Top Tech Tools and Tips for Travellers
Don’t break the bank with these great gadgets on the go. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images
Whether it’s flying with the family, jetting off on a business trip or simply a scenic road trip, be sure to tote along some tech to help you remain organized, productive, entertained and in touch with those who matter.
And, because your vacation is likely costly enough, the good news is you don’t need to break the bank for great gear to take with you on your excursion. Consider packing one or more of these following affordable suggestions, plus we’ve also packed some tech tips to ensure a smoother getaway, as well.
Tag, You’re It
If you’re hitting the friendly skies, you want to ensure your bags arrive when you do. Consider picking up an inexpensive tracker to connect to your suitcase, like Apple AirTags ($39 for one, $129 for four). When connected to your smartphone, you can see where your missing baggage is and communicate this info to the airline.
Apple’s AirTags broadcast a Bluetooth signal to help locate the tracker, but even when you’re our of range (about 30 feet or so), you can still locate the tracker on a small map inside the “Find My” app because the global “Find My” network may help track it down by leveraging roughly a billion Apple devices around the globe. That is, it can detect signals from an AirTag using other people’s Apple devices and relay the location back to you. Cool.
Lap It Up
Unless you’re a hardcore computer gamer or graphic designer, you don’t need to spend a couple thousand dollars on a reliable laptop.
The ASUS Chromebook Flip CM3 ($399) is a thin and sleek Chromebook that features a 12-inch multi-touch screen on a 360-degree hinge to use in various modes (including a tablet, when the keyboard is folded underneath).
Along with a comfortable Chiclet keyboard and large trackpad (and support for optional digital pen), this lightweight (1.14 kg) laptop houses 64 gigabytes of storage (but expandable to one terabyte via microSD card slot), USB-A and USB-C ports and a HD webcam. Battery life tops 16 hours between charges.
When going through security, you’ll need to take out your laptop — as it’s likely in a backpack, briefcase, laptop bag, purse or small carry-on suitcase — and place it in a bin for it to be scanned by TSA. You can leave all other tech in your bag while scanned at the airport, if you like, such as a smartphone, tablet, camera or battery charger.
Pro Tip: If you miss your standing desk while travelling, open the closet in your hotel or motel room and chances are there’s an ironing board inside. Open it up and place it somewhere with good lighting. It’s the perfect height for you to prop up your laptop and start typing away.
Smartphones make for great travel accessories as they can serve as your GPS navigation unit, camera and camcorder, music player, and it holds your digital wallet, boarding passes, hotel info and much more.
For $599, the Pixel 7a is about half the cost of premium phones but is packed with features, including Google’s top chip (the Tensor G2), an exceptional camera (even for nighttime photography), a high-brightness OLED screen and the ability to easily unlock the phone with your face or fingerprint.
This 6.1-inch Android-powered device also folds in Google AI for real-time language translation, spam protection and car crash detection. The Google Play store lets you download millions of apps and games — many for free.
Pro Tip: Speaking of apps, many streaming movie services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video allow you to download TV shows and movies to watch offline — so be sure to do this over your Wi-Fi before you leave on vacation. That way, you won’t incur any roaming charges. Downloading also works for many music streaming services, like Spotify, and for offline directions in Google Maps or Apple Maps.
Through the Looking Glass
Once reserved for police vehicles, dashboard cameras — or “dash cams,” for short — have become a popular purchase for civilian drivers.
Mounted onto a vehicle’s windshield, these small video cameras continuously record both video and audio to a memory card, from a first-person perspective — not unlike those POV “action” cams, such as the GoPro family. Some motorists install rear-facing dashcams, too.
Dashcams are catching on for two reasons: recreation and security. With the former, drivers can capture their adventures, such as a beautiful autumn road trip in your RV and play it back later on a big-screen. On the security side, dashcams can provide photographic evidence of an accident or incident.
While some models can cost well over $500, the Nextbase 222 Dash Cam is only $125, and captures sharp 1080p HD images while you’re driving, along with a “parking mode” that starts recording if it senses motion or a bump, so you’ve got proof of what happened (including the license plate and/or person’s face, too).
Bring your USB charger on the plane, as many airlines let you keep your battery topped up by plugging it into the back of the seat in front of you or in the armrest. A back-up battery is a must for travellers, so you can charge up your phone while still walking around, instead of being one of those “wall huggers” at an airport, where you’re stuck standing by your plugged-in phone.
The ChargeTech 30000 mAh power bank (currently $49, on sale) can charge up a typical smartphone a few times, plus it has a second USB port for other devices, like a tablet, wireless headphones, smartwatch and so on.
Pro Tip: If you forget your wall plug but still have your USB cable, plug it into the side of the TV in your hotel room to juice up your phone!
One more consideration: If you need to get some work done while travelling but don’t want to schlep a laptop, invest in a mobile keyboard that lets you crank out long emails or documents on your phone or tablet. This will be faster, more comfortable and offer better accuracy than trying to type a lot on a small touchscreen.
Non-Techy Hotel Tips
While not tech related, a few more travel hacks:
- If your hotel room doesn’t offer an iron for your wrinkled clothes, the ol’ “shower trick” really works. Hang your clothes on the bar above the tub, turn on a hot shower and point the shower head against the wall. Close the bathroom door for five to 10 minutes. When you return, your clothes will seem perfectly pressed
- Are the drapes opened just a crack and the sunlight is disrupting your sleep? Take a clothes hanger from the closet — the one with the clips underneath — and then clamp both sides of the curtains together
- If your hotel gave you a disposable shower cap you don’t need, use it to put your shoes in your suitcase to keep everything clean
- Is the room super dry? An instant hack for increasing the moisture in the room is to hang a wet towel in front of the room’s radiator — perhaps laid out over a suitcase rack — and the heat from the radiator will evaporate the water over time
- If you don’t have a kettle in your room but want to boil water — say, for a cup of ramen — you can fill the coffee maker with water and run it through to heat it up.