Have you ever tried to go out at night lugging a large bag or cumbersome backpack with you?
I've often faced that problem - I need to look good but have my hands free.
So I'm about to be exceptionally enthusiastic because it's not every day I come across such a travel accessory I actually use when I travel.
I like having my basics with me when I go out at night but carting around my travel luggage is less than elegant on those evenings on the town. I also use my iPhone as a camera but the last place I want it is dangling in my hand - or hidden in my purse under a wallet, cards, old jewelry I've forgotten to take out and the kitchen sink that may be covering it.
No more bulky travel belts
For years I've advised women to wear money belts when they travel. They're flat, invisible when worn under your clothing, and the perfect deterrent to pickpockets. I backpacked across Africa, Asian and Latin America with a variety of ingenious ways to hide my money.
With the arrival of - hmmm, I'll call it middle age - my waist got a bit (okay, a lot) thicker and wearing a money belt hasn't been as comfortable as it used to be. It tends to roll up or bunch sometimes - it never used to do that when I had a flat stomach!
But I kept using a travel belt, especially after having had my passport lifted out of my daypack in Beijing.
Then a few months ago I received a request to review something called a Sholdit, described by the manufacturers as 'the one and only patent pending clutch wrap.'
What on earch is a clutch wrap, I asked?
I was intrigued.
So I decided to review it by wearing it myself and by lending it out to friends to test as well.
Here's what we did: I wore it two full days in Geneva, Switzerland, and my friend Caroline (see top photo) wore it out in Annecy, France. She also asked her daughter Camille to test it.
I stuffed it with my TWO passports (France and Canada), my international vaccination certificate, my train pass, some loose change, all my credit cards and my iPhone. Caroline did more or less the same.
I kept taking things out and putting them back in; wrapping it in different ways; scrunching it; dropping it (not on purpose) and pretty much abusing it in any way I could.
I was thrilled with this little invention. Basically, it's a double-sided scarf with two zippers which open into a space to keep your money and your papers. It's so simple it's the kind of thing you wish you'd thought of yourself.
The ingeniousness of this travel money pouch lies in this very simplicity: few thieves or pickpockets are going to slice your scarf off, are they? They'll look for your back or backpack or external money belt. But a scarf? Not unless the thief is a fashionista.
It isn't the cheapest of items and starts at $49. To me, it's worth it. It costs a lot more to lose my money or have my passport stolen.
On my travel packing list I already advise women who travel to carry a scarf - it dresses up any outfit. Now this item of clothing can do double duty: it will certainly dress you up for the evening, and it will also make life a lot easier by letting you leave your bag at home.
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