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Products We Love: Our Favorite Gear for Travelers and Expats

During the past eleven years, we've bought, tested, broken and loved more than 100 products and services. Some travel products are exceptional – others aren't even worth talking about – let alone buying.

In this article, we share 40+ products and services that we use as expats. Please share your favorite products in the comment section below.

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Products we love Disclaimer: We are affiliates for some of these companies. This means that we will receive a small payment if you purchase the product or service. These products have been chosen because we actually love them – we have used every one of these items – and continue to depend on many of them. 

Travel and Expat Products We Love

In this article we cover the following categories:

  1. Travel Gear
  2. Language Learning
  3. Learn Spanish
  4. Travel Insurance
  5. Books & Courses
  6. Keep in Touch
  7. Trip Planning
  8. Expat Products
  9. Books about Ecuador
  10. Entertainment Abroad

Here are the best of the best:

1. Travel Gear

  • Backpacks: Our favorite brand is High Sierra. We have roller bagsbackpacks and laptop backpacks. They have traveled to Ecuador twice from Canada, to the US, Aruba and the Galapagos three times. And we have used them for countless trips around Ecuador.
  • Sun Hats: Although I'm not a big fan of big hats, these Outdoor Research hats are the best I've seen. The Sombriolet Sun Hat traveled with me on my last 10 day Galapagos trip and it saved me. I avoided a sunburn on my face and neck even after spending ten solid days outside. They are lightweight and have good ventilation. We all wear these hats while hiking or boating. We have recently begun wearing Coolibar hats – and we love them. Read Dena's full review.
  • Camera: As travel bloggers, cameras are pretty important tools for us. We use a combination of point-and-shootdSLR and adventure cameras. To mount all of our gear we use the GorillaPod (SLR-Zoom model) which is strong enough to hold all of our cameras – safely and securely. And it hardly weighs anything. The other tool that is a must is our XShot extender pole. We have used this to get perspective video and up-close with animals – including underwater shots with sea lions and sea turtles.

2. Language Learning

  • Pimsleurs is our family favorite for learning language. After arriving in Ecuador we all used it to learn Spanish. Now Drew has taken the project of learning Mandarin Chinese – using Pimsleurs on Audible. (Read how to save on Pimleurs with Audible – at the end of this post). Pimsleurs works because it teaches in 30 minute segments – to be done at a rate of one lesson per day.

3. Learn Spanish: Books & Courses

  • Madrigals: {Print book} Without doubt the best book for learning Spanish. It is also the most popular book among our readers. It is one of the cheapest Spanish books and is a must for anyone learning a new language.
  • Pimsleurs: {Audio course} We have all used it for everything from vocabulary to improving conversation skills. We love the incremental lessons – and that they only take 30 minutes per day. With this link you can get a free Audible lesson of Pimsleurs. Read our review of Pimsleur Spanish.

Check out all of the books and courses that we've used to learn Spanish.

4. Travel Insurance

When we travel outside of Ecuador, we buy insurance from World Nomads. After getting residency in Ecuador, we learned that we couldn't be insured by Canadian providers anymore.
If I had to choose a second option, it would be Atlas Travel Insurance. Aside from World Nomads, Atlas offers the most flexible policy that I've seen.
Looking for more options? Here is all of our research: 3 Travel Insurance Options for Expats and Travelers

5. Books & Courses

  • Improve your travel photography with one from this full set of our favorite photography books.
  • How To Make Money With Your Travel Blog: This is our full guide to starting a successful (profitable) travel blog.
  • Expat books: Here are the books that were on our shelf when we planned our relocation. Check out our full set of 17 expat books.
  • ProBlogger: {Secrets for blogging your way to a six-figure income} This is the first book I bought about blogging. We were still in Canada and I didn't grasp the true power of the medium. If you want a great overview of blogging, check it out. For more options, check this post about all of my favorite blogging books

6. Keep in Touch

  • We used to recommend Skype as the best ways to stay in touch with friends and family. But today, you can also use WhatsApp, Facetime, Viber, or WeChat.
  • Mic / Webcam: We use two pieces of equipment to stay in touch online: a good camera and a good mic. While good video is nice, it's impossible to communicate without good audio. The newer Logitech webcams (like the C920S)have great audio.

7. Trip Planning

When we are planning a trip, we usually check a few sites like Orbitz or Expedia to get a feel for the routes and schedules. In the end, we almost always book on Orbitz or the airline itself (like LAN Airlines or American Airlines).
We've booked a number of trips on Orbitz – because the discounts of flight with hotel are often better than booking direct. We've found Orbitz good to see which airlines fly to a specific destination.
Then by checking the specific airline for their routes and prices we can make sure we get a good deal. We've been able to book flights on Expedia for routes within Ecuador.

8. Expat Products

  • Water Filters: There is no doubt about the varying opinion of drinking water abroad. It creates some spirited conversations. Some travelers and expats like to “live like a local”. That's fine. But for us, we prefer to be careful and stay healthy. We aren't on a short trip – expat life requires common sense so we can remain healthy enough to stay here indefinitely. When we first moved to Ecuador we used bottled water. Since then we purchased a ceramic water filter. Not only is this less expensive than bottled water, it is less work (no more lugging huge bottles) and the quality of the water is better. This is the filtration system we use here in Ecuador.
  • Load Balancing: Internet abroad isn't always the best. In fact, sometimes it can be a daily battle. Almost a year ago we discovered how to improve the connection. We had two connections installed and, using a load balancing router, we combined the two connections into one – making it more stable and faster. Here's how we did it. And here is the router we used.
  • Backup Service: We use a couple of tools to keep our data safe and accessible. The primary tool is Sync. As the name suggests, this application syncs our data between computers. This means that Dena and I can work off the same set of data. When I copy new photos to my computer, Sync copies them to Dena's computer in the same folder. If she deletes a photo then it is also removed from my computer. In addition to syncing, it also backs up our data to the cloud – making our files accessible from anywhere in the world. Now we don't have to worry about losing data if our computers were damaged or stolen. We also use the free version of Dropbox. We use it across our family computers to share files and photos. You get 2GB for free – and get bonus space for referring friends to the free service.

9. Books and DVD's About Ecuador

There are lots of books about Ecuador. We wrote about 13 of them here. The following are our favorites:

  • Ecuador & Galapagos Guidebook: {Insight Guides} This is one of many that we bought as we were researching our move. This is the only full color guidebook that we found and it helped us get an idea of what it was really like here. There is a section called “The Best of Ecuador' that highlights things like best wildlife watching and best for families.
  • Our set of Galapagos books – yes, all 17 of them. Check out the books you should consider before your trip to the Galapagos.

10. Entertainment Abroad

Who doesn't want to watch English television? What about an English book? Living abroad can create some feelings of isolation – especially in the first few months.
And in most countries, English materials are pretty hard to find. These services allow us to watch and read the stuff we love –  in English.

  • Audible: This is my favorite service. We have bought Pimsleurs language courses (Spanish for all of us, and Mandarin Chinese for Drew), fiction for Drew, and work titles for Dena and I. It is a simple signup – you can either buy a set of credits, a subscription, or just as you want them. We usually buy a set of credits (it is cheaper) and we can use them anytime we want a new book. Audible has apps for iOS and Android – and the book downloads in minutes. When we first moved we didn't have any mobile devices – so we used their desktop application. Get a free audio book with this link.
  • English Television: There are lots of options. We've used Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. In order to access some sites, you'll need a VPN tool.
  • Books: We've used Amazon Kindle with great success. Similar to Audible, we've ordered school, work and fiction titles on Kindle. Kindle comes with both an iOS and Android app. They also have a PC application that allows you to order and view on your computer.

So there you have it. These are our favorite products and services for both planning a relocation – and for successful life abroad.
Please share your favorite products in the comment section below.

Maggie Martin

Friday 6th of April 2018

I am really interested in relocating part-time at first to Ecuador. I am Canadian and have been to Ecuador twice (husband once). I was thinking of Cuenca or Loja. In order for my husband to be happy he will need to be able to play Bridge. I know there is Bridge in Cuenca but have been unable to find out any info about Bridge in Loja. Can you help me please. Thanks, Maggie

JENNA

Wednesday 18th of November 2015

I WILL BE LEAVING FOR CUENCA NEXT TUESDAY FOR A SEVEN DAY STAY. I'M ACTUALLY EXPLORING RETIRING TO ECUADOR. I JUST DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO START. ANY ASVICE AS TO HOW TO BEGIN MY EXPLORATION?

Dr. Michael M. Rosenblatt

Monday 12th of October 2015

I realize that toilets in Ecuador are standard sit-down models. However, for your expats who travel to Asia, especially China/Vietnam, they may not be so fortunate when "stuck" in an area where there are few Westerners. "Squatting is not an option" for most Westerners. Many retired travelers have knee and hip problems and have no ability to squat when doing #2. This can be dreadful if you have diarrhea or other similar emergency need. This is NOT funny. It can be awful and embarrassing. Fortunately there is a web site that can help you with this serious issue. I'm sorry but there is also apparently an x-rated site that has close to this same name. I know of travelers who will NOT go to Asia because of the toilets being a hole in the ground. Please check this website to learn how to do #2 in an Asian toilet WITHOUT bending down or squatting. All you need to bring with you are disposable, bio-degradable gallon bags and some toilet paper and steri-wipes. I also recommend P-mates disposable urine directors for females so they don't have to sit. Click here to see how "Westerners" can use Asian restrooms that only have a hole in the floor. sanjosemike

John

Monday 20th of April 2015

Hello, I just started reading your blog and I have to say that it is one of the best by far. I am in Pennsylvania and getting ready to start all the paperwork for my work visa. I don't have to go to work while living there but, I think it is a good way to meet people and to become familiar with the customs. I wanted to know if you would suggest an attorney to take care of all of my paperwork for my visa. I did contact one and she charges $1100.00 USD for all of the paperwork and if you are not in Ecuador then she adds $200.00 more to that. Not complaining about the fee but, I wanted to check to see what you may have done. I am looking at rental places as I can find them on line. I want to bring my dog with me when I move as well, I can't leave her, she is like a child of mine. I have had her for over 8 years now. If you know if an easy way to take care of her transportation I would appreciate that as well. I am so glad that I came across your site and begin to read it. Thanks for all the information.

Jerry Anderson

Saturday 6th of September 2014

Hi Bryan, I've been following your blog for quite a while as one of the sources for information on a part time move to Ecuador. Like others, I have done a lot of searching for the most direct routes to avoid layovers and in some cases overnight stays. From southern California, the best route I've found so far is Avianca's route which goes from LAX, a short layover in San Salvador, then on to Guayquil. We have found their prices to be competitive and the service very good in comparison with the major American lines which require us to go to Houston, Miami or Atlanta and will often require a very long layover or an overnight stay to connect with the outgoing flight to GYE or UIO. Hope this helps. Thanks for all your work and information - you provide a great service to those of us seriously considering a move to EC. Thanks again, Jerry Anderson