Whether you’re heading on a brief business trip or are taking off for an extended international adventure, what better way to make your trip a little simpler than with Cool New Stuff? Not trying to fill your suitcase with more items, we’ve sorted through travel gadgets and gear that actually make things easier for you. And who doesn’t need that when they’re on the go?
Make Packing Suck Less
First things first, you need a good suitcase. But why settle for good when you can get gadget-good? Frequent travelers might want to check out versions with all the bells and whistles they need on the go, such as charging ports, built-in scales, smart locks you can unlock with your phone, GPS, and included compression bags. Bluesmart and Away Travel reportedly have some cool stuff.
You’ve probably seen them around for a while, but have you picked up a set of packing cubes yet? If not, it’s probably time. Packing cubes are soft-sided containers which fit inside your luggage to help keep your suitcase organized. They also make it easier for baggage inspections so you can zip through airport security without your underwear falling out.
Some bags are also designed for carry-on convenience. GeniusPack has a compact and lightweight bag which hooks around the airplane tray table, powers up your devices and provides a port for your music, while also giving you pockets for your book or magazine, snacks, devices, and your passport.
You’ll also get a lot of mileage out of a waterproof bag. These can keep items bone-dry from rain that might soak through a bag or if you happen to travel by boat or ferry and can also come in handy if you need to transport a wet swimsuit or muddy shoes. And don’t forget your phone – a waterproof pouch can protect your phone from water and sand when on a boat or at the beach even when you’re using it.
Stay Connected (and Never Lose Juice!)
When you travel, there’s a good chance you’ll be away from an electrical outlet for an extended period of time. To make sure you don’t run out of power during a long overseas flight (or with all of the connections in between!), be sure to carry an external battery to charge your travel gadgets. Anker makes two of our travelers’ favorites, including the PowerCore+ 26800 Premium Portable Charger that can provide as many as three laptop charges or 10 full cell phone charges, or a lower-priced version which provides up to three full cell phone charges.
Wireless routers can take the headache out of hotel room internet. The HooToo TripMate Elite Travel Wireless Router can turn a hotel network cable into a WiFi connection, provide multiple connections for your family, and even allow you to charge both your phone and tablet right at your bedside.
If you need a hotspot and your cell service doesn’t provide it, or you want to protect your battery life while not exceeding data caps, check out the KeepGo portable hotspot. It gives you global 4G LTE data for up to ten devices, so you and your whole family (or work colleagues) can stay connected at the same time.
And if you’re not sure how to make your phone ready for international travel, we recommend handy tips from Wired.
Find Your Escape
What’s a beach vacation without a page-turner – er, page swiper? Enjoy extended travel with a good e-reader, like the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. You can load it up with hundreds of titles, ensuring you always have the next book in that mystery series at your fingertips. And, it has a long battery life so you don’t have to worry about it dying before you find out whodunnit.
If you want more variety in your in-flight travel, consider a tablet device that will allow you to surf the Internet (if there’s Wifi on board), listen to music, watch a movie, or even play a game.
For those times when you need to unwind after a day of unwinding, consider bringing a media streaming device like Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast to watch your favorite shows and skip the pay-per-view. And all music lovers should have a bluetooth speaker to bring your tunes to your hotel room, your campsite, or the beach. A couple our travel geeks like include the Sony XB10 Portable Wireless Speaker and the JBL Charge 2+ Splashproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (which doubles as a cell phone charger).
When it’s time for sleep, or just to escape the ever-present engine hum, noise-canceling headphones are a must. Bose makes some of the best, both in over-the-ear and earbud varieties.
To help you fall asleep, many travelers recommend white noise, which masks unfamiliar sounds with something a bit more soothing. We really like the variety of sounds available from MyNoise.net, which offers dozens of options – which you can even combine – like ocean waves, a whirring fan, or even the soothing sounds of a purring cat for our feline fans. There’s a web version as well as an app so you can bring your white noise with you wherever you go.
Protect Your Gear
When you travel, you do your best to keep your gear safe, but sometimes circumstances are beyond your control. Theft, accidents, and luggage mishaps are an unfortunate reality for many travelers.
The Zebra’s licensed insurance agent Neil Richardson recommends that you check with your insurance agent to confirm your deductible and make sure your policy is sufficient to cover any losses you may incur on the road. If you have certain high-price possessions like a camera or athletic gear, you may want to list those specific items on your policy.
You can also ask about special travel insurance that you can add to your policy to make sure everything is covered. Some credit card companies also provide insurance on items you purchased on your card, so you should check with the company to see if your gadgets may be covered that way.
Bon voyage, gearheads!