Gadgets Make Getting There Part of the Fun
Omar L. Gallaga
Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, here are some tech-related products that can make your trip less stressful, but which can easily be stashed away when you’re ready to unplug and unwind.
Apple’s best travel companion
Dozens of competitors have come (and mostly gone), but Apple’s 24.6-centimeter slab of wonder is still the most versatile, functional and well-designed tablet. Released in March, the third-generation iPad has the same pricing as previous models but is even better than they were.
New features include a high-res screen that makes for a better experience reading text or watching videos, plus 4G LTE Internet in some parts of the world. (You’ll have to pay a monthly fee to access it, though, and purchase a 4G model rather than a Wi-Fi-only iPad to use it).
It’s thin, it’s light, it’s fast and it even has a better camera than previous models. With a battery that lasts nine to 10 hours, it’s the best electronic travel companion and beats carrying a much bulkier laptop.
Protecting that new iPad
You’ll want to invest in one of Apple’s Smart Covers, which connect with magnets to the side, and turn the screen on and off when the cover opens and closes. They come in a variety of colors in polyurethane and leather ($39-$69) and also double as stands when folded back. For something that protects the entire iPad in a sturdier package, the Otterbox Defender Series Case ($90) works as a stand and offers a protective cocoon.
A lighter laptop
True, you’re not going to find a laptop as thin as a tablet, but Dell’s new XPS 13 (starts at $999) is earning raves for its slim, eye-catching design and weight, which is just shy of 1.4 kilograms.
The notebook’s 33.8-centimeter screen is jammed into the space that would normally accommodate an 28-centimeter laptop, and Dell says that its battery can last nearly nine hours.
For security-minded travelers, it also includes IT-friendly encryption and a year of Computrace’s Lojack for Laptops, a theft recovery service.
Charging as you go
Powerbag’s line of rolling travel bags, backpacks and messenger bags all contain lightweight, removable and rechargeable batteries that can power up cell phones and other mobile devices while keeping tablets, laptops or other gadgets safe in padded compartments.
The Instant Messenger Bag ($179.99) has a 6,000-MAh battery that can charge a phone up to four times and is compatible with pretty much any device that powers up via a USB cable, micro- or mini-USB connector or Apple connector.
The bag has an airport checkpoint-friendly “FlyFlat” design and weights less than 3 pounds.
Cutting out in-flight noise
Cheap earbuds and those rent-on-the-flight headphones are going to give you crummy sound, especially given all the background noise of a plane.
Able Planet’s new Clear Harmony NC1050 headphones ($299) use the company’s Linx Audio technology, originally developed for hearing aids, and active noise canceling to give you better audio and less noise.
They also fold up neatly into an included hard carrying case, protecting them for the long haul.
We purchased the stateside version of the Outlets to Go USB power adapter ($25) before attending South by Southwest Interactive and it served us well.
A small, lightweight gadget from Monster, this adapter turns a single power outlet into three and also adds two ports for charging USB devices.
It’s perfect for hotel rooms with limited power outlets or busy conferences. The worldwide version includes a world-plug adapter, making it even more — wait for it — adaptable!
Media library to go
Smartphones and tablets are great for viewing media, but streaming video or audio on the go can eat up your data plan. Plus, all the apps and photos and videos we stuff into these devices means we often don’t have room left for, say, full-length movies we’d want to watch on a trip.
Seagate’s GoFlex Satellite ($199.99) adds extra storage in a small package. It creates a WiFi network your mobile devices can access and can serve up video to three devices at a time at a range of about nine meters. It can store up to 500 GB of data and has a battery life of about five hours (25 hours in standby mode).
Watch what happens
If you’re really getting out into the wild on your travels, ditch the phone and bring the Timex Adventure Series Tide Temp Compass ($170), a watch that includes a fourth hand for giving you tide and temperature information (for both the air and underwater). The watch has an electronic compass and even glows in the dark with an Indiglo night light.
GPS: Not dead yet
Mobile phones and tablets still haven’t killed off dedicated GPS devices, which can often store much more map data and provide specialized features. The Tom Tom Via 1535TM ($219.95), for instance, includes lifetime traffic and map update subscriptions, 7 million points of interest, an integrated windshield mount and spoken turn-by-turn directions. It can also do Bluetooth hands-free calling and voice recognition of addresses.
There are few apps you still might not have heard of.
Iflybags (99 cents for iOS) is a new version of the iflybags.com website, which gives you information on what your airline baggage fees will be across 300 airlines.
If you like Pinterest, you may like Trippy, a place to share travel ideas in a more visual way. The free app version allows you to create trip itineraries and share them.
It may seem like all the good travel apps are for Apple devices, but Tripit (free with ads; various ad-free versions cost about $4) is available for Android, Windows Phone 7 and BlackBerry too.