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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.
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.