10 Inexpensive Travel Gifts

Travel accessories make excellent gifts, whether for a work colleague, family member or friend (even yourself!) and sometimes it’s the small, inexpensive items that make a huge difference to life on the road. Here are 10 of my favourites, some of which are under A$10 and most are under A$30. You’ll find some items at your local newsagent or luggage store, and others online. If you’re quick, you can still get delivery before Christmas from Australian online retailers.

Mini Storage Keeper

Annabel Trends Safe Keeper

Annabel Trends Safe Keeper

Like a mini glasses case the Safe Keeper by Annabel Trends is excellent for keeping little things safe while travelling. Store messy items like earphones so they don’t get tangled, or put on the bedside table in your hotel room for your watch, rings or other jewellery you remove while sleeping. Not only will they be all in the one place, if you have to pack in a hurry, you can grab the Safe Keeper, knowing all your little valuables are inside. Available at newsagents, Howards Storage, travel stores or online from Annabel Trends. A$5.95-$7.95 depending on where you buy it.

Bobino Cord Wraps

Bobino cord wrap

Bobino cord wrap

These have been around for a while, but they are still one of the best gadgets for keeping messy cords tidy. There are different sizes for different length cords and with a variety of colours available you can quickly identify your iPad cord from your Kindle cord. Available at luggage stores, newsagents and electronic stores in small, medium and large. Prices start at A$4.99 www.mybobino.com

Mini Atomiser

Annabel Trends Atomiser

Annabel Trends Atomiser

For years the heaviest thing in my cosmetic bag was perfume bottles, as few fragrance houses make miniature sprays for travelling. So these little atomisers are a winner. Fill directly from your existing perfume or aftershave bottles. The one from Annabel Trends comes in different colours so you can decant several of your favourite perfumes and still know which is which. Available at some chemists, luggage stores and Howards Storage A$14.95.

Ciao Bella Travel perfume atomiser

Ciao Bella Travel perfume atomiser

Ciao Bella Travel has a beautiful silver model for A$16.50 and Go Travel brand also has one which is available at luggage stores.

Slimline Mobile Device Stand

Nite Ize Mobile Quickstand

Nite Ize Mobile QuickStand

Can’t read your phone or tablet while using both hands to eat your sandwich? Then invest in a QuickStand by Nite Ize . The best thing about is its slim silhouette when flat. Similar in size to a credit card you can slip it into your wallet, so you’ll never be without it. I picked mine up at a Tech2Go store found at airports around Australia. A$14.95

Luggage Tags

Cobwebs Luggage Tag

Cobwebs Luggage Tag

You can never have too many luggage tags and how cute are these ones by Cobwebs? With sayings like ‘Upgrade Me’ and ‘Adventure before Dementia’ they certainly have a sense of humour. My favourite has to be ‘Somewhere in the world it’s wine o’clock’. I bought mine from Sydney Luggage Centre in Town Hall Square and online from Cobwebs. A$14.95

Plane Organiser

Ciao Bella Travel Plane organiser

Ciao Bella Travel Plane organiser

Lip balm, mints, eye mask, tissues, pen, iPod, Kindle. There’s a lot to get lost in the airline seat pocket, which is why I love this pouch by Ciao Bella Travel. With four separate zippered compartments there’s a place for all the small personal belongings you wish to keep at hand on a flight. It will even fit a kindle or iPad mini. Just pull it out of your handbag or backpack and pop it in the seat pocket. Available in a range of colours or this world map design from Ciao Bella Travel. A$19.95.

Jewellery organiser

Yazzii Jewellery organiser

Yazzii Jewellery organiser

When trying to minimise the amount of clothes you take on a trip, jewellery becomes an essential accessory. I have some bulkier necklaces that don’t fit in a jewellery roll, which is why I love this organiser. It has six individual zippered pockets with see-though fronts and you can slide larger pieces between the pocket flaps. Available online from Yazzii. A$29.95.

Charger Bag

La Poche Charger bag

La Poche Charger bag

 

A bag for keeping all your chargers, cables and electrical adaptors together when travelling is essential. I personally like this double sided one from LaPoche, available in a variety of colours from Travel Gear, who offer free shipping in Australian and New Zealand. A$26.95.

Ciao Bella Travel charge case

Ciao Bella Travel charge case

 

But I also like the look of this ‘Be in charge’ bag from Ciao Bella Travel. A$24.95

Convertible Neck Pillow & Tablet Table

Annabel Trends iSquidgy

Annabel Trends iSquidgy

 

This iSquidgy is an ingenious little design, being both a neck pillow (to stop that dreaded head nod when falling asleep sitting up) and a pillow-table for your tablet. Just undo the zip and squidge the bead filling from the table to the pillow and vice versa. The seams appear to be strong (I once had a neck pillow burst and the little beads went everywhere) and it’s quick and easy to convert. It comes in all-black and two bi-colour combinations. Available at airports, luggage stores and online from Annabel Trends and Ciao Bella Travel, $24.95

Hands-free Hip Band

HipS-sister waistband

Hips-sister waistband

Want to go for a run from your hotel and need to carry your room key and mobile phone, but don’t have any pockets in your running gear? Then you need a hipS-sister. Awkward name, but fabulous invention, it’s basically a stretchy fabric waistband with pockets. It has a secret top-loading front pocket (great for phone or iPod) and front and back zippered pockets. Although a little pricey, it is well made and delivery is free in Australia when ordered online through Hips-sister. $49.00.

OK, so that’s 10, but if you don’t find anything you like above, I also recommend the Plox 6000 Powerbox portable charger for charging phones and tablets on the go. You can read my review of it here.

Plox Portable Charger

Plox Portable Charger

Do you have a favourite travel item that would make a good gift? Let me know in the comments.

Happy shopping!

Disclaimer: All products mentioned above have been purchased by me.

 

Posted in Shopping, Travel, Travel Accessories & Gadgets, Travel Gifts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Aussie Christmas song raises money for Royal Flying Doctors

There is nothing at the intersection of the rail line and the road to Maralinga. Just desert as far as the eye can see. An upholstered armchair sits in the centre of the dusty road, facing the railway line. Beside it a stunted tree, an abandoned tyre at its base, is adorned with two scraps of silver tinsel.

Outback Christmas tree at Watson. Image Briar Jensen

Outback Christmas tree at Watson. Image Briar Jensen

Dusty 4WDs, utes and station wagons are parked beside the rail siding of Watson, having travelled hundreds of kilometres to reach this remote spot on the edge of the Nullarbor the previous evening. A tarpaulin stretched above mattresses on the dirt is all that remains of a campsite.

As the Indian Pacific grinds to a halt at 8am on Friday morning eager young faces search the silver snake’s disgorging passengers for two people; Bulldog Man and Santa.

the Indian Pacific at Watson. Image Briar Jensen

The Indian Pacific at Watson. Image Briar Jensen

For the past 13 years Great Southern Rail has run an Indian Pacific Outback Christmas Train, spreading Christmas cheer to regional communities along its transcontinental route from Sydney to Perth, a distance of 4352km. Each year Santa travels on the train along with entertainers.

Santa taking time out in Broken Hill. Image Briar Jensen

Santa taking time out in Broken Hill. Image Briar Jensen

This year, in collaboration with Adam Thompson, frontman of band Chocolate Starfish and founder of Muso Magic, they took it one step further, and the children of Bathurst, Broken Hill, Yalata and Kalgoorlie united to write and record a new Aussie Christmas carol, Bring on Christmas Day.

Chocolate Starfish perform for children from Yalata and Oak Hill. Image Briar Jensen

Chocolate Starfish perform for children from Yalata and Oak Hill. Image Briar Jensen

Adam visited the schools in September, providing music workshops and helping the children pen the song and record the music video, which features landmarks from the region, such as Bathurst’s Mount Panorama, the big red seat at Broken Hill and the Super Pit in Kalgoorlie. Proceeds from the sale of the song on iTunes go to the Indian Pacific’s charity partner, the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), which provides medical services and emergency support to regional and remote communities.

Adam Thompson from Chocolate Starfish sing with the children at Watson. Image Cameron Zegers Photography

Adam Thompson from Chocolate Starfish sings with the children at Watson. Image Cameron Zegers Photography

So the children from Yalata and Oak Valley schools are understandably excited to see Adam again, aka Bulldog Man, despite having come directly from an exhausting week at sports camp.

As they suck on Christmas lollipops the guys from Chocolate Starfish perform amongst them as family members film on mobile phones and cracked iPads. Determined to engage the kids despite the early hour, Adam gets down on all fours in the dirt for his bulldog impersonation, which sees the children squealing and scattering in delight.

Together they sing Bring on Christmas Day, enticing Santa from the train. As dark clouds roll overhead Santa is escorted to the upholstered chair where he disappears behind a mob of children as he dispenses gifts and good cheer.

Santa seated in the desert surrounded by eager kids. Image Cameron Zegers Photography.

Santa seated in the desert surrounded by eager kids. Image Cameron Zegers Photography.

The visit is over all too soon and as the Indian Pacific pulls out, clouds of dust are already rising from the road as vehicles make the long journey (up to six hours) back to their remote communities.

But for guests on the train the party continues, with Chocolate Starfish doing impromptu performances in the lounge car each evening. Consummate and charismatic  entertainers, they work the somewhat sceptical crowd of predominantly retirees until they are all on their feet dancing, including Norm, who’s over 90. They have the train rocking in more ways than one.

The charismatic characters of Chocolate Starfish. Image Cameron Zegers Photography

The charismatic characters of Chocolate Starfish. Image Cameron Zegers Photography

 

Bring on Christmas Day is available for $1.69 on iTunes, with all proceeds going to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Watch the You Tube clip of Bring on Christmas Day.

See Great Southern Rail for information on the Indian Pacific.

Check out the band Chocolate Starfish here.

MusoMagic conduct musical workshops and programs to motivate and empower groups of all ages and backgrounds.

Disclaimer: I travelled as a guest of Great Southern Rail on assignment for RACV magazine. 

 

 

 

Posted in Australia, Outback, Train trips, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Stay Charged – Powerful portable charger for travelling

stay charged 2

I’m terrified my phone will run out of battery power at a crucial moment, like checking onto a flight with an electronic boarding pass, sending an essential email or capturing that all-important photograph.

We are so reliant on our mobile phones and tablets these days, we feel lost without them. So it can be extremely frustrating when your phone suddenly runs out of battery power when you are nowhere near a power point.

Despite following (most of) the tips for conserving my phone battery, it still doesn’t last a full day when I am out and about, so I need a portable power pack.

I have tried several different models, from charging cases to power sticks, but none are as convenient, powerful, easy to use and hold as my Plox 6000 Powerbox for iPhone (also available for Android devices), which was recommended to me by a colleague.

Light1_Blue-370x250

The Plox Powerbox is a similar size and shape to my iPhone, so I can easily hold it behind my phone when I’m charging, while still using the phone. I love the built-in charging cable (lightening cable for iPhone 5 and above or micro-USB for Android) so there are no long messy cables. (Unfortunately, I have an iPhone 4S, so I have to run a 30-pin cable from the USB port on the Powerbox. Consequently, I can’t wait until I get a new phone!)

Apart from the sleek size and shape, it is the power output that sets this charger apart. According to the manufacturer the 6000aAh battery will re-charge a mobile phone four times. I haven’t tested it to its limit, but I have charged my phone three times and the Powerbox still indicated enough power for one more charge.

That’s another feature I like, the simple charge indicator lights – four lights, activated by vibration, indicate enough power to charge your phone four times, three lights will charge it three times etc, so you can easily see if you have enough power to charge a friend’s device as well as your own.

plox

If you are charging your phone or tablet with the built-in cable, you can use the USB port to charge a second device simultaneously, whether another phone or tablet. I’ve even read a review by an adventurer who used it to charge his GoPro. Now that is cool!

What is even more cool is Plox is an Australian-based developer of innovative tech accessories, so purchases are supporting an Aussie company.

I paid A$69.99 for my Plox Powerbox 6000 at Tech2Go at Sydney Airport, but they are also available at Harvey Norman and Dick Smith stores as well as direct from Plox for A$77 including postage. They come in a range of colours, plus sophisticated black and white.

There is a smaller version, but it only charges a phone three times, so much better to go with the 6000 I think.

Here’s to never running out of phone power again.

Disclosure: I paid for the product in this review and my opinions are honest and unbiased.

 

 

Posted in Travel, Travel Accessories & Gadgets | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Postcard of the Week – Pullman Phuket Arcadia Pool

IMG_4836

I’m sweltering in Sydney today. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius outside and my air conditioner is struggling to keep up. While I am lucky enough to have a pool in my backyard, I couldn’t help thinking about the gorgeous main pool at the Pullman Phuket Arcadia today.

Tiled in swirling shades of turquoise, aqua and blue it is the most inviting pool I have ever seen, even when the weather is grey and overcast. The turquoise colour is carried through into the furnishings too. And how inviting are those chairs right in the pool!

Watch out for an upcoming story on the Pullman Phuket Arcadia in News Corp’s Escape travel liftout.  Happy Friday and keep cool.

 

Posted in Postcards, Thailand, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

From timber to tables – ASTW community project in Fiji

The children crowd together in the playground looking skyward with intrigue and astonishment as the small drone rises up from their primary school playing field to hover above their heads. Whether they all comprehend there is a GoPro video camera attached or not is unclear, but they are mesmerised by what looks like a miniature helicopter, squealing with delight as it circles above them.

Children watch a drone at RMKS Primary School in Fiji

Children watch a drone at RMKS Primary School in Fiji

My colleagues and I were at RMKS Primary School in Fiji, on a working bee. Members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW), we were in Fiji for our AGM and conference, being held at the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa.

We like to give back to the country where our convention is held and every year donate $1000 to a charity that relates to literacy. This year, thanks to the initiative of the ASTW  Secretariat, we did more than just hand over money. We built picnic tables for the school to use for outside lessons when the heat gets too much in the classroom.

The children were happy for a distraction form lessons.

The children loved posing for photographs.

RMKS Primary School was chosen as it is close to the Intercontinental Fiji and many of the staff have children there. Through collaboration with the hotel engineer and a good deal negotiated with the local hardware store we were able to purchase enough timber for 11 tables and it was our job to (help) assemble them.

Happy for the distraction.

Happy for the distraction from lessons.

But first we visited the children in their classrooms. Happy for the distraction from lessons they eagerly chatted with us, sang for us and posed for our cameras, laughing hysterically at their own digital images.

Year 7 prefect Neimie politely asked if I needed any information as we walked around the school.

Year 7 prefect Neimie politely asked if I needed any information as we walked around the school.

The team from Travel There Next brought along the drone and GoPro to get some aerial shots, and the students trailed them outside as if they were the Pied Piper. They followed the drone around as it skimmed above their heads and looked sorely disappointed when it was finally packed away.

Assembling tables for outside lessons.

Assembling tables for outside lessons.

As the school carpenter cut the timber, we hammered and bolted the tables together, teasing each other over double-handed hammering and bolts inserted the wrong-way-around. Thankfully there were no major injuries to hands more used to hammering keyboards than nails.

Sanding down the edges of the tables.

I kept out of the way of flying hammers by sanding down the edges of the tables.

At the end of the school day the senior students performed for us under the shade of a tree. Vivacious boys with lava-lavas and Trade Link t-shirts over their school uniforms, eyes sparking with mischievous excitement, stomped out a haka on the grass. The teacher beat out tunes with sticks on a hollow log and before long we were dancing in a conga line with the kids, egging on their laughter with our silly dancing antics.

These boys took their lead roles seriously.

These boys took their lead roles seriously.

While our visit may have been fleeting, the memories of those smiles will last for ages. And I hope when the students sit at the picnic tables they will remember they were made by the crazy writers with the miniature helicopter.

For footage of the school visit, follow this link to Travel There Next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiji, Travel, Volunteering | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Shoe shopping in Madrid

The Spanish make some fabulous shoes; quality leather, good craftsmanship and contemporary design. I know because I used to be a footwear buyer. But walking the tourist trails in Madrid, I didn’t come across a single trendy footwear store.

There were plenty of shoe shops, but none selling the edgy, fashion-forward styles I was looking for. I knew there must be a location selling such shoes, but my quick peruse online before I arrived, and inquiries from my hotel in Madrid, didn’t come up with any leads.

Cute children's Flamenco-inspired shoes

Cute children’s Flamenco-inspired shoes

It was my first trip to Madrid, and with only one day to explore, I couldn’t afford to waste precious sight-seeing time searching for a shoe district I wasn’t sure existed.

Consequently, it was with mixed feelings I read Kate Wickers’ article in the Weekend Australian Travel & Indulgence section on my return home. In her article The Perfect 10: Madrid number four is entitled Shoe Shuffle, and has exactly the information I was after.

So if you are heading to Madrid and looking for fashion footwear, read the article here. As Kate says, “Whoever came up with the idea of putting all the discounted designer shoe shops on Calle de Augusto Figueroa was a genius.” The irony is, I did make a quick visit to the Chueca area, I just didn’t make it to the relevant street.

Fun, black and white wedges I picked up in Seville

Fun, black and white wedges I picked up in Seville

But I didn’t come home completely empty-handed (perhaps that should be un-shod). I did pick up a couple of pairs of shoes on my travels through Andalusia – just not what I had been looking for.  I now own a pair of cute, black and white rope-covered wedges, bought on sale for a bargain price, and a pair of embroidered, black satin flats, which make perfect light-weight evening shoes for travelling.

Let me know if you have a favourite shoe shopping district you visit on your travels.

Posted in Fashion, Shopping, Spain, Travel | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Last weekend for Bondi sculpture walk

Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, finishes this Sunday 9th November. So it’s your last chance to see the exhibits, the work of 109 artists.

sisyphus by George Andric. Photo Briar Jensen

sisyphus by George Andric. Photo Briar Jensen

We visited the exhibition this week, together with some friends from New Zealand. As my girlfriend and I wanted to photograph the sculptures at dawn, we decided to stay overnight in Bondi. We booked a two-bedroom apartment at the Adina. Located in Hall Street, it was only a few mintues’ walk to Bondi Beach, and proved the ideal location, with restaurants and cafes close by.

Two-bedroom apartment at the Adina

Two-bedroom apartment at the Adina

Although the sunrise wasn’t spectacular, the sculptures took on ethereal glow in the soft morning light, offering a different photographic perspective to the harsh sunlight later in the day.

We visited the exhibition on Thursday evening and again on Friday morning and were devastated to see one of the exhibits, the boot pool by Ian Swift, had been damaged overnight, presumably by someone standing on it.

the boot pool by Ian Swift. Photos Briar Jensen

the boot pool (before and after) by Ian Swift. Photos Briar Jensen

If you are heading to the exhibition I suggest you go as early as possible as it can get congested during the middle of the day.

currawong by Lou Lambert. Photo Briar Jensen

currawong by Lou Lambert. Photo Briar Jensen

 

More: http://www.sculpturebythesea.com

We stayed at the Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi with assistance from the management.

Posted in Accommodation, Attractions, Australia, New South Wales, Sydney | Tagged , | 2 Comments