One of my favorite parts of travelling is escaping into a different world and immersing myself in other cultures. And, of course, my iPhone, camera, laptop, and Kindle are immersed right alongside me. While I like the idea of going off of the grid, this means checking Facebook once a day instead of fifteen times. What can I say, it’s an addiction. I enjoy these small, modern conveniences on a long trip in a foreign country. It might mean trekking El Camino de Santiago with a mobile hotspot to stay connected from the snow-covered peaks of the Pyrenees. Or maybe it’s waking up on a Sunday morning in a Kenyan village and relaxing with a proper French press coffee. Travelling with gadgets, both high-tech and low-tech, makes life easier. The distance around the globe seems somehow smaller. Whether it’s for convenience, for a subtle reminder of home, or just because they’re awesome, these travel accoutrements are worth a look if you’re planning a trip virtually anywhere in the world.
Most journeys begin and end in an airport. Some airports are better than others (cough:::cough:::JFK) at keeping passengers connected while they wait out their layovers — hopefully in the bliss of reclining chairs with attached plug-points and free wifi.
Technology and comfort, however, aren’t the only aspects of an airport that I appreciate. It’s also important for an airport to successfully transfer both passenger and possessions from point A to point B. Have you ever lost your luggage? Have you ever meticulously packed your suitcase, only to be told by an airport employee that it is too heavy? You’re left sifting through the piles of shoes, dirty laundry, and bottles of rum in front of the weary, impatient queue. Everyone watches you squeeze just one more book into your carry-on. Has your phone ever died right before a long flight? This Smart Suitcase solve all of these problems (well, all problems related to suitcases).
The Bluesmart Suitcase, and its corresponding phone app, allows the owner to lock and unlock the suitcase with the touch of a button. The suitcase alerts you if it is being left behind, and the built-in GPS makes it trackable. The Bluesmart also includes an internal battery, which is big enough to “charge your phone six times,” according to their website. Bluesmart is part of a growing niche market. These conveniences give travelers the knowledge that their belongings are both safe and in the right place.
After successfully landing, picking up luggage, and leaving the airport, it’s time to head to your home-away-from-home. Whether it’s an AirBnB, hotel, or a friend’s couch, your new abode quickly becomes strewn with suitcase contents exploding out of their pressurized home (organize some of the chaos with this). Soon toiletries are scattered, shoes are living under the bed, and chargers are plugged into hidden outlets. Once showered and unpacked, it’s easy to get distracted by things like scenic views (or if you’re like me, Yelp menus from prospective dinner joints). Products like Microsoft’s Treasure Tag ensure nothing important is left behind. Tag up to four items and before you make it out the door you’ll receive a phone alert if you accidentally forget something — like your keys.
After the jet lag passes, it’s time to explore! I seek travel destinations that hold crazy, active, and adventurous activities. This means that sometimes I do dumb things, like drop my phone in the ocean. Many gadgets popped up in the past few years to help accident-prone people like me make sure their precious belongings stay safe. Devices like GoTenna help mitigate the fears of friends back home during a long trek, and the device also safeguards you about getting lost on said trek. And these flip flops are about the best theft prevention device I’ve seen yet. Just don’t leave them sitting on the beach!
Like all good things, all trips come to an end. You repack your bags and begin the long journey home. Luckily, there are some devices to help with this, too. Just stick this neat solar charger on any window — from taxis to a cafes to an airplanes — and charge your small electronics on the go. And be sure to grab some hot water before checking out of the hotel, that way you can brew a quick coffee on your taxi ride to the airport. No need to swing by the post office to drop off postcards — Touchnote creates personalized postcards from your photos and allows you to pay for stamps through the app. That way, they’ll probably arrive home before you do!
Hopefully, you arrive home from your holiday relaxed and refreshed, partly thanks to these helpful gadgets and innovative travel inventions. It’s time to rejoin the real world of perusing overflowing email inboxes over a cup of Starbucks (purchased at any one of the chain’s three locations within a one-block radius from your office). As you reconnect to the grid, feel the happiness wash over you as you look over your photos. Then, start thinking about your next trip. Time to start planning!
Check out other pieces in the Invention Series here. There are always new products entering the market. Know of an awesome products I missed? Let me know!
Cindy is a traveler with an insatiable urge to immerse herself in other cultures. She is currently working on a project providing solar lights (among other things) to urban slums in Bangalore, India. Follow her adventures at Casilocal. She is also a GV Ambassador helping map the world of social enterprises and sustainable volunteer opportunities.