We're pleased to welcome guest blogger Beth Blair of TheVacationGals.com to Fodor's. Check back all week for more from The Vacation Gals.
Last week I had the remarkable opportunity to visit Providenciales, Turks & Caicos and stay at Ocean Club West which sits on 12 miles of stunning white sand beach. (Fantastic, by the way!) When you go to an island all you really need is a swimsuit, sunscreen, flip-flops and a couple of outfits and you're good to go— or are you?
This time, my dear husband stayed behind to usher my preschoolers to and from school while I took off alone to capture photos and stories. As I found out a while ago, traveling solo and traveling with the clan are completely different experiences. Walking pace, frame of mind and even eating habits are completely altered when a mom is traveling alone— and so are the items packed. Goldfish crackers, sippy cups, and travel-sized Candy Land were left behind and replaced with items that helped make my traveling experience a pleasant one.
My husband bought me a webcam for this past trip and I will never travel without it again. The kids were able to play show-and-tell with school art projects and I was able blow kisses at them before bed. My only tip to you is to try and avoid the lower quality options because the picture can be grainy.
2. Digital camera
Camera quality is getting better and better with time which means you don't have to spend a lot of cash on a decent camera. Extra memory cards are a nice touch, too.
3. Noise-canceling headphones
Have you ever tried these? They are fantastic for the times you are surrounded by a rowdy group of football fans on their way to a game or a group of elementary-age kids heading to Sea World for a school trip.
4. Quality neck pillow
There is nothing worse than a "plane in the neck." You know what I'm referring to. You fall sleep on the airplane in an awkward position, perhaps on your neighbor's shoulder or scrunched up against the window and suddenly you are jolted awake in response to some turbulence or the sound of the plane's wheels coming down for landing. As you straighten up all you feel is an aching neck and maybe notice some drool running down your chin. A quality travel pillow can prevent the misery altogether— well maybe not the drool.
5. Rolling carry-on bag with laptop case
My carry-on pilot case with a laptop sleeve is one of my favorite travel items. I no longer need a laptop bag and I avoid those pesky checked baggage fees.
6. New book
I enjoy flying because it gives me the opportunity to simply sit and read. Even if your mama isn't an avid reader you can hit the magazine rack and give her a stack of her favorite glossies.
7. Travel alarm
Did you know sometimes wake-up calls don't come through? I'm sure you're completely shocked. Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way and now instead of checking the clock all night long I reply on a compact travel alarm and use my cell phone or wake-up call for backup.
8. A watch with dual time zones
This was my favorite travel item when I was working for the airlines and had a layover several time-zones away from home. Sadly, my watch's face cracked (a security screener accidentally stepped on it, but that's another story). But trust me, they are the perfect gift for a traveling mama needing to keep track of two time zones.
9. Welcome home dinner
You don't have to throw a huge bash with balloons and punch (well you can), but a simple dinner with the family is the nicest way to come off a trip. After all, there's no place like home.