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These photos were taken during my various travels.

About Greg Schwanbeck

 I'm a physics teacher, instructional technology coach, and teacher trainer with a passion for educational technology, global education, travel, and grilling the perfect cheeseburger.

My Favorite Tech Gadgets for Traveling

March 5, 2017

To me, travel and technology go hand-in-hand; I like being off of the beaten path, but I also like being on the grid. Technology plays a vital role in documenting my experiences, reflecting on my adventures, and connecting with the people I meet along the way. Pictured above and described below are the tech gadgets I pack any time I embark on a new trip.

 

But first, it is important to spend some time thinking about what sorts of things you'll be wanting to do during your trip, and what technologies might best serve you. I recommend you make a list of your technology-related priorities, in rough order if possible. For me, my major technology-related priorities when traveling are:

 

1. Maintaining a line of contact with friends/family in case of emergency.

2. Taking decent-quality pictures.

3. Keeping informal contact with friends/family via social media/text/email.

4. Navigating via Google Maps or equivalent.

5. Researching what to do/where to go on the fly.

6. Listening to music.

7. Watching movies.

 

Priorities 1 through 5 are practical in nature. Priorities 6 and 7 are for those long-haul flights or bus rides. I find that my iPhone [A in image above] and Android tablet [B in image] do a great job of covering all of these priorities, with enough overlap that they serve as backups for each other should I suffer a theft/loss/break during my trip. Along with my iPhone and tablet, I'll bring:


Phone/tablet stand. ($1 on Amazon) [C]. Cheap, lightweight, and compact. Perfect for watching movies on your phone or tablet during a long flight or train ride (or bus ride if the bus has a small seat-back trays.)

 

USB battery packs. Adventure travel usually means long days. Whether you’re exploring on foot for a whole day or on a bus for a whole night, you don’t want to risk running out of juice. I usually pack two battery packs: This big one ($30 on Amazon) [D],about the size of a deck of cards, has a 13,000 milliamp-hour capacity which is sufficient to charge an iPhone about five times or a table twice. This is great for long flights or bus rides where I might want to watch a lot of video. I also bring this lipstick-sized one ($13 on Amazon) [E] that can provide a single full charge to my iPhone. I'll keep this in my pocket or in my daypack while I'm exploring so that I can use my phone to navigate, take pictures, and stay in touch without fear of running out of power. I wrap an extra short dual-use USB cable ($10 on Amazon) [F] capable of charging my iPhone (lightning) or Android (micro USB) to the lipstick battery pack with a rubber band. By the way, if you mix Apple/Non-Apple tech, consider packing dual-use cables like these to cut down on clutter.

 

Noise-Canceling Headphones. ($70 on Amazon) [G]. BOSE QuietComfort headphones are outstanding; their amazing noise-cancellation technology allows you to listen to their rich, deep, and clear sound at a reasonable volume in noisy environments like planes and busses. But they cost more than $300! Buy these off-brand clones for only $70! The unconfirmed rumor on the internet is that they’re made in the same factory with the same parts as the BOSE brand headphones.


Earbuds. ($5-$20 anywhere). I like Amazon’s in-ear headphones ($15) [H] because they fit my ears particularly well and they have a neat magnetic feature that keeps them from getting tangled. Just pack your favorite pair so that you don't need to lug the big noise-canceling headphones I just talked you into buying everywhere.

 

Headphone splitter. ($4.75 on Amazon) [I] Make a friend with a seatmate on the plane or the train? Share your music with each other, or watch a movie together. You might go the whole trip without ever using it but it is so cheap and small you might as well bring it.

 

Country-specific charger. I've had good results using www.power-plugs-sockets.com to determine what type of plug or adapter I'll need to pack. Very simple adapters like these [J] only change the "shape" of the plug, not the voltage, so double check to make sure that what you plug into it can handle the voltage of the country you're in. Many USB charging bricks (like this one that comes standard with an iPhone) can handle a wide range of voltages and will work fine with a simple adapter. If you want to travel light and be able to simultaneously charge all your devices and backup batteries, go for something like this 4-USB port wall adapter [K]. This retractable dual-use USB to lightning/micro USB cord [L] is also nice when it comes to portability and order.

 

Selfie Stick. ($10 on Amazon) [M]. People make fun of selfie sticks all the time because selfies are thought of as inherently self-centered and vain. These people miss the point of a selfie stick! Selfie sticks allow you to bring MORE people into your photo! An arm-length selfie barely fits you and a bit of background. A selfie stick expands the frame enough to fit a half dozen or more friends in your selfie with you. Selfie sticks are poorly named--they should be called groupie sticks.... well, maybe not. But the point remains. Buy one, bring it, get photos of yourself with all the friends you make. Selfie sticks can also serve as a poor man's stedicam when shooting video with your phone, giving you a grip that allows for much more stability and control than holding the edges of your phone. This one is the most compact, secure, and easiest to use that I've found. Don't go with a bluetooth shutter, they take too long to pair up and aren't worth it.

 

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