JetSetter Series – Cuba: Off The Beaten Path

In this week’s JetSetter Series, we catch up with Trusted Travel Girl’s Valerie Wilson on travel tips for a jaunt to the magical and mystical land of Cuba.

Being one of the first American women to legally  visit  Cuba when it was on the brink of change, I am often asked for advice on travel to the country. Well, my greatest piece of advice is, run, don’t walk. Things are changing quickly and it soon will not be the place you have heard about and imagined. Once you get there, here are some of the best ways to spend your time.

During the extent of a fifty-four-year embargo , Cuba has remained a mystery to the American public, yet with the recent move to re-establish relations with the US, curiosity seekers can now see what the country really has to offer.  What travelers will soon come to realize is that all of Cuba is a museum. Now that everyone seems to be jumping on the Cuba bandwagon, the best way to visit Cuba is to have some experiences that few tourists will have.


Visit History

Take the train to Hershey. At the same time Hershey was in Pennsylvania, there was also Hershey, Cuba. Milton Hershey first visited Cuba back in 1916 and is said to have fallen in love with the country at first sight. He immediately purchased a plantation and a mill to produce Hershey chocolate. In 1946, Hershey moved out due to political instability in the country, however, there are some remains still intact (very few). Adventuring outside of the tourist zones will always be worth the trek, even if there isn’t much to see. This is the best way to make memories, engage with locals, and head out on an adventure. Taking the train to visit Hershey is a great way to do this.


Engage With Locals

Seek out and talk to the local Cubans about what they like to do, where they eat, where they hang out, what they think of new relations with the US, baseball, food, music. But try to avoid a conversation about politics. Learn where the best secret local hangouts are from talking to them and about what their lives are like.


Support Cuba’s Growth

Stay at Casa’s instead of hotels. My favorite options in any travel experience are the ones that lead me to live like a local resident instead of a tourist. With the first tastes of growth and further development, Cubans are taking advantage of letting you rent space in their residence, much like a bed & breakfast. Spanish for “home,” casas are one of the most affordable options for lodging. This is an amazing opportunity to interact with the locals and break bread with your host family.

I always jump at the opportunity to interact with locals and see how they live their day-to-day lives. Concerning Cuba, it is an exceptional time in history for Cubans especially those venturing into the untamed waters of further growth in a still very much communist nation. The people that are renting rooms and working in tourism have quickly had their lives changed for the better. Most rooms rent for the equivalent of $30/night. Just to put that into perspective, the majority of Cubans make $40 a month. Although it’s taxed, that money is going directly into the pockets of the Cuban Entrepreneurs. Staying in a casa can offer any traveler an unmatched insight into Cuban culture. Even if you happen to be the type of traveler that enjoys the amenities offered by a hotel, one night at a casa for the experience certainly couldn’t hurt.


Get A Tan

The Cuban beaches are some of the best in the world, however, there are some local secrets. When interviewing my friend Frank Alpizar,  one of the most sought after tour guides in all of Havana I asked him what is the place most tourists don’t see in Cuba that they should. “There are beaches near Havana where tourists barely go because they consider it to be very Cuban, but they should go there. They should go to the beaches, both on the east and west part of the city, because they normally go to the islands, and they’re nice but they’re very touristy. You should go to the beaches where Cubans go”. His suggestion is a beach by the name of Santa Maria.

However you decide to spend your time in Cuba, make sure you understand that you are visiting a place that has been largely closed off to much of the world for decades. Remember that it is not a glamorous destination, however, with its expected growth and development, the country is changing quickly. Streets and buildings are in disrepair, hotels are oversold and having a hard time keeping up with demands from guests. Bring your patience, an open mind and you will be sure to have one of the most incredible life experiences. Bring too many expectations, and you will ruin it. Most importantly, get away from the other tourists and discover the real Cuba.


To learn more and connect with Valerie Wilson, visit or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @TrustedTravelGirl.

JetSetter Series – A Guide to Some of Summer’s Best Festivals

(Photo: Wilderness Festival by Andrew Whitton)

Summer’s finally here and let us all collectively rejoice. The days are longer, the temps are warmer and it’s the most ideal time to take advantage of the countless festivals around the globe. Whether the festival is local to you or a plane ride away, you can enjoy everything from live music, cinematic masterpieces, delectable eats and treats, or even enrich your mind. With the help of our friends at Conde Nast Traveler, The Zoe Report, Fodor’s, and The Independent, we’ve compiled an ultimate list of summer’s best festivals – near and far. If you can’t make it this year, don’t fret, just take notes and plan accordingly for next year because these festivals only get bigger and better with time. Enjoy!


Where: Roskilde, Denmark

When: June 25-July 2, 2016

Created by two Danish high school students, Roskilde has evolved from a hippie gathering ground to a mainstream music festival. The four-day extravaganza attracts an international following and features performances from more than 3,000 artists. Bands include a mix of contemporary and lesser-known performers, and visitors can watch their favorite artists perform inside large tents. Don’t be surprised if you see a few scantily clad attendees; on the Saturday of the festival, Roskilde Festival radio hosts a naked run around the campsite.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Montreux Jazz Festival

Where: Montreux, Switzerland

When: July 1-16, 2016

Set on Lake Geneva’s picturesque shoreline, the Montreux Jazz Festival attracts a global audience. Founded in 1967 as a jazz-only festival, Montreux has since evolved into a two-week-long showcase that attracts more than 200,000 music enthusiasts. Jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King, and Miles Davis were early performers, but blues and rock artists such as Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and Prince have also made appearances over the years. Performances don’t end on the shore; visitors can catch themed shows from boats and train cars.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)


Where: Randall’s Island Park, New York City

When: July 22-24, 2016

Can’t make Governors Ball? We got you. This year brings us the first-ever Panorama festival, which also takes place on Randall’s Island. From the peeps behind Coachella, the event promises an interesting fusion of music, art and technology. Expect great bands (Arcade Fire, Alabama Shakes, Kendrick Lamar, LCS Soundsystem and Sia among them) as well as technology-inspired installations and awesome food, all taking place from July 22 to 24. Is it just us or is Randall’s Island the new Indio?

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Traverse City Film Festival

Where: Traverse City, Michigan

When: July 26-31, 2016

Believe it or not, Northern Michigan is an incredibly beautiful part of the country. Film buffs can find that out for themselves by heading to the Traverse City Film Festival, July 26-31. Founded by Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore, the event reels in independent, documentary and foreign films. Moore’s goal is to preserve the art of cinema while screening truly great movies that “entertain and enlighten.” What a novel concept. This one’s for you, movie buffs.

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)


Where: Chicago

When: July 28-31, 2016

Few music festivals carry the same name recognition and star power as Lollapalooza. Created in 1991 by Jane’s Addiction singer Perry Farrell as a farewell tour for his band, the festival has since evolved into an extravaganza of musical performances, dance, comedy, and crafts. Lollapalooza hosts more than 160,000 visitors over a three-day period and has helped popularize artists ranging from Pearl Jam to Ice-T. Although the festival initially focused on alternative and indie rock, it has expanded with eclectic performers and smaller sub-genres. This year’s headliners are Paul McCartney, Metallica, and Florence + the Machine.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)


Where: Montreal, Canada

When: July 29-31, 2016

As summer nears its end, Osheaga gears up in Montreal. Held annually at the scenic Parc Jean-Drapeau, the three-day musical festival includes five stages and performances from a diverse lineup of artists. Festival-goers can jam out to popular indie rockers or listen to mellow, up-and-coming folk artists while taking in the city skyline. Set times vary based on the status of each performer, with emerging artists opening the show and headliners concluding with longer, 90-minute sets. Consider getting to town a week early, as the city hosts concerts and exhibitions prior to the main event.

(Source: Emily Wasserman, Fodor’s)

Wilderness Festival

Where: Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

When: August 4-7, 2016

Head to Oxfordshire for a taste of rural paradise at Wilderness, which this August features exclusive UK sets from Robert Plant and The Flaming Lips. Music aside, mouthwatering food is served at famous long table banquets great for meeting like-minded people. Wellbeing workshops, a carousel and boutique camping strike the perfect balance between relaxation and revelry.

(Source: Jess Denham, The Independent)

Outside Lands

Where: San Francisco, CA

When: August 5-7, 2016

If Coachella is a little too much of a scene for you but you love music, Outside Lands might be your jam—literally. From August 5 to 7, Golden Gate Park becomes the site of this beloved San Francisco music festival, which boasts headliners including LCD Soundsystem, Radiohead and Lionel Richie this year. A few things are practically guaranteed at this Northern Cal fun fest: The crowd will be littered with tech guys sporting tees emblazoned with their start-up’s logo, and the weather is always unseasonably cold so pack layers (like down layer—seriously).

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Flow Festival

Where: Helsinki, Finland

When: August 12-14, 2016

Summer doesn’t last long in Helsinki, which may account for the especially appreciative vibe that permeates the Flow Festival. Located in an edgy, industrial section of the city, the fest will feature those trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack, Iggy Pop, Sia, and the neo-‘80s Brit-rock sensation, Savages.

(Source: Jim Farber, Conde Nast Traveler)

The Nantucket Project 

Where: Nantucket, MA

When: September 22-25, 2016

If you want to expand your mind or change the world and TED seems too intimidating, The Nantucket Project–taking place on Nantucket, Massachusetts September 22-25–is for you. Some of the best minds of our time (last year that included Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, musician Neil Young and, ironically, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman ) are tasked with giving the lecture of their life, many of which turn into TNP Idea Films. The topics covered and lectures given are not only fascinating and often brilliant, they’re thought-provoking–like, really. Doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? Think about this for a second: In 2014, the festival featured an appearance by the hologram of Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where she has been given asylum. If that isn’t the weirdest, coolest thing you’ve ever heard, we don’t know what is.

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

Desert Trip 

Where: Indio, CA

When: October 7-9 & 14-16, 2016

We thought someone was joking when they told us The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Paul McCartney were on the same bill. Then we realized Desert Trip was a real thing, and all of our dreams were coming true for two weekends in October (7-9 and 14-16), on the same grounds–and produced by the same team–as Coachella in Indio, California. Tickets sold out fast, but as anyone who was ever lazy with their Coachella tickets knows, there is always a way. Some people are calling it “Oldchella” but we prefer, “Woodstock, The Redux.”

(Source: Sari Anne Tuschman, The Zoe Report)

JetSetter Series – Travel Tips: Packing for Spring Break Lists

Spring is in the air which means that Spring Break travel is almost here. Thankfully the snow has melted for most of us. As we start packing for spring break, lists are void of bulky items such as winter socks, turtlenecks and long johns. Unless of course, you are traveling to the slopes for Spring Break.

Either way, the true savvy traveler knows that packing is hassle-free given the right tools. Aside from a great bag, the most important tool in your packing routine is your packing list.


Why a Packing List?

In a nutshell, lists help to keep us organized. It doesn’t matter what type of list it is or what the list is for, lists help us to get stuff done. Our eyes and our brains love lists.

Pic 2

Why? According to neuroscience, most people can’t hold more than four things in their mind at a time.

  1. Lists serve as a quick way for us to get important information.
  2. They provide order to our thoughts.
  3. They keep us on task (productive).
  4. They allow us to remember things.

See what I just did? I wrote a list. It was a not-so subliminal way of reinforcing the information.

Lists in Everyday Life

Think about the last time you went to the grocery store without a list. Did you remember to pick up everything or did you forget something? Chances are you forgot something.

It’s okay to admit it. It doesn’t mean that you’re getting old.

Even the youngest of organized grocery shopping moms carries a list. That many superstar organizers can’t be wrong. If they use lists as their weekly routine, you probably should too.

Now let’s apply this idea to packing. The average traveler takes two to three trips per year. Routine travelers are on the road almost weekly. If you are in the former group, travel is occasional. It isn’t a constant. For habitual travelers, activities like packing are a constant and become part of a routine.

In general, if something isn’t routine for us, 98% of the time we forget one of the actions in the sequence. Packing lists help us to remember particular actions.


Lists Help With Efficiency

Lists also help us avoid over-packing. If we go through the motion of writing down everything we need by “seeing” our items on a piece of paper, we’re more likely to self-edit and pack less.

When we just “throw n’ go” (aimlessly throwing items in our bags) we tend to forget what’s already in our luggage. Inevitably we pack more than what we need.

Writing items down and checking them off as you go is a sure-fire way to pack efficiently.

Pic 3


So What Should You Pack for Spring Break?

What you pack for Spring Break really depends on where you go. Your  Spring Break packing list for the slopes is going to look much different than your Spring Break packing list for the beach. However, here is a list (there goes that word again) of some essential items:

ID                                       insurance cards,              camera,

batteries,                          chargers,                           cash/ credit card,

umbrella,                          hair products,                  styling tools,

toothbrush/paste,          deodorant,                        body wash,

lotions,                             face cleansers,                  vitamins,

socks,                               undergarments,                pajamas,

clothes,                            sunglasses,                        shoes/ flip flops/ boots,

swimwear,                       insect repellent,                sunscreen,

makeup,                           perfume/cologne,            razors

goggles,                            plastic baggies,

You can either write down this list or if you want to make your life easier order a pre-designed packing list, especially if you are traveling with family.

Family packing lists like the one below are convenient and are itemized for each member:  mom, dad, son/daughter, and an infant.

Pic 4


Now everyone can join in on the fun. Aside from the baby, these kind of lists allow each person to pack for themselves.

Whenever you decide to travel, whether it is for Spring Break or for a casual getaway, employ lists to take the hassle out of packing. You will stay organized, remember things, and pack more efficiently. As a bonus, you might even pack a little faster.

Tawanna Browne Smith of Mon's Guide To Travel
Tawanna Browne Smith of Mon’s Guide To Travel



Author Bio: Tawanna Browne Smith is the Managing Director of MGTTravel Media and the Editor-In-Chief of She is a business consultant, family travel writer, influencer, and travel planner for moms. Tawanna has been traveling on her own since she was 13, picking up packing tricks throughout her many adventures. She recently spoke on behalf of Victorinox Swiss Army at the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show about packing. Tawanna is the wife of a Navy Chief and the proud mom of two energetic boys.

Jetsetter Series: Five Countries in Two Weeks with Forbes Travel Writer, Laurie Werner


For this edition of the Victorinox Travel Gear Jetsetter Series, we sat down with Forbes travel writer Laurie Werner, who has visited more than 50 countries over the course of her career.  Her vast travel experience has made for some unbelievable memories and a wealth of knowledge. Read on for Laurie’s anecdotes on a recent five country trip that you won’t find anywhere else.

VTG: How many countries have you visited and can you list them all?

LW: I’ve been to 58 countries, but had to refer to a list to remember them all. The countries I’ve been to multiple times came to me pretty quickly – France, Australia, Greece, China, India, Morocco and the U.K., to name a few.

VTG: Your most recent travels brought you to eight locations – tell us where you visited.

LW: I flew through London to Budapest, got on a river cruise on the Danube for a few days to Vienna, through the Wachau Valley and Linz where I got off and transferred to Salzburg. From Salzburg, I flew to Berlin for a few days, then to London, then up to Copenhagen and back through London to New York.

VX_LaurieWerner_Blog_Image_1VTG: Your luggage must take a beating from all of that rugged travel. What style of luggage do you typically take with you for long trips like this?

LW: I kill luggage. For trips like this in which I need nice day/night clothes, clothes for the country and for the city, clothes for hot weather (Budapest and Vienna) and freezing (Copenhagen and London), I’ll take a rolling soft sided case of about 26 inches, which I’ll check and a rolling carry-on for my computer, tablet, plugs, cords, makeup, skin care and other essentials.

Victorinox Travel Tip:  Keep carry-on essentials organized and accessible with the new Spectra™ Dual-Access Global Carry-On. The front loading door features a removable panel with padded laptop and tablet pockets.  

VTG: Tell us a little more about this trip across Europe. How did your luggage hold up throughout the process?

LW: When I checked in at JFK, I made them promise that my bag would make the connection at Heathrow and end up in Budapest, which is a notoriously precarious transfer. At the time, Heathrow was on high alert and I barely made the transfer because the security checkers went through every single item in my carry-on. In the end, the bag and I were reunited at Budapest airport where I rolled it to the van (four wheels are so great) that was transporting passengers to the cruiser on the Danube. Fortunately, a crew member took over and carried it up the plank, but whoever made my reservation neglected to tell the crew on board that I was coming, so the bags and I waited in the lounge for an hour while we all contacted the company’s offices around the world to see who was awake and would confirm that I was, indeed, supposed to be on board. Ultimately, the bags and I were transported to the Royal Suite, which wasn’t all that Royal, but was at least big enough to place the open bag on the floor – and there it remained until I departed five days later.

Victorinox Travel Tip:  Travel with a clear conscience with the Swiss Tracker™ Bag Tracking Program featured in a selection of Victorinox Travel Gear items. Once the finder calls-in the ID number, Victorinox will ship your bag to you anywhere in the world, for free.

I caught a ride in the passenger tour van to Salzburg where I said goodbye to the other passengers (a jovial group of mostly Australians), stashed my bags at the Sacher Hotel, had an apple strudel and ran around the city with a guide. My bags and I then took a taxi to the tiny airport, which the group’s tour guide described as one of the most dangerous in the world (yikes!) and we flew to Berlin. My flight demonstrated the wonders of code shares. I was ticketed on Finnair but it was an Air Berlin flight that was actually operated by FlyNiki (Niki Lauda is the former racing star now immortalized in the new film “Rush”). The FlyNiki flight attendants gave us chocolate hearts as we were leaving—nice touch.

I picked up another taxi at Tegel (the tiny airport that is still functioning as Berlin’s airport as the projected new airport suffers massive construction delay). I love Tegel because your bags come right out where you deplane and it’s just a short walk to the taxis. My driver had a hard time finding my hotel (Das Stue, a new, very chic spot right next to the Berlin Zoo). I spent two days there, running around the city, trying various new restaurants and switching hotels. The next day I moved to the Adlon next to the Brandenburg Gate, which is always impressive no matter how many times you see it. I didn’t do much sightseeing because I’ve been to Berlin a lot, but as always, I enjoyed my time there.

Vx_LaurieWerner_Blog_Image_3Victorinox Travel Tip: Organizational packing essentials like the Lifestyle Accessories 3.0 Packing Cube Set and Medium Packmaster help keep your belongings in check so you can spend more time seeing the sights. 

Two days later, I flew back to Heathrow where I planned to rent a car. I couldn’t find the car rental agency because it had moved away from the lots. Since I was dragging the bags around a lot looking for it, those four wheels really helped. Ultimately, I found it and headed out to Elstree, as I was staying at the Manor by Laura Ashley, a hotel owned and recently renovated by the design company. The property is beautiful but how weird it was to be in the suburbs of London. You can even see London from the garden.

The next day I took the car back to Heathrow. Because of the various gifts I had purchased and information packs I’d picked up along the way, my bag picked up the dreaded “Heavy” tag. Other than that, it and I made it through the airport rather well.

Victorinox Travel Tip: For trips where a carry-on just won’t cut it, bring along the Werks Traveler 4.0 WT 24 Dual-Caster Expandable Upright, expanding 2.5 inches for extra packing capacity. Laurie did!

I then flew to Copenhagen where the baggage carousels list how many minutes it will be until your bags arrive. Why doesn’t every airport do that? Denmark is so organized, so friendly, so nice. My bags came out first (very rare) and I took a very expensive taxi (the only bad thing about Denmark—everything is unbelievably expensive, even to a New Yorker) to the D’Angleterre Hotel, a gorgeous 18th Century building in the center of town. I stayed in the Karen Blixen Suite (a beautiful suite, designed in African motif), but was unfortunately only there for one night.

Two days later, after eating my way around Copenhagen and experiencing the somewhat bizarre food now featured there (if I never see a veal or lamb heart again, I’ll be thrilled) I rented a car in town, hauled the bags into it and drove north about an hour to North Sealand, aka the Danish Riviera. I went to the Louisiana Art Museum (currently showing a Yoko Ono exhibit), Frederiksborg Castle and Kronborg Castle (the setting for Hamlet,) and stayed in Kokkedal Castle (a former castle being transformed into a hotel). The next day, I drove back to Copenhagen to fly home. My GPS, of course, died while en route but the Danes, being the Danes, sweetly directed me to the highway and straight to the airport.

I was officially on my way back, by way of Heathrow once again. The bag transferred too, and two weeks and five countries later, we landed safely at JFK and headed home.

Jetsetter Series: Confessions of a Heavy Packer

Photo: Kevin McGrath Studios
Photo: Kevin McGrath Studios

By Adam H. Graham

Travel media glorifies the light packer, that illusory golden boy of modern travel who packs his carry-on with nothing but a toothbrush, pair of wrinkle-free khakis, versatile shoes, and a blazer yet adapts equally at Brooklyn dinner-parties, Rajasthan weddings, and fondue stublis in Gstaad. Travel magazines tell us over and over again how to pack like this khaki-clad nether-man, usually with products that grace the pages of their ads—ultra-thin jackets and lightweight titanium alarm clocks. You know the sort.

But as a self-proclaimed heavy packer, I’ve never bought into the myth that traveling lighter is traveling better. Am I such an empty vessel that I’m expected to seamlessly meld into my new surroundings without any trace of who I was before?  Or more important, who I’ll become at my next destination? I don’t need my things to define me, but arriving empty-handed seems pretty insipid to me.

I’m a food and travel writer and in my career, I find it impossible to travel light. There are too many variables. Weather alone can be reason to pack sweaters, coats, rain-gear, an umbrella. Going hiking? Add 10 lbs of boots to your bag. If there’s a formal event, which in my case there often is, a suit and dress shoes are needed too. I don’t do versatile shoes. Because I’m a birder, I always lug around a pair of Nikon binoculars and a bird book. I’m also an avid swimmer, and never leave home without goggles, trunks, and a lightweight towel. Tech-wise I almost always travel with an iPad, iPod, MacBook Pro, and Blackberry but also bring a good old-fashioned paperback for take-offs, landings and when batteries drain.

If all that sounds materialistic and superfluous, the return load is heavier! My bags are always stuffed to the seams with endemic edibles that can’t be found at the local grocery. Bottles of homemade smoked olive oil, Raiatean vanilla beans, cherry blossom salt, Amphora-aged Malvesias, Japanese oaked whisky, Glaswegian tablet, Spruce soda from Quebec, the list goes on. These make great gifts but they usually remain in my own cupboard. The non-edible mementos are just as memorable and more likely to fall into the gift department. I do most of my Christmas shopping while abroad. I buy a foreign children’s book in its native country from every country I visit for my niece Sloane. And then there are my own personal mementos. On my desk sits a smooth black rock I found on the edge of the Black Sea during my first trip abroad in 1988 to the U.S.S.R. I was a high-school student then but still find the rock somehow inspiring. On my bookshelf is a delicate ostrich egg shell from Namibia, an oversized bell-jar from San Miguel de Allende and a netted glass buoy from Ålesund, Norway. These pieces of my trips are the relics of my life and I cherish each one. I could never have squeezed them into a carry-on.

I know traveling heavy isn’t very eco-friendly. But I’m really not much of a consumer in my non-travel life. I don’t own a car, I don’t own gold or other precious metals, nor do I have kids or pets. I recycle, reduce and reuse. So I figure my carbon footprint balances out here.

To many, traveling heavy is a drag. Literally. To me, traveling light sucks the drama out of the journey. So I say, let the pilots and crew wear the khakis. I vote for souvenirs.

Victorinox Travel Tip: Are you a heavy packer like Adam? Find the right bag to stuff the essentials and the extras. If you prefer structure, try the new Spectra32 Extra-Large Travel Case, Avolve 30 Expandable Wheeled Upright or the Werks Traveler 4.0 WT 30 Dual-Caster Expandable Upright. The 360 degree maneuverability of these styles takes the “lug” out of luggage.

Duffel lovers will appreciate the seemingly endless capacity of the Werks Traveler 4.0 WT Wheeled Large Capacity Duffel  and CH-97 2.0 Explorer Maximum Capacity Duffel.

As small items can be lost within large cases, use packing essentials such as the Lifestyle Accessories 3.0 Packing Cube Set to organize outfits and the Lifestyle Accessories 3.0 Slimline Toiletry Kit for overnight necessities.

Jetsetter Series: Expert Tips for Traveling Abroad


At Victorinox Travel Gear, we are all passionate about travel and seeing the world.  Jason Hodge, our Director of International Sales based in the United States, has been immersed in the world of travel practically his whole adult life. Prior to working for Victorinox Travel Gear, Jason spent many years backpacking across Europe before landing a job as a Travel Director at a travel agency – giving him the opportunity to travel to 5 continents and about 60 countries thus far.  With all of his travel experience, we went to Jason to soak up some of his vast knowledge on traveling abroad…
Booking Travel:
•    Research Flights:  When finding flights – go to multiple travel sites and look at different ways to fly: going city-to-city direct versus going through airline hub cities.  In some cases you’ll find cheaper fares, in other cases, shorter travel times.
InFlight•    Plan to arrive in the late afternoon or evening: If you don’t sleep well (or at all) on overseas flights, like me, try to arrive in the afternoon or evening, get a good night of sleep in a bed so you can start the journey fresh. There’s nothing worse than arriving in the early morning at your destination and feeling like a coffee-sipping zombie all day.
•    Don’t cram everything in:  If you are going to more than one place on your trip, don’t cram in several overnight flights just to save time. You won’t be able to fully enjoy yourself during daytime hours. It’s better to space these overnight flights out, or wait until your return-home flight to book overnight flights.
•    Choose the correct mode of transportation: Depending on the location and the amount of time allowed, the method of travel can vary. Boat/ferry travel is ideal for short trips from mainland to islands like La Ceiba, Honduras to the Bay Islands, or a very affordable option to get from places like Dover, England to Calais, France.  Trains are the method of choice when traveling between smaller cities within Western Europe, seeing the amazing natural topography of Western Canada, or experiencing the one-of-a-kind bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. They’re usually very reliable and fast, although ticket prices can be as much as airline tickets sometimes. For those with limited time, air travel is the probable method. You may lose the opportunity to see the smaller cities and towns, but you’ll cover more ground in a shorter amount of time.

Hotel Accommodations:
•    Location, location, location:  Of course it depends on the purpose of your trip, but location always plays a big role in determining the accommodation. If you’re closer to the sites you want to go to, you save time…time to enjoy a coffee in the Hotelmorning or a drink in the evening. Although metros and taxis can be fun, walking is the preferred method of travel for me. So, I look for accommodation that puts me in the heart of things. Factors such as room size, deluxe amenities and included breakfast play less of a role.
•    Boutiques are hidden gems: Modern boutique hotels always catch my eye, and are often run by a husband/wife. These hotels are hidden value-added hotspots – like having family or best friend and concierge all in one spot.  In the past, I’ve had success finding these types of hotels by looking at reviews on travel blogs and forums.  Once I find a hotel that peaks my interest, I go to their website for pictures and location before making my final decision.

Packing Preparation:
•    Choosing luggage: in the past couple of years I’ve been traveling more with the Spectra™ Extra Capacity Carry-On hardside luggage with four wheels. Hardside cases are stronger, more secure, sleeker and MUCH easier to roll through airports. I like to bring my Deluxe Travel Pillow and all my tech gadgets in my black Altmont™ 3.0 Dual-Compartment Laptop Backpack.
•    Research the location: I do some research on average temperatures and altitudes for each destination. You may not want to pack a coat when going to South Africa in January (their summer).
•    Pack light: I always try to pack light, and bring clothes that I can mix and layer in different ways. Carry-on luggage is the way to go. You save so much time before and after flights, and it prevents a lot of awkward and physically-exhausting moments in/out of taxis and hotels. In a carry-on I can usually pack 7 days of undergarments, 3 days of clothes and shoes/clothes for exercising. There might be one or two key items that need washing on the trip, but it’s worth the hassle of checking bags.

•    Keep busy: Because I very rarely can sleep on long flights, I need things to help me pass SandDune_Walkingthe time. Essentials are a fiction novel, an iPod, good-quality over-ear headphones (ear buds starts to hurt after awhile), and my laptop (I try to do at least 2-3 hours of work). I like to connect my camera and edit and file photos as well – a great time filler.
•    Stay powered:  I usually bring my normal power cords and my Worldwide Adapter Plug with USB Charger. Some planes will have universal outlets in your seat. For others, I have to use a 12V DC power outlet (cigarette lighter outlet) – which comes in my All-In-One Charger Set.
•    Stay hydrated & well nourished: I always buy two extra bottles of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and a sandwich in the terminal before getting on the plane. I don’t like to rely on when the flight crew decides to distribute food and drinks. Also, the air on planes can be very dry, and drinking lots of water really helps me with jetlag.

Staying Safe:
•    Lock up:  For air travel, TSA locks are essential, and I always bring a few extra. Inspectors in certain countries often don’t understand that a TSA master key can open the locks, so when I pick up my bag upon arrival, the locks are clipped or missing. For trains, and especially long train journeys, a Travel Sentry® Approved Loop Lock is great. You can lock your bag to a pole, and rest a little easier that the bag won’t be taken. This is a good habit, whether traveling through India, Germany or really, any other country. Always keep your money, passport and valuables either on you, or in a backpack next to you.
•    Explore during the day:
A reputable tour company may be a little pricey, but for developing countries it can offer a safe way to see the sites. If you can’t afford a tour company, I’ve noticed that renting a bike or moped can be a great way to safely get around, especially when there are a lot of people interested in stopping you and trying to sell you something.  Overall, explore during the day, dress conservatively and if you need directions, ask professional-looking women; they usually know English and will be kind.
•    Keep your money safe:
Keep most in a safe back at the hotel, some in your wallet and some in your sock. When I backpacked through India, I had a tailor put in a hidden pocket in my shorts. I put my passport and money in there when I would travel from city to city. Most travelers choose to use a Deluxe Concealed Security Belt or Deluxe Concealed Security Pouch, but make sure these are worn properly – underneath your clothing and out of sight – otherwise they are ineffective.

•    Convert some money before you leave: It’s nice to have some pocket money when you arrive.  If you have an opportunity to convert a little bit of money before you leave, it can be really helpful. You might not get a great conversion rate doing this though, so just convert a little. Upon arrival, exchange kiosks and hotels are very convenient, but the fees are usually way too high and they ask for your passport. The way to go is an ATM. Look for ATM’s when you arrive at your destination airport. You pay a bank fee, but you also get bank rate. It’s quick and easy, but usually only gives out large bills. Caveat: know the approximant exchange rate before you draw money from the ATM. Most will only show the amounts in the local currency. You don’t want to draw $1,000 when you only want $100.
•    Use credit cards for big purchases if you can: Not everywhere will take your credit card, so cash is important to have on-hand. But if you can use a credit card, especially for big purchases such as airline tickets or hotel bills, I suggest doing so because you never want to carry that much cash. It’s also important to notify your bank when you leave the country – let them know what cities you’ll be in as well as your travel dates – this way you’re credit card won’t go on hold for suspicious activity.

Whether you’re packing your bags for the sunny beaches of Bora Bora or preparing to backpack across Europe, we hope Jason’s expert tips will help make your travels smooth, safe and fun!

Jetsetter Series: Get Tips From Renowned Travel Writer Ann Abel, As Featured In ForbesLife, Departures, AFAR And More!



The Jetsetter Series explores travel tips and tales from the industry’s most seasoned travelers. For this edition, we were lucky enough to speak with freelance travel writer Ann Abel. As a contributor to ForbesLife, Departures, AFAR and many other notable travel publications, Ann has amassed quite an unbelievable travel résumé, and she decided to share some of her top travel tips with us – from what to do on safari, to what’s “worth the splurge.” Here’s what she had to say…

Abel_Africa6VTG: Thanks for joining us, Ann. Everyone in the office is so envious – you have our dream job! What is your favorite part of being a constant traveler?

AA: Getting to meet all sorts of interesting people, from general managers of luxury hotels, to high-end jewelry designers, to surf instructors and trekking guides. I have met people from all backgrounds and walks of life. As a journalist, I’m able to ask them questions that would probably be considered impertinent in another context.

VTG: How much time do you spend traveling – both personally/professionally?  

AA: Two-thirds to three-quarters of the year.

VTG: Wow! When traveling professionally, do you ever have downtime to explore?

AA:  I try to build in some time, whether it’s a couple hours one afternoon or a day or two after my work obligations are done. I’ll also stay up late for an authentic travel experience if that’s my best chance at having one. One of my best recent travel memories was leaving an official dinner in Madrid at 10:30 p.m. to have a second dinner with a Madrileño friend who took me on a crawl through tapas bars. Another time, I headed out at midnight to a dive bar in Seoul for kimchee pancakes and makgeoli with some friends of friends of friends.

VTG: That sounds like a blast. What is your most memorable travel experience?Abel_Africa3

AA:  It’s hard to pick just one. Last year, after years of dodgy “Discover SCUBA” dives, I finally finished my Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification course and was officially certified aboard a luxury yacht/dive boat in the Raja Ampat Islands in Indonesia, which is widely considered one of the premier dive destinations in the world. I finished the last of my open-water dives for my test on a day when we also had five-meter-wingspan manta rays swimming overhead, and I was presented with my certification on the night of traditional Balinese feasting and dancing. It was magical.

VTG: With the number trips you take and range of locations you cover, you must be an expert at packing for a last-minute trip. What are your top last-minute packing tips?

AA: Don’t stress. If you forget something, you can probably buy it where you’re going. Shopping for something like socks in a tourist town gets you off the beaten path and leads to interesting interactions with the locals.

VTG: Obvious items such as socks are always the first forgotten. What are your absolute musthaves when traveling?

AA: A scarf or pashmina for cold airplanes (and as an adult version of a security blanket for stressful travel days); my MacBook Air, which weighs nearly nothing; heavy-duty skin care products to counter the effects of flying; and Ziploc bags for dirty shoes or wet bathing suits. My packing list is the same for long or short trips; I just repeat outfits on longer trips. And if it’s cold, I might wear all my clothes at once.

Ann Abel in AfricaVictorinox Travel Tip: Upgrade from plastic bags to the Lifestyle Accessories 3.0 Spill-Resistant Pouch Set to stash everything from carry-on liquids to damp swimwear.

VTG: How would you describe your personal travel style?

AA: Laid-back and open-minded. I don’t stress about forgetting items or not showing up in the perfect outfit. Always traveling with a carry-on is a minor point of pride. My clothes are bohemian but respectful—always covered shoulders and knees, or more in places where that’s expected—and largely acquired abroad. My mind-set is willing. My answer to almost any travel-related question is yes.

VTG travel tip: As a reminder of regional etiquette, print out a few basic tips before you leave and store them in the Lifestyle Accessories 3.0 Travel Organizer for easy access when you’re abroad.

VTG: When it comes to luggage, we know you’re a fan of the Victorinox Spectra Collection – do you typically stick with hard side luggage?

AA: Actually, no. I’ve had squishy carry-ons for the past decade or so, but sometimes things break inside them, and I’ve started to feel envious of the people who roll their hardside cases through the airport—it seems like a more glamorous, more chic way to pack. The next time I walk into the George V in Paris, I want to have a glossy hard case!

VTG travel tip: Get the sleek look Ann covets with the iconic and durable Spectra Collection. Abel_Africa5

VTG: You always know what’s “worth the splurge” – what’s worth the splurge for a typical traveler?

AA:  That really depends on your priorities. I once took a vacation where I spent an absurd amount of money on lunch at a prestigious restaurant after flying economy on frequent flier miles and renting a cheap apartment through That lunch was worth it to me, but someone else might want to stay at the best hotel in town, take a day trip with the best local guide, book a fabulous massage or rent a top-of-the-line bike. But while worthy splurges are up to the individual, the idea of value is consistent. There are things that are expensive for the sake of being expensive, and there are things whose high prices reflect the cost of raw materials and the painstaking labor that goes into creating them. It’s the latter that I want to write about.

VTG: You’re the epitome of “global traveler” – how do you pick your vacation destinations since work brings you to so many exotic locations?

AA: It can be a fine line between work and vacation for me—I try to say “I’m writing about it” instead of “I’m going for work.” When I’m writing about a place, I gravitate toward somewhere I can challenge myself and get messy during the day, but then come back to a hot shower, good food and wine, and a comfortable bed—New Zealand’s luxury “super lodges” are a perfect example. But when I really want to get off the clock, I visit friends in far-off cities or go way off the grid where none of the usual hotel-evaluation criteria apply. Two recent proper vacations were hut-to-hut hiking along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, and a backcountry horse-pack trip in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains.

Abel_Africa7VTG: You have been to some unbelievable locales. Where was your last trip?

AA: I’m actually in Kenya right now, at the tail end of a safari trip in the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti in Tanzania. Safari will never get old.

VTG: What are your safari musts?  

AA: Take a balloon ride followed by a champagne breakfast in the bush, or course! Force yourself to wake up at 5:30 a.m. for the early morning game drives; it’s really the best time to see wildlife.

VTG: Where are you off to next?

AA:  Roatan Island in Honduras, to check out a new resort and dive.

VTG: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us today. We’re so inspired – off to plan our next trip!

Ladies Who Love Victorinox Luggage

In honor of Mother’s Day, we are sharing some of our favorite photos and travel tips of famous ladies who love Victorinox Travel Gear.

1. Nicole Chavez: Celebrity stylist, creative force behind, mother and avid travele

  • Luggage of Choice:  Spectra™ hardside luggage, in any size. “It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver, efficient and sleek. I’m always surprised that even when I think the Spectra™ won’t close, it somehow does! … I even use the amazing color selection to color coordinate their [her clients] luggage on trips or press tours (e.g. all gowns are in red Spectra™, while all casual clothes are in the blue).”
  • Travel Tip for Moms:  “I always tuck a small cosmetic bag containing my license, passport, and other travel documents in my purse so it’s organized and easy to access.”

You can read her entire interview on

2. Nikki Reed: Actress, screenwriter, model and newlywed

  • Luggage of Choice: Spotted with husband Paul McDonald using Spectra™ 29 in blue . Stand out from the crowd and keep your belongings protected with this hardside travel case!

3. Vanessa Minnillo: American television personality, fashion model, actress and new mother

4. Kristin Cavallari: American television personality, actress, mother and jewelry & shoe designer.

5. Mimi Lombardo: Fashion editor of Travel + Leisure Magazine, stylist, mother and traveler who recently answered a “Trip Doctor” question on .

  • Luggage of Choice: When asked, she recommended the Spectra™ Extra-Capacity Carry-On . She says: “It also has maximum maneuverability thanks to its eight wheels. If you are used to two, scooting around the airport with this many is truly life-changing“
  • Look Forward To: We recently sat down with Mimi to discuss her recent trip to Puerto Rico for the cover shoot of the June issue of Travel + Leisure. Look for this exclusive interview on in May!

6. Katie Stanton:  Twitter Vice President of International Sales and Development, mother and frequent business traveler.’s Colleen Leahey recently interviewed her for the article, “10 Women Business Leaders, 64 Smart Travel Tips” to find out how she stays sane while traveling.

Luggage of Choice: “Red Victorinox Swiss Rolling Suitcase. I always stick with bright colors so it stands out.”

  • Travel Tip for Moms: “While I’m away, I Skype or Facetime with my family every evening and show them what the city I’m in looks like. And I never come home empty handed”

7. Hyla Bauer: Condé Nast Traveler’s Style and Accessories Editor

  • Luggage of Choice: “If you have to bring your office on the road, this bold backpack will make it easier: adjustable shoulder straps, space for a laptop, a padded sleeve, and secure pockets galore.”  Hyla is talking about the Laptop Backpack from the Altmont™ Collection ; it was her luggage pick for “The Daily Traveler” 

If you’re a mom or a lady who loves Victorinox Travel Gear, visit our Facebook page  and leave us a pic of your luggage, tell us about your Victorinox Travel Gear of choice or share a useful travel tip!  And now until May 10, you can enter our Mother’s Day Pinterest sweepstakes  for a chance to win your very own WT 22 Dual-Caster Carry-On in Limited Edition Pink!


Bauer, Hyla. “Fashion Editor’s Luggage Pick: Victorinox Laptop Backpack.” Condé Nast Traveler. Condé Nast Traveler Network, 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Leahey, Colleen. “Powerful Women: Here’s How You Travel in Style.”CNNMoney. Cable News Network / Fortune Magazine, 22 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.

Lombardo, Mimi. “Travel + Leisure.” Travel + Leisure Magazine, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 25 Apr. 2013.