The minimalist guide to summer travel tech

The minimalist guide to summer travel tech

Summary: As someone who prefers to travel as light as possible, here are some tried-and-true tips on how to make the most out of toting the fewest gadgets and entanglements possible.


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  • Plug and Play

    When traveling far from home, there are a few techie odds and ends you should just always have stashed in your bag and ready to go so you don’t have to think twice about them later.

    I’d start with a standard USB charger — if you didn’t consider the slide before this. (If you have a lot of gadgets, you’re bound to have an extra one of these floating around.)

    Depending on how long of a trip you're about to embark on, a single universal plug adapter for international travel along with a two-prong headphone adapter are easy to toss in a bag and can be lifesavers later. Many airplanes are still outfitted with two-prong headphone jacks for some reason, and usually the only headphones that work with these are the ones the airlines will supply you with — sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. To take advantage of the higher quality headset you already packed, have this tiny plug in your bag just in case.

  • Whatsapp

    It wasn’t until I was traveling abroad with friends from around the world toting a multitude of different smartphones that I truly grasped the value of Whatsapp. OK, so maybe the soon-to-be-Facebook-owned isn’t worth $16-19 billion, but the value proposition is undeniable.

    Never before has an app felt so intuitive and just MADE SENSE until put into practice. You can communicate with basically anyone else who has a smartphone and this app so long as you have a wifi connection — incredibly helpful when you’re on a wifi network at 30,000 feet or in another country and you don’t want to pay for international service.

    This app also solves the age-old problem of group photos when everyone wants the helpless photographer to take the same snapshot with each and every person’s camera. Just use Whatsapp and you can send the photo (scratch that, as many photos as you want) to everyone in the group in a second.

    WhatsApp Messenger: Free for messaging over wifi; standard data rates apply otherwise. Available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia.

  • TripIt v. TripIt Pro

    TripIt is an established player in the tech travel game by now, proving to be one of the best (if not the best) place to sync up every step along the itinerary from flight to car rental to hotel bookings and then some. But the best part is you can do all of that for free.

    TripIt also offers a premium service for $49 per year, and there is a 30-day free trial available as well. TripIt Pro does have some benefits, including real-time flight alerts sent to your phone and email. While I have found these extra features to be helpful, I have a hard time justifying the extra subscription on top of every other $5-$10/month digital subscription out there these days.

    But there are ways of getting TripIt Pro for free, or more like as a benefit/reward for other services. The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard, for example, comes with a TripIt Pro annual subscription for free.

    TripIt: Free for standard service: $49 per year for Pro. Accessible via all desktop and mobile browsers. Native apps available for iPhone/iPad, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7.

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Hardware, Smartphones, Travel Tech

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  • Excellent tips!

    Nice stuff, Rachel. The Logitech keyboard for the iPad mini you use is quite good, but it might be worth a look at the ZAGGkeys Cover for the mini. I've used both keyboards and the ZAGG is better for touch typing.
    • Logitech and ZAGG

      Thanks, James! I've tried Zagg keyboards with the iPad 2, and definitely good stuff from them too. For my use anyway, any keyboard with the 9.7-inch iPad hasn't required much typing adjustment. Any keyboard w/ the iPad mini does take some time, but it's worth it for the stress relief on my shoulder :)
  • Nice tips.

    I would skip the key board for the ipad though. If you are only going to be answering a few emails, then save some weight and leave the key board at home. Also, if you have a very good camera on your phone (iphone, GS5, Lumia etc) then you can certainly leave the camera lens at home. I would also suggest a 1 size smaller backpack than you think you need. You'll be amazed at what you really don't need, when you don't have space for it!
  • Don't need FlightBoard

    The free TripAssist (also from Expedia) will show you your updated gate info... but it's free. Also, look at GateGuru (also free) for detailed maps of all of the terminals at the airport, so you don't waste time going the wrong direction.
  • I just avoid tech

    For me, I try hard to avoid tech on vacation. Part of my vacation is to get away from the constant connection to work and schedules. I keep my iPhone close but keep it on silent. Only monitoring occasionally. I don't need a keyboard, because I don't plan on any lengthy replies. A smart phone is smaller and still does what most tablets like a iPad Mini does. I'm sure not everyone can get by with just a smartphone. But for me I have ditched the tablet scene and either use a notebook or a smartphone. Tablets are just not on my list of travel necessities.
  • Wrong About NC Headphones

    Rachel King is dead wrong about noise canceling headphones eating up batteries. That was true back in the day, it's not true in 2014. I just picked up Sony MDRNC13's which are rated at 100 hours battery life with only 1 AAA battery. Today's noise canceling headphones are much more efficient and last a lot longer.

    I will say however, I am intrigued with the use of bluetooth headphones and I do plan to get one in the future. For long flights though, the noise canceling is a must to kill the low frequency hum of the engines. The ability to get off a 9 hour flight refreshed and energized because of a headset is really a blessing.