Three days ago I rolled back into town after a two week road trip through the South. My laundry is just finished and my gear is almost all put away and I am completely exhausted. Since this is the last week of the month and I like to do a list post of great things I’ve found at the end of the month, I thought that this was the perfect time to talk about my favorite tools for traveling. I have six things I want to share with you. All these things are products or online resources that are pretty tried and true for me save one that’s still pretty new to my travel arsenal. I haven’t been paid anything to endorse any of them so all opinions are unbiased by capitalism. They range from packing tools, to planning tools, to on the road safety so hopefully, there will be something here for everyone. Without further ado, here are My Favorite Things: Travel Edition
When it comes to planning a big trip, I like to have a place to keep everything together. Ideas, articles, lists…I need a place to store it all. After trying many apps and online tools, I am here to tell you that Evernote is my go-to app to store all my trip stuff. It’s really robust and has (I think) an easy to learn interface. You can organize by tags, by notebooks or by both. You can also organize like-minded notebooks into stacks. Whenever I find a great online article from say Ride Texas that has a good day trip from Austin, I use Evernote’s web clipper to send the article to my Ride Idea folder. If I find an awesome hotel or town mentioned in a magazine I can snap a picture of the page and send that picture to Evernote where the text can become a searchable note. Of course you can also create lists and notes in Evernote itself. Check it out, if you are looking for an organizational product that is versatile, robust, and easy to use I think you’ll like what you find in Evernote.
Speaking of planning, I really utilize Google maps a lot. I love being able to do rough route planning on my phone and I love being able to tweak a route on the computer to get just the roads I want. Sometimes though, you want paper maps. There certainly is no shortage of quality paper map companies out there but when you want maps geared towards motorcycle riders that highlight the roads that motorcyclists want to ride there is only one name you need to know. That name is Butler Maps. Butler produces quality maps on tear and water resistant paper that is easy to refold (bonus!). The good people over at Butler have taken the time to highlight and color code the high quality curvy roads that we crave. New maps seem to be coming out all the time. Go and check them out they are so very worth it.
A product that is still really new to me is Maps.me. This is basically a road atlas that you can download to your phone or your tablet and can use offline. You can enable the GPS on your phone and it will show you where you are. But it’s not really a routing product. Use google maps or your GPS for that. It’s a road atlas. The great thing is that you can download what you need and use it offline. That way, when you lose cell coverage you still have a map to navigate to when Google Maps won’t function. I don’t have a lot of experience using this yet but I love the idea of it. Try it out, tell me what you think of it.
Once the route is planned and the hotel reservations start, I need a place to keep all my
reservation info. My very tried and true solution is Tripit. I have used Tripit for years now and I don’t know how I ever traveled without it. All the hotels for our Hotter, Deeper, Stupider trip got stored in oneTrip I named “Hotter, Deeper, Stupider” and I had hotel names, phone numbers, cancellation policy, room rates, check in times, and dates all right in one place. I even have it set so that confirmation emails from hotels get sent right to my Tripit account. Tripit Pro (their paid option) will also track hotel points and flight info. All in all, Tripit is probably my number one, can’t live without travel tool. If you do a lot of traveling look into it, I think you will love it.
My next suggestion has to do with the packing of bags. There are lots of ways to pack for a motorcycle trip. Big Ziploc bags are great tools for packing and I have used them a lot especially before I had my big aluminum water resistant panniers. Now that I do have those panniers, I’ve found that Eagle Creek Packers are my new best packing friends. My panniers are rectangles with no odd cut out for my exhaust. That makes the rectangular envelope of the packers perfect for my pannier liners. This last trip I had two packers: one held my shirts and one held my riding clothes and my shorts and jeans. Those two and my toiletry kit fit in my big pannier bag along with an Eagle Creek cube for my unmentionables and a half cube for my socks. The height of the packers left enough room at the top of the bag for my spare pair of shoes. Even if you don’t have the perfectly rectangular panniers like I do, Eagle Creek has a lot of packing tools you might find helpful. I especially like their Specter line. It’s thinner and lighter than the original making them great for bike travel. Yes, they are expensive but they do last a long time. I’m still using some I bought ten years ago.
Finally, I have something that I hope you never have to use. Mr. Man has a Find Me Spot Satellite transponder we often travel with. There are two things we use it for. You can log into a website and see where the transponder is. That way, if it’s been a while since I’ve heard from Mr. Man I can log on and see that he is still moving and on the road. Very helpful if you are a fretter like I am. The other thing the Spot does is to help get you out of bad situations. Spot doesn’t rely on cell coverage so it works in places cell phones don’t. Of course I have AAA and that is my first roadside assistance choice but if I’m somewhere with no phone coverage I can hit the roadside assistance button on my Spot and know that help is honing onto my coordinates. Spot also has another button and activates search and rescue so if you end up injured or you bike is over a cliff then you can call for help. The unit itself is not inexpensive and there is a yearly fee. However, it would only take using once for it to pay for itself. I have never had to use Spot for emergency rescue and I hope I never do but I have if I need it. It helps me travel alone more securely and it helps my loved ones have some peace of mind that I am as safe as I can be.
That’s all for this post. I hope you found some of this helpful. If you have any travel tools to pass along, I would love to hear about them in the comments. Next week look for a write up of our trip. I made a list of What We Learned with the help of everyone on the trip. I can’t wait to share that with you!