Guide to Essential Travel Technology
Looking to turn off your cellphone, unwind, and disconnect on vacation? Then this article isn't for you. The thought of leaving your mobile behind and immersing yourself in a travel experience is a much romanticized image, but when you don't speak the language, are seven-thousand miles from anyone you know, and have no idea how the local addressing system works, you'll be scrambling for the smartphone you left back in your hotel room safe. Technology is often fought as an extra you don't need on a trip, but if carefully considered it will enhance your trip, allowing you to do more of the things you want and stay connect with the people you love. So here's our picks of essential tech an efficient traveler shouldn't forget on their next trip.
How else are you going to capture all of those priceless moments? I usually pack a DSLR—a Pentax K-x, since it's white and goes with everything . A DSLR gives a depth of field that can't be replicated without a longer lens. Translation, your crappy photos look just a little more professional and your chances of catching the perfect shot are vastly increased.
DSLRs aren't for everyone—or for every trip for that matter. They're big, clunky, expensive, and delicate, a perfect recipe for dampering a vacation when it gets lost, stolen, or damaged. Plus, the fresh off the plane tourist look doesn't reflect how P.I.M.P. you look in your natural element.
For those occasions there's always a compact point-and-shoot—or better yet, a decent camera phone. Point-and-shoots are quickly losing ground to mobile phone cameras, and since modern smartphones come with nice cameras these days, save the coin and upgrade your phone. Just keep in mind that the photos you take with a phone will never be as high quality as that of a digital camera, but the convenience is a trade-off I'm willing to take. Which brings us to our next essential...
Mapping, pictures, searches, Angry Birds... if I had to bring only one tech item, this would be it. If you're using an unlocked phone, you're set. Just grab a SIM when you arrive at your destination, select a data plan and you're ready to go. Phone locked to your carrier? It's still an essential piece providing entertainment (video games, music, books, etc.), and mapping tools, just be careful you turn it to airplane mode to avoid scary roaming fees when you get home. Plus someone said somethings about cameras if you were reading...
Most places you visit will sell SIMs (nano, micro, and regular). Just walk into a carrier, ask for your correct SIM, add a data plan and you're ready to go. Restrictions are different in each country, but for the most part they're pretty easy to get with your passport, and some local cash.
You probably already know that you'll need some witchcraft to get your tech to work in those foreign plugs, but you likely don't know that you want is a power adapter, not a converter. Most appliances (your computer stuff, not your blender) run dual-voltage and have converters built in, they just need to change the shape of the prongs. Using a converter will likely blow a fuse—or worse, your electronic device.
To make sure that your appliance is dual-voltage, check the labeling. It should say something along the lines of "110-220V". It may have a switch to manually change it., and if it doesn't it's time to buy new stuff because only antiques run single voltage.
Avoid bringing your bulky computer by loading up your tablet before you leave. Pre-load it with tv shows, books, and magazines for the airport, and entertainment for the evenings abroad when weird overseas tv dubs of Jersey Shores just won't do the trick. Tablets can hold all your essentials: games, movies, maps, travel apps, and even work (if you're required to deal with that on your trip), and of course, store your vacation pictures until you get home and can back them up properly. If you make an effort to transfer all the data you need, there's really no reason to bring a heavy computer any more.
Rechargeable batteries are must and so are the chargers that go with them. Hopefully you've reduced your battery options to the built-ins that come in your phone and tablet, but if you require AA's we suggest you grab a pair of eneloop double-sided hand warmers. I know what you're thinking—"damn my reflection in the monitor looks great," but focus. We're talking about hand-warmers that charge your batteries. You can plug them into any USB outlet (like the back of your hotel's tv), and in an hour you're ready to go. As a bonus you can throw them in your bag and plug in your USB devices for a small charge, or use them as hand warmers when it's cold out.
If you have no need for AA batteries, you can go for the eneloop Mobile Booster a slightly larger battery pack that will charge any standard USB device. This one stores enough juice to charge an iPhone 5 a couple of times, and is small enough to fit in my coat pocket.
Incorporating technology in your travel routine will up your game by allowing you to focus less on the boring tasks like finding your way to places, giving you more time to enjoy them. We all day dream about going to the Louvre and taking our photo infront of the pyramids, not getting lost the 7th and realizing you don't speak as much French as you thought. Agree or disagree? Have another piece you can't live without? Leave em in the comments!