As any frequent flier would tell you, efficiency is everything when you’re traveling. Sure, you could land at your destination and take a quick trip to the local store to pick up whatever you need when you land, but sometimes it’s what you take with you on each trip that makes the journey a little easier.
Less is More
Between the TSA and airlines with increasingly high baggage costs, what you take with you in your carry-on bag can make a big difference to your experience.
I personally can’t stand to check bags. In fact, I haven’t checked a bag ever. If I can continue to avoid it, I’ll probably live a very happy life. Checking bags is a hassle. You have to wait for them to arrive (if they arrive) at the checked bags area after you touch down at your destination, and the cost of frequently checking bags is insane with some airlines. Southwest is one of the few domestic airlines that allows you to check bags free of charge. With most companies, you’ll be looking at an extra cost of $50-100 or more.
This brings us to the list of best travel gadgets. Instead of specifically pointing out a particular brand or model, I’ll go over the type of gadgets you might want to consider bringing with you on your next trip.
Ultrabook or MacBook Air
Whether you prefer a Mac or a PC, the fact is that smaller is typically better while traveling. Just try taking a gargantuan laptop out on a plane. It’s a nightmare. It’s hard enough just getting the tray table down without annoying the person sitting in front of you. No thank you. I’d much rather have a small laptop with me while traveling.
An Ultrabook or MacBook Air will give you plenty of computing power in a small enough package to make for easy travel. Remember, you have to lug around your bags and account for every square inch of bag space during your trip. Would you rather have a slimmer laptop or less space for more important things (like gifts for your loved ones back home)?
Probably a step further in the portable direction, a tablet computer will give you the advantage of having a useful Web browsing, gaming, and multimedia platform in a form factor that is light, slim, and has the battery life you need to get through a long flight.
10 hours of battery life is incredibly useful when dealing with airport delays and connecting flights. Why should you settle for anything less? You might get lucky and fly on a plane with device charging on-board, but this is a rare benefit only a handful of airlines currently support.
Give me a Nexus 7 and I’m set.
You might have less than the maximum allowed baggage weight going into your trip, but what about on the way back? It’s often better to ship your extra goods back home than to pay to check a bag that’s too heavy. A small bag scale doesn’t take up much space in your bag, and it’ll make it easier to check your situation before you head back to the airport.
It’s always easier to drop by a FedEx, USPS, or UPS store than to deal with anything at the airport.
The wheel is possibly one of the oldest “gadget” known to man. Let me be clear about something: it can be your best friend. Find a bag that has two or more of them on the bottom and enjoy being able to drag your heavy luggage behind you rather than have to carry it through the airport and/or train terminal. It’s easy to find carry-on and even large luggage pieces with wheels. Trust me on this one. It helps.
Old-school suitcases that weighed a ton and held a few weeks’ worth of clothing are great, but they’re impractical in a modern world. Find a travel dolly or some new luggage. You’ll thank me later.
Pre-Configured Travel Kits
There are plenty of reasons for wanting to take your favorite shampoo, razor, and deodorant with you on a trip. Rather than having to stop on your way to the hotel after touchdown, grab a small pre-configured travel kit at the store before your trip.
These kits come with razors, shaving lotion, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other essentials you need on the road. In addition, they’re typically made to meet TSA guidelines so you’re never left wondering if you’ll have to throw away something at the checkpoint.
This was a harsh lesson I had to learn after my first flight. Buying a kit that meets these guidelines is one of the best investments you can make. Even if you want to use your own preferred brands and/or products, you can find kits with empty, clear bottles you can use to do so.
Portable Media Player
Don’t want to bring a tablet computer or a laptop with you? You don’t have to. Portable media players (like the iPod touch) make excellent travel devices. The plane can be loud and boring. Take something with you that doesn’t hog bag space and provides plenty of entertainment.
The battery life on a dedicated media player is usually enough to get you through a domestic flight. Not all phones are as power efficient, and that’s one battery you really should spare for landing when you need it most.
Alternatively, you could (if your device allows) opt to pick up an extra battery or two for your smartphone. My Galaxy Nexus phone has an extended life battery I use while traveling and a standard battery that I keep in my bag in case I run out of power during the trip. Don’t forget to put your phone in airplane mode during the flight to spare the battery drain that happens when a phone is searching for a signal.
An e-reader is also a great choice. Not only does an E Ink display take far less power to operate, but the batteries will typically last weeks (if not months) between charges. This is a great choice for travelers who take long international flights.
Extra Charging Cables and Power Strip
Never take for granted that you have a charging cable in your bag. You can lose it, break it, or otherwise forget it and be left without an option when you need it most.
As a general rule, I keep two charging cables with me for each device I have in addition to a power strip with USB ports. This contingency has spared me a lot of heartache in the past.
My Personal Gadget Choices
In case you came here to see some specific travel gadgets, here’s a list of what I carry with me while traveling.
What gadgets do you bring with you on trips?
Photo: Dylan Ashe