Holiday Gear Guide: 5 Must-have Gifts for Active Travelers

It’s that time of year when it seems the whole world is blanketed in one big, fat, holiday-red-tag sale. Whether you’re buying for someone else or treatin’ yo’ self to gifts for the holidays, now is the best (read cheapest) season to buy.

Here are five must-have gifts for the active traveler in your life (even if that active traveler is you) …

Best Gifts for Active Travelers

LG V30+ 128GB Smartphone (Unlocked)

LG Electronics V30+ Smartphone

LG V30+ Smartphone

It wasn’t long ago that I never left home without my entire DLSR camera kit — full Nikon body, several lenses, a bevy of filters … the works. Now, I’m a little more lax. Smartphone cameras (both photo and video) are lightyears ahead of where they were just a few years ago. The one camera that turned me on to the possibility of traveling “smartphone-only” was LG’s V30+.

There’s a lot to love about this smartphone. The 6-inch QHD+ OLED display is crisp, bright, and absolutely beautiful — perfect for reviewing my just-taken photos and video. The F/1.6 glass camera lens takes awesome shots in even super low light, while the wide-angle option means it’s great for landscapes.

The shell is lightweight yet ultra-durable with IP68 dust and water resistance. It’s rugged enough for even the most active travelers to take on the road (or way, way off). For all of these reasons, the V30+ was my go-to hip camera for my entire two weeks in Antarctica. I took it kayaking with me every day and it performed like a champ.

The best part? Since the release of the new LG V40, the LG V30+ is now discounted as a “previous generation” smartphone. No matter though! For travelers, I highly recommend hitting up Amazon for a deeply discounted V30+. Choose the 128GB unlocked version, and you’ll be ready to travel with it almost anywhere in the world with whatever SIM/carrier you choose.

Sale

LG Electronics LGUS998U V30+ Factory Unlocked Phone – 128GB, 6″, Black (U.S. Warranty)

  • Enjoy 128 GB of onboard storage and free LG Quadplay Earbuds as part of the upgraded plus package
  • 6.0″ OLED FullVision Display
  • Premium Video Capture
  • Superior Hi-Fi Sound Experience
  • 16 MP Standard-Angle and 13 MP Wide-Angle Rear Cameras/ 5 MP Wide-Angle Front Camera

Last updated: 2018-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium Sports Watch

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium Multisport Watch

Suunto 9 Baro Titanium Multisport Watch

“Three things will be left at the end of the world … Twinkies, cockroaches, and this watch.”
— Runner’s World

Any hardcore adventure traveler (myself included) loves to keep tabs on their outdoor activity. For that, Suunto has fast become my favorite, go-to brand for sports watches. The flagship Suunto 9 Baro Titanium is their most durable multisport watch which features an almost absurd level of versatility, flexibility, and customization options.

The 9 Baro Titanium tracks your GPS coordinates, distance traveled, heart rate, barometric functions, weather alerts, and has 80 built-in sports modes. The big get for avid outdoorsmen, however, is the durability and battery life. I threw everything I could at this watch for the last three weeks and it barely blinked. The battery is good for up to 120 hours, but the watch is smart enough to throttle usage based on your activity. It’ll even provide alerts when it needs to be charged, and let you know if your next workout/activity requires more juice than the watch is currently charged with.

It’s damn pricey, but I’ve long believed that you get what you pay for and this is the single best GPS multisport watch on the market right now.

Suunto 9 Multisport GPS Watch with BARO and Wrist-Based Heart Rate (Black)

  • Three predefined battery modes – Performance, Endurance and Ultra – deliver from 25 hours to up to 120 hours* of recording time with GPS tracking on. When you start a recording, you’ll get an estimate of how much battery you have left with the current mode. If it’s not enough, switch to another mode at any time.
  • On long ultra runs, battery life is often the limiting factor for recording distance and track accurately, as GPS is a heavy drain on the battery. Suunto’s unique FusedTrack algorithm combines GPS and motion sensor data to improve track and distance accuracy. This allows you to extend battery life by lowering GPS power without significantly compromising accuracy.
  • Suunto 9 is designed and built to meet the demands of professional athletes. Tested to the extreme with thousands of hours of real use in the toughest conditions by Suunto’s internal testing team and athletes all over the world, it is your trusted companion to confidently see you through any adventure!
  • Pair Suunto 9 with the new Suunto app to track all your adventures, as well as follow your long term trends, including daily activity and sleep. Easily share your greatest achievements and connect with others in the app community.

Last updated: 2018-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Henty CoPilot Messenger Bag

Henty CoPilot Messenger Bag

Henty CoPilot Messenger Bag

Wheels were one of the last truly “revolutionary” additions to modern luggage. Not a whole lot has changed since.

So, I was pretty excited to check out Henty’s clever line of luggage. Their CoPilot Messenger is an ingenious design that offers all the versatility and portability of a traditional backpack, but with the added capability of keeping your clothes wrinkle-free while on the road.

Once unfurled, the design allows you to lay out enough clothing for a long weekend (or even longer, depending on how much of a packing ninja you are), then “roll” it up around the single, inner, waterproof chamber in which you store 20L worth of toiletries, shoes, booze, etc. Separate exterior pockets provide for easy-to-reach storage for your passport, travel documents, and laptop. The smart, built-in hanger makes it a snap to stow in the closet once you get where you’re going.

The Henty CoPilot is also available as a backpack.

AxisGO Waterproof Housing for iPhone X

AxisGO X Waterproof Housing for iPhone X

AxisGO X Waterproof Housing for iPhone X

A decent waterproof housing for your DSLR camera can sometimes cost as much as the camera itself. If you’re looking to get into the underwater photography or videography game for far less and you already own an iPhone, AxisGO’s purpose-built housing is a great alternative.

To be clear, the AxisGO waterproof case/housing isn’t the first and only such underwater iPhone case on the market. But, from what I can tell, it’s one of the best designed. The feature set is incredibly solid for photographers looking for something more than just a way to waterproof their iPhone:

  • Functional touchscreen membrane
  • Interchangeable Lens port
  • Robust top and bottom mounting brackets
  • Pistol Grip kit
  • Professional quality accessory lenses
  • Optical glass
  • Anti-reflective and hydrophobic glass coatings

Tenba DNA 15 Messenger

Tenba DNA Messenger 15 Laptop Bag / Carry-on

Tenba DNA Messenger 15 Laptop Bag / Carry-on

For the last two years, Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger was my go-to carry-on. It held exactly what I needed it to — my camera gear, water bottle, reading material, electronic cables, and all the other bits and bobs that my travels require. I still love it. But, it was starting to fray. So, I figured it was a good excuse to try something new.

Tenba DNA Messenger 15 Laptop Bag (open)

Tenba DNA Messenger 15 Laptop Bag

In my case, that something new was Tenba’s DNA 15 Messenger. It holds an ample amount of gear: a 15-inch MacBook Pro, 1 DSLR or mirrorless camera body, 2-3 lenses along with plenty of additional space for documents, cables, memory cards, my passport, and a water bottle on the side.

The zippers feature oversized pulls that are easy to grab, even with gloved hands and the Velcro uses some sort of space-age technology (my words, not Tenba’s) to make it almost completely silent when opening.

Plus, I love the dark, cobalt, denim-ish look. It’s stylish, but stealth enough not to make me feel like a mark for pickpockets while I’m traveling. I prefer the standard DNA 15 Messenger, but if you want something a bit more streamlined, the DNA 15 Slim Messenger is comparable but not quite as deep.

The post Holiday Gear Guide: 5 Must-have Gifts for Active Travelers appeared first on Vagabondish.

Why Fi? I Cut My International Wireless Bill in Half by Switching to Google Project Fi

The Verdict
The Bottom Line
Although the phone selection is limited, the phenomenal global coverage, great customer support, and simple, affordable pricing structure make Project Fi the best, most convenient wireless carrier for international travelers.
The Good
Worldwide coverage (170+ countries)
Excellent customer + tech support
Straightforward, affordable pricing
Seamless Wi-Fi-to-cellular switching
Free, unlimited data after 6GB
No charge for tethering
Only pay for the data you use
4G LTE speeds in 135+ countries
The Bad
Limited phone models
Cheaper plans might be available on competing carriers
4.8
Shop Now

In April 2015, it seemed like Google launched their Project Fi wireless service almost in secret.

While they’re actively promoting it now, it still feels like it’s flying below the radar even among in-the-know-travelers. And, that’s a shame because it’s honestly the best international cell plan for travelers.

I’ve had plenty of frustration with the major U.S. cell carriers — domestically and especially internationally. AT&T offered great international coverage, but their global data plans were laughable ($60 for 300MB?!).

And searching for an alternative while traveling — one that’s affordable, reliable, and offers great coverage — became a hassle. I was sick of having to juggle new SIM cards and worry about foreign data service in every new destination I visited.

So, in late 2016, I jumped aboard the Project Fi bandwagon to see if it lived up to the hype. It’s been 18 months, and I’ve traveled to several dozen countries and four continents with Project Fi. So, I figured it’s about time for my own Project Fi review …

Project Fi Review 2018

A quick word about this Project Fi review: because I travel often, my experience is in using Project Fi outside of the U.S.

This review of Project Fi is likely to be most relevant to you if you too are a frequent traveler.

The Skinny on Project Fi

What Is Project Fi?

In Google’s own words:

One service gives you access to three leading national carriers. That means faster 4G LTE coverage in more locations.

Data abroad costs the same as at home — Project Fi works in over 170 countries and territories. No need to modify your plan to enjoy unlimited texts and data for the same price you pay at home.

How Does Project Fi Work?

Project Fi is not actually a cell network unto itself. Instead, it’s an MVNO (mobile network virtual operator), meaning it piggybacks on other networks.

In this case, those three 4G LTE networks are Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular. By combining the global networks of all three carriers, Project Fi is able to provide a substantial amount of coverage.

Motorola moto g6 - Project Fi Phone

Motorola moto g6 (for Project Fi)

The Traveler’s Take: A Project Fi Review (2018)

How’s the Coverage?

In short, I’ve been absolutely thrilled with the coverage. The official coverage map includes 170+ countries and territories. In the U.S., there’s a ton of overlap with Verizon’s coverage map:

Project FiVerizon
U.S. Cell Coverage Map for Google Project Fi

U.S. Cell Coverage Map for Google Project Fi

U.S. Cell Coverage Map for Verizon

U.S. Cell Coverage Map for Verizon

In my own experience over the last 18 months, it’s worked in nearly every international destination to which I’ve traveled. I’ve called and texted home from the southern tip of South America, southern Africa, Mexico, all over the Caribbean, and dozens of U.S. destinations.

The three exceptions:

  • Cuba (almost impossible to get any sort of foreign coverage because of government bureaucracy)
  • Mauritius (one of the rare countries with which Fi doesn’t have an agreement to work)
  • Antarctica (… because it’s f**king Antarctica!)

Mauritius is an outlier in Project Fi’s otherwise stellar coverage map. And virtually no cell plan that I know of (short of Iridium) works in Cuba or Antarctica, so I wasn’t exactly disappointed.

Immediately after landing, my phone will alert me to whether or not I have coverage in that particular destination. If Project Fi works where I happen to be, it usually connects to the local network in less than three minutes.

Unlimited data anywhere in the world for a one-person plan for just $80 per month.

Plus, the service includes Wi-Fi Assistant — access to more than two million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world. Whenever you’re in range of a preselected hotspot, your cell and data service can connect automatically (which helps you save big on data!). The changeover from cell service to Wi-Fi and back again is seamless, even if you’re in the middle of a call. Plus, the connection to these hotspots is secured through a virtual private network backed by Google’s ultra-secure servers.

In many developing countries, the local LTE service is faster than most of the free Wi-Fi you’re likely to find. With tethering enabled on my smartphone, I’m guaranteed lightning-fast wireless Internet virtually anywhere I need to work.

Project Fi Pricing: What’s It Cost?

The pricing structure is dead simple. In a nutshell, Google promises unlimited data anywhere in the world for a one-person plan for just $80 per month.

But, if you’re smart about using Wi-Fi while traveling abroad, it’ll likely cost a fraction of that. When broken down, the pricing is $20 per month for unlimited domestic calls and texting (international calling starts at $0.20 per minute, and varies by country), plus $10 per GB of data.

New for 2018 is Project Fi’s Bill Protection. Once you reach 6GB of data usage in a single month, the feature kicks in giving you unlimited data so you’ll never pay more than $60 for data.

Project Fi means one phone, one SIM, and one plan with dead simple pricing in 170+ countries.

To be clear, Project Fi isn’t the cheapest international wireless service option for travelers. It’s easy to find dirt-cheap international data plans in almost every destination around the world. But, for me, price wasn’t the only factor.

What I like about Project Fi is that it’s affordable and convenient. Travel already involves plenty of planning and logistical work. I like not having to worry about finding a new SIM everywhere I land, figuring out the pricing structure for the local cell carrier, praying for halfway decent coverage and data speeds, and watching my data usage add up, wondering if I’ll run out before the end of my trip.

Project Fi means one phone, one SIM, and one plan with simple pricing almost everywhere I travel.

Plus, Project Fi is the rare carrier that actually refunds you for data you don’t use. So, if you’re on a 4GB plan, but only use 3.5 GB in a given month, you’ll receive a refund for that 0.5 GB difference.

What About Project Fi Phones?

The one potential wrinkle with Project Fi is that their selection of phones is limited.

While this wasn’t an issue for me and the phones they do offer are great, this might be an issue if you’re dead set on using a particular phone model.

Here are the current new phone options (as of Summer 2018):

  • Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
  • Motorola Moto G6
  • Android One Moto X4
  • LG G7 ThinQ
  • LG V35 ThinQ

Technically, Project Fi will work with other older phones (like the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, and Nexus 6P) as well. Google doesn’t officially support compatibility with such phones, but it is an option. Just know that, if you run into technical snags trying to setup, say, an iPhone with Project Fi, you’re on your own.

One nice feature is that Fi customers with decent credit can score a new phone with a two-year, same-as-cash payment plan. So, instead of dropping, say, USD $900 upfront on a shiny new LG V35 ThinQ, you can instead pay about $38 per month for 24 months with no interest.

Project Fi also accepts trade-in phones. Depending on your particular model, you could land a credit of up to USD $440 at the Google Store.

How’s Project Fi’s Customer Service?

I’ve needed to call customer service twice in the last 18 months. The first time was from the Dominican Republic days after I activated my service. My phone wasn’t connecting to the local network even though it assured me that I had service. Turns out Google needed to make a few adjustments on their end to get things moving along. They were polite, efficient, and I was in business in less than 10 minutes.

The second time I called was about an issue with my Nexus 6P (my first Project Fi review phone which turned out to be a junker wrought with issues, but that’s a story for another day …). Unfortunately, the phone was six months out of warranty, so there was nothing they could do.

But, I also needed to transfer my personal phone number from AT&T (which I certainly won’t miss) to Project Fi. They prefilled all the necessary details to facilitate the transfer in their system. Then, I bought a new Motorola Moto G6 via the Project Fi website.

When it arrived, I ported all my old phone’s details and transferred my AT&T number to Fi — all in about eight clicks. The entire process, from receiving the package to fiddling with the new phone to receiving the text confirming the transfer was complete took less than 20 minutes. That was last week, and it’s worked flawlessly since. I didn’t even have to call AT&T to say, sayonara!

The Bottom Line

After one minor hiccup in the D.R., my experience with Project Fi has been smooth sailing since. Their customer service is spot-on, the high-speed coverage works in 170+ countries, and the price structure is simple, convenient, and affordable, particularly for international travelers. While their phone selection is limited, it does include some of the best smartphones on the market. All of which is why I highly recommend Project Fi.

Buy Google Fi

Get your own Project Fi phone now for less than $30 per month!

Are you a Fi customer? What’s your own Project Fi review?

The post Why Fi? I Cut My International Wireless Bill in Half by Switching to Google Project Fi appeared first on Vagabondish.