This is one piece of gear that can stay at home. The $200 Slingbox streams live TV--and your TiVo'd shows--from your home to any Web-connected Windows PC or Windows Mobile device in the world. And that means you can watch live baseball when you're in Belgium, your hometown news in Hawaii, and "American Idol" in Azerbaijan. All you need is a Wi-Fi hot spot, a Slingbox and a laptop or a Windows Mobile phone. And an excuse for vacationing in Azerbaijan.
Here's another gadget you don't even need to pack. Your TV doesn't rest when you're on vacation, so if you don't want to miss an episode of your favorite show while you're away, TiVo's Season Pass will save it for you. This TiVo's DT stands for dual tuner, which means you can even record two shows at once. And if a new show takes the world by storm while you're lounging at the beach, you can use the Web to add it to your TiVo list.
Picking out an MP3 player can be tricky. You can't go wrong with the iPod, thanks to all its travel add-ons. Creative's Zen Vision:M has an amazing screen. And we love the feature-filled Toshiba Gigabeat S. But here's why the Cowon A2 wins: Its screen is as good as the Zen Vision:M's, it packs tons of features, and it trumps those other players with line-in recording. It's the perfect tool for bootlegging your favorite summer concerts (with permission from the sound guy).
Psst...you'll need a camera. The 6-megapixel PowerShot SD700 IS is a compact shooter with nice image quality and stabilization for low-light or high-speed shots. It came just shy of an Editors' Choice award due to a lack of manual aperture and shutter settings, but you won't miss those advanced settings while you're on vacation. Whether you want nice pics of the sun setting, the world's largest ball of twine, or your summer fling, this little camera delivers.
Watching TV while you're driving isn't smart. If you're planning a road trip, spice up the drive with some XM satellite radio and MP3s, all on the same device. The Pioneer Inno gets good XM reception wherever there's a clear view of the sky, and it can record up to 1GB of XM programming for later playback. And that's great for baseball fans, thanks to MLB's deal with XM. On the other hand, you can use up to 512MB of its hard drive for your own MP3s and WMAs. Alas, you'll also need an FM transmitter or cassette-deck adapter to listen to the Inno through your car stereo, because it doesn't come with a car dock.
If you're spending your vacation stateside, the Verizon LG VX9800 phone packs in a 1.3-megapixel camera, fast video streaming thanks to EV-DO, and a full QWERTY keyboard for sending quick messages to your friends back home. Paired with Verizon's VZ Navigator GPS service, you can also use it to figure out where the heck you are. It may be feature-loaded, but it's not a world phone, so if you're traveling abroad we recommend the next phone.
The Sony Ericsson W600i for Cingular is well- designed and feature-packed and solidly incorporates multimedia features into a phone's form factor. World phone support keeps you in touch when you're abroad; the 1.3-megapixel camera will help you remember the sights; and the MP3 player will entertain you on long plane rides. Plus, you'll never have trouble finding it in your hotel room, thanks to its bold color scheme.
Sometimes you need a device that doubles as a bona fide kid distracter. Enter the Nintendo DS Lite, the slimmer, sleeker version of Nintendo's popular dual-screen console. Sony's PSP is a better option if you're looking for more games and more features (music and movie playback, for example), but it's about $70 more and less kid-friendly. We love the DS Lite, and it has many great games of its own.
If you want to watch DVDs during your downtime but don't want to lug around your laptop, this sleek, swivel-screen Sony DVD machine should come in handy. It's a good bargain at $200, and whether you're looking to quiet the kids in the backseat or make a long flight seem shorter, it provides plenty of battery life to do the trick. You might even want to pair it up with a DVD camcorder to watch your vacation vids on the fly.
A digital camera is a vacation essential, but sometimes you want to put those memories in motion. This Canon camcorder is a nice budget pickup, with a 20X zoom for faraway subjects, a compact frame that's ready to go anywhere and solid colors for those tropical shots. At about $350, this is simply one of the better budget camcorders you can get.