Gear & gadgets

Top Travel Tech Gadgets: Gear Up for Your Next Trip

December 30, 2023

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READING TIME, 5 MINUTES

Hello, fellow traveler!

My guess is that if you're reading this, the horizon is beckoning. Whether you’re heading to the azure beaches of the Caribbean or the bustling streets of a European city, your travel tech gadgets and other digital devices deserve some thought.

The travel industry has moved ahead by leaps and bounds since being flattened by COVID, and the world of travel technology has developed right along with it.

I can still remember the days when I headed off for a month in Japan with a suitcase full of books. I'm an early adopter of technology, so I breathed a sigh of relief when the Palm pilot was introduced (remember those ancient things?). I loved mine, and while I do enjoy reading a real book I can hold in my hands, I haven't taken one on a trip with me since. A digital device to help reduce luggage weight is such a great thing, isn't it?

These days, almost everything can be done electronically, and the only papers I take with me now are copies of my passport, credit cards, and itinerary.

Read on for my top travel tech gadgets and other electronic devices to help you prepare for your next trip. Even if you don't adopt every one of these suggestions, I guarantee your travel experience will be much improved with the help of a little technology!

Top Travel Tech Gadgets

Smartphones: Your Digital Swiss Army Knife

Just think about this little tech gadget. It’s your navigator, guidebook, translator, and sometimes, your wallet, currency converter, and even your emergency SOS system.

It has access to countless apps to keep you entertained and allows you to translate other languages, read books, listen to music, and more.

Woman using selfie stick to take travel photoAdd a selfie stick and tripod for taking photos of your group, or of yourself enjoying the surroundings if you’re a solo traveler. Get a waterproof case if you’ll be near the water or want to capture some underwater photos.

The photos you take while you’re gone will bring back the memories of your awesome trip.

Expert advice

Traveling to a remote spot? Remember to download some transportation and translation apps in advance. Grab a copy of my 7 Must-Have Apps for International Travel. These apps super helpful for traveling in the US as well.

e-Readers: A World of Stories in Your Hand

If you don’t have an e-reader already, save yourself some money and just download the Kindle app from the app store on your phone and/or tablet. No point taking more travel gadgets than you need, right?

If reading with the Kindle app on your phone isn’t for you, however, then pack an e-reader like a KindleNook, or Kobo. You can enjoy countless tales without overloading your luggage.

Travel is about stories – the ones you experience and the ones you read.

Expert advice

Be sure to download plenty of reading material ahead of time so you can save on roaming fees.

Cameras: Chronicle Your Adventures

You may be a pro photographer with a DSLR and multiple lenses or an enthusiastic amateur with a point-and-shoot camera that fits in your pocket. Just ensure that you have enough memory cards, camera batteries, and a good protective case for it all.

If you’re an adventure seeker, then consider an action camera like a GoPro. Talk about a travel tech gadget! Bunjee jumping anyone? I’ll just watch, thanks.

Remember, though, the best camera is the one you have with you. Yes, even if that’s your phone! I used to schlep all the camera gear around. Now, my iPhone 15 Pro is my camera of choice. I do miss some shots, especially sweeping landscapes, but it's just not worth it to me to carry the extra weight.

Laptop or Tablet: Your Digital Diary

Woman looking at tablet while traveling and drinking coffeeIt’s hard to disconnect completely while traveling. A light, thin laptop or tablet can be a lifesaver for sending emails, editing photos, or binge-watching shows on long-haul flights.

Just remember to download your content for offline use before you go. Public WiFi is notoriously slow and you'll quickly eat up your mobile plan if you download video content while roaming.

Headphones or Earbuds: Your Personal Escape

Whether you're trying to block out the baby crying two rows behind you or get immersed in a new travel podcast without bothering your travel partners, a pair of noise-canceling headphones or snug-fitting earbuds are essential. And, with the world embracing Bluetooth, consider going wireless. No more tangled cords!

If you're considering switching to wireless headphones or earbuds, hubby Malcolm’s a big fan of Bose Quiet Comfort II earbuds, and I’m happy with my Apple AirPods. Both have active noise cancellation features to reduce unwanted background noise. But there are many more to choose from, both over-the-head and in-the-ear varieties.

Now, here's another handy travel tech gadget. Check out the AirFly Pro. With this little device, you can use your wireless devices to listen to airplane audio and have someone else listen in with you. Very cool!

If you don’t want wireless headphones or earbuds, you can choose to bring along a set of decent headphones with a jack or use the poor-quality ones given to you by the airlines.

If you enjoy listening to music in your accommodation, consider a compact, portable Bluetooth speaker.

Portable WiFi Hotspots: Global Connection Made Easy

Relying on free WiFi at a hotel or café is like expecting to win the lottery.

However, with a portable hotspot, you control your connection, and a good connection can be a lifesaver, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. And a good connection is essential if you’re still working and need to check in with the office. Even if you're not working, local data plans are expensive.

Public WiFi can be unsafe so if you do choose to use it, it's a good idea to use a virtual private network (VPN). This provides a secure connection between your device, a secure server, and the Internet. It prevents bad actors from snooping and installing malware and bugs on your device.

My favorite VPN is Express VPN. It works on your phone, tablet, and computer.

Expert advice

If you're traveling internationally, it's essential to have a VPN. Some banks, government agencies, and other businesses will not give you access to their site if they think you're in another country.

A VPN cloaks your location. For example, if I'm traveling in Colombia and need to access my bank in the US, I use my VPN to connect to a US server. The bank thinks I'm in the US, so it lets me in.

Practice this before you leave home so you know how it all works.

Chargers, Cables, Power Banks, and Adapters: Empower Your Journey

These are the unsung heroes of your travel tech gadgets.

As you’re packing, look at each device and be sure you have the necessary chargers, cables, and power banks to keep each of them powered throughout your trip.

See if you can save space by using the same chargers and cables for multiple devices or get a universal cable that has multiple connectors in one cable.

Wrap all your cables up in a tech pouch so they aren't snaking all around your luggage, and you can find what you want when you need it.

Keep in mind that even though a lot of the world has moved on to USB-C devices, none of the hotels I've been in recently have USB-C ports. They're all USB-A, so you'll need an A-to-C connector. (Whaaat? Not sure what I'm talking about? No worries. Just take your devices and cables to your local electronics shop, tell them where you're going and how you're getting there, and they can make sure you have the right gear.)

A good portable charger or power bank ensures your devices are always juiced up. There’s nothing worse than getting ready for a shot of that perfect sunset, and your camera battery is dead, right?

It’s tough for me to recommend a one-size-fits-all power bank because it depends on what you need to charge. The Anker Power Core Slim is a good, lightweight option if you just want to keep your phone charged.

And universal travel adapters? They’re the key to plugging in anywhere in the world.

Expert advice

If you’re traveling internationally, check the voltage requirements of the country you'll be visiting against each of your devices so you don’t damage them. For example, you don't want to plug your US hairdryer which runs on 120 volts into a plug in Germany which runs on 230 volts. You'll wonder what that smell is. (Note: It's your hair dryer frying!)

In addition to a voltage adapter (if you do need one), you’ll also want a plug adapter and a surge protector.

More expert advice

Also, be sure to check FAA regulations regarding lithium metal and lithium-ion batteries to see if they’re allowed and if so, how to pack them.

Smart Watches and Fitness Trackers: Keep Time and Stay Active

From minute-to-minute flight notifications on your wrist to tracking those miles you walked exploring a new city, smartwatches and fitness trackers are great travel companions.

They ensure you’re balancing relaxation with a bit of healthy movement. You’ll be surprised at how many steps you rack up just sightseeing.

And oh yes! They also tell time.

I couldn't get by without my Apple watch. In addition to everything mentioned above, I use it to receive notifications about flights and hotel rooms, to check my itinerary, to hail a ride, and more. I even use it as a silent alarm clock.

The only drawback is that these devices don't have the best battery life, and you can only go a day or two on a single charge, so you'll want to be sure to charge up in your room each night.

Luggage Trackers: Don’t Panic!

Lost suitcase outside an airport.Then there was that time when we couldn't find our luggage after a flight to Brazil.

We spent three days in a hot, muggy hotel at Iguazù Falls in the same clothes we arrived in. We didn't let that stop us from going out, so we ended up a soggy mess.

I'm not sure the other guests appreciated us passing by their table at mealtimes as we were smelling a big ... well ... tropical!

It turns out that after drawing pictures and trying to make my limited Spanish work in a Portuguese world, we found out our luggage had been at the airport all the time. A luggage tracker would have had us smelling acceptable right away.

If you've ever lost your luggage, you'll be excited to know about luggage trackers if you don't already. You pop in a battery, sync it with your phone, and pop it in your luggage. Then you get an alert if you've left your bag behind. You can track it on your phone to see where your bag is. So cool, right?

You may have heard some concerns from the airlines when these were first introduced because these gadgets contain lithium batteries. However, the FAA has now approved them since the number of watts they use is less than the amount that creates concerns.

The most popular Bluetooth trackers are Apple AirTag and Tile Pro. Both work with either Apple or Android phones.

When you get settled at your destination, you can transfer one to your day bag or purse.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) - Your New Travel Consultant

And let's not forget our new best friend, AI!

In recent years, generative AI has been revolutionizing the travel industry, and it's not just for travel companies.

Travelers like you and I can use ChatGPT, Bard, or other AI platforms to find the best deals and accommodations tailored to our own preferences. Just talk to it like you would talk to a travel agent.

Use prompts like "I'm vacationing in Kansas City from May 5-12 this year. I'm a 70-year-old woman traveling by myself. I enjoy walking tours, art museums, vegetarian food, and classical music. Please recommend 15 things for me to do while I'm there." (See, I'm even polite!)

I just gave that prompt a try myself and now want to book a trip to visit KC! There are so many fun things to do there. (No mention of anything vegetarian, however).

Be sure to do some more research on each of the recommendations you get. Everything AI serves up isn't always accurate, but it's a great way to do some initial research.

Conclusion

Our digital age demands we be tech-savvy travelers. From smartphones to e-readers, cameras, and portable WiFi hotspots, each gadget plays a unique role in making your journey richer and smoother.

As you venture out into the world, remember, though, that while these devices enhance your journey, it’s essential to disconnect and soak in the surroundings occasionally. They should serve as tools, making your journey richer and smoother.

So, with this list of travel tech gadgets and devices in tow, you should be all geared up for your next adventure. Here’s to safe travels and unforgettable stories.

Happy journeying! Bye. 👋

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