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Top Ten: WTD’s Best Travel Gadgets

Top Ten travel gear you needI used to be the guy who bought every new gadget. And of course you get the gadget and it just doesn’t do what you think, or what you want. Or its just another piece of junk that makes life marginally easier. Or makes it harder! Traveling isn’t the time to be testing out new gadgets to sort out the junk from the gems. On the other hand, useful gadgets can make your life on the road a lot easier: shrinking the size of your bags, allowing you to do things you are used to at home, and helping you to GTD (get things done).  You don’t need everything, and you sure don’t need to be this guy with mask and fuzzy hood! I’ve compiled a list of my must-have gadgets. I’ve traveled with all of them, and wouldn’t leave home without them (and trust me, I’ve traveled with American Express, and I would sure leave home without Amex, don’t get me started). #1:The Best All-in-One Travel Tool (Phone/GPS/iPod/Email/Etc!) the Apple iPhone 3G/3GS. Unlocked. (Price, used on CL, ~$300) Why you need one: This device does it all! You pop into town, grab a local SIM card (see our upcoming article here on taking phones abroad), and you’ve got a telephone and SMS machine. With a little help, turn that SIM into a data-plan, and you’re checking your email, using GPS to find your location, hopping onto Yelp to find tasty nearby restaurants, all on the go.  GPS = Never lost!  Well, till you can’t get GPS signal, but that’ll never happen, right? :) Or use Wi-fi and do all of the above at tourist restaurants and bars that have wi-fi these days. Install Skype, and do all your calling home, right from the iPhone. Any of the other smartphones are just as useful, so if you can grab an unlocked Android, go for it too. I’ve used one, and while it works, its just more complicated to setup and operate.  The iPhone simply makes everything easy to do and use. On top of all that, the iPhone is absolutely, positively the world’s best music player, beating Android hands-down.  Just make sure to get an unlocked one, or you can’t use it abroad, unless you know how to do the unlocking. #1A: Honorable Mention, the Apple iPod touch It’s $300, brand new (compared to getting a used iPhone for $300). Same as above, but no cell phone, but still has Skype. Don’t be cheap, shell out the extra $50 or so to up the capacity to 32GB.  Actually, not having a phone isn’t all bad as you can get a $30 “throwaway” cell phone just for calls and SMS. The Best International Power Adapter ($20): Kensington Travel Plug Adapter with USB Charger In the old days, you had to get a voltage transformer. Those days are over! Nearly all electronics have a 120V/220V transformer, razors being the notable exception. Check on the back to be sure. So you just need something to adapt the plugs. There are really just 3 plugs in the world these days, the UK plug, seldom seen unless you’re in the UK, the European plug, which is seemingly everywhere including most of Asia, and the US plug, seen all over in South America and most of Asia (as part of a Euro/US combo wall plug). The plug here has adapters for all those and as an added bonus, has a USB charger. What do you need that for? Everything! Plug your iPod cord into it, and you have an iPod/iPhone charger. I’m on a mission to get everything charging off USB so I can minimize the number of plugs I carry. With this adapter, USB charger and plug adapter are one and the same. It’s an extra $5 for this, but worth it! The Best Earphones:  In-Ear Noise Canceling earphones A pair of headphones is great for making flights and bus rides and boat rides go a little faster.  Ditch those stock earbuds that come with just about everything these days and step up to something better.  I find the in-ear earbuds really seal your ears in and eliminate the outside world.  Results?  You cut out the outside world, and get better audio quality at a lower noise level.  All good for your ears, and your sanity. I bought a pair of these $10 Skullcandy INK’d Earbuds for my 40 hour flight to Asia last week.  They worked like a charm, tho the “Skull” logo makes ya look like a skater twerp.  But ya can’t beat the price and great sound quality. The in-ear piece reduces noise considerably.  As good as the top-ranked, all everything, $300 Bose super noise canceling headphones??  Of course not, but if you have some music on, you’ll never know the difference.   Step up in price, and get a inline controller for volume, call activation, and track-skipping with the Sony Earbud with iPod Remote Control .   Or go big with “active” noise reduction (these work, I’ve tried em!) by tacking on $85 to the price of the Skullcandy’s with these awesome Klipsch Image S4i Noise-Isolating Headset with 3-Button Apple Control The Best Travel Speakers:  JBL On Stage Micro II iPod / iPhone (Black) So you’re on the road.  It’s nice to have some tunes at the hotel, or even at the beach.  I have one of these JBL on-stage systems and I can’t believe how good something so small sounds.  And for something that started out in the $140 range, these boys have really dropped in price.  So great sound, so what?  Did I mention the Micro is battery powered for anywhere/anytime tunes?  Oh and with the plug-in adapter (apologies for one more thing to carry), it charges your phone too, so it’s your new docking station and alarm clock.  Anything else?  Yup.  It has a remote control.  I don’t actually have the Micro, I have the slightly larger, slightly pricier, slightly bass-ier JBL On Stage III .  If you’re using my links to get to Amazon, be sure to poke around for the best deal on their site, as some of Amazon’s suppliers have them cheaper. The Best Thing You Can’t Carry-On the Airplane: LeathermanBlast Multitool I like tools and in the old days, pre-Saddam 9/11 (Wasn’t it Saddam that bombed the World Trade Towers?:), you could carry these things on the plane.  No more!    If you’re checking bags, you’re probably not kicking around my site as I like to optimize to keep the bags small, but hey, grab a Leatherman.  Just remember to keep it in the check-in baggage when you fly. The Best Travel Camera (small version):  Canon PowerShot SD780IS Small is best for travel.  This goes for cameras especially. I have a rule about cameras.  If its small enough to always have it with you, you’ll take lots more pictures. I’ve had this camera for about a year and its great.  Pictures are awesome, especially the Sunset Mode for sunsets.  Fits in the front pocket of my shorts.  Tiny.  Great battery life.  Other cameras are cheaper, but trust me, Canon is the best for sub-compacts.  Image stabilization is key these days, and it has it.  I’ve gotten these cameras for my family as well.  And while you’re at it, be sure to pick up an extra battery or two, on Amazon they’re just $5 for 2 I think.  I’ll put the link in later.  You might think those SHOCK waterproof cameras are the way to go.  Check back here first, because I want one more than you.  But all the reviews I read say the picture quality is very lacking. The Best Travel Camera (big version): Nikon D3000 10.2MP DSLR Get an SLR.  That’s all there is to it.  Pick a Canon.  Pick a Nikon.  It really doesn’t matter.  I’ve had a Nikon for years and its been awesome. Mine is almost 4 years old and there’s really no reason to upgrade, so consider this a 5-year purchase (for an electronic device?  Really?  Yes, really, they last, with little reason to upgrade).   The Canon’s are equally awesome.  The Olympus are equally awesome.   I put the Nikon here because its their smallest and the best priced SLR as well.  So you get size and price all together. The Best Travel Wallet/Money Belt: Eagle Creek Travel Gear Hidden Pocket I’ve had one of those standard money belts and hated them. The belt is thin and flimsy and the thing gets stuck against your back or stomach and gets smelly and sweaty. I switched to one of these Hidden Pockets and I’m never going back! You just slide it through your belt loop, and tuck it inside your pants. Sorry ladies, won’t work as well with your dresses! Anyway, I’ve had one of these for the last ten years of my trip and it’s my super-secret travel tip. So get one. Buying from Amazon is a good idea as they’ve tough to find, even where Eagle Creek gear is sold. It’s big enough to hold your passport and credit cards. If you don’t travel with a money belt or a travel wallet, you’re out of your mind. Losing your passport and/or credit-cards is maybe the biggest pain in the ass of travel. With this Hidden Pocket, it’s nearly impossible to lose your most important documents. Get one! The Best Travel Backpack: Eagle Creek Thrive 65L Backpack Ah your backpack. It’s a pretty important purchase as it holds all the stuff you are carrying, needs to be able to handle planes, buses, trains, taxis, motobikes, and walking/hiking without breaking, or breaking you! My first backpack was a pretty intense Arcteryx backpack designed for severe duty, like hiking for months in the mountains. It worked well and had great comfort and support. But it was terrible for travel. I switched to a 65L Eagle Creek backpack in 2006 and I’ve had the same bag ever since. My sister has one from 2002 and its in great shape too. Try finding one on Ebay used. You can’t – no one would ever get rid of theirs. So go small. The 65L is the largest bag you can legally carry-on the airplane (although this isn’t always enforced). Besides, smaller is better. You’ll surely take as much as you can fit, so take less and travel light. Other reasons to get this bag: – Matching day-pack. I usually snap mine on front using a carabiner instead of zipping onto the back. – The bag opens like a suitcase. Many others are just big stuff-sacks, so you have to take everything out to get something on the bottom. This is terrible for travel! Opening all the way is awesome. – It’s a backpack but converts into a suitcase. Zip up the belt strap and the shoulder-straps, and check it right onto the plane if you like. – Stash sack for putting a jacket or something. Mine doesn’t have this and I wish it did! – Built-in rain-guard. I don’t have this, and it isn’t often it rains on you. But as a theft deterrent, this would be great. – It’s small! – Eagle Creek quality is the best. My bag has been on the road for the past year with me and shows no signs of slowing down. You’ll never buy another pack again! What do you think? What are your favorite pieces of travel gear? Leave a comment! Amazon.com Widgets

 
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