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Looking for the best gifts for business travelers? We’ve got you covered!

As veteran road warriors, we’ve logged our share of miles over the years. From planes, trains and automobiles to cabs, buses and ferries we’ve done it all numerous times across every continent.

Since we work as we go, we also spend a lot of that travel time on our laptops, working when time permits. While we originally started traveling solely for pleasure, over the years we’ve begun traveling more and more for business as well.

What does that mean to you? Over that time we’ve also learned a lot about the best gear and best gadgets for business travelers.

The best gifts for business travelers

There are a lot of great choices here, from the best business travel backpack, to great travel jackets and to electronics gear that any business person will love.

Leatherman TSA compliant tools

We all have a few favorite travel items that we just don’t want to go without. For years, my favorite travel gadget was my little Leatherman multi-tool. I took it everywhere with me!

Unfortunately, my beautiful little Leatherman multi-tool was the first thing confiscated from my carry-on luggage when security requirements got stricter after 9-11. I still miss it!

Since we travel almost exclusively with carry-on only, I need a multi-tool that is TSA-compliant. Luckily, Leatherman has some amazing TSA compliant products that can be carried onto a plane.

Leatherman Style PS

If you’re looking for a TSA travel-friendly multi-tool, this is your gadget.

The Style PS is keychain size, and comes with needle nose pliers, spring action regular pliers, scissors, a Phillips screwdriver, a nail file, tweezers and a bottle opener/carabiner. What’s really cool is that you can access the tools while the Style is closed for easy access.

It’s uber lightweight at 1.58 ounces, and you can get it in black, red or blue.

Learn more about the Style PS here.

Leatherman Tread Tempo

I think the Leatherman Tread Tempo watch is as gorgeous as it is functional. At first glance, it just looks like a stylish, Swiss-made watch, but look closer. See all of those links in the watch band? There are 30 tools hidden in this watch band, including an abundance of screwdrivers (with indispensable flat and Phillips screwdriver heads), box wrenches, a file, strap cutter, bottle opener, carbide glass breaker. Plus, it’s water resistant to 200 meters, and has a 25-year warranty on the bracelet.

Get the Tread Tempo here at Leatherman.

See the full lineup of Leatherman TSA-compliant products here, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

International WiFi hotspot

Reliable WiFi is an absolute essential for any business traveler. We’ve used a WiFi hotspot for a few years now, and absolutely love having reliable WiFi almost anywhere in the world.

Right now, we’re using the Skyroam Solis WiFi hotspot, which gives us unlimited WiFi wherever we travel. See our review of the Solis here.

We used the similar Tep WiFi hotspot previously, and liked it as well (see our review of the Tep here).

You can rent the Solis for about $9 USD a day, or do like us and buy a device and get either a monthly, no contract Go Data plan or buy access one daypass at a time.

Find out more about the Skyroam Solis here.

Laptop

Sure, it’s on the pricey side, but if you really want to make a business traveler happy, get them a powerful, lightweight laptop as a gift.

There are some great choices on the market right now, including the Microsoft Surface Pro 6. The Surface Pro 6 comes with the latest 8th Gen Intel® Core i5 processor, and 8 GB RAM.

See prices and more for the Microsoft Surface Pro 6.

The Lenova Yoga 720 is a good value choice, with an i5 Intel core, and 8 GB RAM. It’s also a touchscreen that can flip between tablet and laptop.

We have an older version of the Yoga that we got a few years ago, and still use it regularly as we travel, because it’s so lightweight and handy to use on the go.

See the Lenova Yoga 720 on Amazon.

If your business traveler is a Mac fan, you can’t go too wrong with a 13″ Macbook Pro with retina display or even the new iPad Pro tablet.Portable Power Charger

I’ve had my little, lipstick sized Anker portable charger for over four years now, and it’s still going strong. I take it wherever we travel, as it fits neatly in a pocket. There’s enough charge in this little gadget to recharge a new smartphone a couple of times.

The newest version continues to get great feedback, and it’s a more powerful 3,350mAh.

See the new version of the Anker lipstick charger here.

If you’re looking for a larger power charger, we use an older version of the Anker Powercore 10,000mAh.

Ours has served us well the last four years, and the current version gets great reviews as well. See the Anker Powercore 10,000mAh on Amazon here.

For even more power, check out the Jackery PowerBar. This thing is a beast at 20,800mAh, and it has the huge advantage that it lets you charge our laptop as well with a AC Outlet Portable Charger. It weighs 1.5 pounds.

See prices and more here.

Accessories case for cable and other electronics

We travel with a lot of electronics, and honestly, our carry on backpack often looks like someone dumped out their electronics junk drawer. There are cables, chargers, headphones, eReaders, iPods, iPads, cameras and more in ours every time we go anywhere and sometimes it gets hard to organize.

We’re looking at getting a cable and gadget organizer to get it under control, and this Bagsmart accessories case is at the top of the wish list.

See prices and details here.

If you’re looking for something a little bigger, Bagsmart has a two layer accessories case that will hold a tablet as well.

See more now.

Universal power adapter

Heading out of country? Chances are you’re going to need a travel power adapter so your electronics continue to work while you’re on the road.

We’ve used this little Insten universal worldwide travel charger adapter for years now, but it’s getting a little out-of-date (especially since it doesn’t have USB ports).

We’re looking to upgrade to something like this highly rated SublimeWare international travel adapter, with four USB charging points.

Get it on Amazon here.

Confused about adapters and voltage converters? Learn how not to fry your electronics overseas here.

Bluetooth keyboard

If your business traveler likes to work on a tablet or phone, a Bluetooth keyboard can help them be a lot more productive.

This folding iClever Bluetooth Keyboard is great for travel, since it’s compatible with IOS, Windows, and Android and doesn’t take up much room.

Get prices and details here now.

Travel pillow

We’re big fans of travel pillows that are comfortable, breathable, and easily malleable into almost any shape.

This BCOZZY Chin Supporting Pillow is designed to keep your head from falling forward as you sleep on a plane. It’s filled with polyester fiber (not memory foam!), and comes in dozens of colors.

Tip! While memory foam travel pillows are hugely popular right now, we find they’re too bulky, and tend to push our heads forward uncomfortably. Plus, they freeze into solid lumps in cold weather! On a recent flight out of Canada in the winter, we stored our memory foam travel pillows in the car overnight, and pulled them out just before boarding our plane. They were hard, frozen lumps! It took over an hour for the pillows to thaw completely. I definitely wouldn’t recommend trying to nap on a frozen memory foam travel pillow!

See the BCOZZY on Amazon here.

Rolling luggage set

We’re big fans of carry-ons with spinner wheels. We find that four wheels make it incredibly easy to navigate through airports.

We’re a little divided as to whether we prefer hard sided luggage, because it’s so durable and handles water better, or soft sided luggage, which expands more as we pack and have convenient outer pockets.

This hard sided American Tourister 21″ spinner comes in a lot of great colors (which is perfect for picking out your luggage in busy airports).

See prices and more here.

For soft sided carry-on fans, this classic Samsonite Silhouette Xv Softside Spinner 21 is a top pick.

Just don’t overload the front compartments, or it will want to tip forward.

See prices and more now.

Priority pass airport lounge pass

What weary business traveler wouldn’t love to relax in a comfy airport lounge? You’ll earn big points with your business traveler if you pick them up a membership to a airport lounge network.

The big player in the airport lounge space is Priority Pass, which gives access to 120 airport lounges worldwide.

Annual fees range from $99 to $499.

Sleep mask

Truthfully, I’ve never liked sleeping with a mask, but they can be indispensable for business travelers who are light sensitive.

The best of the best and the one our daughter swears by is the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask.

See it on Amazon here.

Travel hair dryer

Hair dryers are big and bulky, so a compact version with a folding handle is always welcome for travelers.

This Conair Vagabond Compact 1600 hair dryer has a handle that folds away neatly, and it weighs less than a pound.

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Thinking about taking your kids to a live theatre show in London’s West End? You should.

It’s no secret that London’s West End has some of the best children’s theatre on the planet, with dozens of family shows available year round.

The problem is, with so many amazing performances, how do you decide which one is right for you and your little (or big) ones?

We’re planning a London visit this Spring and definitely plan on taking advantage of the huge selection of live theatre for children, so we thought we’d share with you some live action family shows and musicals that you definitely don’t want to miss.

There are even some cool Harry Potter themed attractions and shows on the site, like the Breakfast at Hogwarts experience (which you know we’re going to have to check out for ourselves).

The best part is that every show on this list can be bought ahead of time. To check out a long list of great choices for family shows with kids in London’s West End, check out family theatre with Encore Tickets. Encore Tickets has helped over 29 million people enjoy the best of London’s theater, attractions and live events since they started back in 2000.

While every show on this list is amazing in its own right, we’ve included a suggested minimum age. Of course, every child is different so take that as you will.

Best London shows for kids of all ages School of Rock (ages 5+)

Based on the Jack Black character, Dewey Finn, from the movie of the same name, the musical School of Rock is sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. As the 13 gifted musical students come into their own right on stage in front of you playing their own instruments, Dewey Finn realizes that all it takes is a little practice and a whole lot of love to be the rock god he’s always wanted to be.

Matilda the Musical (ages 6+)

When things aren’t sunny for young Matilda, she decides to take control of her own destiny. Based on Roald Dahl’s acclaimed book Matilda, we learn that sometimes kids have to be a little creative to achieve their dreams. With some amazing staging and an empowering story, little ones and kids of all ages will love Matilda.

Wicked (ages 7+)

The winner of hundreds of awards and always a crowd favorite, Wicked puts on a spin of the Wizard of Oz story, with the lines between good and evil not as clear as we always see in the movies. This amazing play featuring the good witch, Glinda the Good, and Elphaba, the evil Wicked Witch of the West, will have you and your kids talking for days about the lavish costumes, amazing sets and awesome special effects.

The Mousetrap (ages 6+)

A classic whodunit murder mystery will have you guessing who murdered who in The Mousetrap. The worlds longest running play, 65 years and still going strong, continues to entertain even today’s youth and, with over 10 million people having seen the production, you know it’s a classic for a reason.

Disney’s The Lion King (ages 6+)

Based on Disney’s acclaimed film, join Simba, Timon and Pumba as they return to the pride lands of the African Serengeti in one of the largest theatre productions to date. With over 200 puppets and famed songs such as the Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata, this live action odyssey will change how you view live theatre.

Disney on Ice (ages 3+)

Classics never disappoint and Disney on Ice has existed in some form or another since I was a child. With dozens of today’s famous characters from Moana and Maui to all the Disney Princesses, past to present, if you love figure skating or just creative storytelling on a cool medium, you might want to check out Disney’s latest incarnation of Disney on Ice while you’re in London.

Disney’s Aladdin (ages 6+)

Magic carpets, genies, evil sorcerers, princesses in peril as well as a rags to riches story, what’s not to love? Disney brings the beloved Princess Jasmine and Aladdin, the boy who found the magical lamp, to life in this huge unforgettable tale. With songs from the movie and some amazing special effects, Disney’s Aladdin is sure to bring a smile to everyone in the family.

Best live theatre in London for middle school aged children and older The Wider Earth (ages 10+)

Join a young Charles Darwin as he sets out across the sea in the HMS Beagle and discovers new lands and more importantly, new animals and species in this great blend of storytelling and science. We’ve heard that the intricate sets and amazing puppets do a great job of bringing to life this award winning play and the debate between faith and science will leave your kids asking questions for years to come.

The Comedy about a Bank Robbery (ages 11+)

With laugh out loud gags, some hilarious back and forth banter and a stolen diamond gone missing, this comedy caper will leave you and your kids in stitches.

Best live theatre in London for older children and adults

A Short Guide to London's Theatreland - YouTube

Heathers The Musical (ages 14+)

The Heathers are feared, hated and envied by everyone in their high school. When the three most popular girls in school (all named Heather) befriend Veronica, she soon learns that leaving the Heather trio isn’t as easy as it was getting in. Based on the 80’s classic featuring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater, Heathers is a dark and comedic coming of age tale that will make you question just how important being popular really is.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (ages 14+)

Inspired by the BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, this theatrical tale of Jamie choosing to wear a dress to grad is both thought provoking and taken right out of the headlines. As gender becomes more fluid, choosing your own path isn’t always the easiest road to take. This thought provoking and entertaining musical play will leave you with more questions than answers. In this case, that’s a good thing.

London’s West End Matinee Shows

While seeing a show in London’s West End is high on our list of the best things to do in London with the family, we’ve discovered that the secret for affordable family theatre in London is to book the matinee shows. Not only are the shows cheaper, which helps when you have a family with you, but you’ll find better seat selection, smaller audiences and easier parking.

You’ll find most of the shows on the above list have a matinee a few times a week (namely Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday) and with show choices for almost any age, from toddler friendly shows like Disney on Ice and Aladdin, to primary age shows like Matilda the Musical and School of Rock, to older family shows like Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Heathers, there’s something in London’s West End for everyone.

Think we missed any great London shows for the family? Reply in the comments below and we’ll share it with everyone.

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Thinking of visiting London with the family and wondering about the best things to do in London with kids?  The good news is that there’s a lot of things that are fun, educational and just downright cool in London with the family, but the bad news is that there’s so much to do that it’s easy to be overwhelmed!

We’ve done the leg work for you, and found some of the most fun, entertaining, and even educational things to do with your kids, whether they’re teens, tweens, or younger. Our kids, at 10 and 13, are a great age for almost all of these London attractions for kids, but we even included some fun picks here for visiting London with toddlers and preschoolers!

Things to do in London with Kids

While a lot of cities aren’t great for kids, London’s definitely an option for a family friendly visit. There are a lot of London activities and attractions that are specially geared to the under 18 set, with everything from museums to a fun nighttime show to playgrounds and restaurants as well as many indoor play structures. Getting around is easy as well: while the Tube can be a bit pricey, it’s definitely child friendly.

See a show in London’s West End!

Seeing a show is one of our favorite things to do in London with children. London is a wonderful place to catch a show with the kids, as they have choices for almost any age, from toddler friendly shows like Disney on Ice, to primary age shows like Matilda the Musical, and School of Rock, to other family friendly shows like Merlin’s Magical London.

No matter which show you check out, there’s something unique and special about catching a live show with the kids in London’s West End!

Set off on a Harry Potter Tour

Our entire family are huge potterheads (if you’re a muggle who’s never heard the term, a potterhead is a Harry Potter fan, who’s read all the books, and seen all the movies). In our case, we’ve even made the trek and written some Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips.

If your kids are Harry Potter fans (most kids over a certain age are), and you’d like to check out the world of wizards yourself, a guided tour that takes the participants to the most important and magical venues where the movies were filmed, is a great way to spend a day in London. Warner Brothers Studio (where the Harry Potter movies were filmed) is a great choice. The Muggle’s Guide to London walking tour is a great place to start, and a special, 2.5-hour journey around the city, where you’re guided to the venues where the movies were shot, provides exciting insight into the magical tricks of film making. See some options for Harry Potter tours in London here.

Visit the British Big 4 – The London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London

It’s not really a visit to London if you haven’t seen the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London, is it? Arguably, these are the most iconic answers to the question of what to do in London with kids.

The good news is that London is a fairly compact city, at least as far as seeing these iconic sights.

One of the easiest ways to see all of these great attractions in a day or so is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. You may even be able to fit in Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and even more. Sure, by the end of that day you’ll be exhausted, but it’s nice to see all of the big attractions in one fell swoop and then leave you time to check out the lesser known areas of London the folowing days.

Visit the Royal Observatory in Greenwich

A great opportunity to have fun together while still learning something cool, a visit to the Royal Observatory is recommended for families with older kids and an interest in the natural sciences. Our kids, at 10 and 13, definitely fit that description, and are first in line for any cool, science themed attraction.

There’s a lot to see here, from standing on Earth’s most renowned Meridian Line, taking a journey back in time to learn how astronomy has developed and how the seas were first mapped, and then seeing the Great Equatorial Telescope, which changed how the world perceives the universe.

Go to an outdoor playground

London is full of areas where kids of all ages can take part in exciting adventures, while having fun and being suitably challenged.

Most of the bigger parks in London, and the city is famous for having lots of them, have at least one large outdoor play area for kids, with climbing frames, tunnels, mazes and lots of other opportunities for fun. There’s a great list of London playgrounds here.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the local wildlife. There are a surprising number of grey squirrels wandering around London parks, and they’re endlessly entertaining for little ones.

Visit a zoo

London has some spectacular, world-famous zoos as well. Any family visiting the city should spend at least one day exploring London’s zoo and farm areas.

The Zoological Society of London Zoo, the London Wetland Centre, the Sea Life Centre and Richmond Park all have areas where the entire family can see exotic and more common animals, including creatures of the savanna, the seas, and the mountains alike.

Meerkats photo by Adrian Betteridge

Grab a bite in a family friendly restaurant

London has plenty of restaurants that combine great food and fun. The Rainforest Café looks, well, like a rainforest, with tropical animals and lots of green and the meals also transport the guests to a lush, exotic place in an instant. On top of that, there are lots of other restaurants around London designed for keeping kids well-fed and entertained as well.

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A post shared by Rainforest Cafe London (@rainforestcafelondon) on Oct 13, 2018 at 7:48am PDT

Visit one of London’s parks

While most visitors to London likely think of the city as a bustling, busy place (and it can be), London is also home to plenty of lovely, quiet, green areas. There’s a great list of parks here from the city of London, with information on feature gardens, skateboard parks, playgrounds and much more.

One of London’s most accessible urban parks is Bishops Park, which is a great space for toddlers, teens and adults alike. The park has an urban beach that is like nowhere else and the skate bowl, the trails and the manicured garden areas are unique as well. Picnics are also allowed, so if the weather is nice, you can spend an entire day there together.

If you’re up for one of London’s quirky or unusual things to do, and are up for a swim, check out the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park. A lido is an outdoor pool, and there are plenty in the city. However, unlike the majority of heated, chlorinated lidos with defined swimming lanes, the Serpentine is a non chlorinated, open lake in Hyde Park in the heart of London. If you’re in London over Christmas, take time to check out the Serpentine Swimming Club’s semi-famous Christmas Race, where brave souls battle the elements to become the champion.

Serpentine Lido London by Lasse Socker

Go Ape at Battersea Park

Battersea Park is right next to the river, with plenty of paths for walking, plus it has a zoo, playground and the Go Ape climbing experience. It’s always one of the most favorite family things to do in west London.

The Go Ape Park is an excellent opportunity to explore nature, get physically active and have loads of fun in the heart of one of the world’s largest and busiest cities. The Battersea Park is open from February through November and has plenty of variety in its courses and is suitable for anyone from the age of 4 and up. At Go Ape, everyone, even the fittest, most athletic adult can find challenging obstacles.

The canopy adventure takes visitors to the top of some of the tallest trees in the city and the Fisherman’s Net will make you climb on rope ladders, zip wires and wire crossings, to mention just two of the Park’s many attractions.

Go Ape - Battersea London HD - YouTube

Things to Do in West London with Kids

For whatever reason, West London often gets neglected when talking about children’s activities in London. We’ve included a special section with our top picks for things to do in this fun area of the city.

We’ve already talked about checking out a show in West London, but it’s worth mentioning here quickly again. There’s just so much variety in terms of kids shows here, which is honestly quite rare, and it’s a unique family experience the kids will definitely remember!

Holland Park Adventure Playground

The largest park in the Royal Borough, Holland Park occupies over 22 acres of land, and is packed full of fun attractions.

Kids, younger and older, can enjoy all sorts of physical activities. They can run around or have fun with the swings on the playground, they can test themselves on the climbing wall and they can explore nature in the wildlife area. There’s even a pretty Japanese garden that kids will love.

Photo by donald judge

Kidtropolis

Great for kids from newborns to age 12, Kidtropolis has plenty of surprising inventive and perfectly safe toys and play areas. Children around the age of three will enjoy the artsy fun at Messy Play, while kids over the age of three can test their abilities driving around in Bumper Cars. Kids over the age of four can let off steam jumping on the Inflatable Assault Course – the name might sound aggressive, but it’s designed for little ones and a lot of fun.

Bay Sixty 6

Do your kids love to skateboard or BMX? Bay Sixty 6 is a great choice for families with older kids, aged from nine and up. Bay Sixty 6 is a skateboard and BMX facility with special design solutions. Some of the areas are challenging for advanced skaters and bikers, while others are used for beginners’ courses.

Paul Rodriguez, Nick Tucker and Carlos Ribeiro, London Demo at BaySixty6 - YouTube

Pottery Café in Fulham

When the weather gets foul and you are looking for some creative fun, this pottery studio will keep everyone busy, including young kids and teenagers, parents and grandparents alike. This may be a little quirky and low key, but people swear it’s one of the best family experiences in London.

What’s especially cool for families visiting London is that you don’t need to have any tools or supplies. Everything you need for creating your own art is available at the venue and the place organizes lots of thematic events and programs that the entire family can take part in together.

Kensington Memorial Park

Kensington Memorial Park is another park where the entire family can have fun together, with tennis and football courts, a field where kids can play cricket and a great playground. The Park has a new water play facility as well, which is perfect for having fun not only on hot days, but in cloudy weather as well.

Do you have anything to add to these best things to do in London with kids? Let us know!

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Looking for a first hand Skyroam Solis review? We’ve used our Skyroam Solis for over four months now, and share our thoughts: the good, the bad and the orange.

What is Skyroam Solis?

The Skyroam Solis is a portable WiFi hotspot. It works in over 130 countries, using the same technology that cell phone carriers use to get you data.

Want 10% off the Skyroam Solis? Use code BAREFOOTNOMAD here.

The Solis lets connect up to five devices over WiFi at the same time. It has a built in battery that can also charge your devices on the go.

Best of all, it’s easy to use. Even the most gadget-adverse traveler should have no trouble getting it up and running in minutes.

Why portable WiFi?

Getting reliable WiFi wherever we go is a huge hassle. Hotel WiFi isn’t always stable, and scrounging free WiFi from a local McDonald’s gets old pretty quickly.

Other options are buying a local sim card, or using our home cell roaming plan, but they both have major downsides.

We’ve bought local sim cards for our unlocked phones, but we tend to hit data limits quickly, and sharing our cell data with our laptops and the rest of the family can be a huge pain. Plus, it’s often a hassle to figure out which plan and provider to choose overseas. Even then, a lot of countries don’t legally allow visitors to purchase a local sim and, though there are ways around this, researching them is a huge hassle.

We’ve also thought about using a worldwide roaming plan with our home cell company while we travel, but honestly, roaming charges can be huge and the data caps are often ridiculously low on roaming plans. We usually don’t need data every day we’re gone, but most roaming plans charge you every day you turn your phone on.

We were looking for a WiFi solution that was affordable for the four of us, and that worked almost anywhere in the world.

Enter the Skyroam Solis. It’s a 4G LTE mobile WiFi gadget that automatically works off local cell towers, with no SIM needed. Up to five devices can share WiFi on one Skyroam Solis, making it a great choice for our family of four.

Skyroam Solis Review First impressions of the Skyroam Solis

Honestly, our first impression was that the Skyroam Solis is a pretty stylish unit. The bright orange case definitely stands out, and it fits easily in the palm of my hand, or my jacket pocket. Now, the orange look may not be your thing, but it definitely has the advantage that it’s hard to misplace, and is easy to find in the bottom of a backpack.

The included zipper case and charging cable helps keep everything together and also helps protect that awesome orange color from getting scratched up as it gets tossed around in our backpack.

How fast is Skyroam Solis?

For us, the most important thing about a portable WiFi solution is speed and reliability. Sure, the Skyroam works in over 130 countries, but that’s no good if it’s slow.

Happily, we were consistently getting speeds of around 31-32 Mbps on our first tests in Canada and at multiple times throughout our extended road trip.

A speed of around 30 Mbps is plenty fast to run email, watch Netflix or Youtube in HD, interact with social media (including watching Instagram or Facebook videos) and browsing the net.

Even with all four of us connected, with me on email, the kids streaming YouTube videos, and hubby Charles playing video games, the speed was instantaneous, with no seeming lag for anyone.

We tested the Solis throughout Canada and the USA, where cellular data speeds can often be lower than Europe and elsewhere in the world. You’ll probably get speeds in the 40 Mbps range in Europe and Asia. We’re taking our Solis down to Mexico and the southern USA this winter and we’ll report how well it works there as soon as we can!

Our lowest speed in our tests was around 4.75 Mbps, but that was when we were in the car, traveling in the middle of the Rocky Mountains without 4G service, so the only cell service the Skyroam could pick up was old school EDGE technology. Canada gets pretty remote in places, so you may find speeds like this in more remote areas, but the same could be said of any cell data plan or any other WiFi hotspot.

We’re testing our little Solis portable WiFi in the middle of the Canadian prairies in this picture. We still had a connection speed of over 30 Mbps.

How much data do you get with Skyroam?

Technically, Skyroam gives you unlimited data.

We used our little Skyroam Solis pretty extensively with the four of us, burning through at least 800 MB a day for several days in a row. We didn’t notice any throttling at all, and speeds stayed consistently fast.

Does Skyroam throttle data?

That said, the terms and conditions say they do have a fair use policy. They say here “If there is high usage (over 500MB) within 24-hours, the connection with (sic) go to a lighter 2G speed, which is great for e-mail, web surfing, social media, apps, messaging, and WiFi calling. Data always resets with the next global daypass.”

To me, that sounds like you can be throttled if you’re on a busy network, and you’re using a whole lot of data over 500MB. We’ve read other reviews that mention that they started to get throttled after the 1 GB mark, so I’m guessing that they don’t have a hard limit and it depends on which carriers they’re currently operating on.

To avoid throttling, Skyroam suggests closing any apps that consume data in the background, like auto backups, cloud syncing, app updates, and so on. We keep those for when we have free WiFi and haven’t had any problems using up a ton of data.

The good news is that Skyroam data resets every 24 hours, so even if you manage to overuse the fair use amount and got throttled, your data will reset to higher speeds at the end of the day.

How long does the Skyroam Solis battery last?

Skyroam says the built in batteries on the Skyroam Solis lasts 14 to 20 hours, and our tests found that to be pretty close.

We tested the Skyroam for the first time on a road trip in the interior of British Columbia in Canada. The battery lasted a full 14 hours for me, from the time we hit the road at 8 am, to when we went to sleep around 10 pm, with about 15% battery left.

A cool feature about the Skyroam Solis is that you can also connect your phone or device to it, and recharge your phone while on the go. The Skyroam Solis comes with a built in 6000 mAh power bank and comes with a USB-C connection to charge all the latest devices.

Note: The Skyroam Solis uses the same battery as the built in charger, so if you’re charging your phone as you go, you’re also reducing the total time the Skyroam will last.

If you find you need additional power, you can either purchase a power bank to help top up the Solis or even buy extra batteries for it, since you can open the Solis and switch out batteries anytime. That said, from our experience and unless you’re severely going off grid, the batteries in the Skyroam Solis should easily last you the day.

Want some extra spare batteries for the Skyroam Solis? Skyroam suggests these and these.

Testing our Skyroam Solis WiFi hotspot on a ferry in Needles BC

How much does Skyroam cost?

There are a couple of ways to use Skyroam: a daily pass, their new monthly data subscription, or the new 1 GB GoData plan. The best part is there are no contracts, and you pay only for the days or months that you use the Skyroam.

The Skyroam daily pass and monthly data subscription (in USD)

The daily pass (which lasts a full 24 hours from the moment you begin) costs $9 if you own your own Skyroam device. You can buy a Skyroam Solis for around $149.99, and that includes one free daypass. If you decide to just rent a Skyroam Solis for the length of your journey, the daily cost also starts at $9 per day.

Skyroam Solis in Canada

What I really liked about the Skyroam rental is that they only quoted me a $9.99 shipping charge to Canada. If you’re Canadian, you’ll understand why this is so huge – we usually pay a small fortune to have anything shipped into Canada. In fact, we checked out a competitor, and they were charging over $30 to ship to Canada.

If you’re in the USA or Europe, your shipping will likely be even less.

See how much a Skyroam rental costs.

You can also get unlimited Skyroam service for $99 per 30 days.

Because we travel so much, we own our own Skyroam Solis, rather than renting. That means that we don’t need to wait for a rental to be delivered if we take off at the last minute! It also means we pay a bit less for a daily pass and even if we get stuck someplace local without internet and don’t want to use up all our cell data, we can just opt to enable the Skyroam for the day. This has been fantastic when we visit my Mom in the middle of Alberta Canada and here shaky WiFi services goes down again, and our Solis comes to the rescue with WiFi for all!

Buy a Skyroam now.

The Skyroam GoData plan

To use the Skyroam GoData monthly plan, you’ll need to own the Skyroam hotspot. Rentals aren’t available with the plan.

The GoData plan gives you 1GB of data (at 4G LTE data speed) for $9 a month. You can buy more data, on the go, at $9/GB. Plus, there’s no contract. Like the daily plan, you can connect up to five devices. Every month you get another 1 GB of data. However, any unused data you didn’t use doesn’t roll forward.

Tip! Lots of people use the Skyroam GoData plan to extend their monthly cell phone plan. Depending on where you are in the world, it can be cheaper than your home cell phone company charges for data and you can boost your amount at any time if you need more.

Since we sometimes go a month or two without traveling, we’re sticking with our the 24 hour daily passes. That said, we may switch to the GoData plan the next time we head out for an extended trip just so we’re not limited to daily time limits.

Find out more about Skyroam GoData.

Where does the Skyroam work?

The Skyroam Solis coverage map says you can get coverage 130+ countries, including Canada, the USA, Mexico, most of Europe, and South America as well as Asia and the Middle East.

To test it, I entered the last 10 countries we’ve visited: Canada, the USA, Mexico, Belize, Ecuador, Spain, Morocco, Turkey, Anguilla, and the Dominican Republic. There’s Skyroam service everywhere but in Belize. Nine out of 10 is pretty good, I think.

See countries where Skyroam’s available.

How does Skyroam work?

Skyroam uses Skyroam’s patented virtual SIM technology to connect you to the nearest cell network, and will connect with over 300 carriers at 4G LTE speeds (where available).

Does Skyroam work on planes or on a cruise?

Because Skyroam works off cell networks, it won’t work where you can’t get a cell signal, like while you’re in the air on a flight, on cruise ships (unless you’re near a cell signal in port), or somewhere very remote.

How do you use Skyroam Solis?

The Skyroam Solis is honestly super easy to get up and running.

When you first get the unit, you’ll need to pull a little plastic tab to connect the battery.

Then, connect it to your cell charger via the provided USB cable to charge. Ours came pre-charged.

  1. To get WiFi, press and hold Power On (the side button).
  2. Connect your Skyroam Solis to the hotspot’s WiFi signal. You’ll need the unique SSID and password on the bottom of the Solis.
  3. On your phone or connected device, visit the Skyroam account portal at a.skyroam.com. You’ll have 20 free minutes to register using your email, phone # or Facebook.
  4. Press the WiFi button on the top of the unit to start using WiFi. Each day pass is good for 24 hours from the time you start using it.

How do I load Skyroam?

If you want to add more day passes, or see how many passes you have left, switch to a $99 30-day plan, or start a GoData subscription, go to a.skyroam.com on a connected device.

Update! Skyroam’s just introduced a new app in late 2018. The app lets you activate your Solis, load the Skyroam with more WiFi service, troubleshoot problems, get help and more. We love it because it lets us see battery life, signal strength, the number of devices connected, WiFi status and more on the status screen.

Grab the app on iTunes or Google Play.

Who is Skyroam good for:
  • Anyone who’s afraid of being charged outrageously high data roaming charges. Tip: Don’t forget to turn off roaming on your cell phone before leaving your home country, so you aren’t accidentally charged in case you get a phone call, text or some app decides to run in the background before hooking up to the Solis!
  • Vacationers who don’t want to hassle with buying a local SIM card and data plan on every trip.
  • Travelers who don’t have an unlocked phone. If you have a locked phone, you won’t be able to switch out your SIM and buy a local SIM and data plan.
  • Travelers who are tired of bad hotel WiFi, and sick of searching for a nearby McDonald’s or cafe for free WiFi.
  • Anyone who wants to keep in touch with friends and family anywhere in the world.
  • Groups and families who want to share a WiFi connection. The Skyroam works beautifully for our family of four. We’re heavy WiFi users, and we get an especially good deal because we all can share the same Skyroam. Up to five devices can connect at any one time.
  • Business travelers or digital nomads like us who need WiFi to work, since the Solis gives us WiFi wherever we are around the globe.
  • Solo travelers. I really love having my Solis when I travel alone, as it gives me the ability to reach out to let friends and family to know I’m OK.
  • Family day outs. We’ve used our portable WiFi units to have Pokemon Go adventures with the kids and their friends on their iPods and tablets during hikes and walks. With the slew of new enhanced VR games out there that require an internet connection to work, purchasing a daily pass is a great excuse to get the kids out of the house and walking outdoors while still allowing them game time.
  • Data toppers whose cell plans have only a limited amount of data. The Skyroam GoData allows people to buy what they need, when they need it, regardless if they’re traveling or at home.
Where to buy Skyroam Solis

You can buy Skyroam Solis on the Skyroam website here.

Skyroam Solis discount

Want to get a Skyroam for yourself?

Want 10% off? Use code BAREFOOTNOMAD here.

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Looking for unique travel gifts for family, friends or even yourself? Finding an unusual or quirky travel gift can be a challenge but we’re here to help!

We’ve traveled the globe together for over fifteen years now, and in that time we’ve had a chance to find some unusual gifts for travelers that they will actually want! How do we know? We own or have used pretty much every single thing on this list.

There’s something for everyone here, from unique travel gifts for her or him, to special travel gifts for friends going traveling.

Unique Travel Gifts

Here they are: our list of 40 unique travel gifts! There are gifts here that range from less than ten dollars and up, and they’re all aimed to make the traveler in your life happy.

Travel Experience with Tinggly

What most travelers want above all is an amazing and unique travel experience. So a gift of one-of-a-kind experiences and bucket list adventures is a perfect fit.

A tinggly gift is a unique voucher that lets the recipient choose an activity from over 350 experiences in over 100 countries around the world.

There’s everything from hot air balloon rides to champagne cruises to whale watching and even hotel stays from which to choose.

You choose the Tinggly voucher to give, and the recipient picks an experience (or experiences!) from hundreds of activities worldwide. They have five years to choose their experiences.

You can choose to give a physical Tinggly gift box, or an e-voucher.

It also makes a great last minute gift! You can get an e-voucher any time of the day (and even on Christmas morning, if you’re procrastinating that much!).

You can find out more here –> https://www.tinggly.com/collections/merry-christmas-gift-box

WiFi hotspot

Our international WiFi hotspot has pretty quickly become one of our must have travel gadgets.

Right now, we’re using the Skyroam Solis WiFi hotspot, which gives us unlimited WiFi wherever we travel in the world.

We’ve also used the similar Tep WiFi hotspot, and liked it as well (see our review of the Tep here).

As a traveling family, we love the WiFi hotspot, because it lets us connect up to five devices at a time. You can rent the Solis for about $9 USD a day while you travel, or do like us and buy a device and get either a monthly, no contract Go Data plan or activate it for 24 hours at a time anywhere in the world.

Our personal review of the Solis is coming in the next week, we promise!

Find out more about the Skyroam Solis here.

Using our Skyroam Solis in the middle of the Canadian prairies

Packing cubes

You can never have enough packing cubes! Actually, you can, however you likely need more.

Socks and underwear in one, spare shoes in another. One for pants, another for shirts and a final one for dresses or ties depending on what you’re bringing.

Also, never hurts to have a dedicated packing cube for electronics if  you carry more than what your purse or backpack can handle. Don’t forget you also need something for your dirty clothes to come back in.

Sound like too many? That isn’t even factoring in kids, pets, winter travel or makeup and medications. Still on the fence? Just get more.

We use these eBags ultralight packing cubes, which are lightweight, compress well and the mesh also lets us easily see what’s inside.

See prices and details on Amazon now.

Travel Insurance

Safety is sexy! Well, not really, but it can be a large cost in any travel plan. Every traveler needs travel insurance, but it’s pretty shocking that a lot of people travel without it. It may be practical, but travel insurance is also an unusual and unexpected gift for travel lovers.

World Nomads has coverage for everyone from backpackers to families, and they cover nearly every country on the planet. Surprise someone with their own travel protection and if something bad does happen, know that they’ll be thanking you for years and years.

Get a quote here.

TSA-compliant clear toiletry bag for air travel

Seeing what’s in your toiletry bag quickly can save major frustration every morning and even when passing through security.

We wrote a post dedicated solely to the best toiletry bags but if you’re in a rush, just grab the bag below and you’ll instantly be better off than nearly every other traveler out there.

Unfortunately, TSA-compliant toiletry bags are necessarily small (a quart or litre), so it probably won’t hold all of your gear. What a lot of people do is take a quart size TSA compliant clear toiletry bag, and use it to store their liquids. They store other (non-liquid) toiletries and accessories, like hair brushes and tweezers, in another bag.

What does TSA compliant mean? This means that the bag is compliant with the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, meaning that it’s a quart or litre in size, resealable, and clear. According to the TSA’s liquids rule, “You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. This is also known as the 3-1-1 liquids rule.” Any liquids over 3.4 ounces need to be carried in checked baggage.

Here’s our choice for a TSA-compliant clear toiletry bag: the YAMIU toiletry bag. It’s a quart sized, clear, waterproof, and resealable bag that’s TSA compliant with the 3-1-1 toiletries rule. This is a two-pack that comes with two sizes for your wet and for your dry.

See prices and more details here.

GoToob travel toiletry containers for clear liquid

Leaving for a weekend, but need your favorite shampoo and conditioner? Want to have some sunscreen for your week in the sun, but the only container you have is well over the 100 ml limit that the nice airport people will instantly confiscate?

Well, you could just buy shampoo there, but likely they don’t have what you need and even if they do, it’s likely you’re going to pay a heck of a convenience charge. Grab some easy to fill GoToob travel toiletry containers (see our GoToob review here) and don’t look back. They’re cute, come in a variety of sizes, refill and clean easily and they don’t leak which is probably the best reason to travel with them.

See prices and more details here.

Photo backup

Great travel memories start with great pictures. What better way to preserve them than to securely store them online in the cloud?

Amazon Prime comes with unlimited free picture and video storage. It also includes free music and a subscription to Amazon Prime Video. Oh yeah, someone said Amazon Prime even includes free shipping. Just kidding, that was the original use case for Amazon Prime but with so many goodies included with Amazon Prime these days, to us it’s only a bonus.

Check out Amazon Prime here.

Audio books

What’s better than reading a book while traveling? Listening to one! We’re huge fans of Audible and have a decent library of things we’ve listened to ourselves and as a family during our epic road trips.

You can get an Audible subscription here and of you’re still not convinced, check out our list of the best audiobooks for road trips. You can get them all on Audible.

Check out Audible here.

Portable hard drive

Not convinced about online backups, or maybe just traveling to some remote destinations and need more space than your phone or expensive DSLR camera can handle?

Don’t worry, with this Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro Portable External Hard Drive you don’t even need a computer.

Wirelessly connect it via WiFi to your phone or tablet or grab your camera’s SD card and backup those files quickly so you can keep on taking more photos! Available in a variety of sizes, you can choose the perfect size for yourself.

See prices and details here.

Yoga paws

Love yoga, but don’t want to take a bulky yoga mat when you travel? We feel you. I take my yoga mat on every road trip, but it’s just too big to take with us in our carry-on, where space is limited.

Enter Yoga Paws, which are slip on yoga gloves and non-slip toeless socks that are supposed to literally become a wearable, lightweight, yoga mat.

Full disclosure here: We haven’t tried Yoga paws yet, but they get good ratings and it’s such a quirky travel gift idea we had to include them.

See Yoga Paws prices and more now.

French press travel mug

Love coffee? Love to travel? Then a french press travel mug may be a great gift.

This Espro travel stainless steel french press is attractive, lightweight, and makes a mean cup of coffee. All you need is a few grounds and some hot water so it works on the road or even while camping.

Not a coffee drinker? Get the tea filter instead.

See more about the Espro here.

Kindle with free cellular connection

As airlines get stricter with baggage limits, the luxury of carrying a slew of physical books is starting to disappear.

Instead, we’ve started to travel with ebook readers almost exclusively. You can literally fit hundreds of books on an e-reader, which is enough for even the most dedicated bookworm.

If you want to be really popular, get your travel lover a Kindle with both Wi-Fi and free cellular connectivity like the new waterproof Kindle Paperwhite or the more expensive Kindle Oasis.

A Kindle with built in Wi-Fi + free cellular connectivity uses the same wireless signals that cell phones use. However, there’s no monthly fees or commitments: Amazon pays for the cellular connectivity and it lets you grab your ebooks on the go quickly and easily.

See the Kindle Paperwhite here (be sure to select the Wi-Fi + free cellular connectivity option).

Collapsible straw

This folding, collapsible stainless steel drinking straw is a fantastic choice for travelers who want to reduce single use plastics such as plastic straws.

It comes with a cleaning squeegee and a carrying case. Plus, it’s BPA free, and made with food grade silicone and quality stainless steel, so it won’t rust.

See prices and more on here.

Collapsible travel bottle

I’m all about reducing the amount of plastic we use, but it can be hard to avoid plastic water bottles when we travel.

We’ve tried carting around full size refillable water bottles on our travels, but they take up a lot of space, especially for a family of four.

A collapsible water bottle like this one from Nomader is a great solution.

It’s BPA free, with a silicone body, fits 22 oz, is dishwasher safe, and has a leak free twisting cap.

See prices and reviews here.

Video on the go with the Amazon fire stick

We’ve been traveling with an Amazon Fire Stick for a few years now and love it.

At just a few ounces, this portable Android device plugs directly into the HDMI slot on nearly any TV and, coupled with WiFi, allows you to stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and nearly any Android video source directly to the TV. Sure, nearly everyone owns a Smart TV at home these days but when you’re on the road, most hotels, hostels and nearly any place that has a TV is still pretty basic. The Fire Stick takes it to the next level and even lets you play a few games with the tiny remote.

See prices and more on Amazon.

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Looking for the best castles in the world?

We’ve visited dozens of castles on our trips to six continents (we haven’t made it to Antarctica yet, but there are no castles there, anyway), and we’re always amazed by the sheer size and beauty of the castles we’ve visited.

Of course, what’s best or beautiful really depends on your point of view. In this post, we’ve included some of our favorite castles that visually made us say “wow”, and that have a cool history or story behind them.

Our best castles in the world list includes the biggest castles in the world (either the Prague Castle or the Windsor Castle depending on who you’re talking to), what we think may be one of the oldest castles in the world (Goreme Castle, Turkey), as well as cool and unusual castles built into the surrounding rock like the mountainside cave covering Predjamski Castle or castles built on Tibetan mountaintops (Potala Palace) and so forth. Some of these are among the most famous castles in the world as well as some you probably have never heard of before.

What got them on this list is that in their own way, each one is an amazing castle in it’s own right.

So, before we start, what exactly defines a castle? Can a monastery or church be a castle? Turns out, the definition of a castle is pretty simple. The Merriam Webster dictionary says a castle is “a large fortified building or set of buildings”, “a massive or imposing house” or “a retreat safe against intrusion or invasion”.

Tip! Are you lucky enough to have visited one of these amazing castles? We’re always looking for ways to remember our travels. We realized long ago that if we took a souvenir from every place we’ve visited around the globe we’d now have a house full of fridge magnets and t-shirts! Instead, we love preserving our travel photos with specialist print firms like hellocanvas. There are a lot of amazing things you can do with your travel pics, including creating custom, photo themed smartphone covers, HD metal prints, and framed collages.

The Best Castles in the World

Here they are: our top 20 pictures of the best castles in the world, with beautiful castle photos to prove it.

Schloss Schwerin Castle, Germany

The Schloss Schwerin Castle in Germany is about as close to a fairytale castle that you’re ever likely to find. It’s surrounded by lakes and forest, and features stunning towers that reach into the sky that are topped with golden domes and pinnacles.

Schwerin Castle was built between 1847 and 1857 by Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It’s said there has been a building on the site since around 1160. You can visit this castle at the Schwerin Museum, Germany.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

The medieval Blarney Castle is near Cork, Ireland, and it dates from way back in 1446. It’s one of Ireland’s most famous attractions, and brings in thousands of visitors who want to climb to the top and kiss its famous Blarney Stone.

While there’s the castle itself to visit, there’s also over 60 acres of gardens, waterways, and grounds to explore.

There’s an admission fee to visit, but it can be well worth the cost if you take the time to walk around the ample grounds and check out the castle’s interior.

Osaka Castle, Japan

Osaka Castle is beautiful in and of itself, but it really comes to life during cherry blossom season, when the blooms turn the landscape of Osaka Castle Park gorgeous shades of pink.

The castle is one of Japan’s most well known attractions, and was built in 1583 by feudal lord Hideyoshi Toyotomi, whose love of gold is seen in the gold embellished exterior of the castle.

Photo by Bagus Pangestu from Pexels

Uchisar Castle, Goreme, Turkey

We caught our first peek at this ancient castle in Turkey on a balloon ride over Cappadocia. (See the video here).

The castle is made out of solid rock, with rooms and stairways hollowed out of the rock itself. I couldn’t find any confirmed information on the castle’s age, but UNESCO says “It is believed that the first signs of monastic activity in Cappadocia date back to the 4th century at which time small anchorite communities, acting on the teachings of Basileios the Great, Bishop of Kayseri, began inhabiting cells hewn in the rock.”

Today, Uchisar Castle is largely a crumbling ruin, and visitors are banned from visiting due to the risk of collapse. As such, most of the rooms on the north side of the castle are now used as pigeon houses.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it was plucked straight from your favorite fairy tale, and it’s easily one of the most famous castles around the world, with up 6,000 people visiting a day.

It’s located in Bavaria, Germany, and was built for King Ludwig II. The name means “new swan stone”, figuratively named after Wagner’s the Swan Knight.

There are only 14 rooms currently finished inside the castle, and they’re all on view for visitors.

Bonus Note: Neuschwanstein’s white limestone façade and blue turrets are rumored to the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Cinderella.

Lichtenstein Castle, Germany

Lichtenstein Castle (Schloss Lichtenstein in German) is privately owned, and operates as a tourist attraction today. It’s located in the Swabian Jura of southern Germany, an hour’s drive south of Stuttgart.

The Lichtenstein Castle is popular with German tourists, but fewer international tourists visit these days. The current castle was built between 1840 and 1842, however the original castle on the site was built back around 1200.

In terms of size, Lichtenstein is a relatively small castle however, with stunning views of the Echaz Valley and Swabian Alps it more than makes up for that with it’s beautiful scenery.

Pena Palace, Portugal

We visited the Pena Palace on a cool spring day a few years ago, and it absolutely wowed us.

You’ll find Pena Palace (Palácio da Pena in Portuguese) just outside of Lisbon, standing high above the municipality of Sintra, Portugal.

It’s a fine example of 19th century Romanticism style of architecture. It was built by King consort Ferdinand II in 1847, and purchased by the Portuguese State in 1889. Today, it’s a museum and tourist attraction, and we’d say it’s well worth a visit.

Tip! Don’t forget to check out the expansive grounds when you visit. It makes a perfect place for a picnic!

Prague Castle, Czech Republic

The Prague Castle is thought to be the largest ancient castle in the world, at about 70,000 square meters (750,000 square feet).

The castle has a long history, dating back to the 9th century, and it has been used by kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Today, the castle is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic.

Bonus tip! Don’t expect to be alone when you visit. With 1.8 million visitors every year you’ll have plenty of company.

Mont Saint Michel, France

The Mont Saint Michel is one France’s most stunning sights. Mont Saint Michel is a medieval monastery that’s perched high on top of a small island.

The island is located about a kilometer off the coast, and dates back to 709.

Today, Mont Saint Michel is one of France’s most iconic tourist attractions.

Matsumoto Castle, Japan

Matsumoto Castle is an easy day trip from Tokyo. A National Treasure of Japan, and the current structure dates back to 1594.

The Matsumoto Castle is also known as the crow castle because of its black exterior.

It’s a beautiful place, and an especially good choice for visiting Japan with kids.

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

The 13th century Eilean Donan is one of the most iconic and visited castles in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, making for some stunning views.

Want to stay on the grounds at the Eilean Donan? It’s possible to stay on site at the Eilean Donan Cottage only a stones throw from the ancient castle.

Photo by by Giuseppe Milo (www.pixael.com)

Egeskov Castle, Denmark

Egeskov Castle opened in 1554, and it’s Europe’s best preserved Renaissance water castle. It’s located near Kværndrup, in the south of the island of Funen, Denmark.

There’s a lot to enjoy here, from touring the castle and grounds, to enjoying exhibitions and events involving lots of amazing local food and drinks.

Windsor Castle, England

Windsor Castle is unique in that it’s a currently active royal residence. In fact, it’s the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. The original castle was built in the 11th century, and it’s still possible to visit. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the Queen in residence!

Duart Castle, Scotland

Duart Castle (Caisteal Dhubhairt in Scottish Gaelic) is a castle perched on a craggy cliff on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. The castle dates back to the 13th century.

It was brought back from ruin in 1911, and to this day, it’s still privately owned by the MacLean clan.

Photo by dun_deag

Swallow’s Nest, Ukraine

Swallow’s Nest is a small castle perched precariously over the Crimean Sea.

It overlooks the spa town of Gaspra. While it looks like a castle architecturally, it’s not a castle in the truest form, because it wasn’t built to protect its occupants.

A large earthquake in 1927 closed the castle for close to 40 years because of damage to the underlying rock. Today, it houses an Italian restaurant.

Peleș Castle, Romania

Peleș Castle is a..

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Looking for the best travel backpack?

In the past 15 years we’ve traveled thousands of miles, and to dozens of countries from Canada to Thailand and Australia, and to Spain, Portugal and South America all while carrying only a backpack.

Over all those years, we’ve figured out first hand which backpacks are great for travel, and which aren’t. A good backpack, that can carry all you need, can make travel so much more enjoyable however a great backpack also needs to fit you well and match your travel style, while also managing to be stylish and affordable at the same time.

We’ve done all of the hard work for you by testing dozens of backpacks and picking the top travel backpacks. Keep reading to find the best travel backpack for you.

This is the complete guide to finding the best backpack for travel, with recommendations for the best backpack for Europe, the best carry on backpack, the best women’s backpack, top wheeled backpacks and more.

The Best Travel Backpack 2018

Are you looking for something specific? Just click a link to go directly to that section.

Comparison Chart for the Best Travel Backpacks

Check out our comparison chart with all of the options for the best backpacks for travel that we review here. Click on the column headings to compare!

BackpackPhotoCapacity (l)Best for ?PriceOur rating /10
Osprey Fairview 55 55women9.5
Osprey Farpoint 70


70men9.5
Deuter Quantum 70+10



70+10men9.0
Tortuga Setout45Europe/carry-on9.0
eBags Mother Lode Weekender54?carry-on9.0
Pacsafe Vibe 40 Anti-Theft40anti-theft carry-on8.5
Osprey Women's Aura AG 6565women's top loading9.0
Osprey Men's Atmos AG 6565men's top loading9.0
Kelty Coyote 6565women's hiking8.5
Gregory Men's Baltoro 6565men's hiking8.5
Osprey Sojourn Wheeled 45
45wheeled7.5
Tips for choosing the best backpack for travel

Getting the best backpack is a mixture of getting a great fit, proper padding, the right size, making sure that it’s organized well for your needs, and finding the right style.

To get you started, we share our best tips for helping you choose the perfect backpack for you. We’ve taken great care to make sure these are the best quality backpacks for travel, and personally checked out every one of them. Although ultimately the perfect backpack comes down to personal choice, you won’t find any badly made packs here.

Does it fit your frame?

Since you’re going to carry your backpack everywhere you go, from planes to trains to hotels, fit is incredibly important in a backpack.

In the past few years, manufacturers have gotten pretty smart about this, and now make backpacks especially for women’s smaller frames and relatively wider hips. Check out our women-specific recommendations here. Many of the higher quality backpacks offer a few choices for torso lengths. There are also great backpacks meant specifically for men’s taller frames, or for women who are taller as well (see our men’s picks here).

I’m a 5 foot five inch woman, and the first backpack I tried on for our first year long trip around Australia and Asia turned out to be far too big. The shoulders didn’t fit properly, and the hip belt didn’t cinch tightly enough on me. After testing it fully packed before our trip I decided just days before we took off to get a backpack that was made especially for a woman’s frame. It was the best decision I could have made – my new backpack fit perfectly, and I could carry a surprising amount, because the weight was distributed nicely on my hipbones and padded shoulder straps.

No matter your size, make sure your backpack fits your frame properly. You should be able to cinch the hip straps snugly. This is important, as a properly fitted backpack will carry a good portion of the weight on your hips to reduce shoulder strain!

Also make sure that the shoulder straps fit comfortably on your shoulders. If they pull down and dig in, the pack frame is likely too small for you. If they stick up above your shoulders, then the pack frame is too big. Most backpacks have adjustable straps however every backpack has that perfect sweet spot that maintains comfort while providing necessary support.

Backpacking with my day pack back in 2003 at Angkor Wat Cambodia

Do I need to try it on?

If this article was written five years ago, we would have suggested going in store to try on packs, but today it’s easier to buy a backpack online and return if needed. Returns and exchanges are usually a breeze, and there are detailed sizing charts online, making it easy to get the right fit.

That said, if you’re having trouble finding that perfect fit, it might be worth it to go into a store that specializes in backpacks and get a personal fitting. After that, come back here to find our recommendations to see how we fared.

Size, carrying capacity and how much fits inside

Travel backpacks come in a lot of sizes, from small 30 L packs to huge 80 L or even 100 L behemoths.

Packs are usually sized in liters. 1 liter (L) is about a quarter of a gallon or the equivalent of a US quart, so a 40 liter backpack holds about ten and a half gallons.

The size of backpack you need depends on a number of things, like the length of your trip, how many supplies you want to carry, and if you intend to travel carry on only.

Most travelers carry a backpack that’s between 40 to 65 liters. If you need to pack a lot of computer or photography equipment, heavy winter gear, or if you want 10 complete changes of clothes and four pairs of shoes, then you’ll likely need much more than a 40 L backpack.

For women, a 50 or 65 L backpack is a great checked baggage size, without being excessively heavy. Since men are usually larger and can often comfortably carry more, a 65 to 70 L works well. These are just general rules of thumb though. The important thing is getting the right bag for you!

If you’re traveling on a budget, or just don’t want to hassle with checked bags, consider traveling with only a carry-on size backpack. Airlines are charging more and more for checked bags, so a good percentage of backpackers (like us!) choose to travel carry on only. This means that you’ll need a bag that’s 45 L or smaller.

Can you travel with a carry on size travel backpack only? 

Here’s a good rule of thumb: a backpack that’s less than 40 liters (and even some backpacks that are 45 liters) can be taken on a plane as a carry on. However, carry on sizes vary a lot depending on the airline with European and Asian airlines traditionally especially stingy with sizes so check first.

If you travel with only a few changes of lightweight clothes, minimal toiletries, and few electronics or camera equipment, traveling with a carry on size backpack is completely possible. I travel with a carry on backpack (and small personal item) only for most of my solo trips, and I definitely carry more camera gear than most people.

However, if you carry a lot of electronic or camera equipment, or you need a dozen outfits and three pairs of shoes, a 40 L or less backpack will definitely be a challenge.

Tip: Check your airline! Many airlines allow you to carry a personal item as well like a purse, laptop bag, or smaller backpack, free of charge, giving you a nice bit of extra storage space on top of your carry on baggage limit and you can always store a few items like electronics in your coat if you’re really tight on space.

That said, it’s definitely possible to travel carry on only! We traveled carry-on only as a family of four during our last three month trip to South America and had room to spare.

Padding and comfort

Making sure that your backpack shoulder and side straps are padded is crucial for comfort. I’m a big fan of softer fabric on shoulder and hip straps, since the straps are often directly on your skin in hotter climates.

A lot of backpacks also have a mesh or light fabric on the back to let your back breathe, meaning no more sweaty back when carrying your backpack!

A padded back is also essential, as the padding keeps the contents of your pack from digging into your back and kidneys.

Adjustable straps on the shoulders and waist are essential. Plus, a small sternum strap that connects the shoulder straps in front of your chest can save a lot of back strain for heavy loads.

If there’s a laptop slot, it’s a bonus if it’s padded as well.

Organization

Backpack organization is crucial, especially if you’re on the road a lot, and essentially living out of your backpack.

I really love backpacks that have a lot of smaller pockets. This makes it easy to store things like electronic gear and toiletries separately. Bonus points for smaller pockets that are easily accessible from the outside, especially for storing things like phone chargers or a toothbrush. On top of that, we usually bring a portable international WiFi device (we love our little Tep portable WiFi), international electrical adapters, a travel journal, and much more.

I also love to have a smaller, collapsible day pack in or connected to my larger backpack. There are a lot of times that you’ll want to leave the big pack at a hotel or hostel, and just carry a day bag, so it’s well worth investing in one.

Some backpacks actually have an lightweight day pack built in, which is pretty cool. If yours doesn’t, we like the

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Looking for the very best things to do in Penticton, British Columbia? We can help!

Since setting up a home base in BC’s mountainous interior a few years back, we’ve had ample opportunity to check out our hometown of Kelowna. We’ve also had the pleasure of exploring the majority of the beautiful Okanagan Valley that contains both Kelowna and nearby Penticton.

As we continue exploring this section of Canada, we’re constantly finding new things to do here and enjoy spending both summer and winter days driving around the 200 plus kilometers that make up the Okanagan Valley.

After discovering so many fun things things to do with the family in Kelowna, we’ve decided to go a little farther south and see what nearby Penticton offers. Only 40 minutes away from Kelowna proper, we’ve discovered that there are many family fun things to do in Penticton as well, no matter what your age.

We still have a few Penticton activities to check out ourselves, but summer isn’t officially over quite yet and we know there’s a good chance we’ll be back in Penticton again soon.

The Best Things to Do in Penticton British Columbia, Canada

So, if you’re looking for what to do in Penticton, check out our fun options below.

Kayaking with HooDoo Adventures in Penticton

Whether you’re setting out for a day of paddling on Okanagan Lake or taking one of their paddle and wine tasting tours, you’re still in for a great day.

Less than a block to the water, HooDoo Adventures even lets you rent a kayak or stand up paddle board and check out Okanagan Lake on your own. For a guaranteed good time, take a tour with the owners Mike or Lindi to learn more about the history of Penticton and the surrounding area. They truly are a fountain of information and are both avid outdoor adventurists.

On our tour, the kids loved kayaking under the boardwalk and stopping off at the faraway beach for a quick snack and to explore the water. With or without the kids, you’re guaranteed a great day on the water and we look forward to one day taking their famous Kayak and Wine tour.

Kayaking in Penticton with Hoodoo Adventures

Tubing on the Penticton Channel

A classic Okanagan event, floating on a tube or raft down the 7km (4 mile) Penticton Channel (also known as the Okanagan River Channel) that runs from Skaha Lake down to Okanagan Lake is an annual event for many families that live in the area. I first went over 15 years ago and had a great time with a bunch of friends. This year we plan on going with the kids and enjoying a nice barbecue after the trip.

You can do it on your own or you can jump on the Coyote Cruises bus and rent one of their tubes or rafts (Approx $6 for a tube and $6 for a bus ride.) Don’t forget to bring your sunscreen and something to drink because the full tube ride takes between 3 to 4 hours. If renting a tube from Coyote Cruises, they’ll only drop you off at the halfway point. Just be mindful of their hours since they don’t allow anyone past the halfway point past 4:30 PM.

If you’re going tubing in Penticton on your own and want to save some cash, it’s a good idea to have two vehicles, so you can easily get back to your car or get 1 person to hop on the bus from Coyote Cruises to go pick up your car while everyone waits at the beach. You can pack some clothes and towels in a dry bag and tie it to your tube for an added convenience.

If you’re going on your own, all you need is a flotation device (anything from an inner tube to a cheap lounger will do) and a way to get to one of the two drop off points. You can either jump on your tubes at the beginning of the channel at Skaha Lake or stop off at the corner of Green Mountain Road/Fairview Road and Highway 97, behind the Super Save gas station). Parking is limited at the halfway point and there’s a Tim Hortons just across the bridge if you’re hungry.

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Play at the Loco Landing Adventure Park in Penticton

With everything from mini golf to high level ropes, including speedy go karts and ridiculously fun and a little wet bumper boats, Loco Landing Adventure Park is every child’s dream come true. This family run operation allows you to pay as you go for each activity or you can opt for a one time do it all pass that has no expiry and can be used by multiple people. We ended up buying two cards for the kids and bought separate go kart, mini golf and bumper boats passes for ourselves.

Loco Landing in Penticton also has an Aeroball court (2 player versus trampoline basketball) and the Big Baller with it’s WipeOut style fun. They also have a blow up American Ninja style course for the kids and trampolines complete with harnesses for safe back flips. There’s also an outdoor climbing wall and a small restaurant/canteen where you can grab a bite to eat or something to drink.

The Loco Landing Adventure Park started in Penticton over 10 years ago as a family run park and every year they add another activity. To be honest, the place just keeps getting better year after year and the kids had a blast.

Loco Landing

Hang at the beach at either Okanagan or Skaha Lake

With not one but two lakes in Penticton proper, you can always be guaranteed a spot on the beach. Whether you’re hanging out on Okanagan Lake in the north of town or the equally beautiful Skaha Lake in the south end of town, both the beaches and activities are endless. With spray parks, playgrounds, volleyball and tennis courts, concession stands and picnic areas in both places, you can easily spend the whole day in either location without having to leave.

You can also rent stand up paddle boards and boats at both places and there’s washrooms a plenty. You can also opt in to float down the Penticton Channel starting from Skaha Lake or ending up in Okanagan Lake.

Go kart racing at Top Gear Karting in Penticton

Perfect for the older kids (and that includes parents), Top Gear Racing has go karts to suit the speed demon in anyone. With a banked corner and a winding track nearly a kilometer long, this course will tax even the hardiest of racers.

Timed laps go up on the daily leaderboard and you can race up to 8 people at a time or work towards breaking your own lap record. They also offer courses for younger drivers and double karts for parents with younger children.

Indoor climbing with HooDoo Adventures in Penticton

The only indoor climbing gym in Penticton, there’s no doubt the climbing walls at HooDoo Adventures will get your blood pumping. Especially great for adults practicing their bouldering skills, kids will also love the top rope climbing walls. As we found out the day we went there, it’s also a great place to have a birthday party.

Hoodoo Adventures in Penticton also rents out everything from kayaks to stand up paddle boards to bicycles and even snowshoes for those cooler winter months. They also offer some of the best tours in all of the Okanagan Valley.

Coffee and playgrounds at Jumping Beans Play Cafe

If you feel like having a coffee and snack while your little ones run around and play, then Jumping Beans Cafe might be the place you’ve been looking for. With inside wooden play structures and interactive games, the younger kids can work off some steam while you enjoy a decent latte.

It’s a win win for everyone and great for those cooler winter days or even in the height of the areas incredibly hot summers.

Ride the Kettle Valley Steam Railway in Penticton

The Kettle Valley Steam Railway is 20 minutes north of Penticton but is definitely worth the trip. Whether you’re just going for a ride or taking part in the Great Train Robbery and barbecue, you’ll be transported back in time 100 years as you climb aboard the 1912 steam locomotive lovingly named the 3716.

The 90 minute, ten mile journey of the Kettle Valley Steam Railway takes you by beautiful vineyards, large fruit orchards and through breathtaking vistas before getting a great view of the lake 238 feet above the canyon floor while crossing Trout Creek Bridge. Whether you love old steam trains or just riding in comfort as you take in the beautiful scenery of the Kettle Valley, this train ride shouldn’t be missed.

Hike or Climb at Skaha Bluffs

Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park, just south of Penticton, is world famous for rock climbing, and one of the best places for climbing in Canada.

There are also well maintained trails, if you’re not the hiking type. There’s a lot of wildlife: You may even catch a glimpse of bighorn sheep, fringed and small-footed myotis bats, night snakes, or a Western screech owl.

Shop at Penticton Farmers Market and the Downtown Community Market

What happens when you close the majority of downtown Penticton every Saturday morning for a few hours to host a market? Usually good things.

The award winning Penticton Farmers Market coupled with the Penticton Downtown Community Market together form one of the biggest markets in the province. With hundreds of vendors selling everything under the sun you’re sure to find something that you’ll enjoy.

You’ll find everything from eggs & honey to fresh veggies & fruits straight from the farm including fresh baking, handmade crafts and delicious preserves. The best thing about it is everything at the Farmers Market in Penticton is either grown or produced in the South Okanagan valley. They also offer an ever changing selection of local liquor vendors every week so you’ll also get the chance to sample some of the regions best wines and spirits all in one place.

The Penticton Downtown Community Market runs every Saturday from May to October from 8:30 to 1:30 pm.

Bike the Kettle Valley Trail

Towards Naramata, on the east side of Okanagan Lake leaving Penticton, lies the old Kettle Valley Railroad line. This section of the railway is no longer in use and you can bike the Kettle Valley Trail all the way to Kelowna. Overlooking the lake with wide, flat terrain, the trail is easy to bike and the views overlooking Okanagan Lake are gorgeous with beautifully restored classic wooden train trestles found all along the route.

If you don’t have your own bike you can rent one from a few places in town including HooDoo Adventures or take their well reviewed bike tour.

Head to the Penticton Pump Track or the Penticton Skateboard Park

A new free activity added to Penticton last year is the amazingly popular Penticton Pump Track. This paved oval track has dozens of mini hills and crests that will keep the kids (or the parents) busy for hours. It’s a great course for budding mountain bikers, BMX’ers and experienced riders as well. Located on Naramata Road at the Poplar Grove Parking lot, near the entrance to the Kettle Valley Trail it makes a great start or finish to a day of riding the trails.

Have a rebellious teen or a budding Tony Hawk in your group? Don’t worry, there’s a large skatepark in Penticton right next to Loco Landing that will have the kids grinding the rails and doing massive grabs, flips, ollies and slides in no time.

Walk the plank in Penticton

While there are no wooden planks left, there are miles of paved boardwalks that circle the city. If you start at the skatepark besides Loco Landing Adventure Park and continue past the SS Sicamous (the largest surviving stern wheeler in western Canada and a nice museum as well) you can follow Okanagan Lake all the way past the Lakeside Resort and Conference Centre through Okanagan Lake Park and the Penticton Japanese Gardens all the way to the Penticton Yacht Club and Marina with all it’s sailboats and powerboats.

With the lake and the Penticton beaches on one side and restaurants, hotels and shops on the other, the Penticton boardwalk makes for a great stroll whether your a jogger, a power walker or just a family taking a stroll through town.

SS Sicamous

History buffs will love the visiting the SS Sicamous stern wheeler. It’s one of the most famous Penticton attractions and points of interest. The SS Sicamous launched in 1915, and was used to transport passengers and cargo to locations all along the shores of Okanagan lake. It was known as a beautiful, luxurious voyage, and it’s well worth a look. The SS Sicamous took its last run in 1951. Today, it’s preserved as a museum that’s open to the public.

Take the plunge in Penticton

If you happen to be in Penticton during their crazy hot summers, love water activities and have already tubed the channel, the Penticton WiBit might be for you. This floating outside watercourse comprises dozens of huge air filled obstacles that will not only get your adrenaline up but give your kids the workout they so desperately need. With water trampolines, climbing walls, obstacle courses and splash pads, if you’re not having fun then you must be doing something wrong.

Situated just down the beach from Loco Landing and the SS Sicamous stern wheeler on the west end of Okanagan Lake, this floating waterpark is open from 10 am to 8 pm every day of the summer beginning in June. Just note that kids aged from 5 – 7  require a parent to go with them (parents are free with kids 5 – 7) and they have reduced prices for evenings so if you’re feeling a little cheap this might be the best time to go.

go! Wibit Water Park Penticton - YouTube

Eat your fill in Penticton

With over 100 restaurants in and around Penticton there’s something for every palate. From simple but tasty burgers and fries at Burger 55 to world class fare at the Bistro at Hillside Winery there’s also something for every budget.

While restaurants are scattered around town, you’ll find the greatest concentration of them near the downtown core and along Lakeshore Drive West.

If you’re wanting a real treat and you’re in Penticton during the summer, grab a bag, or even better, a bucket of mini donuts for the family. The mini donuts in Penticton are freshly made to order right off the beach at Our Little Donut Factory and they’re delicious. After that you can grab a bench or picnic table across the road along the boardwalk and watch the birds vie for your attention as they strut their stuff at the beach. It was a highlight of our last trip down there.

Wet your whistle in Penticton

With over 80 wineries within a 20 minute car ride of downtown Penticton, as well as 5 craft breweries and 2 distilleries, you might have wished you left your kids home for this trip.

All joking aside, the Okanagan Valley itself is home to over 300 wineries and Penticton is home to a good portion of them. With everything from wine tasting to cellar tours to even stomping the grapes yourself you can find a winery in Penticton that appeals to both you and even your kids. Most offer grape tasting for wee ones as well so the kids can feel like part of the action.

Some of the more popular wineries around Penticton include Bench 1775, La Frenz, Pentage Winery, Red Rooster, Ruby Blues and Lake Breeze. In terms of craft breweries, you have Highway 97, Barley Mill, Bad Tattoo Brewing, Tin Whistle Brewing and Cannery Brewing. Maple Leaf Distillery is the largest of the local distilleries.

Note: Some of the best restaurants in the Okanagan Valley are at the wineries, so bring an appetite and your wallet. Wines directly from the wineries might be a dollar or two cheaper than the stores but falling in love with a local wine and buying it by the case can get expensive quickly.

Not wanting to risk the road after hitting a few of the wineries? Go on a winery tour with Hoodoo Adventures and let them drop you off at your hotel when you get home.

Get Your Farmer on at Covert Farms Estate Winery

Technically, Covert Farms Estate Winery is 35 minutes south of Penticton..

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