Here is a partial but growing list of some of the services, products, websites and tools that we have found helpful. Whether we’re trying to simplify our travel, improve our photography, or expand our blog, we’re always looking for ways to be more effective with less frustration. Because we’re trying to monetize our website, some of these resources might contain affiliate links. But have no fear, we only included resources that we actually use, and we only use resources that we really love. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, you will pay the same amount but we will earn a commission, helping us to keep exploring the world and taking it easy. We hope you’ll find this page helpful.
- Family Travel: Products and services that help us pick a destination, get there and get comfy without going insane or going broke.
- Photography: Gear and educational resources that we think everyone should consider.
- Blogging: Tools we use to keep our website active, attractive, and useful.
KidCo Peapod Plus: This travel tent has been with us since we first started traveling abroad with our daughter. We introduced her to it when she was just one year old and we were surprised how quickly she took to it. Not every hotel or Airbnb can provide a crib, so it’s nice to know that Lisa will have a comfortable place to sleep no matter what. The tent was especially useful when she was very little and we wanted to know that she would be safe while we were sleeping. If she were on a futon or – as we learned the hard way – co-sleeping with us, she could have gotten out of bed and headed for stairs or other hazards. When she woke up in the Peapod, she wasn’t always thrilled to need our help getting out, but we were didn’t mind getting up if it meant she was safe.
The Ergobaby Omni 360: Our current baby carrier of choice. It’s comfortable for us and for Lisa and it can be used in any position you can imagine. If you think that you’ll be using a chest carrier a lot, this one is definitely worth the investment. You can read our full review of the Ergobaby Omni 360, in which we compare it to our original Ergobaby that it replaced (also a quality product).
Baby carriers are most useful when you expect to be on terrain that a stroller can’t handle, or in an environment where you want to keep your little one close. When Lisa was younger I sometimes used a carrier while I was doing chores because she hated lying on a mat by herself, but these days she wants to play and the chest carrier is just for exploring the outdoors.
ZOE Umbrella XL1 Single Stroller: This is our current baby stroller. We’ve been using it for a year now and it is still going strong. It folds down nice and small for air travel and storing in the backs of taxis. But there are plenty of strollers out there that fit those criteria. The best part about this stroller is that it has a huge shade, which is rare for an umbrella stroller. It keeps the sun out of Lisa’s eyes when she needs to nap, and if it starts raining it will keep her dry (at least long enough for us to get her to shelter). Of all the stroller’s we’ve used since Lisa entered our lives, this one struck the best balance between comfort, durability and portability. I can’t believe it’s still going after so many cobblestone streets in Europe.
Online Services and Apps:
Google Maps: Ok, you already knew about this one, but we just had to put it in because it is the best. We find it’s the best source, not just for maps, but for business hours and reviews. In addition to directions we use it all the time for scouting for our photo shoots. Don’t forget to download the app on your phone from the App Store or Google Play.
Airbnb: I was tempted to say that you’re probably already familiar with Airbnb as well, but I’ve been surprised how many people still don’t use it. Airbnb is a website that allows people to rent out properties they own to travelers. If you are traveling, it’s a great place to find a room, an apartment or even an entire house for rent (or a tent, or a treehouse or, an igloo, or an RV or… well, you name it). The hosts and the travelers both give each other reviews, and over time get to build up their reputation for future rentals. It encourages everyone to be courteous, gives travelers an inexpensive alternative for lodging, and gives home owners a second income stream. While we are slow traveling, we always prefer to rent an apartment through Airbnb. We get to read reviews of the place we are renting, as well as the host who is renting to us. By renting an apartment instead of a hotel, we also get a full kitchen, which allows us to save an enormous amount of money over a monthlong stay. Who could afford that many trips to a restaurant? By the way, if you use our link to make your first booking, we both get a credit to our accounts (which we appreciate because we use the service almost exclusively). Here’s a blog post in which we give some tips for using Airbnb.
Booking.com: Though we prefer to rent an apartment (see above) for long term stays, every once in a while we just need a place to crash for the night and for whatever reason we aren’t able to find what we are looking for on Airbnb. A common time for us to use a hotel is at the end of our stay in a city. Sometimes our rental is a long way from the airport or train station, and we don’t want to haul all of our luggage for a very early departure. In that case we’ll look for last minute bargains on hotels near the airport that just want to fill their empty rooms.
U.S. State Department: If you are a U.S. citizen traveling abroad, you can find useful information here, like visa requirements and vaccine requirements, and travel warnings.
Nikon D810: This is our primary camera that we use on most of our photo shoots. The D810 is a high end camera that we originally purchased to photograph weddings and portraits. It works well for travel photography as well; it has a full frame sensor, a high megapixel count, which gives us plenty of room for cropping and zooming in post. It’s super sharp, highly adaptive, and the autofocus is quick and reliable. The only complaint we’ve ever heard anyone make about it is the weight, and Jake is so used to it by now that he feels naked without it. I want to be clear though that for most people who want to take travel photos, the D810 is probably more than they need. If you just want photos for your website or to share with friends on social media, then a much less expensive camera is probably adequate. I still recommend a DSLR of some kind though, just because the flexibility of changing lenses gives you more opportunities to be creative and get the images you envision. We used to own a combination of prime lenses and telephoto lenses, but now we just carry the telephotos, not because we didn’t love the primes (they create slightly sharper images), but because we needed to limit the amount of gear we were carrying and wanted to make sure we always had the focal length we needed.
Nikon 24-70mm Lens: This lens was a workhorse for our wedding business, and now it’s our walk around lens when we explore a city. It’s true that the wide end, 24mm, isn’t super wide, but in the rare instances when we can’t get the whole scene, we usually find that we can stitch a panorama together with just two or three images. It’s maximum aperture of 2.8 is fast enough for most lighting situations we encounter, and large enough that we can create pretty good bokeh when we want it.
Nikon 70-200mm Lens: Another hold over from our wedding and portrait days. This the 70-200mm was ideal for ceremonies because of it’s long reach, and it’s great for photographing Dannie and Lisa in all kinds of creative compositions. We can use it to create deep beautiful bokeh to isolate the subject from the background, or we can use it to compress the distance and make it look like Dannie and Lisa are closer to the scenery than they actually are. At f/2.8, it’s nice and fast for a telephoto lens, and the vibration reduction comes in especially handy when we zoom all the way in (or when Jake has had too much coffee).
Fujifilm X100T: Our second camera is a mirrorless 35mm. We use this one when the size of our DSLR and lenses are impractical. It’s ideal for restaurants, museums and other placeless where we want to be discrete. We also pack it in Dannie’s bag when we don’t plan on doing a photoshoot but want to be prepared in case an opportunity arises. We have the option of going full manual, or using varying levels of automatic when we don’t feel like fumbling through menus on the screen. It also allows us to create customizable in camera filters so that we can create a consistent creative look throughout a photography session without taking the images into Lightroom or Photoshop.
Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Backpack: This camera bag has been a incredible. Jake has gone through a number of camera bags in our career, and when it comes to travel this one is the best we’ve ever had. The straps distribute the weight very evenly, and its big enough to hold a large DSLR, two lenses and a speed light. When we don’t need all of those things, it sometimes holds a couple diapers as well. The discrete design doesn’t scream “camera bag” which is nice because it makes you a less tempting target for thieves. It also makes theft harder because the interior has to be accessed from a zipper that runs along your shoulder instead of across the back. Don’t forget to also get the rainfly so you can spend the whole day outside without worrying.
Macbook Pro 13″: We decided to upgrade our computer right before leaving on our trip to Europe. If you plan on traveling long term, we really recommend that you do this because when we’ve tried to buy a second laptop since then we’ve had a hard time finding one with an English language keyboard. Anyway, Apple laptops and desktop computers are the standard for avid Photoshop users (read about photoshop below)- they are fast and reliable with good customer service.
Wacom Cintiq Pro 13″: This is Dannie’s primary tool for editing photos. Think of it as a giant tablet that is used exclusively for image manipulation. It’s specialized pen allows you to draw directly on the screen with remarkable control (even better than the Cintiq we used to have). It comes in larger sizes, but we chose the 13″ because it was the same size as our MacBook so we knew they would both fit in the same bag. Yes, that is how we make our decisions these days :). Seriously though, this thing makes Dannie’s life a lot easier. Whenever she has to go without it (for example, when we don’t have a table), she is always antsy to get it back. It’s a very intuitive way to edit, and the difference in our photos is noticeable.
Wacom Intuos: This is Dannie’s other editing tablet. Doing in depth photo editing with a mouse or laptop touch pad is out of the question, so when her Cintiq Pro is unavailable (usually because she’s working in bed or because we don’t have a desk), this one stands in. It isn’t quite as precise as being able to draw directly on her image, but using the pen still beats trying to move the mouse around the screen with her finger. This is a quality option for people who want to step up their image editing but don’t want the investment of the Cintiq Pro.
(Note: Both Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop are included in the Creative Cloud, a software suite that is less than $10 a month. Either of the banners below will take you to the same page. If you are serious about editing your photos, this software is indispensable and a great value.)
Adobe Lightroom: Lightroom is the photo software that we recommend to people who are just getting started with editing. Pretty much every image we use makes it’s way through Lightroom. We use it to catalogue, cull and organize all of our photos on external hard drives. When it comes time for Dannie to edit our photos, Lightroom is where it begins. Lightroom can perform all kinds of basic adjustments, from color and temperature correction, to cropping and tilting. It fix lens distortions and effects. Lightroom also makes it easy to use presets and create your own. You can get Lightroom and Photoshop for just $9.99 a month, and if you are even remotely serious about taking your photography to the next level, this is the best investment you can make.
Adobe Photoshop: Photoshop is the widely acknowledged standard for photo editing software. It takes more practice than Lightroom (see above), but it’s robust tools can do pretty much anything. This is the software Dannie uses to remove distracting objects, turn a cloudy day sunny, or flip that frown upside-down. Lightroom and photoshop come packaged together for $9.99 a month, and a few tutorials can teach you how to do amazing things.
Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (book): Understanding Exposure was the first educational photography book I read that I actually found useful. I can honestly say that back when I was still learning the ins and outs of photography, this book had a larger impact on me than any other. In reading Peterson’s book, I went from guessing and shooting blind to having a pretty good idea what I was doing. I’ve continued to grow since then, but this is where I got my footing.
This book is actually a fairly quick read, and it’s categorized well enough that you can skip around if you need to (though I recommend reading the whole thing). The author does a great job making the subject matter entertaining as well, and it feels nothing like the kind of dry textbook people fear when they think about learning the technical aspects of photography.
The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman (book): If Bryan Peterson’s book (above) is an introduction to the technical aspects of photography, The Photographer’s Eye is a guide to the creative aspects. In photography, creativity doesn’t mean forming an image straight out of your mind, but looking at the world as it is and seeing compositions that will be engaging as a two dimensional image. This book is full of lessons and tips that will help you to see the world the way a photographer sees it, and go beyond just pointing your camera at the subject.
Another book by Michael Freeman that I enjoyed was The Photographer’s Mind. Though there was a little bit of overlap with The Photographer’s Eye, it’s focus is less on the fundamentals of composition and more on the creative aspects of the craft.
Macbook Pro 13″: See description under photography above.
WordPress: WordPress is a powerful and free blogging platform that allows you to create your own website or blog that can do pretty much anything. There is a bit of a learning curve, but there are literally thousands of plugins, services and resources that either educate you or do large parts of the job for you. Their support pages are exceptional, and there is an entire community of bloggers who’s advice and experience are google search away.
Theme Forest: We sometimes get compliments on the appearance of our blog. But honestly, the appearance is the easy part (the hard part is and always will be creating content)! Like most bloggers, we purchased a theme for jakeanddannie.com. Themes give your blog a general aesthetic and built in functionalities that would otherwise take hundreds of hours (and years of practice) to produce on your own. A great place to shop from a selection of may beautiful themes is Theme Forest. You can choose themes that are for general purpose websites, stores, news sites or personal blogs. They even get very specific for people who specialize in travel, food, fashion or whatever. Our theme is called Lauren, and we couldn’t be happier with it.
Google Analytics: Google analytics is the a free service that allows you to track how your site is being used. To give you a taste of how powerful this tool is, here is an incomplete list of some of the types of data Google Analytics provides:
- How many viewers visit your site in any given time frame, and how that compares to other time frames.
- What specific pages those viewers saw, and how long they stayed on each page.
- How those viewers found your site.
- Demographics on your viewers, like location, age, gender, and interests.
- Real time usage information.
It also allows you to set up campaigns and events to track your own progress and see whether changes you make to your site are having the desired effects. And to those of you who worry about privacy, don’t worry, Google Analytics isn’t giving me any personal information about specific users, just general information about users of the site as a larger group.
Google Search Console: Search Console is another free service provided by Google. This one allows you to see how people are using Google searches to find your site. You can use it to find out which pages are showing up in search results, what searches are leading to your pages, and how far people have to scroll down to see you. It also gives you resources to help you learn what google knows about you so that you can better alert them to your content by optimizing your site and submitting site maps to Google.
This tool is so valuable because Google searches are the very best way to find new readers who are actually interested in your content. And the more readers you have, the better you will do in future searches – it’s a glorious positive feedback loop!
Google Trends: Yet another free service from Google. While the Search Console let’s you figure out which searches are leading to your site, Google Trends tells you what people are searching for whether they find you or not. If you are trying to find a particular kind of reader, it helps to figure out whether potential travelers are searching for “travel destinations” or “vacation spots.” The more general a search term (i.e. “Paris”), the more people are probably searching for it, but the more specific a search term, the easier it is for your page to show up in the results (i.e.” Paris in October with a baby” where we sometimes show up in the top 10).
Adsense: Google Adsense allows you to put banner and text ads on your site that can earn you a little money when somebody clicks on them. There are more profitable ad networks out there that you can join if you have enough traffic, but the simplicity and openness of Adsense make it a popular starting point for people who want to get started monetizing their blog.