CHILDREN are usually forced to pick just one or two of their beloved stuffed animals to take with them on summer vacation. Adults should consider doing the same with their electronic devices.
You don’t want to weigh down your travel bag with gear you will barely use. And you probably should leave your more expensive gadgets at home, unless you want to become a target for muggers.
What to do? My personal packing starts with devices that are compact and lightweight. The price tag should not exceed $500, and if my smartphone can capably perform a task, I don’t bother with something that does the same thing.
Here is a guide to products that I have found useful on an airplane, in a rental car, in a hotel, in an Airbnb house rental and outdoors, or traveling overseas. I have tested all of the items in the last few years, and some of them were purchased through The Wirecutter, a product recommendations website and creative partner of The New York Times.
Apple’s iPad Mini
This happens too often: After cramming into your airplane seat, you shut your eyes to relax and a baby starts screaming behind you. You need a media device to drown out the noise with music or a movie.
My favorite media tablet for travel is the Apple iPad Mini, which starts at $399 (though I would buy the $499 model for the extra storage). Its compact size makes it easier to rest on an airplane tray. Because it is a multifunctional tablet, you can choose from a host of distractions, such as reading a book and playing a mobile game. (In other words, leave your Kindle at home.)
Wireless portable hard drive by Seagate
For watching videos on a tablet, SeaGate’s wireless portable hard drive, which costs $100, may also be worth stowing in your carry-on luggage. Ahead of your trip, you can load movies and other media onto the hard drive, and the drive creates its own Wi-Fi network to stream movies to your iPad.
As for earphones, I will skip recommending a fancy pair of earbuds — just another small, valuable item to lose on a trip. The earbuds that came with your smartphone, like the Apple EarPods, should sufficiently drown out the noise.
Roku’s Streaming Stick
Most hotels include cable television, but after channel surfing for a few hours, you will realize that the only movies that ever seem to air are “Total Recall” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Chances are you will be aching for the variety of programs you could get from streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO. So I would pack Roku’s new Streaming Stick, which is the size of a thumb drive, making it easy to stow in a travel pouch.
One major bonus of the Roku stick is a feature called Hotel & Dorm Connect. It bypasses an obstacle in many hotels — the requirement that you log into their Wi-Fi networks through a web page — by letting you enter the credentials through your smartphone browser.
Another common headache in a hotel is finding enough outlets to charge multiple gadgets. Anker’s four-port USB wall charger can be plugged into a single outlet to charge four USB devices at the same time.
In a Rental Car
The most annoying part of renting a car is all the upsells, particularly the extra fee for a GPS device and a mount — as if your smartphone did not provide maps already.
The best solution is to pack your own smartphone car mount. TechMatte’s MagGrip CD Slot, which costs only $11, is a fantastic travel companion on trips with lots of driving. The mount holds your phone with a magnet; you put a magnet sticker on your smartphone case, so mounting your phone is as simple as tapping the back of the phone on top of the magnet. What’s more, because the MagGrip hooks up to an unused CD player slot, the phone doesn’t block your view of the road.
As for playing music from your phone, I recommend packing a standard audio jack that connects a smartphone with a stereo system, like the $5 audio cable from Amazon.
In an Airbnb House
The Anova Precision Cooker
When renting a house on Airbnb or a similar site like HomeAway, the situation may be different from a hotel if a large group and a kitchen are involved.
This may sound odd, but I have found it extremely useful to pack a sous vide precision cooker on Airbnb trips. First, a primer: A sous vide cooker heats water to a precise temperature; you seal food like steaks and salmon into plastic bags and immerse them in the water to cook them evenly at that temperature.
The $199 Anova Precision Cooker, recommended by our technology columnist Farhad Manjoo, is slim enough to store in a weekender bag. Anova’s cooker also includes a bracket so that the device can be easily mounted to your Airbnb host’s cooking pot — meaning all you probably need to pack are the cooker and some zip-close bags.
The benefit of bringing along a sous vide cooker is the amount of time it frees up for you to enjoy other activities instead of paying attention to your food. Imagine going hiking for three hours and returning to a perfectly cooked medium-rare beef roast. It beats going to a restaurant.
The Roll by Ultimate Ears
When you’re outside, you don’t need much technology other than a camera. Assuming you bought a smartphone in the last few years, don’t bother packing an extra camera like a GoPro — that’s just extra space and another power cable to carry around.
Instead, if you’re going to be in the water kayaking or splashing around at the beach, consider a waterproof smartphone case like LifeProof’s Fre, which fits snugly around an iPhone to protect it from water without making it look ugly.
If you are the type who enjoys drowning out the sounds of nature with music, the $100 Roll from Ultimate Ears, which I recommended last holiday season, continues to be my favorite wireless portable speaker. It has a slim disk shape, making it easy to pack in a travel pouch, and includes a bungee cord for strapping it onto a lawn chair or bench. Plus, it’s waterproof.
Apple’s Smart Battery Case
Earlier this year, I wrote a guide on taking your smartphone abroad while traveling, which involved unlocking it and buying foreign SIM cards. Some readers encouraged me to also mention Google’s Project Fi, which is offered in more than 120 countries and charges the same rate no matter where you are: $20 a month for unlimited minutes and text messages and $10 per gigabyte of data.
In my testing of Google Fi for a few weeks, I found that the service offered robust coverage comparable to that of traditional wireless carriers. However, there are caveats: Google Fi is available only on a small number of Android phones, and in foreign countries, the data speeds are capped. I recommend a Google Fi phone, with prices starting at $199 on Google’s webpage, for people who frequently travel abroad. But for those who seldom go overseas, it is more practical to use a foreign SIM card with your own phone.
Also when traveling abroad, your smartphone battery is going to be struggling because of all the pictures you take. For iPhones, I recommend Apple’s $99 Smart Battery Case — it offers enough power to keep your phone running all day. You can also charge it with the Lightning cable included with iPhones, so you will have one fewer power cable to pack. For Androids, the AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank is an excellent battery pack.
This post was excerpted from nytimes.com. Full attribution and a link to this article follow directly.
Published by nytimes.com
June 22, 2016
Written by Brian Chen – Tech Fix