Before you hit the road or the skies, pack your bag with this selection of essential (and fun!) gadgets
If you’ve got holidays on the horizon, I envy you. Really, I do, because we could all use a break from the day to day every once in a while. For many of us, a break from work is defined as a break from our work screens, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make technology your true holiday buddy.
Everyone’s needs are a little different, and I’m probably a touch techier than most. Still, when I head off on a break, here’s the five tech gadgets that I pack to make the most out of my holiday.
1. Noise cancelling headphones
They’re often seen as a must-have for plane travellers, but there’s nearly nowhere that I don’t go without a set of noise cancelling earbuds or headphones in tow. Sure, they can help block out plane noise and optimally help me sleep on longer flights, but equally when my feet are firmly planted on the ground, I can pop them in and just use their noise cancelling to help clear away the noise and worries of the world while I dive into a good novel or go for a walk.
If you’re after a good set of noise cancelling buds, consider the Sony WF1000XM4 if you’re listening to music, or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds if you want the best noise cancelling I’ve hit in any earbuds to date. For a more budget-centric approach,
If you’re after a full set of over-ear cans, the Sony WH1000XM4 headphones are my go-to option, although if you’re an iPhone user (and your budget can handle their price) Apple’s Airpods Max are also a great set of noise cancelling headphones too.
Alex’s travel tip: Use the noise cancelling part of your headphones sparingly on long trips, because it always uses more power – meaning you’ll need to recharge more often. If you are flying, don’t forget the in-flight cables and adaptors either. Some airlines get twitchy if you try to just use them with Bluetooth connections, and anyway, that way you can hook into the in-flight entertainment.
2. Power bank
It doesn’t matter if I want to just keep my smartphone going, or if my kids want to keep their Nintendo Switch powered up… at some point, they’re going to run low on juice, and the odds are good that it’ll be at some point during the trip when a power point isn’t usefully nearby.
That’s why I always travel with a high-capacity USB power bank to make it simpler to keep my gadgets going. Preferably look for a model with multiple sockets, not so much to charge multiple devices simultaneously, but more to ensure compatibility with more gadgets. If you want or need to keep higher power gadgets, like many USB-C powered laptops or portable game consoles powered, you’ll also want to consider a USB power bank that offers up power delivery, which we’ve written about here.
Alex’s Travel Tip: Don’t forget to take cables with you – while it’s not too tricky to source new cables it’s a cost best avoided when you could be spending that money having fun! Also, if you are flying, check with your airline about any rules for onboard power banks. Some very high-capacity banks might be above their rules when it comes to onboard batteries, especially if you’re putting them in stowed luggage.
3. Amazon Kindle (or tablet)
I love to read. It’s one of life’s true pleasures, and often the needs of the working week leave me with little time to curl up with a nice book. When I’m on holidays, however, all bets are off, but taking an entire library of physical books with me really isn’t practical – or kind to my spine!
That’s why I nearly always take a Kindle or iPad with me when I travel, because it’s the easiest way to take a selection of holiday reading with me for some truly relaxing times. The Kindle isn’t fancy, but its use of e-ink, which only uses power when you change pages means that it’s up for even the lengthiest of tomes. If I want a bit more book reading flexibility than Amazon’s device will handle, an iPad (or similar tablet if Android’s more your thing) can cover Kindle, Apple’s iBooks and plenty more eBook formats and stores to boot.
Then all I need to do is find a comfy chair, a warming beverage, and some time.
Alex’s travel tip: If you’ve got an iPad or Android tablet, check if your local library supports eBooks – Libby is often the app they’ll use in my experience – and you can borrow a wide array of eBooks and popular magazines to take on holiday with you for free!
Software is, I’ll be honest, not the sexiest thing you might pack into your suitcase. Also, if you want to be pedantic, it might not count as a “gadget”. However, it runs on my gadgets that I take on holidays, which is why I’m including it here as a must-have. Setting up a VPN – that’s Virtual Private Network for acronym fans – is an important part of most of my travel plans.
Why? Because VPN software creates an encrypted tunnel between my online devices and sites and services I might need to use while I’m travelling. If you do need to use hotel or public Wi-Fi, you should never do anything that’s trackable or valuable with those connections, because they’re inherently insecure.
That creates a problem if I’m overseas and I need to shift money from one account to another to pay for a taxi ride, meal, or tourist attraction. It doesn’t have to be overseas either. If the only available Net connection is via the Wi-Fi at the shopping centre, I’m at interstate within Australia, I’d have the same concern.
The solution is to set up a VPN on my smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Using it allows me to manage any online interactions no matter much more securely wherever I am on the planet, without worrying that my bank account details, and holiday money are about to be snaffled by the bad guys. Like I said, it’s not attractive tech, but it might just be tech that saves your holiday before it’s even started.
Alex’s travel tip: The other big use of VPNs when travelling overseas is to switch your country location, which can then switch up the availability of other services such as media streaming apps for different content availability. The streaming services don’t tend to like this, but it’s very much a thing that you can do if so inclined.
5. Travel adaptor
If overseas travel is part of your schedule, it’s absolutely vital to carry at least one travel adaptor with you to ensure that you can plug your smartphone, laptop and other gadget chargers into. I won’t lie here – I have reached the airport only to find that I forgot to do this, at which point you’re going to get stung for the hefty prices airports charge for plug adaptors before you go. Save the frustration and pick up one (or more) plug adaptors, or a multi-country adaptor to keep the power flowing no matter where on the planet you’re heading to.
Alex’s travel tip: Don’t want to buy lots of adaptors? Buy one (preferably a multi-country, because you may have a transit stop where you can recharge that uses different plug types) and put a simple 4 or 6 socket power board in your luggage. Plug that into your adaptor and you’re good to go. Remember that some devices may charge more slowly overseas, thanks to lower output voltages on standard sockets.
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