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Travel is a way to keep us connected to family, friends, and arguably, the world. And as travel continues to make its post-pandemic resurgence, there are things you can do -- and pack -- that make travel easier, less stressful, and combat some metaphorical turbulence. For example, you can slip an AirTag into your bag to at least know the whereabouts of "lost" luggage.
AirTags, however, aren't the only tech travel gadget you should consider as a stowaway. There's lots of tech out there that can save you space, battery, trip memories, and all three combined. To find the gadgets best suited for the job -- and your luggage -- I talked to travel experts and enthusiasts to see what they consider essential, and you should, too. With that, here are the top picks.
Anker 747 GaNPrime charger features: 3 USB-C ports and 1 USB-A port | Can charge 2 laptops at once | Can charge up to 4 devices at once | 150 W and 38% smaller than an Apple's 10W charger
When you're traveling, it's important to keep all your devices powered and ready to go. Has anyone else ever had their phone die just as you're scanning your mobile boarding pass? To avoid that embarrassment, world traveler Nick Yiu is saving up for the Anker 747 charger to power all his devices for the five flights he has coming up. Even though the brick is smaller than a standard Mac charger from Apple, it offers three USB-C style ports, a traditional USB-A port, and all at a whopping 150W total output. To put it in perspective, it's powerful enough to charge two laptops in a short amount of time.
"This would replace the need to carry any additional power bricks, so you just need this one alone," said Yiu.
The 747 also employs Anker's GaNPrime technology, which is a faster, more powerful, and even more sustainable semiconductor than traditional silicon chargers. Anker's ActiveShield 2.0 technology also monitors temperature throughout the day and makes the appropriate power output adjustments, safeguarding connected devices. For these reasons and more, this charger is even essential for ZDNET contributor Jason Cipriani when he travels for work.
However, Cipriani points out that while the brick is compact, it is heavy, "falling out of most outlets, which is why Anker includes a plate that fits around the adapter and has a bunch of small suction cups to hold it against the wall." Aside from its density, the only other downside of the 747 power brick is the $110 price tag. However, when you factor in its adaptability and power, you're really paying for multiple charges rolled into one.
Tessan International Plug Adapter features: 2 USB-A ports (12W) | 3 USB-C ports (15W) | 4 different built-in plugs, which covers over 150 countries | 6 in 1 travel adapter outlet
The New York Times' recent daily crossword acknowledged that the most "annoying thing" you can forget to pack for a trip is, by far, a charger. Even more frustrating is remembering a charger, and don't forget that, if you're traveling abroad, there's a high likelihood your charger won't work. Enter the Tessan International Plug Adapter. This compact tool has four different built-in plug types, which covers over 150 countries, and also includes a universal AC outlet that can convert plugs from the ES, EU, UK, and AU to fit your chargers' socket.
Featuring five total USB ports, three of which are USB-C, this can also be used both internationally and domestically, as a multi-charging brick. In fact, the executive editor of The Points Guy, Scott Mayerowitz, says this is one of his biggest tricks since they easily plug into airplane outlets and can be a one-stop, compact shop to keep track of different cords.
This is especially a good option if you don't want the heavy price tag or physical weight of something like the Anker 747. It may not be as fast, but it's definitely efficient and price conscious. However, keep in mind that devices requiring a higher voltage, such as a hair dryer, are only compatible for devices in the 150V-250V range.
Sony WH-1000XM4 headphone features: Over ear, closed back | Bluetooth 5.0 | USB-C charging port | Up to 30 hours of battery – and 5 hours on a 10 minute charge | 4Hz-4,000 Hz frequency response
Sony's WH-100XM4 headphones are a cult-classic. With top-class noise canceling quality and up to 30 hours of battery, they've rightfully earned a top spot on our list of best noise canceling headphones and in Lonely Planet Managing Destination Editor Alex Howard's favorite travel bag.
"The drone of the engines disappears into a pleasant background hum, and you can focus on catching up with the Last of Us instead of the screaming baby a few rows over," Howard said.
Excellent sound quality isn't their only travel perk, the Sony WH-100XM4 headphones include a folding design and compact carrying case, making them easy to take on the go for short and long trips alike.
Apple AirPods Pro 2 features: 6-hour battery life and 30 hours in the case | IPX4 waterproof rating | 5.3 g each | Wireless charging | New Apple H2 chip
Over-ear headphones are a powerful sound blocker, but they're not necessarily space conscious. If you're not ready to sacrifice precious luggage real-estate with headphones, no matter how compact or portable, a pair of pocket-sized noise-canceling earbuds can be just as effective. I personally never leave my apartment without my Apple AirPods Pro 2 or get on a plane without them. What I love about the second-gen AirPods is that they deliver outstanding sound quality in both noise canceling and transparent modes.
Also: Flying soon? Flighty is a must-have iOS app for air travel
Sure, it's great to block out the rattles of the subway car as I make my way to the airport or the crying baby on the plane, but it's also important to be aware when traveling. And with my AirPods, I can clearly hear the flight attendant announce which carousel my luggage has (hopefully) arrived at without having to pause Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" as I fly into the city, per Scott Mayerowitzs' suggestion.
Plus, there's a built-in case speaker that makes it easy to ping your AirPods case if it's lost in the depths of your bag or waiting to be rescued from the airplane seatback pocket. Apple's FindMy feature also comes in handy to keep track of all Apple-associated devices when you're on the go, sending you a notification when one isn't on the move with you. The second-gen Pros also employ wireless charging, even via the Apple Watch charger, which may save you packing one less cable.
Review: AirPods Pro 2 offer two big upgrades but connectivity chaos hasn't been tamed
iPad Pro (2018) features: M1 chip | 12.9 inch Liquid Retina XDR display | WiFi 6 connection available | 12MP Ultra-Wide camera | 4K video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps | Five microphones and four speakers | FaceID | USB-C charging port
Speaking of Apple, Alex Howard relies on his iPad Pro for inflight entertainment. But his main pro tip is to upgrade to a bigger storage size to "accommodate extra seasons of your favorite TV show when Wi-Fi is spotty."
While a few years old, the 2018 iPad Pro features Apple's fast-performing M1 chip, a 12.9 Liquid Retina HDR display that makes for sharp and vivid visuals, and 1600 nits at peak brightness. Plus, if you take Alex's suggestion and opt for more storage, you won't face much latency and can let the high-res graphics shine.
At 22.26oz and around $480 at most retailers, you won't be adding too much weight to your travel gear or your wallet, especially compared to the most recent iPad Pro model. Additionally, the iPad Pro 2018 (3rd generation) is compatible with the more sleek, capless second-generation Apple Pencil, which simply attaches to the magnetic strip to pair and charge. And if you're like me, it's great for taking notes that can even sync to and stay on your other devices while you're on the go.
Of course the iPad Pro 2018 also integrates Apple's FindMy system, making it easy to track and find as you destination hop.
Duex Plus monitor features: 13-inch display | Compatible with Mac and Windows laptops | Auto-Rotation display | Multi-device compatibility | 1.33 mm | USB-C plug-and-play
Traveling doesn't mean you have to sacrifice work productivity. If you, like me and many other working professionals, rely on a monitor to multitask, the Duex Plus is a great portable option. Coming with four adhesive magnets, the monitor easily attaches to your laptop cover and flips out hassle free. From there, it's as easy as connecting via USB-C to either your Mac or Windows laptop -- no extra HDMI cord needed.
ZDNET's June Wan reviewed the monitor and was not only impressed with the easy set-up, but with its ability to enhance his work flow from responding to Slack messages to video editing.
What makes the Duex optimal for travel is its ability to slide in and out from the laptop lid, and then just collapse and act as a makeshift case before you pack it away in your back. While there's no need to lug around an extra bag or pack the monitor as a new entity, it unsurprisingly does add some bulk to your laptop.
Review: This flip-out portable monitor is my productivity secret weapon
Insta360 X3 features: 180g | 2.29-inch touchscreen | ½" 48MP sensor | Up to 5.7K resolution | 1,800 mAh removable battery | USB-C or MicroSD connectivity | Waterproof up to 33ft
The best part of traveling is making memories and capturing them. However, lugging around a big camera takes up space, adds weight, and places limits on capturing fun action shots. As of right now, travel buff Nick Yiu likes throwing in his tiny but mighty GoPro to take versatile footage, but has his eye on the Insta360 X3 action camera. As the name suggests, the camera films at every angle, and assures you won't miss a shot -- even if you're skydiving.
ZDNET's Kerry Wan did have the chance to go hands-on with the Insta360 X3 in September, and his experience confirmed that it's worth a spot on Nick's wishlist and our best travel tech list.
"Whether you're a professional or a beginner, the X3 brings a lot to the table for all to play," said Wan.
This thir- generation action-cam is the Insta360's most compact, refined design yet and, according to Wan, "the exterior is gilded with a rugged blend of rubber and texturized ridges which assures you that the X3 can hang in the toughest outings and/or within the slipperiest of fingers."
Perfect for long adventures, the camera is also capable of lasting on two to three days on one charge, limiting yet another device you have to charge on your trip. Additionally, Insta360 puts "art" in artificial intelligence, as June Wan puts it, packing a suite of photo editing AI features on the back and front end.
Review: Insta360 X3 360-degree action cam will blow you away
There are lots of tech gadgets that can optimize travel, from canceling out distractions on a long flight to capturing memories around you, and a device to power all of those devices. The items on this list consider functionality, durability, build, battery life, and more that hopefully enhance your journey.
Anker 747 GaNPrime 150W charger
Charges multiple devices at once
Tessan International Plug Adapter
Universal adapter with multiple charging ports
Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
Noise canceling over-ear headphones with compact travel case
Apple AirPods Pro 2
Noise canceling earbuds with a case featuring wireless charging
iPad Pro 2018
Tablet for entertainment with high-resolution and lightweight build
Compact action camera that can capture shots from every angle
All the items on this list were carefully selected, as most have a different functionality for different needs, preferences, and even budgets. Here's a further breakdown if you're trying to decide which gadget makes for the perfect travel companion.
Choose this best travel tech gadget…
Anker 747 GaNPrime 150W charger
Want a 150W charger that's smaller than a Mac charger and can power up to 4 devices at once.
Tessan International Plug Adapter
Want a compact adapter with 4 plug-in types, universal AC outlet, and 5 total USB ports.
Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones
Want a compact solution to blocking out noise around you. Sony's best-in-class headphones also come with a folding design and travel case, making them optimal for when you're on-the-go.
Apple AirPods Pro 2
Want a pocket-sized noise canceling solution with a fantastic transparency mode and Apple's FindMy tracking integration.
iPad Pro 2018
Want in-flight entertainment, a reasonably priced iPad Pro with 2nd-gen Apple Pencil compatibility, and a 12.9-inch display.
Duex Plus portable monitor
Don't want to sacrifice space or productivity when you travel. This flip out monitor with USB-C connectivity has great resolution and makes it easy to multitask.
Want a compact action camera that captures photos at every angle.
To compile my list and decide which travel tech was the best of the best, I turned to experts and enthusiasts. I consulted Nick Yiu, who took 15 flights in 2022, the executive editor of travel publication The Points Guy, Scott Mayerowitz, and Lonely Planet Destinations Managing Editor Alex Howard. As a frequent traveler myself, I also drew from my own experience and looked at products ZDNET has reviewed.
According to The Points Guy Executive Editor Scott Mayerowtiz, it's important to travel with tech that is lightweight, compact, and durable.
"You might have to pay an extra $10 to $15, but it's well worth it to have the lightest device or the one with the battery that lasts that extra 20 to 30 minutes. It makes all the difference when you're on the road or in the air," he said.
That said, it's also important not to get the most expensive item on the market, "How many chargers have you left in a hotel room when checking out in a rush?" joked Mayerowitz. "Maybe it doesn't have to be the 'best' product out there. Be mindful that things on the road get damaged."
I considered Mayerowitzs' tips on what to look for when compiling this list -- making sure I talked to someone who had hands-on experience with every product and could vouch for it's quality.
Smart luggage has been a hot-button item, but they don't necessarily make travel easier. If a smart suitcase has a lithium battery, you'll have to remove it before even getting to the airport. However, certain smart suitcases, like the Away suitcase, can be purchased without the lithium battery pack.
While deciding on the best products on the market, we tried to find the best options to throw in your luggage and make your next trip as stress-free, entertaining, and easy as possible.
However, there are also other options worth considering, depending on your different preferences and how you like to spend your travel time.
I love my AirPods Pro 2, but they're not the only Pro earbuds on the market with great sound quality and noise canceling abilities. The buds work well with, but aren't limited to, other Samsung ecosystem devices. Travel buff Nck Yiu relies on their great bass, compact size, and long lasting battery to get him through a trip.
If your idea of in-flight entertainment is binge reading rather than binge watching, consider buying a Kindle. Not only will it save room in your bag, but you can download new books on-demand if you speed read through your flight or vacation.
I've been traveling with this Bril UV light case and sanitizer for the past six months to keep my toothbrush clean and prevent the rest of my toiletries from getting wet. It's compact, sleek, and fast acting.
For more on-the-go tech, be sure to look at our lists on the best portable monitors, The 7 best tablets you can buy, The best Android tablets of 2023: Expert tested and reviewed, and best car gadgets, according to auto and tech experts.