It’s that season again — when it’s time to stuff the stockings that are hanging by the chimney with care.
The good news: If the stocking you’re stuffing belongs to an ardent baby boomer traveler, there are plenty of new travel gadgets that you didn’t really know you needed until you read about them here. And now you gotta have ’em…
Tip ‘n Split
Our first gadget is called the Tip ‘n Split, invented by a baby boomer named Connie Inukai.
Tip ‘n Split is a compact, multi-use gadget that functions as an easy-to-use tip calculator — and can even split your restaurant bill, if you wish. (It won’t actually pay the bill, however — that’s still up to you and your companions.)
But what I really love about Tip ‘n Split is that it also features a magnifying glass for reading menus with tiny print fonts that I, for one, can’t read any more. And it has a little light you can use in a restaurant where the light is too dim to read the menu — which is often a problem for my wife, Catharine.
I learned my lesson last night when Catharine and I went to a local restaurant and I forgot to carry my Tip ‘n Split.
I couldn’t read all the ingredients in a dish — the typeface was about the same size as the fine print in a bait-and-switch ad — and it was too dark inside for Catharine to help.
When the server arrived to take our order, I was still squinting at the menu and had to ask him for assistance.
Frankly, it made me feel old. So I won’t forget my handy little Tip ‘n Split again, which is lightweight enough to easily carry in purse or pocket.
You can order Tip ‘n Split here, It costs about 20 bucks plus $3 shipping. You can also order a wristlet carrying case at additional cost. A portion of proceeds goes to the Macular Degeneration or Glaucoma foundations.
Super Grip Lock
The next gadget is for anyone who’s ever put out the “Do Not Disturb” placard on a hotel door and then been, well, disturbed in one manner or another by the housekeeper or other hotel personnel anyway.
That’s certainly happened to me, usually when I’m trying to work or grab a nap after an overnight flight. It could happen while you’re taking a shower or are engaged in other activities that you’d rather not have disturbed.
I’ve also experienced a stranger entering my hotel room while I was in bed — using a key to open the door. The hotel had accidentally given him my room.
Or maybe he picked the lock, I don’t know — I wasn’t in the mood for an in-depth discussion. He left, but it was unnerving.
You may also lose your hotel key and not know it. If the room number is marked on it, an intruder could surprise you.
The Super Grip Lock, invented by Melinda Moore of Sweet Home, Oregon, can solve those problems.
It’s basically a belt-like strip of material with Velcro on the back. It, too, is compact and lightweight. You simply wrap it around the locked deadbolt and door knob inside your room as the instructions indicate.
Voila! No one can enter through your door, either when you’re traveling or at home, if you decide to use it there.
There is a caution here — if you have an emergency, no one will be able to enter your room or house through the door when it’s properly attached. The hotel or emergency responders would have to remove the door, enter through a window, or…I don’t know.
So be extra careful not to slip in the shower or suffer some other incapacitating event. And be nice to your traveling companions so they don’t decide to lock you out.
You can order Super Grip Lock here. It’s $10 for one and about $25 for three, with free shipping on all orders.
Continuing our lightweight and compact theme, we come to our third handy travel gadget, Lightload Towels.
I first wrote about Lightload three years ago, but since I used one of their towels again this past summer it seemed a good time for a reprise.
While visiting Greece in early August, our family headed to the beach along with some friends. No one had wanted to pack bulky beach towels for the trip, so several in our group ended up buying pricey beach towels while there.
Not me. I pulled out one of my Lightload towels from my backpack. They come in small five-ounce waterproof containers (pictured) that fit into your pocket or beach bag but expand into spreadable towels that are 36 by 90 inches.
They’re absorbent, wickable, and washable and can also be used in emergencies for first aid (like a tourniquet; Lightload bills them as the “only towel that is a survival tool”). They’re even more versatile than that — they can also double as a scarf, as a beach wrap, or for insulation.
The same company makes hand towels that fold up into even smaller containers and are great for day hikes. Or you could use them as emergency baby diapers or fire starters.
One beach-towel sized Lightload is $10.99, a new extra-strength towel is $14.99, and a four-pack of extra-strength hand towels is $6.99. If you want to go beyond stocking-stuffer size, you could spring for a 12-piece beach towel gift box ($89.99) or a supply of 50 hand towels in a gift box for $39.99. You can order them here.