Best travel Gadgets

This is our selection of travel gadgets. Most of them are inexpensive and essential, and some others could wait on our wish list.

1. Portable Charger/External Battery/Power Bank

This is the most important gadget for most travellers. There is nothing worse than get lost or lose communications. And it is not only the maps and addresses, nowadays we use apps for everything: bookings, tickets, transport timetables, boarding passes, and even payments.

Anker Power Bank Astro E1 5200mAh Ultra Compact Portable Charger External Battery with PowerIQ Technology for iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Nexus, HTC, Huawei and More (Black)

There are so many power banks, of all colours and sizes (and most of them made in China). Which one shall I get? What do I need to know? You basically need to know two things:

a. Capacity

It is measured in mAh, which refers to milliAmpere Hour. And this same unit it is used for your device’s battery. So as a general rule (without getting too technical), you should get a power bank with equal or higher capacity of your phone/device to ensure at least 1-full charge. But because power banks capacity is affected by a lot of factors (ambient temperature, charging current, health of the bank and the phone’s batteries), a good recommendation is to get one with a mAh rating of at least 25-30% more than the mAh capacity of your device’s battery.

For instance, the brand new iPhone 7 packs a 1,960mAh (and promises 12 hours internet use on 3G). Therefore, you want a power bank of at least 1,960mAh, preferably 2,500mAh or more. And of course, the more devices you want to charge, the more capacity you need (and the more time it will take to charge).

b. Output voltage and current

These charger specifications are normally on your device USB adapter. However; any voltage difference is stabilised by the phone’s circuitry and reduced to match the maximum voltage of the phone’s battery. So the recommendation here is easy: the power bank output should be at least 5.0V and 2.0A, since most modern smart devices adopt this standard. Some models offer 1.0A, and they will charge your device slower.

For more information, you can read eBay’s guide or this technical post (i.e. real vs marking capacity, change time calculation, lithium-ion 18650 vs Li-Polymer power banks, etc).

What to consider:

2. Power Universal Adapter

This is also a must-have gadget, and you will probably need it as much as 1, because both your power bank and device need to get charged from an outlet on the wall.

KINDEN Travel Adaptor Universal AC International Armour Worldwide Power Charger Wall Adapter Plug (US/EU/UK/AU) with 2.5A Dual USB Charging Ports and Car Charger (Blue)

So the first option is to check the socket type for a specific country and get a single compatible adapter. The second and more sensible option is to buy a universal adapter, which can be changed accordingly. I strongly recommend the one in the picture above, which comes with 2.5A dual USB charging ports and car charger.

What to consider:

3. Luggage Scale

We all reach our luggage weight limit at some point in our trip. It is very easy to exceed, just with a couple of gifts. But we do not want to repack suitcases on the floor of the airport and in front of everyone. So instead of praying to not exceed the 23 kg (50 lbs) and pay oversized baggage charges, we need to get a scale and weigh our bags in advance.

E-PRANCE Luggage Scale Portable Digital Electronic Suitcase Handheld Scale Hanging Scale with Tare Function for Travel/Outdoor/Home Use,110 lb/ 50KG (Black)

We can easily find inexpensive, reliable and easy to use digital scales. They normally have a strap that you can fasten around the handle of your suitcase, to then lift it and see its weight.

What to consider:

4. Kindle

If you like reading and travelling, this is also a must-have gadget. Electronic readers are especially suitable for travelling. Basically, they are lighter and smaller than paper books. Moreover, you can take hundred of books in a single device.

Some people may think…

  • “And why is it better than a tablet?” It has no screen glare, even in bright sunlight. And more important, a single battery charge lasts weeks.
  • “But I like how books smell…” Do not worry, you can get a spray-can for this purpose. A quick spritz from the aerosol and you kindle will smell like a real book. (I have not tried this, but it is real).

Among all the e-readers available, I strongly recommend Kindle Paperwhite. It has a 6 in, 212 PPI display (an almost-XGA resolution of 758×1024) with built-in LEDs to illuminate the screen, and has 2GB of storage (1.25GB usable) [wikipedia]. Its battery should last 8 weeks (being used 30 minutes per day).

Kindle Paperwhite E-reader, 6

Appendix: How can I transfer books to my Kindle?

  • Option A). Simply buy digital books on Amazon and connect your Kindle to your account, and of course to the Internet. It will synchronise automatically.
  • Option B). If you have files on your computer and you want to transfer them, you first need to convert to .mobi extension, which is the one that Kindle understands. It can also read .pdf, but it is probably better to convert them anyway. There are tools online that will convert any text format to .mobi. You then connect the Kindle to your computer using the USB cable. You will see a new device in your Explorer/Finder. So you copy the files in the Documents folder on that device, and that is all.

5. SD external memory

It is always thoughtful to carry at least one extra memory for our pictures and videos. Nowadays disk storage is very cheap and we should have a backup all the time.

We can easily lose/break our main memory or we can run out of space. And we do not want to spend time transferring files from one device to the other, nor deleting pictures to make more space. This is something we want to do back at home. Moreover, we can also use SD cards for our Sat Nav maps. Just make sure you select the right one for your camera or device. For around USD 10 you can get a good one with 32 GB of storage, or smaller ones for less money.

Kingston 4 GB microSDHC Class 4 Flash Memory Card SDC4/4GBET

Additionally, there are some Wifi cards that can transfer photos to your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac as you take them. Mobi EyeFi SD card is one of them.

What to consider:

6. Cabin bottles

We also need to carry our liquids when we travel. So better to get a good pack of airport-security/customs-approved 100 ml bottles and a clear bag.

Clear Airline Flight Travel Cabin Bottles 100ml- Clear Case + 5 Bottles - Security Approved by Travel Essentials

If you go to one of those cheap shops like Primark you can get a pack for USD 1-2. Or you can always try Amazon.

What to consider:

7. Padlock

Padlocks can be an essential travel gadget as well, but sometimes it will depend on the kind of trip we are doing. If we plan to go cheap and stay at hostels, most of them normally provide lockers but we need to bring our padlock. So in these cases, we probably want to get a good one, and not just those tiny ones for our luggage. There are all sorts of padlocks, so we can get standard and cheap ones, or more sophisticated as the fabulous Bluetooth Noke, which can be operated with our phone.

Noke Padlock 1st Gen (for consumers) - Keyless Bluetooth Smart Padlock, Silver

Some people think it is not necessary at all. They think padlocks can damage your luggage, or that can be cut off during security checks, or that can easily get lost or broken. I personally do not agree. But it ultimately depends on the kind and destination of the trip.

What to consider:

8. Selfie Stick

“A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a digital camera or camera phone held in the hand or supported by a selfie stick” [wikipedia]. Yes… this term has become so popular that is on top of Oxford Dictionary’s rakings.

Bluetooth Selfie Stick, Mpow Extendable Monopod U-shape Clamp Phone Holder Built-in Remote Control Wireless Shutter for Travels, Family Entertainment, Friends photos-Compatible With iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 5, 5c, LG G2, Huawei P9 and Other Android Cell Phones, Black

So even that a selfie stick can reach a high level of uncoolness, the truth is that they are an excellent tool if there is no one to take a picture of us, or if we do not trust on strange photographers. We want to avoid a random arm in the shot, and also get a better angle, so better to get a selfie stick.

What to consider:

9. Microfibre Towel

A towel can also be essential if you go cheap and stay at hostels. They are normally for rent, but you may want to bring your own. And even if you stay at a modest or nice hotel, you may want to carry your own towel to use when you go to the beach, lake, river or pond. Or if you go for a run or any activity where you can sweat or get wet.

Microfibre Towel X-Large size 180cm x 90cm with carry bag - a quick dry towel in 5 stunning colours (pink, blue, grey, green & purple). Great for travel, sports, gym, camping, swim, yoga, pilates, bikram, beach, bath or at home - the perfect travel towel (Pink, X-Large 180cm x 90cm)

Microfibre towels, as the one in the picture above, are ideal for travelling: they are compact, lightweight, super absorbent, fast drying, and have anti-bacterial properties for odour prevention. So they are perfect for camping, gym, sports, beach and general use.

What to consider:

10. Mobile Wifi

These are especially handy for technology addicts or when travelling for work. Roaming charges are extremely expensive in most places. And free Wifi networks are normally quite bad and sometimes useless. Moreover, many countries have a poor bandwidth in general, and networks become overcrowded easily.

However; 3G and 4G networks tend to be more reliable, even in countries with slow Internet connection. So if you want to be online and not beg for free Wifi in McDonalds or Starbucks, you should get a SIM-free mobile Wifi device.

Huawei E5330 Unlocked 21 Mbps 3G Mobile WiFi (3G in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa & T-Mobile USA) (white) E5331 Successor

There are good ones like the one in the picture above, which connects up to 10 Wi-Fi-enabled devices at the same time. Or you can get cheaper ones, the so-called 3G/4G dongles. Both of them can be obtained at any airport, where they normally have good deals for tourists.

What to consider:

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