NeighborGoods Allows Travelers To Borrow From Locals

Gone are the days when travelers have to pack bulky items. Now they can just borrow instead.

NeighborGoods is changing the face of consumption, facilitating a borrowing and lending culture within neighborhoods. This is great for people who want to meet their neighbors and spend less, but it’s also great for travelers who want to meet locals and borrow items they didn’t want to bring along for the trip. I spoke with the founder/CEO of the site, Micki Krimmel, via email about the potential the site holds for travelers.

“One of my favorite personal experiences using NeighborGoods was when I was traveling. I was in Austin, TX for the South by Southwest festival and I borrowed a bike from a local. I searched the Austin area and set it up before I arrived. It saved me hundreds of dollars in transportation costs and helped me experience the city like a local. Another great example of this is a new mother who was traveling alone to LA to visit family for a week. She didn’t want to haul her baby stroller on the plane by herself so she found someone in LA willing to lend her one for the duration of her stay.”

Krimmel went on to discuss another benefit travelers might find in using NeighborGoods:

“Travelers who prefer to pack lightly will find that NeighborGoods is a great resource to borrow bulky items that don’t travel well like baby strollers or sporting equipment. Borrowing a bike or a surfboard from a local also helps travelers avoid tourist traps and experience their destination more like a local.”

How to Meet Locals While Traveling

The Best Lifetime Luggage Warranties

Best luggage warranties
Flickr, Robert S. Donovan

Picking up my luggage from the JFK baggage carousel on my last trip, I discovered Alitalia had managed to rip off an entire wheel from my 5+ year old suitcase. I didn’t even bother to file a claim with the airline, as it’s a Briggs & Riley, with one of the best luggage warranties in the business. I took it to Manhattan’s Modern Leather Goods (an authorized repair center) and five minutes later, my bag was as good as new. I filled out a short form with my contact information and walked out with my repaired bag, free of charge.

My other bag, a Swiss Gear four-wheeler purchased at Target two years ago, is also showing some wear, with a few tears in the nylon exterior after a few big trips. However, since the receipt for that bag is long lost, I fear, so is my chance of getting it repaired free of charge. Depending on the collection, some Swiss Army bags are covered with a free warranty for several years or even a lifetime, under certain conditions, but only with the original sales receipt.

If you are shopping for some new luggage, here’s a look at some of the easiest, most comprehensive luggage warranties to help you decide. They won’t cover regular wear and tear or the contents, but if a wheel or handle breaks, you’ll be covered. And don’t forget to save that receipt!Boyt: The “Best Luggage Warranty” covers their Mach 4, 5, 6 and Edge bags for lifetime damage, with all bags covered for life from defects. You simply ship the damaged bag to an authorized repair center (at your own expense). It only covers the original owner, and you’ll need proof of purchase.

Briggs & Riley: Their “Simple as that” warranty truly lives up to its name, covering any breakage or damage, including by an airline, for the life of the bag. You can either take it to an authorized repair center as I did, or ship it to them for major repairs. Even if you purchase a newer Briggs & Riley, they’ll keep fixing the old one outside of cosmetic wear or cleaning.

Eagle Creek: The “No Matter What” warranty covers about half of their collection from any damage, while all of the bags are covered just from defects for life. If your bag is damaged, you’ll just pay to ship it to Eagle Creek for repair and get it back in a few weeks. You can also order spare parts if you’d like to fix it yourself.

Osprey: The “All Mighty Guarantee” is totally comprehensive: you can return to Osprey for “any reason, any product, any era.” So whether you inherited your dad’s trusty backpack or got a wheeled pack for your own Grand Tour, it’s covered. They aren’t allowed by law to repair a pack that is too dirty or “odiferous,” so give it a good clean before shipping it to the California company.

Travelpro: The makers of the original Rollaboard know about luggage damage, though just the Platinum collections are covered by the “Worry Free Warranty.” Be sure to register your product, but you won’t need any pre-authorization for repairs, just check the website for authorized repair centers.

Gadling Gear Review: Travel Pants And Shirt From Clothing Art

Clothing Arts P-Cubed Pants
Clothing Arts

Awhile back we reviewed a pair of pants from a company called Clothing Arts that were specifically designed to keep your valuables safe and secure while traveling. At the time, we were impressed with their pickpocket proof pants, giving them high marks for security, comfort and style. Since then, the company has continued to evolve its line of travel clothing making subtle improvements to their designs and expanding their offerings. The result is a new generation of apparel that improves on previous offerings in just about every way.

P-Cubed Adventure Pants ($109.95)
The core product in the Clothing Arts line-up remains the P-Cubed travel pants which have seen some nice upgrades since we first took a look at them. For instance, the pants are now available in your choice of two fabrics, the original cotton-nylon blend and the new “nature-like” nylon. The latter of those options is soft and feels a bit like cotton, but has all the benefits of modern high-tech materials. It is lightweight and breathable, dries quickly and is comfortable to wear. It also resists wrinkling and is very durable. In short, it is the perfect fabric from which to make a pair of travel pants.

This new fabric is a fantastic addition to the P-Cubed design but the product hasn’t lost its focus on security in any way. The pants feature six pockets: two on the front, two on the back and two cargo style pockets on the legs. Each of them is deep and spacious, allowing them to safely carry plenty of small items such as keys, a passport and a wallet. There is even plenty of room for a mobile phone, a small camera or just about anything else you may want to take with you on a walk about town or on a trek through the Himalaya.Travel pants with plenty of pockets are nothing new, however, and what sets these apart from the competition is the level of security that Clothing Arts has built into them. Each of the pockets – including the two on the front – have two methods for sealing them shut, making it extremely difficult for would-be pick pockets to actually gain access to the valuables inside. The front and back pockets have zippers and snapping flaps, while the cargo pockets forgo the zippers in favor of traditional buttons. A would-be thief has to be able to penetrate two layers of defense if he hopes to lift something from any of the pockets on these pants.

In addition to the six pockets already mentioned, Clothing Arts has also built in two hidden pockets as well. These compartments are useful for holding your extremely valuable items, the ones that you absolutely can’t afford to lose. For instance, they are excellent for holding a smartphone, mp3 player or a point-and-shoot camera, keeping those devices both out of sight and out of reach from thieves. While these pockets aren’t particularly large they are still very useful. It is a bit like having a small safe installed inside an already secure vault.

Put to practical use, the P-Cubed pants are comfortable, durable and certainly provide good piece of mind while traveling. There is a lot of comfort in knowing that your personal items are secure when visiting places that have less than savory characters looking to separate you from your valuables. But I will admit there were times while wearing these pants that I was a little frustrated with having to hop through hoops just to get to the interior of the pockets. It wasn’t so bad unzipping and unsnapping the rear pocket to get to my wallet, but getting coins in or out of your front pockets can be an exercise in frustration when you have to do it multiple times per day. This is a small price to pay for the level of performance that these pants deliver, but it is certainly worth mentioning nonetheless.

These pants are a piece of clothing that every traveler should have in their closet. They are available for adventure and business travelers alike and Clothing Arts even offers P-Cubed shorts and a pair for women as well. With a price tag of $110, they are admittedly a bit of an investment but that seems a small price to pay for what could be the last pair of travel pants you ever buy.

Clothing Arts P-Cubed ShirtP-Cubed Travel Shirt ($69.95)
Clothing Arts had so much success with their line of travel pants that they decided to expand their offerings to include shirts as well. The company’s designers have created a product that fits in nicely with their approach to travel-specific apparel by developing a shirt that is comfortable and highly packable, while still offering options for keeping your valuables safe. The result is the P-Cubed travel shirt, an article of clothing that is the perfect compliment to the P-Cubed pants.

Made from the same “nature-like” nylon as the P-Cubed pants, this shirt is lightweight, attractive and extremely comfortable to wear. The fabric delivers the same level of performance as the pants in terms of drying quickly, resisting wrinkles and keeping the wearer cool and dry in warm conditions. Those qualities are even more greatly appreciated in a shirt, however, as I’d argue it plays a more direct role in keeping us comfortable when in a difficult environment.

The P-Cubed shirt features two generously sized breast pockets for keeping a few personal items very close at hand. They are large enough for a passport, smartphone or similar small items. But again, this is a characteristic of many travel shirts and really doesn’t set it apart from the competition. What’s different is that Clothing Arts has cleverly hidden two additional zippered pockets behind these traditional pockets, creating secure places to hold valuable items. Like the P-Cubed pants, these pockets are nearly impossible for someone to gain access to and the contents are extremely safe inside.

When paired with one another, the shirt and pants look smart together. Clothing Arts has designed a set of clothes that look great out and about in town or traveling to the ends of the Earth. No matter where you go, the P-Cubed shirt and pants will see you through your adventure and keep you looking good in the process. What more could you ask for from your travel apparel?

Gadling Gear Review: Smartphone Accessories

Smartphone Accessories: PowerTrip mobile charger
PowerStick

As smartphones have become more commonplace, an entire industry has sprung up around mobile accessories that have the ability to make our gadgets even more useful than they already are. Many of those accessories have been specifically designed to make travel more convenient as well. Here are a few items that may come in handy the next time you hit the road with your favorite smart device.

PowerTrip Mobile Charger ($99)
One of the biggest challenges of owning a smartphone is managing to keep it charged and fully operational for a full day. Answering emails, taking calls, sending text messages and surfing the Internet all require significant amounts of juice out of our phone’s power cells and as a result, more and more of us are carrying external battery packs to help keep them charged while on the go. Small, compact and lightweight battery packs are extremely affordable and portable these days. The problem is that most of them have a hard time standing out against the competition, as they all share similar characteristics and functionality. But the PowerTrip portable charger from PowerStick has several unique features that help to distinguish it from the crowd and make it a wise choice for travelers.In a sense, the PowerTrip is the Swiss Army Knife of portable battery packs. Sure, it is a little larger and thicker than some of the other options that are available from competitors but it also manages to pack quite a bit of technology into a relatively small space. Not only does this charger come with a built-in, collapsible AC power plug, it also has a small solar panel integrated into its case. While the AC adapter allows you to grab a quick charge from any available outlet, the solar panel is capable of generating energy from the rays of the sun. Both options come in handy when trying to keep your phone charged, although I found using the solar panel took a considerable amount of time and was often an exercise in patience. Like most battery packs of this type, the PowerTrip can also be charged via the USB port on your computer too. This level of versatility is really appreciated.

PowerStick has outfitted their mobile charger with a 6000 mAh battery, which is enough to recharge most smartphones roughly three times. The built-in USB port is capable of putting out up to 1.5 volts of power, which means it can even provide power to high-capacity devices such as the iPhone 5 or a fifth generation iPod Touch. It’ll even provide a little extra juice to an iPad, although it can’t fully charge a tablet.

Sturdy and rugged, the PowerTrip feels like it was designed to withstand the abuse that comes along with travel. This is the kind of gadget that you can toss in a backpack and not worry about whether or not it is going to arrive at your destination in one piece. PowerStick has even integrated flash storage into the device, offering the PowerTrip in 4GB, 8GB and 16GB versions. That means you can transfer your important documents to this on board memory and have them with you wherever you go.

If you’re looking for a tough, dependable portable battery for charging your smartphone, digital camera or other devices while traveling, the PowerTrip is an excellent option. While it is a bit bulkier than some of its competition, the built-in storage and AC power plug are nice additions. The solar panel is great in theory too, but it is slow to charge the internal battery, which makes it less useful than I would like. Otherwise, this is one of more versatile and well-equipped mobile battery packs that I’ve come across.

Smartphone accessories: The Spark Plug 2 car adapter
Blueflame

Blueflame Spark Plug 2 Car Charger ($39.99)
While a good portable battery pack can be a lifesaver when away from a power outlet, there is no need to use one while in your car. Instead, invest in a good car charger and keep your phone’s battery fully energized at all times. A car charger will allow you to use your phone’s GPS navigation without running your battery down. It’ll let you talk hands free for your entire road trip without having to hang up at the most inopportune time. It’ll even let you stream Pandora for hours on end and still be able to use your phone when you reach your destination. But like most things in life, not all car chargers are created equal and having the right one can make all the difference.

The Spark Plug 2 from Blueflame is quite possibly the best car charger that I’ve ever used. It features not one, but two, built-in USB ports so you can keep two devices charged at the same time. It has a compact design that makes it easy to fit into just about any 12V DC car adapter and it features excellent build quality that feels excellent in your hands. This charger is capable of putting out 2.1 amps per port, which means that even when you’re using your mobile devices to the full extent of their capabilities, you’ll still be able to keep them fully charged for the length of your trip. That includes smartphones, mp3 players and even tablets such as the iPad. That’s pretty impressive considering that in the past I’ve used some chargers that can barely keep my phone charged while using maps and GPS at the same time.

The Spark Plug 2 ships with a high-quality, 30-pin cable, which works on all Apple devices prior to the iPhone 5. If you’re using an iPhone, iPod or iPad newer than that, or a gadget from another company, you’ll need to supply your own Lightning adapter or standard USB cable. That adds a bit of an expense to a product that is already on the higher end of the car charger scale, but you do get an extremely high-quality product that does its job very well. This is the only car charger you’ll ever need and you’ll be glad you have it in your vehicle the next time your phone begins to die in the middle of the day.

Smartphone accessories: Lightning cable from Blueflame
Blueflame

Blueflame Lightning Cable ($29.99)
When Apple released the iPhone 5 last year they also introduced the new Lightning charging and sync cable. This smaller, 8-pin option allowed them to produce a device that was substantially thinner than any phone they had ever produced before. The same adapter was rolled over to the iPod Touch and the standard iPad, not to mention the Mini. At the time there was a lot of grumbling about why Apple would make this change, which rendered most older accessories incompatible with the new devices. Upon release, the new cable was hard to find and it was questionable whether or not third parties would actually be able to produce them. Turns out they can and Blueflame has made an excellent version of that very same cable.

This two-meter long cord provides plenty of length to connect your device to a USB port, no matter where it’s located. The high-quality, tangle-free cable is surprisingly thick and resistant to wear and tear as well, while both the USB and Lightning plugs are extremely durable and easy to insert or pull out of their respective ports. In short, this is a very nice cable that will likely leave you impressed with how well designed and built it is. Cheap cords can easily fray and become unusable, but Blueflame has created a product that feels like it will last longer than the device you’re actually plugging it into. That means you can take it with you on the road with a feeling of confidence that it’ll perform well when you need it most.

Apple charges $19 for a replacement Lightning cable in their stores but for ten bucks more you’re not only getting a cable that is twice as long, but also one of considerably higher quality. I’ve seldom been impressed by a mere cable before, but in this case I am most certainly impressed. This product is worth the praise and Blueflame has put together a very nice Lightning adapter that is well worth the money. They also happen to make a very high-quality, 30-pin cable for older Apple devices as well as an auxiliary audio connector and an auxiliary to RCA audio cable too. Each of them are of the same high quality as the Lightning cable and a good investment for audiophiles.

Should Travel Reviewers Be Anonymous?

male eating in restaurant
Alamy

Yesterday New York Times reporter Pete Wells published a review of the Manhattan French restaurant Daniel, removing one of its four stars in part because of the unequal treatment he received as a recognized journalist. He and a lesser-known colleague ordered the same meal, but had totally different experiences, with Wells receiving additional items, extra wine pours, and more doting service. While the other reporter still felt well taken care of, Wells wondered if “regular” guests could benefit as much from a little coddling as the critics.

Slate’s “Brow Beat” culture blog compared Wells’ experience to former Times critic Ruth Reichl, who once visited Le Cirque both as her famous self and in disguise. She surmised that the “favored patron” treatment was actually part of the draw of the restaurant: the hope that one could be given the VIP service. The blog suggests reviewers dispense with the pretense of being anonymous reviewers and go public, perhaps balancing reviews with intel from the non-famous.In the travel media world, the problem of anonymity and freebies has long been an ethical debate. “Conde Nast Traveler” magazine adheres to a “truth in travel” policy, stipulating that its writers never accept freebies and travel unannounced to try to ensure honest and equal opinions. Some guidebooks such as Fodor’s allow some comps for reviewers, but insist they will not guarantee a good review or even inclusion in a guide. Writer Chuck Thompson exposed some of the industry secrets in his book “Smile While You’re Lying,” noting that much mainstream travel writing is just PR copy, and how many reviews are simply tit for tat.

In the age of tweeting, checking in, and Instagramming our meals and trips, is anonymity even possible? More importantly, do we care? While a famous reviewer might have a richer experience than your average Joe, he can also get deeper access and a wider variety of offerings, combined with a professional’s expertise. Do you want to read a hotel review from a guy on his first trip to London, or someone who has stayed in dozens? Perhaps user-generated content such as Trip Advisor and Yelp can balance the VIP reviews, and give us a broader spectrum.

Do you care about anonymous reviews? Can freebies stay free from bias?