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Buy This, Not That: The savviest travel pros take these items on vacation — but you probably don’t

May 24
00:52 2019

The road to happier travels is paved with good intentions.

Nearly 43 million Americans will take a Memorial Day getaway — the second highest travel volume since AAA began tracking this metric nearly 20 years ago. And the vast majority — 37.6 million people — will be hitting the literal road, which AAA says is the most on record for the holiday, and up 3.5% from last year. And those road trippers may be in for drive times that are up to three times longer than normal. So with that in mind, MarketWatch asked travel pros what smart things they bring on their own travels — and many of them are things travel novices wouldn’t think of.

Portable electric cooler that can plug into your car or an outlet — to keep food and drinks chilled wherever you go — typically about $ 50 to $ 150 on Amazon. “For longer road trips, having a cooler with you to keep drinks, sandwiches or other food cold goes a long way,” says Josh Baltzer, a travel YouTuber.

Amazon

This $ 50 electric cooler on Amazon — a best seller with more than 2,600 reviews — is one of the more affordable options.

Amazon Fire Stick — which is “easily the best streaming device for travelers,” says travel blogger Grant Sinclair of Our Wander-Filled Life — about $ 40. It’s especially good for those with kids, and Sinclair says that “while other streaming sticks can access all the same apps … the Fire Stick will allow someone to log in to hotel WiFi through a web-based portal.”

Amazon

A plug-in power strip — so you don’t forget your devices and only need one adapter on international travels — starting at about $ 10. “When you’re on the road and you have multiple devices that you need to charge, it’s much easier to plug them all into a power strip rather than having to search out multiple outlets in a hotel room. Also, when it’s time to pack up and leave, you’re far less likely to forget a device (or your charger) and leave it in your hotel room if everything is plugged into one centralized location. Finally — and this is particularly convenient — when you’re traveling internationally, you only need to bring along one plug adapter. You simply use that one adapter to plug in your power strip, and then everything else plugs into the power strip using their conventional, two-prong, U.S.-style plugs,” says Brian Stacey of travel site Tauck. (Make sure the power strip you buy will work in other countries if you’re traveling abroad.)

Riddle and question books — for hours of entertainment for the children — from about $ 5 on Amazon. “Our favorite boredom busters are books with fun exercises,” says Karolina Klesta, co-founder of the Lazy Travel Blog, who has been traveling the world with her family for six years and has visited more than 40 countries. “For example, a list of questions about one’s childhood, best memories, etc.”

One popular option: A “Would You Rather?” question book for kids, about $ 7 on Amazon, which offers fun, sometimes gross, dilemmas that kids can ponder.

Wireless travel router, so you can get better, faster WiFi — roughly $ 25 to $ 50 on Amazon.

“A router for the road will provide faster connection speeds and keep the whole family entertained. Entertainment aside, this is an essential for business travelers who have project deadlines to meet on the road,” says Mark McKay, a senior project manager at passport expediting firm the Passport Office.

This best-selling $ 25 option is “pocket-sized” and creates a private Wi-Fi hotspot anywhere an Internet connection is available.” It is powered via a wall outlet or USB port … and reaches speeds of 300Mbps for streaming video, placing Internet calls, and gaming online without lag.”

Disinfecting wipes — because you never know what’s on those hotel and rental-car surfaces — about $ 10 or less for upwards of 100 wipes.

These are one of Charles McCool of McCool’s Travel “preferred items to bring,” and he uses them for things like disinfecting a rental car. He also notes that travel sanitizer is a good bet. These Seventh Generation disinfecting wipes are about $ 9 on Amazon.

Along those lines, marketing guru Alison Mooradian, who has traveled across the country three times now, says body wipes are essential. “That way even if your A/C goes out or your next hotel is still 6 hours away, you can still freshen up on the go,” she says.

This 32-pack of well-reviewed hypoallergenic $ 9 body wipes with aloe vera are biodegradable, and the company notes they’re “great for camping, travel, body cleansing, personal hygiene and cleaning.”

Catey Hill is MarketWatch’s senior content strategist. She writes about how to upgrade your life, and helps readers find great deals on products and services. Follow her on Twitter @CateyHill.

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