The ease in how we travel these days is thanks in some part to the myriad of gadgets available that let us connect faster, relax better, and capture more when on the road.
More and more people are traveling not only for work, but also for leisure, curiosity and self-growth. In many cases, these journeys take us to places that may not have the same conveniences that we’re often used to enjoying at home.
Every travel situation is different and requires its own set of travel tools and accessories, whether you’re backpacking through continents, going on frequent trips to see family, or flying bi-weekly for business. And there are also many similar experiences across any type of travel: the cramped airline aisles, long waits, and zapped batteries at the most inopportune moments.
Eitherway, the effect of technology on the travel industry has largely been positive, whether it’s through better mapping technologies, more lifestyle products promising the comforts of home, or widening data coverage.
But how do you weed through the infinite advice? Here’s a comprehensive list of the 20 essential gadgets for the regular jetsetter, no matter where you’re traveling to or how you’re getting there.
20 Charge anywhere, anytime
If you plan to bring along a bunch of gadgets when traveling, a portable charger is a must-have. But even if you’re only taking the bare minimum in electronics — whether it’s a phone or a tablet — consider always having this handy, in case you find yourself nowhere near a power outlet and one of your devices needs a quick charge.
The last thing you want is your phone dying in the middle of taking photos of that vaguely familiar statue during a walking tour. But actually: the absolute last thing you want is not being able to call a loved one, the hotel, or even the authorities in dire circumstances.
This is also a convenient alternative to carrying around multiple batteries, an added bonus if your aim is to pack light. Portable chargers come in many shapes and sizes, but the most important factor to consider is its charge capacity. A cheap, compact charger recommended by numerous reviewers is the Anker PowerCore+ mini. It’s the size of a tube of lipstick but can give your phone an extra six hours of power.
19 Tune out the noise with headphones
Whether it’s for listening to music, catching up on your favourite podcast, or just tuning out the buzz of people milling around in the airport — a pair of quality headphones should be at the top, or close to the top, of the list of essentials for any regular jetsetter.
Having headphones on demonstrates a specific mood oftentimes characterized by a stoic look, a faraway dreaminess or a pulled-down baseball cap, all of which means: “Don’t bother me. I’m in my own world.”
Noise-cancelling headphones are the best bet for travelers, as it’s beneficial both to you and the passenger next to you. It will block the noise around you while preventing the sound from whatever you’re watching or listening to from escaping. It’s also important to pick ones that are lightweight. Your head and neck are already under a lot of stress when flying, you don’t want to add unnecessary pain to your body by picking obnoxiously huge headphones. Try picking one that can easily fold as well. This will be useful for those hectic times when you’re just trying to shove all your belongings into your knapsack because the lady by the window seat is rushing you out of your spot.
18 Share pics to social media instantly with a Wi-Fi SD card
If you’re a digital nomad, a Wi-Fi SD card is probably already a staple in your travel bag. But this useful card is not only essential for those who are serious photographers, it’s also a perfect time-saver for anyone who travels and takes photos at any skill level.
This nifty card allows you to transfer image files from your DLSR/mirrorless or point and shoot camera to your phone right on the spot as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. No need for cords. You can bypass the extra step of waiting until you get home from travelling before being able to transfer photos from your camera to your computer. It’s perfect for sharing to Instagram — in an instant!
It’s a good solution if you don’t want to lug your laptop on holiday and if you ever lose your camera, you can rest assured your photos are safe, as long as you make sure you backup your data every day you’re on the road.
The Toshiba FlashAir III Wireless SD Memory Card has varying storage capacities, from 16GB to 64GB, and is considered by many reviewers as the top choice for quality Wi-Fi-enabled cards.
17 Double you luggage space with a compressor
Packing can be a pain, even for seasoned travelers. Even though more and more people are starting to subscribe to the minimalist way of living, you can’t escape the need to pack winter coats or thick sweaters if you’re travelling to colder climates. That’s why this compact compressor is super handy.
The Vago Travel Compressor sucks out the excess air in a bag, creating more space in your luggage for souvenirs and clothes. It’s travel-sized and USB-rechargeable. Once you put you stuff inside the Vago bag, lock it with the clip. Then plug the compressor to the bag and screw it tight. Plug in the power and voilà! With a press of a button, clothes inside the compression bag will shrink to half its previous size in a matter of minutes.
A pressure sensor automatically turns off the compressor once all the excess air is removed. The compressor can easily fit a backpack, purse, or pocket, so it’s a great way to double your luggage space without having to worry about having a vacuum in your hotel to compress your clothes. The catch? You have to use its own bags. The Vago comes with its only one medium-sized bag, and additional bags aren’t cheap, ranging from $18.99 to $20.99 USD depending on the size.
16 Take out the guesswork with a digital luggage scale
For a frequent flyer, it’s no fun trying to hop from one plane to the next—or worse, from one airline to the next—without being sure how many extra pounds you’ve added to your luggage because of all the extra souvenirs and miscellany you’ve acquired on a trip. It’s bad enough that base luggage prices are not becoming any cheaper, but when you’re hit with those excess baggage fees, it can feel especially brutal.
If you’d rather be safe than sorry, a digital luggage scale will take the guesswork out of the equation. For example, the Balanzza Mini hand-held scale can be attached to your suitcase to weigh it before you head to the airport. Once you lift the handle, after a few seconds, the screen display will show the weight in pounds or kilograms. The compact scale is only a few ounces. It’s been dubbed as an absolute essential for regular travelers by publications like Travel + Leisure and Wirecutter.
15 Never lose your keys again with a bluetooth tracker
This gadget is actually very useful for the average person who is constantly misplacing their belongings. But it’s especially useful for the avid traveler who is constantly in unfamiliar surroundings, where it's doubly hard to locate a missing item because nothing is usually where it usually is.
Bluetooth trackers allow your smartphone to monitor the location of whatever they're attached to via an app. Attach the tracker to your suitcase, car keys, or passport and you’ll save time running around your hotel room as you try to frantically pack to make it to the airport in time.
The Tile Mate tracker has the best Bluetooth range in the current market, which lets you track objects farther than its competitors. If the missing object is within range of the tracker's Bluetooth wireless technology, you can press a button on the app to trigger a sound from the Tile. But if your object is out of the Bluetooth range, Tile has a feature that lets its network of users help you find your missing item. Even if you lose your phone, the app installed on it will make it ring if you press the button on your Tile square twice. Pretty cool huh?
14 Mirrorless cameras are light yet powerful
I’d be remiss to not include a camera in a list of essential travel gear. Even though smartphones are the digital workhorses of today, having a separate camera while traveling will enhance your experience tenfold.
Professional photographers prefer the technical power of DSLRs, but for a regular jetsetter, a mirrorless camera like the Fujifilm X-T2 is more than enough. Not only does it shoot in 4K video, it’s also weather-sealed, so you don’t have to worry about being caught in some light rain. It has a high resolution LCD screen, the ability to add a battery grip, and an extra storage slot.
13 Find cool crevices to shoot from with a flexible tripod
Unlike many travel tripods out in the market—many of which are light and extendible for easy stowing in a carry-on bag—the flexible tripod is unique because of its malleability. You can configure it to any surface, whether that means wrapping it around a pole or a tree. You’ll be able to prop it up on an uneven surface without having to worry about your camera toppling over or taking a lopsided shot.
That said, this doesn’t replace your standard tripod. If you take photos for a living, conduct interviews, or even if you’re just a photography hobbyist, you’ll know that this won’t cut it. But for a frequent traveler, it’s a versatile, fun, and an easy photography tool that comes in handy for those locations that a regular tripod won’t fit.
The JOBY Gorillapod is particularly popular with vloggers and adventurers, whose travels sometimes take them to some cramped crevices and unusual locations around the globe. The Gorillapod’s ballhead is equipped with a bubble level so you can level shots. It also allows for 360-degree pans and 90-degree tilting both up and down. It’s waterproof and has a quick release clip so it’s easy to remove and replace your camera.
12 Watch shows or organize your photos on a tablet
It doesn't matter whether you’re on team Apple or team Android, what matters is you have a tablet to fulfill your reading, writing, watching, and general computing needs when you’re on the road. Today’s tablets are lighter and efficient enough that you won’t need to lug your laptop around. So why carry the extra weight?
Having a tablet will help you save the battery on your phone, especially on long-haul flights. Also, tablets typically have longer battery lives than smartphones. Some tablets even have the option to turn on cellular data, so you can text or call as you would on a regular phone.
Apple’s 12.9-inch iPad Pro is a great pick for size and power. The screen is approximately as big as a piece of paper, but the device is skinny enough that it won’t take a lot of space in your purse or carry-on bag. If you haven’t drank the Apple Kool-Aid yet, a great alternative is Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3.
11 Work faster with a tablet keyboard
In tandem with a tablet, a matching keyboard is one of the essentials for a regular jetsetter—especially for business travelers and digital nomads who have to send a lot of e-mails or do a lot of writing. But even if you’re just paying bills or answering Facebook messages on the go, it’s great to have this nifty convenience so you can get those done quicker and have more time to focus on your trip.
Apple’s Smart Keyboard paired with any of its iPad is an obvious choice. But Belkin’s Qode Ultimate Pro is also a popular and cheaper alternative for fans of Apple. If you’re an Android user, I’d recommend Microsoft’s Universal Mobile Keyboard. The con is it doesn’t double as a case.
Perhaps the best choice, considering price and compatibility, is the Anker Ultra Slim, which is optimized to work for iOS, Android, Mac OSX and Windows. It’s not only super light, but also ultra slim and under $20. This Bluetooth connecting keyboard can also last almost three months on just a couple of AAA batteries, if you’re using it about two hours a day.
10 Hop from country to country with a universal power adapter
Seasoned jetsetters know that hopping from one country to another can have some hiccups, especially if you are not aware of the country’s voltage and outlet situation. Before stocking up on gadget after gadget, make sure you have a means to charge your electronics once you arrive at your destination. In many cases, you’ll need an adapter to fit the plug into variable outlet shapes as well as a voltage converter so you’re not zapping your own devices.
Depending on the country you’re travelling to and what plugs you’re using, you may just need a single adapter, several, or a versatile universal adapter. It’s best to invest in a universal adapter with multiple types built into it already.
The Epicka Universal USB Travel Power Adapter covers more than 160 countries, including U.S., Europe and Australia. Its design allows for a lot of plug options. Plus, having four USB ports lets you charge multiple devices at one time. It’s small and packs a punch, but it’s not recommended for high-powered devices like hair dryers and flat irons. Another good choice is the Travel Smart All-In-One Adapter, which comes with built-in surge protection so it can safely charge iPads, cell phones, tablets and other electronics.
9 Never lose connectivity with a global data SIM card
Having means for communication is essential for any world traveler. It’s important to keep in contact with friends and family especially when you’re halfway across the globe. But more practically, having data access allows you to use your favourite travel apps and look up maps.
If you’re staying at a destination for an extended time, it’s always better to buy a local SIM card. It usually means cheaper text/call packages and none of the expensive roaming fees of international telecom companies. But when you’re traveling to multiple countries in short bursts, or if you’re on a backpacking trip across different regions, one simple solution is to have a data SIM card with global coverage just in case.
Enter Keepgo. It’s a user-friendly global data SIM card with 4G speeds in more than 70 countries. The price ranges from $4 a day for 50MB of data to $12 for 500MB each day, depending on your where you’re travelling to. After purchasing either their lifetime SIM card or mobile wifi hotspot, you can conveniently refill your data on the go using their app. With free shipping and painless activation, this is the clear choice for anyone wanting to stay connected while on the road.
8 Stream your favourite shows anywhere in the world with an Unlocator Smart DNS
This isn’t technically a gadget because it’s not something you can physically hold, but it’s
included in this list because it’s a super handy tool to have if you’re a frequent traveler who needs to be constantly online, whether it’s for work or leisure.
The Unlocator Smart DNS allows you to surf the web and go on your usual sites no matter where you are in the world. If you watch shows that are only streamed within a particular region, this is perfect for you. This is also particularly useful for travelers who are in countries with a track record of heavy web censorship. This also adds a layer of security when you’re online in public areas like coffee shops.
The catch is that downloading the Unlocator Smart DNS will set you back $50 a year, but for those who rely on having reliable, secure and flexible internet access, this is a small price to pay for the ease and peace of mind that you get in return.
7 Keep important documents in a USB flash drive
A USB flash drive, or sometimes known as thumb drives or USB sticks, should be in every traveler’s possession. You can always print out any travel information you need for your trip, but it’s good to have scans of your passport and copies of travel insurance documents or hotel bookings stored in a flash drive, should you lose any of these while traveling. This comes in handy if you’re unable to log onto your e-mail to grab this information. You can easily encrypt them with a free app like 7-Zip, so you can rest assured that your travel documents are safe.
Alternately, if you’re not the type to carry loads of paper documents with you while traveling, you’ll be able to store everything from your boarding passes to bus tickets in this small device. In the event that you need something printed, you can easily ask your hotel front desk to print whatever document you need.
Although USB flash drives shouldn’t be your go-to for photo storage, this is also an easy and quick way to backup your photos of the day, especially if you’re not traveling with a laptop. At the end of the day, use the hotel computer to move photos from your camera to the drive so you’re not stressing about going over your camera’s SD card limit the next day.
6 Multitask like a pro with a car charger
If you plan to rent a car, bring a car charger/adapter to maximize the time you’re spending driving from point A to point B. This will hopefully mitigate the dilemma of not having enough hotel room outlets for all the gadgets you have to charge. This also means you can keep your phone open to map your route or play some tunes without running down its battery.
Your best bet is a charger with a USB socket, even better if it comes with two or three. The idea is to multitask and you can easily do that by charger multiple devices while you’re driving. The Anker 24W Dual-Port Rapid USB Car Charger is a good choice, as it's multi-compatible.
5 Say goodbye to wrinkly clothing with a mini steam iron
There are few things more frustrating than shopping for new clothes for a trip, only to find them all wrinkly upon arriving at the destination and there’s no functioning iron or steamer available. This is especially true if you’re on a business trip and you have no time to leave your clothes to hang and magically transform back to its initial sleek state.
The answer is this mini travel steam iron. Only a bit larger than a computer mouse and weighing in at 1 lb., it’s the smallest steam iron in the world. Its three temperature settings can handle every kind of fabric including silk, wool, cotton, and linen. It even has a switch that flips the voltage from 110 to 220 for international use.
4 Ride your suitcase to the airport terminal
If you don’t need a lift on your suitcase to the departure gate, you can find cheaper options that are both functional and stylish. As more companies think of better tech integrations, just make sure the suitcase you buy is compliant with any airline regulations. For airlines like American Airlines and Delta, you have to make sure the battery in your suitcase is still removable.
Smart luggage will set you back a few hundred dollars at the very least, but it’s a worthy investment if you’re a regular jetsetter.
3 Bring the party everywhere with portable speakers
When you’re away for long periods of time, it’s helpful to have a semblance of the comforts of home available to you. Whether it’s having a solo dance party in your hotel room or blaring some music with newfound friends at the beach, portable speakers can help imitate the vibe of a home theatre or just keep you entertained.
It’s important to pick something slim and compact but still carries a punch when it comes to sound quality. For a budget choice, the Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 is durable, waterproof, and small enough to carry around in a purse or bag
2 Give your neck a break with the Trtl Pillow
If you find those U-shaped neck pillows horrendous-looking, you’re not alone. More importantly, if you’ve never gotten comfort from using them, the Trtl Pillow — pronounced “turtle" — might have been the answer to your neck woes this whole time.
The Trtl Pillow is just like your average fleece scarf, but it comes with a flexible plastic insert for support, which gives your head something to lean in even when you’re sitting up straight. The fact that it conforms to any neck, head, or shoulder shape is what makes it super comfortable. Plus, it’s half the size of a typical U-shaped neck pillow!
1 Harness the sun's natural energy
If you’re a backcountry hiker, climber and camper, solar chargers are a lifesaver. Adventurers use this to charge their GPS devices, phones and cameras.
But even if you’re not the type to disconnect, a solar charger is a great emergency item to have handy in case you’re stranded on an island with no electrical power in the middle of monsoon season.
For light packers, Solar Paper is perfect to charge small devices like smartphones and tablets. It’s so thin and slender, it can fit between the pages of a notebook. But if you need more solar juice, the 15W PowerPort by Anker gives you the best bang for your buck. It comes with solar panels and 2 USB outputs but it’s still very portable.
References: Travel + Leisure, Fodors, Popular Mechanics, NYMag