My must-have tech and electronics for traveling

I travel a lot, for work and for fun. I did a quick search on my TripIt app (my must-have for coordinating my travel itineraries) and I took 39 flights in the last year. Wowza! Here’s a list of the tech and electronics I pack for my voyages.

Away carry-on suitcase
Away makes “smart” suitcases (they have battery packs in them for charging your devices on the go) but that’s not what I love most about my Away carry-on. I adore the suitcase for its durability and packing compartments. Away is a startup by two women, and their thoughtful attention to design and detail is in evident in every aspect of the bag.

iPad Pro
If I’m on a trip where I don’t need all the software of my laptop (I’m looking at you, Photoshop), I’ll bring an iPad Pro instead. I load it up with movies and TV shows for in-flight entertainment, and can easily write articles and emails when I attach the “magic” keyboard. I like the split-screen function for productivity and being able to save and access files in a folder was a big iOS game changer for me.

Bose QC 35 wireless noise cancelling headphones
These are huge and I always feel like a dork wearing giant over-ear headphones, but they’re super comfortable and work well. The sound is rich, the noise cancellation is phenomenal on planes, and putting them on is the universal sign for “leave me alone please”.

Kindle Oasis eReader
Yes, I could read on the iPad, and even though I like to pack light I often will bring both a tablet and an eReader with me. The Kindle Oasis is a gorgeous device. Lightweight, slim, and waterproof. That’s a huge deal for me – I love to read in the bath and don’t have to worry about splashes or dropping the device in the water.

Dyson SuperSonic hair dryer
I have a million hair styling tools (curling wands, hair straighteners, hot rollers, and more) but when I’m on the road I don’t have enough space to bring all those with me. I pack the Dyson SuperSonic hair dryer, because it’s amazing, but also because it’s small. It dries my hair super fast, and then I pop on the “styling concentrator” attachment and use a round brush to give myself a blow-out that rivals a salon. Seriously. It’s the only hair tool I need to pack.

Photo of a plane over Toronto, taken on a flight home from Seattle last year.

My new favourite pub in Toronto

A few months ago, friends suggested we have lunch at a pub in the Upper Beaches. They said it had a killer whisky list, and we needed to check it out. I’m so glad we did – this is now my new favourite pub in the city.

It’s called The Feathers and from the outside, it’s nondescript. You’d never know what treasures are inside – amongst the worn but cozy interior is the most insane whisky selection. They have over 350 single malts (300 of them are not available at the LCBO).Don’t like scotch? They have a decent beer list too, including Fuller’s on tap (which can be hard to find in Toronto). The food is simple and delicious pub fare (mmmmm cottage pie) and the walls are covered with photos from Scotland. Between the atmosphere, the photos and the whisky, The Feathers warms my heart.

What books should I read on the beach next week?

We’re escaping the cold next week on a beach vacay, and I need to load up my eReader with books. I have more than enough non-fiction, so I don’t need more of those. What fiction books have you read lately?

I’m wrapping up Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan right now, and was thinking of downloading the Crazy Rich Asians books next. There’s also Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill, which recently won the Giller Prize.

Last year I read Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty and loved it. I’m thinking of trying her Truly Madly Guilty. Have you read it? Thoughts? Any tips you have for great beach reads would be so appreciated!

Photo of me starting Manhattan Beach on a plane on my Kindle Oasis earlier this month, from my Instagram

For work and play, the Dell Latitude 5289 2-in-1 is all the laptop you need

Over the past two years, my work habits have really changed. I used to wake up, take Clara to school, brew some coffee and head upstairs to the desk in my home office. Then I’d work for hours at my desktop computer. Now I hardly ever sit at that desk. Most days you’ll find me working in one of two places: I’m either on the couch at home (close to the fireplace on a chilly winter day) or I’m at my favourite neighbourhood coffee shop, Te Aro.

The change in my routine really comes from advancements in laptops. I used to need to use my desktop computer because a laptop wasn’t powerful enough for me, or the battery didn’t last long enough, or it was too dang heavy to carry around. Now all I need is a modern laptop, my backpack, Wi-Fi and a coffee. Have laptop, will travel!

Recently Dell invited me to check out their Latitude line of laptops, and put one through its paces. I spent a week using the Dell Latitude 5289 2-in-1 laptop, and it was all I needed to power my business. This laptop is a workhorse. It has the speed and power to run all the apps I need (including Photoshop, which can make a lot of devices chug). Its battery lasts really a long time (literally ALL DAY on one charge), and the size and weight are perfect for portability.

Between Dell’s security software and Windows Defender, I didn’t need to worry about safety with the Latitude. My files are secure, and the device can only be unlocked with my face (using Windows Hello) or my secure PIN. Even Ian couldn’t get in to try it out without my permission!

I love 2-in-1 laptops (the keyboard and screen hinge backward, flipping from laptops to tablets). It’s so easy to covert the Latitude into a tablet, grab the Active Pen, and start writing on the screen. Perfect for to-do lists, jotting notes, and leaving comments and markup on documents.

When I’m on the go (especially on business trips) I like to use a laptop for a bit of work, and then I want to switch it up for some entertainment. This is where the “tent” mode works so well in the Latitude 5289 2-in-1. I can pop open Netflix, tent the laptop, and catch up on The Crown (I’m halfway through season two now). The built-in speakers aren’t bad, and if I want big sound I can connect my Bluetooth headphones to the laptop easily. Speaking of connections, this laptop has a bunch of ports (HDMI, SD card, USB-C and USB 3.0) so you don’t need to carry a bag of adapters and dongles with you.

During the week I used the Dell Latitude 5289 2-in-1, I never once wished I had a different device with me. From work to play, it really can do it all.

This post was developed in partnership with Dell. The content is sponsored, but the opinions are my own.

Whoa you have to check out this architectural vacation rental website

I am drooling over PlansMatter, a new vacation rental website. It’s like Airbnb but specifically for vacation rental properties that have beautiful architecture. You have to see the four-bedroom house with pool on a cliff in the Santa Monica mountains in California (pictured above). Could you imagine staying there?!? Or this strikingly simple farmhouse in Denmark?

Not all the listings are far away… there are many properties in Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, and there’s a large cottage for rent just a few hours outside Toronto, in Haliburton.

View all the featured properties on the PlansMatter website here.

Smartphone hacks: how to extend battery life & be more productive on your phone

The New Year is a great time to take a few moments and tidy up your smartphone to make it faster and more efficient. Or, if you received a new device over the holidays, get it set up for success right out of the gate.

I was on CTV Your Morning earlier today, sharing my top smartphone “hacks”. Watch the clip above, and read my suggestions below.

3 tips for cleaning up and clearing space

  1. Update your operating system. Yes, it can be tedious and those update notifications always pop up at the most annoying moments… but updating your phone’s operating system is the best way to keep it running efficiently.
  2. Delete apps you’re not using. If you have a few minutes to kill while waiting for an appointment and you forgot a book, scroll through the apps on your phone. If you haven’t used one in a while (or never used it in the first place, as is often the case with the apps that come pre-installed), get rid of it! It’s taking up precious space on your smartphone. And if it turns out that you miss the app, you can always reinstall it later.
  3. Back everything up – especially photos. The most common reason for running out of space on a smartphone comes from the photo and video library. The cameras on modern smartphones take amazing photos and videos. Those in turn take up a lot of space on your phone’s memory. Back up and optimize your photo and video storage using iCloud for iOS devices (instructions here) or Google Photos on Android devices (instructions here).

Organize your apps for quick access

You may already have your smartphone apps organized in a particular order (or even in folders). You can go one step further and have your favourite apps and most used tools available to you when you need them first by changing what’s on your lock screen, home screen, and control centre.

If you have an Android smartphone, consider using an app launcher like Nova Launcher to customize your home screen with colours, apps, and other settings that you choose. iOS users can customize the Apple control centre (the tools that you can access by swiping – before unlocking your device) by following the instructions here.

Check on your battery health

Smartphone batteries have been a hot topic in the media lately, with Apple apologizing for slowing down older iPhones to compensate for aging battery performance. Most phone batteries can be charged around 500 times before they start to show their age. Replacing a battery is much cheaper than replacing the entire phone, so if you suspect you have an issue you can check your battery’s health with the free Battery Life Doctor app for iOS, or the free Battery Doctor app for Android.

5 tips for keeping your smartphone battery in top shape

  1. Dimming the screen or turning on auto brightness will help your battery last longer between charges.
  2. Be careful of the temperature! Using a smartphone in hot or cold conditions (below 0 degrees or above 35 degrees) can wear the battery down faster than normal.
  3. Update to the latest software. The smartphone’s operating system controls how apps interact with the phone’s processor and battery, and updates often include upgrades for battery efficiency.
  4. Enable low power mode when it looks like you’re going to run out of juice to conserve what’s left until you can charge again.
  5. Find out where your battery power is going by checking your battery settings in the smartphone settings. You may have a lot of apps and notifications running in the background that can be disabled.

Conserve your data

We all love to check email, get texts, and log in to social media while we’re on the go. That can wreak havoc on your data plan (especially any activity that’s transmitting images or videos over the cell network – I’m looking at you, Instagram). Use the free MyDataManager app on iOS and Android to see what apps are hogging your data and adjust your habits (or increase your data plan) accordingly.

If I had a spare 3 million, I’d totally buy this house

When Ian, Kinnon and I were in Palm Springs last month, we did a self-drive Mid Century Modern home tour (this app was our guide). We all loved the Edris House, and were shocked to discover it’s for sale. It’s in the foothills of Mt San Jacinto, so it has gorgeous views over Palm Springs and the valley.

If I had a spare 3 million, I would totally snap it up. View the real estate listing for the Edris House here.

My top gift picks for the tech-obsessed person in your life

I was on CTV Your Morning earlier this week, sharing my top gift picks for the tech-obsessed person in your life. Watch the video clip of my segment here, and read about my picks below!

For the party planner…

Sonos One Speaker, $249
Don’t let the compact size fool you; this speaker packs a serious punch with two Class-D amplifiers. The Sonos app seamlessly integrates with your Spotify, Apple Music, radio and podcast subscriptions, and you can stream your favourite sounds over WiFi (not Bluetooth) so there’s no frustrating setup or streaming interruptions.


For the fitness buff…

Hexoskin Smart Fitness Shirt, prices vary
The fitness buff on your list might already have a wearable fitness tracker on their wrist… but do they have smart fitness clothing? The Hexoskin base-layer smart shirt has integrated sensors to track heart rate, breathing rate and volume, step count, cadence and stride, activity level, calories burned and sleep. The information is then passed on to the app or website dashboard, where performance can be analyzed and progress can be compared over time.


For the homebody…

Google Home Mini, $40
Google has put all the features of the popular Google Home device in an adorably small package with Google Home Mini. The small speaker allows you to talk to the Google Voice Assistant. Ask what the weather is going to be, set a timer, get answers from Google, add items to your shopping list, play music, and so much more. Google Home Mini also integrates with your favourite compatible home automation devices, so you can control your home with your voice.



Philips Hue Starter Kit, prices vary
The Philips Hue Starter Kit is the perfect gift for a homebody. They can connect Philips Hue lights to their Google Home and control their lights without lifting a finger. The energy-efficient smart LED lightbulbs can be set to 16 million colour varieties and controlled via the Philips Hue app on a smart device, Siri voice control, Google Home and Amazon Alexa – giving the option to control lights with just your voice!



ecobee4 Smart Thermostat, $329
Rumour has it that we’re in for a chilly, snowy winter season in Canada this year. Give the gift of consistent warmth with the ecobee4 smart thermostat. Place the sensor in your favourite rooms and it will detect occupancy and help manage hot or cold spots, saving up to 23% of your heating and cooling costs every year. Integration with Google Home (coming in 2018 through a software update) makes it even easier to ward off a chill—you don’t even have to get up to dial up the heat.


For the pet lover…

Furbo Treat-Tossing Dog Camera, $199
The Furbo dog camera allows you to check in on your best friend when you’re not home. It has a real-time barking alert, full HD night vision, and two-way talking so you can calm your pup with your voice. You can even use Furbo to remotely toss your dog a treat to reward good behaviour!


For the adult who loves toys…

DJI Spark, $399
DJI, the leading brand of pro-level camera drones, has created Spark – a mini drone that features all of DJI’s signature technologies that is easy enough for beginners. Use Spark’s face-aware technology to launch the drone from the palm of your hand. Once Spark is airborne, hand gestures can control the flight path as easily as a smartphone or remote control. The ultra-smooth, stabilized video looks amazing, and can be edited in the app and shared directly to social media.


Cozmo Robot
Cozmo is a small artificial intelligence-powered robot toy with a big personality. He recognizes your face, greets you, and loves to play games. Watch out though – Cozmo is a bit mischievous and sometimes the game will be on you! Use Code Lab to create new behaviours and explore the AI and robotics powering Cozmo, all while learning the basics of programming.


For the globetrotter…

Google Pixel Buds, $219
At first glance, Google Pixel Buds look like basic headphones. But they go far beyond just playing music. When paired with a Google Pixel smartphone, the Pixel Buds offer real-time translation with Google Translate. Just touch and hold the right earbud to activate the Google Assistant, and have your speech translated out loud to another language, on the fly. It’s a must-have for world travellers.


Stocking stuffers


Wireless Charging Pad, $60
If someone on your gift list recently received an Android or Apple phone that supports wireless charging, make their life so much better by treating them to a wireless charging pad. Just place your device on the pad and it starts charging right away – no charging cables needed.



Clip-On Selfie Lights, $15-20
 Selfies are pretty much guaranteed at holiday parties, and these fun and simple selfie lights are a perfect stocking stuffer. The clip-on LED lights fit any smartphone, and feature rechargeable batteries. Charge one up, clip it on, and snap away.

Yes! An adults-only trip to Palm Springs

I spied a seat sale on WestJet a few weeks ago, so Kinnon, Ian and I booked direct flights from Toronto to Palm Springs for a vacay at the end of November. Long-time readers may remember our past trips to Palm Springs – it’s one of my favourite places to visit.

For this trip, we rented a private house with our own pool (!) on Airbnb. I’m so looking forward to lounging poolside and floating around, looking at the mountains.

Have you been to Palm Springs? Any must-see places or must-eat restaurants? We like Chocky’s for breakfast and El Mirasol for amazing Mexican.