Five nifty travel gizmos

Five nifty travel gizmos

Summary: While my main focus is storage, I travel too. And given that it's a pain, your gizmos shouldn't be. Here are my easy, functional favorites.


Your mileage may vary but I like products that do a well-defined job simply and easily. Here are some I like.

Easy two-factor security
I have a personal blog that, over the years, has been hacked a couple of times. I'm nervous about updating it in public when away from home.

That's why I like a new-to-me service from Duo Security. They enable two factor authentication on a WordPress blog and many other services.

Two factor authentication combines something you know with something you have. So if somebody swiped your password they still can't get into your account.

The Duo service for Wordpress combines a WordPress plug-in and an iPhone or Android app. Once registered, easy and quick, a single on-screen button push does the job. Simple, easy, effective.

I like it. Free for personal use with business and enterprise licensing available.

Lightning charge
It isn't easy to travel with several devices – a notebook, phone, tablet and travel router – without a rat's nest of cables. That's why I like 2-3 inch travel cables encased in flexible plastic, like the USB mini cable kit from Griffin.

But then along came Apple's Lightning connector.

I've tried third-party Lightning cables and micro USB to Lightning adapters, but none pleased. But the ChargeKey does the job.

It fits on a keychain, handy to some, and is light, flexible and sturdy. Pricey at $25 but if you travel with an iPhone 5 or recent iPad you can afford it.

Travel router
It is disgraceful that the FTC allows hotels and telcos to claim one rate while insisting on mandatory add-ons - such as "resort fees" - that may add 20 or 30% to the price. More irritating at hotels: limiting Wi-Fi to a single device.

Enter the travel router. These tiny, lightweight, USB powered routers don't have much range but in a hotel room you don't need it. They connect to the hotel network through cable or wirelessly and allow you to connect several devices to that "Free" Wi-Fi or network service.

Set up is simple. With a Mac there's no software to download and all configuration, including adding a password, is handled through Safari. Also claims to stream video from a USB thumb drive, but I haven't tried that.

I got a HooToo Tripmate Nano for $20 at Newegg on sale.

Surf safe SurfEasy
I'm not often forced to use public and insecure wi-Fi, but when I am the SurfEasy VPN connection provides some peace of mind.

SurfEasy is a USB dongle loaded with a browser that connects up to SurfEasy servers on a VPN. Performance takes a modest hit, but has never been a problem. Up to 500MB a month is free; $60/year gets you unlimited bandwidth for up to 5 Windows, Mac (the one I've used), iOS and Android devices.

SurfEasy provides protection against most attacks as well as private browsing. Let's face it, if someone really wants your data they will figure out how to get it.

Great for using public Wi-Fi in coffee shops and airports. About $55 for the dongle plus the plan.

Visibly organized
Out of sight is out of mind for me. If I can't see it doesn't exist. That's why I like the Grid-it organizers that leave gadgets secure and visible.

I maintain several grab and go kits for travel. Cables, power supply, router, SurfEasy, and other fiddly stuff is strapped in. I can tell at a glance if I have what I need when I slide it in my briefcase. About $20.

The Storage Bits take
Once upon a time I enjoyed traveling. Those days are mostly over, especially since I have a 2+ hour drive to the airport. But a few tools have made life on the road better and may help you as well.

Comments welcome, as always. I bought all of these with my own money except the ChargeKey, who sent me one for free. What is your favorite travel accessory?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Security, Storage

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  • Nice article and thanks for not making it a Gallery ...

    I was able to read each item, determine if I had any interest and the google or click on a link as needed without having to click through unnecessary pictures. THIS is the way that more articles on ZDNET should be. Thanks again !
  • You're welcome!

    I'm not a big fan of galleries either, but sometimes they make sense. But for most of them, no.

    R Harris
  • HooToo Charges Too

    Interesting that the HooToo is a 5200 mAH charger as well. For $23 (at Amazon) this seems like a great addition to my traveling pack.
  • But there's an easier solution than Duo!

    I use LastPass as my password manager and started to explore their multi-factor authentication options. I started with Duo, then Google Authenticator and then Toopher. The problem I see with most 2fa solutions is the usability. Although Duo is pretty simple, by only having to push a button to allow authentication, Toopher offers a solution that automates this part by using the location awareness of your smartphone. It's the easiest out of band 2fa solution I have found, not to mention the set up is pretty simple. Once I set up Toopher, I chose the option to "automate when near here." So when I login and I am "near here" (the specified area) the authentication process itself is invisible to me (as long as I have my phone in my pocket.) It's an added layer of security that doesn't bother me every time I try to login to my LastPass. It blows Duo and Google Authenticator out of the water in terms of user experience. The only problem is that I haven't really seen it offered anywhere else other than LastPass and WordPress. Can this be because not many people know about it?
  • How would you use the travel router from a hotel room?

    How would you use the travel router for hotel Wifi?
    Hotels require you to enter a password-of-the-day into your browser to get access to the internet. How do you do this with your travel router?
  • never ever

    Never leave home without a travel router!