Our lives are so gadget-centric that many of us cannot image travel without the ability to keep in touch 24/7 without all of our gadgets. Think back to the prehistoric days (okay, pre-Obama days) when you didn’t carry your life or lifelines in your pocket. It is amazing how much technology has reshaped what we “need” for a week-long getaway or business trip.
Think how packing for a trip has changed in the past 10 years. I used to make sure my carry-on included all the necessary gadgets and accouterments for amusing myself on a long flight and trip: the cell phone, iPod, laptop, camera, video game player, personal DVD player (if I didn’t want to use the laptop), DVDs, a travel alarm, maps, books and, if a foreign country was involved, a translator. Of course, the cell phone, iPod, laptop, game player and DVD unit all had their own chargers and accessories too. Now, there are just a few basic gadgets that can take care of most technological needs:
- 1) A cell phone with an alarm clock app and others based on personal preference.
- 2) An iPad or laptop: This tool replaces the books, game player, DVD player and other take-alongs I used to schlep with one handy, useful and readily portable tool. I’ve gone whole trips using my laptop or iPad solely for email and Internet access, as well as whole trips where they were used regularly but for entertainment and reading.
- 3) Extra juice: The only way the cell phone and/or computer can be a total lifeline on a trip is with lots of power when you are away from a plug. There are mini-battery packs and several phone batter extenders on the market. Some use regular batteries, others are rechargeable.
- 4) Universal charger kit: Gone are the days of taking multiple chargers. Instead, take one with multiple tips. Kensington and Tumi both make chargers that can service several devices at once. Some can charge a laptop and two devices simultaneously.
- 5) WiFi or HotSpot gadget: If you hate racking up $9.95-a-day wireless charges in hotel rooms or spending evenings in a Starbucks to access their WiFi, you need a gadget to allow your phone, tablet or computer to network access. A mobile hotspot is a smartphone plan feature on that lets you share the connection with other Wi-Fi devices. Essentially, your phone creates its own wireless network. It can even connect to multiple devices at once, allowing a family to share. Another way to accomplish the WiFi access is Apple’s Airport Express, which can function as its own wireless base station. Just plug the hotel Ethernet cable into the box and the box into an electrical outlet. When you turn on the computer, the transmitter appears and can be used as your own private Wi-Fi domain.
- 6) If going to a foreign country: You will also need a foreign adaptor plug as well as translator and money exchange apps for the phone to be accessed wherever you go. I also recommend downloading map apps that do not use data minutes (unless you have an unlimited worldwide coverage plan). Last time I was in Paris and London, I had great iPhone apps for each city that had all the basics loaded on the phone (yes, it was memory-intensive, but worth it!). I knew exactly where I was and how to get to my location without incurring additional costs.