By Ariana Arghandewal
With travel becoming increasingly stressful, lots of travel gadgets are being introduced to help eliminate some of that stress. If you’ve ever opened up a Skymall catalog you’ve probably seen some of them. Not all travel gadgets are useful or practical, but there are some gems to be found in the travel-gadget market. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Smartphone. An obvious choice, yet a smartphone is the best gadget you can have with you during your travels, hands down. It gives you access to maps, translator apps and city guides, and it’s also useful for the old-fashioned phone call. What could be better? Despite recent criticisms, you can’t go wrong with an iPhone. It’s the most user-friendly option. I have technologically challenged relatives who are able to use their iPhones effortlessly, while more tech-savvy friends get frustrated with their Samsung Galaxys.
- Battery pack. A smartphone may be the best travel gadget out there, but it’s no good unless it’s charged. Carry a portable battery pack everywhere you go and you won’t have to worry about your battery dying in the middle of an Eiffel Tower-pinching photo. My personal favorite is the Anker Astro Mini 300mAH, a reliable model with good battery life.
- Waterproof phone case. Whether you’re snorkeling in Maui or prone to dropping your cell phone in puddles, a waterproof phone case is a must-have item for your travels. It may not be as snazzy as a bedazzled Hello Kitty case, but it protects your prized possession, and that’s way more important. Waterproof cases are a bit pricey, though not so much compared to the cost of a new phone. LifeProof gets the nod here; its cases cost about $10 more than the norm – figure on spending $60-$90 – but they’re worth the extra.
- Electronic luggage scale. With airlines imposing ridiculous fees on overweight bags, an electronic luggage scale is a more-than-prudent investment. At just $10-$30, they’re cheap insurance that you won’t end up paying $200-plus in fees because your bag exceeds weight limits. A popular model that works well is this 110-pound luggage scale by Camry, currently on sale for just $11.50. For tips on how to keep your luggage light, check out this post.
- On-the-go dry cleaner. Business travelers will appreciate the ability to do their own dry cleaning on the road. Pick up a pack of Woolite At-Home Dry Cleaner sheets, then simply toss your clothes into a dryer for 20 minutes and watch the wrinkles and stains come out. You’ll need access to a dryer, but many business hotels nowadays have laundry rooms, and you can find a Laundromat in nearly every city. Plus, there’s something quaint about spending the afternoon at a Laundromat, people-watching or reading a local paper.
- Water purifier. There are many instances when clean drinking water may not be readily available and a personal water filter comes in handy. It may happen on a camping trip, on a visit abroad, or when the bottled-water vending machine at your hotel is broken and you’d rather not pay $5 for a bottle of water from the minibar. At times like these, a $15 personal water filter, like the Sawyer Mini Water Filtration System, seems like a smart investment.
- Laptop lock. With all the stories of TSA agents shopping for second-hand electronics while their owners are being groped in the security line, a laptop lock is a smart idea. This way, whether you’re at the airport or a coffee shop, you don’t have to worry about anyone running off with your stuff. Kensington is a great brand when it comes to electronic accessories, and its K64699US ClickSafe laptop lock is no exception. At $30, it’s way cheaper than a new laptop.
- Noise-canceling headphones. If you’re traveling economy-class like most folks these days, noise-canceling headphones are a great coping mechanism. You can slip into a pair of these and lock out the sound of wailing children, aggravated passengers, and the chatty drunk sitting next to you. Whether you’re listening to Kelly Clarkson, the audio version of War and Peace, or nothing at all, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones will … um, cancel out the noise. A popular brand is Bose, which is not-so-coincidentally the brand handed out to business-class and first-class passengers. While pricey at $300-$400, they’re a good investment for frequent travelers who enjoy peace and quiet on long flights.
- Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot. Between the high prices of hotel Wi-Fi and most airports’ slow adaptation of this 21st-century necessity, a Wi-Fi hotspot device offers convenience for those who need to be connected on the go. For those who want an even more compact wireless device, USB modems are a good solution. Mifi is a popular brand for mobile wireless hotspot devices, though I would personally go with a more portable USB version, like those branded and sold by carriers like Verizon.
- Trakdot/Tile. Anyone who has ever lost a bag or other item while traveling knows how stressful this can be. There are lots of products designed to help recover lost items. A popular luggage-tacking option is Trakdot, a device that retails for $49 and has a $19 annual subscription fee. A more budget-friendly option is Tile, a small chip that can be attached to any item and tracked with an accompanying mobile app. Keep a couple of these on hand for your most important possessions and you’ll at least have a chance of recovering them should they go missing.
Ariana Arghandewal is the creator of http://www.pointchaser.com, a fun and informative look at travel deals across the internet and around the world.