New Guinea to Peru, Burundi to Brazil. It sure doesn't replace the experience of drinking coffee on a grand travel adventure, but it does turn your morning coffee into so much more. So if, like me, you’re wishing you weren’t stuck at home - give Atlas Coffee Club a try and enjoy a coffee world tour from your kitchen. This editorial was written in partnership with Atlas Coffee Club.

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Product Reviews

The Carry-On of Your Dreams Is Here

Say goodbye to the suitcase as you know it. Anyone who’s struggled to maneuver a carry-on down a narrow airplane aisle knows that boarding can be tricky, but one luggage company is aiming to simplify the process. G-RO has produced every item in its collection via crowdfunding, with celebrities like Will Smith, Mark Ronson, and Scooter Braun lending their support, and its latest is no exception. The brand’s third Kickstarter campaign launched this week for the SIX: a stroller-style rollaboard with big wheels and a diagonal handle that lets you push the bag instead of pulling it behind you. SIX May Be the "End of Luggage" “We call it the end of luggage, because you’re no longer lugging,” says Netta Dor Shalgi, founder and lead designer at G-RO. “The entire industry of rolling equipment has moved to the push configuration: children’s strollers, golf carts, mail carriers, shopping carts…. Professional travelers are rolling luggage more often than any of these other types of equipment, and it is an anomaly in the industry that luggage hasn’t advanced to this stage already.” Indeed, it’s an idea so intuitive you wonder why no one thought of it sooner. It took G-RO’s small research and development team 24 months to conceive the SIX, from brainstorming to design to production—and they were keeping it simple. “We made a calculated decision to do one thing that contradicts what most other companies are trying to do: less,” says Netta. Aiming to avoid overweight baggage fees and maximize packing space, they created a carry-on with low ground clearance and a streamlined, spacious interior, not to mention those eye-catching split push handles. “The extraction of the handle is no longer activated by a push button, but by twisting the grip in a way that each side can work independently [without] a main lever that attaches both sides together all the time,” he says. Why Crowdfunding Helps Produce a Better Carry-On Given the brand’s unique designs, it’s doubtful it would have trouble attracting traditional backers, but according to Netta, the crowdfunding approach is a feature, not a bug. “Kickstarter is the best platform to produce our product, test the market, and get feedback from early adopters and future enthusiasts,” he says. “Luggage behavior is very difficult to imitate in prototypes, which is why our process is directed toward creating the real product as soon as possible to use and test in real life. Then, we make tweaks and changes to the molds based on our findings from real-life testing.” The SIX won’t ship until December, but so far, the preliminary word is promising and the audience is eager. Within just a few hours of the campaign’s launch, it hit its funding target of US$125,0000—and then some. “People want to take it for a spin, and when they do, they wonder why push luggage hasn’t been made before. Everyone wants to know how they can get the product sooner,” says Netta. “We are teaching the world patience.”

Product Reviews

9 Gifts for Dads Who Love to Travel

Shopping for the father who's been around the world can be tough, but whether they're clinging to a beat-up gym bag or rocking the latest titanium luggage, we've got the gear to take their travel game to the next level—no terrible ties or World's Greatest Dad mugs involved. These are our favorite Father's Day gifts for dads who love to travel. 1. For the Fashion Phobe (Courtesy Unbound Merino) Wool may seem like a strange choice going into summer, but hear us out: As a moisture-wicking, quick-drying, breathable fabric that doesn't wrinkle or retain odors, it fits the bill any time of year. A basic black tee is a building block of any wardrobe, and Unbound Merino's version can go days without needing to be washed, even when hitting the trails and working up a sweat. Between the flattering fit and the classic style, it's a great option for travel – especially if he subscribes to the 'pack one outfit and re-wear ad infinitum' school of thought. Merino wool crewneck t-shirt, $65; unboundmerino.com. 2. For the Fire Starter (Courtesy BioLite) If your dad struggles lighting the grill but refuses to let anyone else handle the matches, BioLite's FirePit could be the answer. With 51 air jets providing the oxygen needed to get things going, he can adjust the size of the flames either manually or via Bluetooth, thanks to a USB-powered fan that's good for 24 hours after a single charge. The portable pit's mesh body allows for maximum airflow, and it comes with a grill grate, so you can cook hibachi-style on a whim. Best of all, the fan system eliminates the smoke from the equation, so he'll get all of the heat with none of the eye-stinging, clothes-infusing effects of a traditional fire. FirePit, $200; biolite.com. 3. For the Music Snob (Courtesy Marshall Headphones) For the audiophile who won't leave home without his tunes, Marshall's new Stockwell II speaker takes the show on the road – and it doesn't compromise on quality. The brand known for its rockstar-approved amps brings the same attention to detail to the smallest member of its on-the-go line, from the easy-pairing Bluetooth to the adjustable knobs for treble and bass to the guitar strap-inspired handle. At a hefty three pounds, it's not necessarily the thing to throw in your carry-on, but with more than 20 hours of play time at a range of 30 feet, plus a water-resistant exterior, a built-in power bank, and a quick-charge feature that buys you an extra six hours of entertainment, it's great for road trips, pool parties, picnics and more. Marshall Stockwell II speaker, $250; marshallheadphones.com. 4. For the Swim Fan (Courtesy Rheos Gear) What dad wants to waste a day on the water combing its depths for missing eyewear? With styles for adults, kids, and babies too, the floating sunglasses from Rheos Gear eliminate the issue for the whole family. Boasting lightweight frames and polarized, UV-protected lenses – not to mention a lifetime warranty – these shades pop back up to the surface as soon as they're submerged, and they come in a variety of styles and colors, one of which is bound to suit his taste. Floating sunglasses, $50; rheosgear.com. 5. For the Overpacker (Courtesy Topo Designs) We’ve professed our love for the Dopp kit from Topo Designs before, but its unique triangular shape really does make a difference. It’ll do the trick whether you’re shopping for the dad who likes to Jenga his pack or the one who stuffs his suitcase and forgets to leave room for a bulky toiletries case: He can flip it over and wedge it between two rows of clothes, and when he gets to the hotel, it’s narrow enough that it’ll sit upright on skinny bathroom sinks or shelves. Even with a small footprint, though, its interior is deceptively spacious, so the bright lining means nothing gets lost in the depths. Dopp kit, $34; topodesigns.com. 6. For the Caffeine Addict (Courtesy Soma) Anyone who takes their coffee setup seriously won't want to compromise when they're out of town, and Soma's brew bottle lets them make a single-serving pour-over in the same vessel used to drink it. It works equally well for hot and cold brews; for hot, dad'll just need to run a few cups of water through the hotel coffeemaker, pour it over the grinds, and go, while the cold method is a good option for camping or other low-power situations. All he has to do is set it up the night before and keep it chilled until it's ready, then empty out the grinds and hit the road. (And if he prefers to get his fix from a more mild source, the bottle works with tea as well.) Brew Bottle, $40; drinksoma.com. 7. For the Outdoorsman (David Scrifes) For the dad who's stuck in the office but dreaming of outdoor excursions, these National Parks–themed antiqued-brass lapel pins say it all. They come courtesy of National Dry Goods, a company co-founded by a Lonely Planet alum, with designs running the gamut from Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir to Yellowstone and the Rockies. We like four-piece set, which includes the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, and Yellowstone, but in case the dad in your life prefers, say, Acadia over the Grand Canyon, the pins are sold individually as well. 4-Piece Parks Series gift set, $40; natdrygoods.com. 8. For the Gadget Guru (Courtesy Jackery) The odds of his phone making it through a full day of sightseeing without a boost are slim to none, so a portable charger is a must. With plugs for iPhones and micro USB-powered toys like Bluetooth headphones and speakers, Jackery's Bolt 6000 has enough juice to top him up multiple times throughout the day, and it charges devices quickly, so he won't be plugged in for long. Even better? The whole thing is self-contained, which means no extra cords to get in the way. It's one of the few accessories we take with us everywhere we go. Jackery Bolt 6000 portable charger, $30; amazon.com. 9. For the Impromptu Adventurer (Courtesy L.L. Bean) Everyone needs a bag they can pack in a hurry when a cheap last-minute deal beckons, and L.L. Bean’s signature duffle helps answer the call. Made from the same tough cotton canvas as the company’s near-indestructible beach totes, this no-frills weekender has an understated nautical feel that never goes out of fashion. A roomy compartment holds the essentials for a few days away, with two pockets, one inside and one out, to corral the important stuff; add sturdy, rolled handles and a removable shoulder strap for ease of carry, and he’ll be airport-bound in no time. Signature Made in Maine duffle, $149; llbean.com.

Product Reviews

Sunscreen 2019: Find the Best, Safest Products for Coral Reefs (and for Your Skin!)

More than 14,000 tons of sunscreens wash off swimmers, paddlers, snorkelers, surfers and other watermen and waterwomen into the oceans each year. If you care about coral reefs, read your sunscreen’s ingredients label to ensure you’re not poisoning yourself and the environment in the quest to avoid sunburn. Does Your Sunscreen Kill Coral? Most of us have been educated from an early age on the dangers of sun exposure, and we cover any exposed skin with a thick layer of sunscreen before we venture out. What most of us don’t know is that when we dive in the water, the chemicals found in most sunscreens kill coral, cause deformities in fish and bioaccumulate in the environment, eventually ending up in the human food chain. Choose Reef-Friendly Sunscreen Ingredients Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between sunburn and healthy coral reefs. There are alternatives to coral-killing sun block if you’re willing to read a label or two. Avoid Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, Parabens, Triclosan, and any nanoparticles or 'nano-sized' zinc or titanium. The only truly reef-friendly active ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide and non-nano titanium dioxide. Read the Label, Not the Hype Sadly, you can't rely exclusively on manufacturer claims. Picking a sunscreen that says 'reef-safe' or 'reef-friendly' on the package isn’t good enough, as those terms aren’t regulated, according to the Surfrider Foundation. Only reading the label closely will point you in the right direction. Reef-Safe Sunscreen Is Also Good for Your Health Picking a reef safe sunscreen is not just good for reefs – and in some cases required by law – but it’s better for your health too. Caroline Duell, Founder and CEO of sunscreen manufacturer All Good, says, 'All chemical UV absorbers are damaging to the DNA and endocrine systems of coral. Coral are animals. Humans are animals, and studies are now linking damage seen in coral to human systems as well. Even if you’re worried about your kids’ health more than the environment, reef safe sunscreen is a must.' Learn more about sunscreen, take the River to Reef Friendly SunScreen Pledge and then try these top-rated, reef-friendly sun protectants.

FamilyProduct Reviews

What’s the Perfect Father’s Day Gift for a Travel-Loving Dad?

What’s the best Father’s Day gift for a dad who loves to travel? Well, my credentials for weighing in on this question are at least baseline: I happen to be a father and a travel editor. First of all, “travel” for Father’s Day doesn’t have to mean covering a great distance. I’m here to tell you from personal experience (which in this case happens to be supported by clinical research) that neither a fancy meal nor carefully (or not) chosen “stuff” can compare to taking an easy day trip or one-tank escape to a place your dad loves—or a place he’s never been before. Experiences Are Better Than Stuff You’ve read the studies (or, at the very least, you’ve read the summaries of studies in listicle form on social media): Meaningful experiences make people happier than obtaining possessions. A major study at Cornell University was even more specific: “Doing makes you happier than owning.” My Most Memorable Father’s Day In support of “doing” rather than “owning,” please take a look at the photo above, which illustrates my most memorable Father’s Day. The picture of a medieval garden might suggest that my family sprung for a flight to Spain. Nope. All we had to do was take the half-hour drive from our home in the Hudson Valley to one of my favorite museums, the Cloisters, in upper Manhattan. Full disclosure: My wife and two daughters don’t exactly love the Cloisters. Medieval art is an acquired taste, and to date only I, among the four of us, has acquired it. But you don’t have to love ogling paintings and sculptures of angels, martyrs, and the Holy Family to enjoy the Cloisters. We had a lovely few hours strolling the gardens in full mid-June bloom, grabbing a bite to eat at the cafe, and taking in the epic views of the Hudson River from the museum's terraces. Talk to Us: What’s Your Dad’s Favorite Day Trip? Have you got a special day trip in mind for your dad this Father’s Day? Post a comment below. If you’ve got a photo, even better: Post is to Instagram and tag it #mybudgettravel.

Travel TipsProduct Reviews

Essential Weekend Getaway Gear

There’s an art to packing for a short trip—there are the essentials, and then there are the non-essentials that bring an element of comfort and joy to the journey. For those travelers who rarely let a weekend pass without hitting the open road or taking to the skies, we found five things to help make the most of those quick two-day jaunts, from packing to transit to maximizing your time on the ground. The Bag (Courtesy Lo & Sons) First things first: Start with the proper equipment. This classic-looking cotton-canvas weekender is roomy enough to hold the necessities for a short trip and has multiple pockets to keep things organized, but its best features may very well be its modern touches: a sleeve that lets it slip over a suitcase handle for easy transport and a zippered compartment that keeps at least two pairs of shoes separate from the rest of your clothes. And the whole thing weighs less than 2 pounds, so it’s easy to sling it over your shoulder and go—even if it's packed to the brim. Catalina Deluxe Small in Teal Blue, $128, loandsons.com. The Multitasker (Courtesy The Bali Market) With luggage space at a premium, weekend warriors need accessories that do double-, triple-, or even quadruple-duty, and this lightweight, high-absorbency Turkish towel fits the bill. At 40”x70”, it’s large enough to be used as a beach towel (or as a bath towel, for that matter), but it takes up way less room than terry cloth. Woven from quick-drying cotton, this thin textile can also serve as a wrap, a scarf, or a throw for a chilly plane, train, or bus ride, and it rolls up to practically nothing. That's a win-win-win-win. Perfect Classic Turkish Towel in Grey, $36, thebalimarket.us. The Wet One (Amy Lundeen) Wring every last drop out of a warm-weather weekend: Pack a stash bag for a wet bathing suit (and Turkish towel!), and never forgo that final swim again. This one has a beachy, tropical print and a vinyl-coated, waterproof interior, and it’s big enough to hold the sunscreen, too. Tropical Palm Extra Large Cosmetic Bag, $28, needleandoak.com. The Sleep Aid (Courtesy Bucky) If you need pitch-black darkness to get a solid eight hours of Zs, an eye mask is a must-pack accessory. Sure, you could go with that flimsy freebie you've been using since your last long-haul flight, but this silky polka-dot number is a playful alternative. With contoured foam eye cups that let you blink without messing up your makeup or putting undue pressure on your lids, it'll keep you snoozing, even if you're stuck in coach. Bucky 40 Blinks Sleep Mask, $13, amazon.com. The Soundtrack (Courtesy Bose) What’s a vacation without the tunes? This waterproof, drop-proof Bluetooth speaker clocks in at just under 4"x4" and weighs less than a pound, offering huge, bass-heavy sound in a tiny, silicone-rubber-wrapped package. With six hours of battery life, a tear-resistant strap for hands-free portability, and an app that can control the volume, pair another speaker, and switch between music libraries in various devices, it'll help get the party started wherever you are. SoundLink Micro Bluetooth speaker, $100, bose.com.

Travel TipsProduct Reviews

5 Carry-On Backpacks for Every Kind of Trip

As professional travelers, we put in lots of hours on the road, and with that much time on our hands, we get to know our gear pretty well. The little quirks that don’t seem like a big deal up front can become full-blown annoyances after a week of travel, and likewise, the nerdy details that might not merit more than a shrug at first glance can easily become an obsession once we realize how handy they can be in practice. We put another round of carry-on backpacks through their paces to find our favorites—all of which will fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you on most jets, and cost less than $200. 1. For the Weekend Road Trip (Courtesy Topo Designs) Topo Designs makes some of our favorite accessory bags and Dopp kits, so it’s not surprising they make one of our favorite backpacks too—the brand’s bags and accessories are designed to work together as part of a modular system, and the 30-liter Travel Bag is no exception. Pack bags, Topo’s answer to packing cubes, cost a little extra, but they nest inside for a tidy fit, and the Dopp kit does too—no cramming necessary. (If you need more room, clip a smaller bag onto the outside of the pack, or go for the 40-liter version.) But enough about the accessories—the backpack itself earns rave reviews. It has organizational pockets galore: On the front, a large zippered compartment with two internal zippered mesh pockets, plus another section with two open pockets for snacks and chargers and a deep zippered one as well. The main compartment holds three or four outfits, with two big mesh pockets for additional storage. At the back of the pack, there’s a padded laptop compartment, and an external pass-through sleeve to stack the bag on top of your rolling suitcase; it also comes with a removable crossbody strap, so the shoulder and hip straps tuck away if you choose to use it. The zippers even have security loops to protect against sticky fingers, and the stiff nylon material is water-repellant in addition to being practically tear-proof. All in all, our number-one pick.Travel Bag - 30L, $189; topodesigns.com. 2. For the Urban Excursion (Courtesy Knack Inc.) Launched in late 2018 by a team of former Tumi execs, Knack makes a good case for ditching the luggage and carrying just a single backpack. With a slim profile, clean lines, and crisp suiting-inspired fabric, the expandable Knack Pack displays the attention to detail you’d expect from a contingent of industry pros. Unexpanded, the medium version holds just 17 liters; expanded, that capacity nearly doubles. The packing compartment unzips to lay flat, holding a few days’ worth of clothes with compression straps to lock it all down, with a zippered mesh pocket covering the facing side. One of its savvier highlights is the built-in sunglasses case, lined with fleece and conveniently placed at the top of the pack, but other travel-minded touches include a rain flap that covers the expansion zipper; a zip-away side pocket that hides a water bottle; and padded shoulder straps, reinforced with sternum straps, that tuck into the back panel. Two minor complaints: There isn’t a side handle, and the front pocket is a bit of a head-scratcher, a triangular flap that folds down to reveal pen loops, one strangely shallow pocket, and a row of small slots big enough to hold business cards...and not much else. But for a nice-looking bag with a deceptively generous capacity, we'll allow it.Medium Expandable Knack Pack, $175; knackbags.com. 3. For the Long Haul (Courtesy Rick Steves' Europe) This convertible carry-on from Rick Steves' Europe came on our radar by way of a reader's comment—and we have to say, it was a solid suggestion. At about 40 liters, it’s the roomiest of the bunch (and at 3 pounds, the heaviest too), a no-frills pack that excels in its simplicity. The main compartment is nearly suitcase-size, with compression straps, an elasticized pocket running the length of the lid, two loose mesh bags for laundry or smalls, and a document pouch that clips into place so important papers are always within reach. On the front, there are three pockets of varying sizes: a square one for a cardigan or a neck pillow, a small one for glasses, lip balm, and the like, and a really deep one for magazines, tablets, tech gear, and more. The pack can expand a couple of inches if need be, but beware of overstuffing if you want to use it as a carry-on. Though there isn’t a dedicated compartment for a laptop, the side pocket will accommodate one, albeit without any cushioning; additional features include a mesh water-bottle sleeve, handles on the top and side, outer compression straps, and shoulder and waist straps that tuck away as needed. This is the most old-school model we tried—those shoulder straps are only slightly padded, and the floppy nylon fabric gives it the feel of a classic gym bag—and while we tend to prefer more structure and more organizational components, you won't find many travel packs this size at a comparable cost. Convertible Carry-On, $100; ricksteves.com. 4. For the Outdoorsy Overnight (Courtesy Mammut) If outdoor adventures are on the agenda—with some work on the side—try Mammut’s Seon Transporter X. In something of a reverse mullet, it's business in the back—think: a padded, fleece-lined section for a laptop, tablet, paperwork, and reading materials, plus two orange-zippered mesh compartments and pockets for pens—and a party in the front, with a main compartment housing a ventilated, zippered section for hiking boots, with space leftover for toiletries and a change of clothes or two. (Though the bag technically has a 26-liter capacity, it's definitely for those who travel light—that shoe compartment claims quite a bit of real estate.) As for access points, the big pocket at the front is basically the height and width of the pack itself, with a zippered mesh pocket inside, and the small compartment at the bag's top is good for valuables, with two fleecy open pockets and yet another zippered mesh one. Smart elements include well-padded, ergonomic shoulder straps, top and side handles for ease of carry, and big looped zippers that pull without a hitch, all under the cover of a sturdy, weather-repellent material, in a camouflage print that makes it stand out from the crowd. Seon Transporter X, $190; mammut.com. 5. For a Few Days Away (Courtesy Solo New York) With a spacious main compartment that opens like a suitcase, incorporating a built-in bag for shoes or laundry and four small stash pockets (two mesh and two solid nylon) in the lining around its frame, Solo New York’s 22.6-liter All-Star provides the capacity of a duffel—minus the duffel’s tendency to turn into a black hole, thanks to its organizational touches. On the front, a zippered pocket holds the necessities you'll want to reach on the fly, like sunglasses, tickets, and chargers. The front is padded to protect the laptop section, which also has a sleeve that fits a tablet, so you’ll only have to dig through one pocket for your electronics when you hit the security scanners. Two side handles and one on top make for easy stowing on planes or trains, and the cushy straps tuck away when they're not in use. (It also comes with a long shoulder strap, in case you get tired of hauling it around on your back.) As a whole, the pack is lightweight and inexpensive—in fact, the lightest, least expensive one we tried. At this price point, and considering its five-year limited warranty, it’s a great option for a short trip. All-Star Backpack Duffel, $87; solo-ny.com.