In the middle of this post is a graphic of “Top 7 Gadget Essentials to Travel With,” provided by the blog of Fabio Virgi, a fellow blogger I met through the wonderful world of Twitter. You can link straight to his site by clicking on the graphic itself. The content is entirely donated, but I was inspired to provide my own experiences with gadgets and travel.
Be sure to check out Fab’s site, as well as his gadget-specific site. At the time of writing, he was somewhere in Copenhagen, and I’m sure he’d love to share what he’s been up to with you!
A Word On Tech
Technology is incredibly difficult to pinpoint as “the best,” or to even begin to “recommend” a brand, style, or model. We are officially at a point where every technology niche has become a saturated market. In addition to this, we are also at a point where each major company is taking the best parts of their competitors brand, and incorporating those features into their own product. Often times, we are simply choosing between price points, marketing biases and success stories from those around us.
Furthermore, once you begin to enter the world of travel, there is often a debate between using technology to its fullest potential – tracking down every cool location, recording every single moment digitally, and sharing with the world in real time – and completely unplugging to truly “experience” what is in front of you.
Similar to my wording in Backpack Culture, do what you see fit. If you want to unplug, then unplug. If you want to live tweet every time you go to the bathroom while traveling, then knock yourself out. The experience is for you, and the way you do so is for you as well. Enjoy it as you see fit!
In my view, technology is to be used to Guide, Aid & Entertain – funny how the title matches, right?
As Fab puts it, the top 7 gadgets that are essential to travel with are as follows. Below, I’ll break down how I interact with each category.
Personally, I use an iPad. The last time I brought a tablet out of the country, I had an iPad mini, which was fantastic in terms of sizing. It could slip in anywhere, and was inconspicuous enough to be stand on a street corner stealing WiFi trying to get directions.
I’ve since upgraded to an iPad Air, which has a bigger screen, and better image capabilities. With this transition, I’ve also been using the tablet as a means to store, quick-edit, and share photos.
I’d like to point out as well that Cloud Sharing makes this particular tablet the strongest option for me – I have Apple laptop, tablet, and cellphone, so seamlessly connecting my devices is super useful.
As Fab notes, tablets are great for entertainment and unwinding, but they’re also excellent replacements for the Internet capabilities of computers/laptops. This would include reading this blog, finding things to do wherever you are, or getting maps together to help you find said things.
Cameras & Lenses
So far, I use a trio of cameras.
1. iPhone Camera. Yes, believe it or not, this is a legitimate option. It fits right in your pocket, it uploads a pretty good photo, and it edits easily enough. There are countless apps to assist you in this, and it can make for a good print, or a colorful Instagram feed.
2. Nikon CoolPix. This point-and-shoot is quick, adjustable and with a bit of practice a perfect tool for pretty much any travel photo. Keep in mind, I’m no professional, so I wouldn’t be able to speak for the different settings. However, to me, that is kind of the point – I can take a great photo without worrying about the settings.
3. GoPro Hero4. The photos on this device are in a fish-eye, meaning that the photo begins to round out along the edges, or can become distorted if taken at funny angles. However, learning to play the angles can create super captivating photos. Additionally, the video is a key point of this device. Shooting at 4k quality, with equally sharp still-photos, you can get some super awesome photos.
Word of advice: GoPros FEED on light – play in the dark, and you might as well be back on a cell phone.
Pro Tip: Be conscious of size. Ask yourself, how much space will the camera I want to bring take up? Does this matter? Large bodied cameras, with detachable lenses take up a ton more room than a point and shoot, which takes up more room than a GoPro.
I’ve gone through a few different types of headphones, and my father has gone through even more before me. However, we’ve both finally settled on the Bose SoundTrue line. My research while writing tells me that my version is discontinued, but that link will take you to the model. Apparently the newest model are bluetooth, so eliminate the wire that mine have.
Honestly, when it comes to headphones, the advice is simple: get headphones that not only sound good, but that are comfortable for your head. Go to the store, and play with them. I’ve found that I prefer “over” the ear, rather than “around,” or “in,” simply by my preferred comfort. The “over” style seems to have more padding involved in letting it set on your head, compared to just shoving it down your ear canal.
Bose is a phenomenal brand, and if you’re a “must have headphones” type – definitely recommended by me.
Pro Tip: Keep these in your “this stays on my body no matter what” travel location. They’re pretty expensive to lose, break, or not have available when you just need some soothing music while you wait.
Similar to headphones, my family and I have gone through loads of options. Once again, we’ve settled on a few different Bose options. They really can’t be beat in the “sound” department.
However, I cannot say I’ve ever brought one traveling. My verdict is out on that one.
Mophie! If you insist on clicking that link before reading more of the blog, then make sure you keep your device charged for when you come back later! *insert winky face* Kidding.
Mophie as a company focuses on creating accessories, but with battery packs installed in them. This means you can find a phone case that, with a flick of a switch, begins charging your phone. They also have power packs, basically portable batteries, capable of powering your devices multiple times with a single charge.
Highly, highly recommend!
Adapters & Cables
Don’t spend too much here. I’ve seen people spend $150 on an adapter that broke in two days from some high-end electronic store. Yet, I’m still using the same adapters I bought 4 years ago for $25 at Target.
The biggest thing is making sure you’re accurate for your location. Europe is not a one-size fits all, but it is a one size fits most. Check where you’re going, and see if it transitions to the other side of most. It’s also always worth checking for the “just in case” scenarios. Like, you may be planning for Europe, and include the United Kingdom. Their plug doesn’t match any of the rest of Europe.
As for cables, as long as you have an adapter for charging, you’ll be fine with your own cables. Bring the ones you need, and not one more.
Pro Tip: Roll your cables, and clip them individually with an office clip, or a twisty-tie from a loaf of bread from the supermarket. It’ll keep them less likely to get tangled, and easier to keep organized while packing.
God bless you if you can afford data to make a GPS app worth its salt while abroad. However, they are useful to be used in WiFi situations, to judge where you need to go next. I don’t have any to recommend, as I rely on Google Maps, but I know there are some really good ones available for all platforms.
Pro Tip: Map out your route while on WiFi, and take screenshots of the directions and map. Refer to these photos while navigating your way. Better than looking like a tourist with a map, and keeps you from getting lost (I’m assuming you’re trying to find your way if you’re using a GPS app…!)
Everybody will take into account what I said differently. At the end of the day, make it yours and just judge what you will need. I may have decided to bring 3 GoPro batteries, and you may think it’s good to be that prepared as well. But, I could also tell you that I never used more than one, thanks to the ability to charge overnight, and your travel companion will only bring one.
I tried my best to give some tips along the way as well, but if you have any of your own, please post them below in the comments!