Best Travel Gifts

Saturday December 6, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 2 Comments

I live, eat and breath travel. I could travel 24/7 if the opportunity presented itself. Seven days a week I think about and write about travel. Travel is as affordable or as expensive as you make it. The same may be said for travel gifts. With that in mind, I give you my seven best gifts for the traveler.

Tieks, travel shoes, ballet flats

Tieks wool ballet flats are great travel shoes.

Good things come in small packages; small blue packages from Beverly Hills, California to be exact. I first discovered Tieks ballet flats in 2012 when beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Kerry Walsh wore her Starstruck Tieks while showing off her medals. This year I discovered Tieks for winter. New to their Vegan collection, the greystone non-leather Tieks add warmth to my wardrobe. I’m looking forward to wearing these on my Viking River Cruise down the Danube. They will be perfect to slip into after a day of exploring Christmas Markets in rubber rain boots. These travel shoes are priced at $175 – as with all items listed here, check the website for current prices.

Nancy D. Brown, Royal Robbins, Carmel, California, travel

I can go everywhere in these travel clothes.

What’s a great pair of travel shoes without travel clothes to match? I was introduced to the Royal Robbins brand from fellow travel bloggers Deb and Dave of the Planet D. They, too, were looking to dress up their wardrobe while still looking good on the road. You’ll be seeing a lot more of me dressed in Royal Robbins go everywhere clothing.

luggage tag, Your Bag Tag, travel

Luggage tags from Your Bag Tag. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

Stocking stuffer

For children looking for affordable gift ideas for the traveler, or anyone with limited holiday budgets, custom luggage tags are the ideal gift for people on the go. These personalized luggage tags from YourBagTag will also work well for locating sports, fishing, scuba, skiing, tack and golf bags in a hurry. The carabiner bag tags are perfect for camera gear bags and backpacks. Prices start at $12.99.

luggage, Ugobags, travel

Ugobags custom luggage. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

For the traveler who has everything, custom luggage from Ugobags is perfect. Successfully funded through a Kickstarter campaign, Ugobags offers travelers the opportunity to customize their luggage online! With free delivery and a two year warranty, this lightweight luggage is a sure bet from a California-based company. Carryon luggage starts at $189.

Glacier Bay, Alaska, experiential travel

Experiential travel in Alaska. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

Travel experiences

Some of us prefer travel experiences over collecting things. The term experiential travel is popular with parents and grandparents because many of us are looking for memorable or teachable moments that we can share with family members or close friends. A memorable travel experience for me was a trip to Alaska’s Glacier Bay with UnCruise Adventures – what a trip! All inclusive Alaska rates start at $4,195.

Creekside Farms, wreaths, California

Bring California indoors with Creekside Farms wreath. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown

 

California grown

The herb wreaths from California-based Creekside Farms not only look pretty, they will make your house, apartment or dorm room smell simply divine. If you want to bring a bit of country into your home, these wreaths are certainly cheaper than a trip to the lavender fields of Provence, France. These California-grown gifts start at $29.
An Innocent Abroad, travel, bookTravel books

Last year I recommended the book Wild by Portland, Oregon-based author Cheryl Strayed. A book for the adventurous explorer, hiker or armchair traveler about her wanderings From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I still recommend this book and look forward to watching Reese Witherspoon play Strayed in Wild, the movie. Suggested retail price $16.43.

A book I’m taking with me on the airplane to Europe this winter is An Innocent Abroad Life-changing trips from 35 great writers. Published by Oakland, California-based Lonely Planet, this book includes travel tales from Tim Cahill, Pico Iyer, Ann Patchett, Jane Smiley and Cheryl Strayed, among others. Suggested retail is $15.99 for this book.
I hope you found these gift ideas helpful. What are your favorite holiday gifts for the traveler in your life?
Companies often reach out to me to review their products, travel apparel and gear. Many of the above items have been reviewed on the What a Trip blog. I wouldn’t recommend these 7 best gifts for the traveler if I didn’t personally use and approve of them.

Related Posts:

Best Gifts for Travelers

Gift Ideas for Travelers

Travel Gift Guide

Review: Embassy Suites Napa Valley

Friday December 5, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 1 Comment

Back in the day (we’re talking late 1980’s) downtown Napa was not the happening spot that it is today. My husband and I lived in the apartments next to Embassy Suites Napa Valley and would walk over to order their killer cheese bread. The bread is long gone from the Napa Valley menu – it was probably called killer cheese bread due to the artery-clogging goodness – and along with the updated healthy menu items comes a $4 million+ re-model of the entire hotel.
 

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", hotel review

Embassy Suites hotel review. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 

What I like about this property; the all-suite hotel is conveniently located in downtown Napa, so if you want to do Napa like a local, you’ll be able to walk, dine and drink without driving. You’ll need your car to explore further up valley, but if Napa is your focus, the hotel is right next to Highway 29 – the first downtown Napa exit. Additionally, as a business traveler, I love the free, fast wifi! Good water pressure in the shower of this well lighted bathroom, too. FYI, no bath tub, but there is an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, as well as a small fitness center.

 

 

The 205 room hotel is pet-friendly and charges a one time $75 pet fee. Dogs receive a goodie bag upon arrival! All rooms are suites with king or double bed options and include a desk and sleeper sofa in the front suite. The updated rooms include plenty of electrical outlets for charging your electronics. If you are a light sleeper, I recommend requesting a third floor location. My neighbors above me were walking around until 11:30 p.m. and up early the next morning.
 

"Embassy Suites Napa Valley" swans, hotel, "Embassy Suites"

Swans in the hotel courtyard. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", hotel, pool

Outdoor pool. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", swimming pool

Indoor pool & hot tub. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
In addition to a complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, guests are welcomed to a complimentary reception for evening cocktails served nightly from 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Breakfast is served in the atrium Monday – Friday from 6:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m., Saturday and Sunday from 7:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
 
"Embassy Suites", "Napa Valley", breakfast

Cooked to order breakfast at Embassy Suites. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
"Embassy Suites Napa Valley", atrium

Cocktails served nightly in the atrium. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
Insider Tip
In addition to being pet-friendly, Embassy Suites has lovely grounds with water features, fountains, ducks and swans. If you are traveling with kids, the birds are fed in the morning for good viewing. See if you can spot the black swans!

For additional insider tips follow Northern California Travel Writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter.
 

"Embassy Suites" suite, "Napa Valley"

King Suite Pool View. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
Check-In Time: 4:00pm

Check-Out Time: 12:00pm

If You Go:
Embassy Suites Napa Valley (800) Embassy or (707) 253-9540
1075 California Boulevard
Napa, California 94559

Hotel review, video and photos courtesy of Lodging Editor Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Embassy Suites while researching an article for another publication.

Book Review: Wild

Thursday December 4, 2014 at 7:07 AM | 0 Comments

We’ve all heard the phrase, “don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” The same could be said of author Cheryl Strayed, only the phrase would read, “don’t judge a woman until you’ve walked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail in her boots.”
 
Cheryl Strayed has been called many things – gutsy, brave, stupid, drug addict and writer are among some of the titles. In the true story Wild, the Portland-based author takes to the Pacific Crest Trail like an Oregon duck out of water. She squawks, waddles and rolls her way through California, Oregon and eventually makes it to Washington State and the Bridge of the Gods in her search to heal her broken soul and make herself whole again after the death of her mother and the end of her marriage.
 

Reese Witherspoon, Cheryl Strayed, Wild

Reese Witherspoon hikes in Cheryl Strayed’s boots in ‘Wild.’ (Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures)


 
While I have never walked the Pacific Crest Trail myself or lugged a monster of a backpack – I prefer the comfort of a soft mattress and high thread count – I did enjoy reading Wild and learning more about the trail and its history. The Mexico to Canada trail wasn’t designated until 1968 and was completed in 1993. I imagine the PCT will increase in popularity when the movie Wild hits theaters.

The book and movie will appeal to travelers and explorers for its stark and scenic beauty. As Strayed points out, “the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada is entirely different. A landscape so desolate it seemed out of this earth. I was a pebble. I was a leaf. I was the jagged branch of a tree.”

Strayed bypassed the High Sierra – missing Sequoia and Kings Canyon and Yosemite national parks, Tuolumne Meadows and the John Muir and Desolation wildernesses, but hiked many miles in the Sierra Nevada – what Muir called the Range of Light – before entering the Cascade Range. Personally, I have ridden some of these locations on horseback.

Like Strayed’s mother, horses are my religion. I do anything I can to ride them. Horse lovers be warned that there is a difficult section in the book about the death of a beloved horse.
 

Mt Hood, Oregon

Mt. Hood as seen from the Columbia Gorge. Photo © 2014 Nancy D. Brown


 
Another favorite location that Strayed and I share is Oregon’s Three Sisters-South, Middle and North, as well as Mount Hood. Central Oregon and Washington’s Columbia Gorge are great places for horseback riding vacations.

 

 

Reese Witherspoon, Wild, movie

Reese Witherspoon by Pacific Crest Trail in Wild, the movie. (Anne Marie Fox/Fox Searchlight Pictures)


 
Wild walk on Pacific Crest Trail
Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you’ll appreciate Strayed’s ability to tell a story – both wild and raw. Indeed, Wild is a fast-paced, thrilling and rocky walk along the Pacific Crest Trail.
 
“We all have the power to heal ourselves,” said Bruna Papandra, producer ‘Wild.’
 
Insider tip

Like Cheryl Strayed upon completing her walk on the Pacific Crest Trail, you too can touch the Bridge of the Gods, or drive across the toll bridge that crosses the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. If you make it there, stay at Skamania Lodge – much preferred over a tent pitched on the ground by the trail.

Have you read the book or seen the movie? What did you think? For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter @nancydbrown and follow @CherylStrayed on Twitter.
 
Wild, book review, Cheryl Strayed
 
Where to Buy:
Wild

Article written by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown of What a Trip, Travels from Northern California. I purchased the book Wild From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail for review purposes and because I enjoy reading books that I can hold in my hands.