Lifestyle

101 things worth the money: Travel

Roll away wrinkles

SkyRoll will make your suitcase seem woefully inadequate. Its detachable garment bag, large enough to accommodate a suit, several shirts and a pair of shoes, is wrapped around a cylindrical duffel that opens at either end for easy access to the contents.

Because your clothes are rolled instead of folded, they sustain fewer wrinkles en route, and you spend less time tangling with your travel iron. SkyRoll is made from ballistic nylon, so it’s tough enough to withstand belligerent baggage handlers — but since it’s small enough to qualify as a carry-on, there’s no need to check it, anyway. About $300 from www.capitalcityluggage.com

Dress to impress

Finally, a dress you can cram into a suitcase and wear days from now without the help of a good steam iron. Recommended by Consumer Reports, the Norm Thompson Instant Travel Dress is made of wrinkle-resistant rayon-acetate fabric that’s subtly textured to hide any creases that may sneak in. The clean, simple, tank styling suits every body type and occasion. $88 (U.S.) from www.normthompson.com.

Destination anywhere

Should you spend your holiday at the condo in Florida, or vacation at the villa in Greece? Buy a resale time-share and the decision is up to you.

Yes, we know that time-shares have earned an ugly reputation for their inflated prices, high-pressure sales tactics and never-ending property maintenance fees. But those problems disappear the moment you eschew new developments and start scoping out the resale market instead.

Unlike the original developer, a time-share reseller doesn’t have hefty construction and marketing costs to recoup, so resale weeks are amazingly affordable, going for as little as $1,000 (U.S.) at locations around the world.

Another bonus is that resale time-shares are surprisingly flexible — you can buy a super-cheap week’s stay at a two-bedroom, kitchen-equipped suite in Istanbul, then swap it if you change your mind and want to stay in Ixtapa. Log on to www.tug2.net, www.timeshares.com or www.timeshare-guru.com to browse resale offerings.

Hear, hear

If you’ve tried all the old tricks — yawning, chewing gum — but you still get that awful earache every time you fly, EarPlanes can offer relief. These reusable earplugs regulate airflow through your ear canal, giving you time to adjust to the change in air pressure between takeoff and cruising altitude.

You won’t have to worry about shouting at your seatmate or misunderstanding conversations, because EarPlanes don’t interfere with your ability to hear. Comfy too: you’ll hardly know you’re wearing them. Under $10 at Zellers, travel shops and drugstores.

Underneath your clothes

The safest place for storing cash and important documents while traveling gets even safer when you use the Pacsafe Security Waist Wallet. This slim pouch fits under your clothes with a reinforced belt that makes it both durable and slash-proof.

With a breathable backing, it’s comfortable to wear, even for long stretches. The Pacsafe also has a removable waterproof pouch, in case you find yourself trekking through Africa during rainy season (or fall in the hotel swimming pool). About $34. For a retailer near you, log on to www.daymenoutdoor.com.

Lead the way

Just because you’re a tourist doesn’t mean you have to look like one. With Vindigo 2.0 software on your Palm organizer, you can navigate almost any major American city like a native.

A couple of taps on the screen will call up detailed city maps, directions to and reviews of the best restaurants, stores and entertainment, plus essentials like where’s the closest gas station. At $24.95 (U.S.), a full-year subscription to Vindigo includes unlimited access to info on 31 U.S. cities and London, for less than the price of one printed guidebook. Download yours online from www.vindigo.com.

Young at heart

The kids are gone and finally you’re free to travel — but where? Elderhostel, a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, offers thousands of adventures for people 55 and over. Choices include hiking around Banff, and exploring the archeology of Easter Island. All the programs are designed for older travelers and include a hefty dose of education, but they’re anything but tame. For more, check out www.elderhostel.org.

Virtue and value

Sick of Club Meds? Then check out GAP Adventures. This small Toronto company organizes group tours and solo trips for travelers who want to leave resorts behind and experience foreign cultures face to face.

GAP’s 600 itineraries in more than 100 countries range from a self-guided cycling trip through France’s gorgeous Savoie Alps to a trek through the Peruvian Andes along the path of the ancient Incas. Environmentally conscious travelers will love the company’s commitment to promoting low-impact, sustainable tourism. And even the politically insensitive will be impressed by the reasonable prices. To find out more, go to www.gap.ca.

Dark victory

For all those times when you can’t turn out the light, but desperately need sleep, Bucky eye shades will help you get some Zs. Extra large and pillowy soft, these masks are 100% light-blocking, with extra padding on the inside so there’s no pressure on your eyes.

In case sound is also an issue (why do they always seat you next to the crying baby?), a pair of reusable earplugs is included. Priced at $24.95 (U.S.) and up from the online travel store at www.randmcnally.com.

Common tongue

If you’re not adept in French or Spanish — let alone Armenian — you’ll find a Kwikpoint picture card to be a godsend when struggling to communicate abroad. The Kwikpoint system consists of foldout pages containing more than 600 simple drawings of everything from a cup of coffee to a doctor.

Just point to an image and your meaning is clear in any language, whether you’re ordering lunch or seeking medical attention. Available in wallet-sized to passport-sized versions from $4 to $20 (U.S.) from www.kwikpoint.com.

At ease

Nestled in British Columbia’s picturesque Cariboo region, Hills Health Ranch (www.thehillshealth-ranch.com) is the ultimate place to regroup and refocus.

“It is one of the only spas in the world where some people actually opt to stay for months at a time,” says Susie Ellis of Spa Finder, a New York-based firm that hooks up stressed-out folks with healthful getaways. And why wouldn’t you want to stay so long — the ranch is surrounded by 8,700 hectares of Canadian wilderness, with 200 km of trails for hiking, horseback riding or cross-country skiing.

Prepare to be pampered with a full menu of spa services, including body massage, rosehip-oil facials and hydrotherapy. Seeking to shed a few pounds? For $2,485 (double occupancy), the 10-night, all-inclusive weight-loss package offers fitness assessments, nutrition and lifestyle workshops (so you’ll learn how to keep up those good habits when you’re back at home), spa treatments, and gourmet meals that are healthy but not Spartan (you’ll even get eggs Benedict with hash browns for breakfast — a mere 293 calories and four grams of fat).

Because it’s there

Why risk life and limb (or at least a few frostbitten fingers and toes) to climb Mount Everest? “It’s a life-changing experience,” says Tim Rippel, a veteran climber who leads individuals and groups up and down the world’s tallest mountain for Peak Freak Expeditions, the Nelson, B.C.-based company he owns with his wife, Becky.

If you want to go, you’ve got to book well in advance, as there are only two windows a year in which it’s possible to complete the 60-day trip to the summit and back. Your survival depends on finding a reputable guide company. The good ones require that you have previous climbing experience, and no, the rock wall at your local amusement park doesn’t count.

You should also be in above-average physical condition. Expect to pay at least $35,000 for the climb, plus the cost of travel to and from Nepal and accommodation off the mountain. There’s no guarantee you’ll reach the summit, largely because the weather on Everest can be tempestuous. But Rippel says the attempt alone is enough to inspire an epiphany.

“I’ve seen people sell their homes and begin traveling a lot more [after their climb]. They realize life is too short to be working all the time.”

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