Incredibly useful technology to enhance your next big trip
It’s funny how we take technology for granted – and surprising how recent many of our most life-changing innovations are. Before the 1990s, people didn’t research destinations online or book their preferred seats from a computer keyboard.
TripAdvisor, the world’s most visited travel site, didn’t even exist until the year 2000.[i] Today we have video screens on the backs of airplane seats, GPS apps to guide us around strange cities, translator programs to cope with language barriers, space-saver bags for efficient packing and a global network of ATMs that have made traveller’s cheques almost obsolete.
The catchcry for today’s global nomads is ‘travel light’, so new gizmos need to be compact and as simple as possible – otherwise they’ll be left at home.
Wherever your travels take you, the following tech gadgets represent some of the handiest potential additions to your suitcase, backpack or carry-on:
Noise cancelling headphones
Travel can be hard on the ears. A set of quality noise cancelling headphones lets you take refuge from aircraft engine hum, street noise outside your hotel or the enthusiastic bawling of a baby in the train seat behind you.
Bose Quietcomfort 20 headphones are for travellers who take their peace and quiet seriously – and are willing to pay top dollar for it. They feature silicone rubber tips that fill your ears and softly grip the cartilage in the ear canal for a snug and comfy fit.
The inline remote and microphone let you switch between calls and other functions and the quality of the sound is as impressive as the quality of the silence. If you want the best and are happy to pay around $399 for it, check these out.[ii]
Language translation at your fingertips
Coping with different languages is one of the biggest challenges for the overseas traveller, but the Ectaco 500AL Multilingual Translator has you covered. Choose from up to 49 languages and download relevant dictionaries from the company’s website so you’re ready to communicate in the local lingo.
The Ectaco 500AL not only assists with essential translations but helps you learn a new language: it includes an in-built grammar guide with idioms and irregular verbs to give you a much better grasp of how the language works.
This handheld device is a translator, metric converter, calculator, language teaching aid and currency converter all rolled into one. It also keeps track of local time in major global cities.[iii]
Extend your Wi-Fi range
The quality of Wi-Fi can be quite sporadic in many parts of the world and there are a number of range extenders on the market designed to boost available signals.
One of the most highly regarded Wi-Fi extenders is the Netgear AC1200 Wi-Fi Booster. This multifunctional device features a USB 3.0 connection and 802.11ac technology for faster Wi-Fi and broader range.
This isn’t the world’s smallest Wi-Fi booster but it offers superior power and performance compared to more compact models. You can connect to 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands either separately or simultaneously for consistent efficiency across all your devices.
If a strong Wi-Fi signal is important to you when travelling, the AC1200 will give you the boost you need.[iv]
Waterproof iPhone case
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could have full use of your iPhone while it was totally protected within a waterproof case? Now you can with the OverBoard Waterproof iPhone Case. This clear case is submersible to a depth of 6 metres. The transparent front window allows
The transparent front window allows use of all the phone’s normal features and keeps your phone safe from water, sand, dirt and dust.
You can make and receive phone calls while the phone is inside the case and the LENSFLEX back window ensures you’ll take clear photos.
If your holiday involves a lot of time in harsh outdoor environments and unpredictable weather, this 100 per cent waterproof case will keep your valuable iPhone safe from the elements.[v]
The Lifestraw personal water filter
Dubious drinking water can be a problem anywhere in the world, whether you’re camping close to home, exploring hygiene-challenged cities or heading into a jungle.
Sure, you can purify suspect water with tablets, pump it through a hard-to-clean filter, mix it with iodine or boil it – but for the ultimate in water purification, the Lifestraw takes efficient simplicity to a new level.
Weighing in at a paltry 56 grams, this state-of-the-art filter removes 99.9 per cent of protozoan cysts and 99.9999 per cent of waterborne bacteria without the use of chemicals. It filters down to 0.2 microns and can filter 1000 litres of water.
The Lifestraw allows you to drink safely from most fresh water sources simply by inserting the bottom end of the straw into the water and sucking the purified water out of the top.
It doesn’t filter out salt, pollutants or chemicals but does an excellent job of filtering out germs, bacteria, harmful dirt and those wriggly things that aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye.
The Lifestraw is compact and super-lightweight but also tough. Gizmag called it ‘the invention of the century’ and Forbes magazine named it one of ‘ten things that will change the way we live’.[vi]
The coolest folding keyboard ever
If you’re a MacBook, iPad or iPhone user, you’re already a master at sending shorter messages with touch-screen typing or thumb-tapping. But what if you need to send long emails, work on important documents or update your epic travel blog?
These are just the situations where a full-size keyboard would come in mighty handy – but who’s going to pack one of those in their luggage? You are, if it’s a Matias Folding Keyboard. This product offers full-size keyboard features and comfort but folds in half (length-wise) for compact storage.
The Matias is comfortable to use and boasts a ‘smart’ FN key which allows you to use the Delete, Arrow keys and other often-used keys from the home row. The enhanced number pad lets you perform one-handed number entry into spreadsheets and forms too.
So if you want to work on that risqué novel while you’re killing time in your hotel room, you can do it in style with a proper keyboard (no thumbs allowed).
When folded up, the dimensions of the Matias Folding Keyboard are 25.6 x 12.7 x 3.5cm and it weighs in at 433 grams.[vii]
Where to hide your money? In your sandals, of course
Okay, maybe a pair of flip-flops with a secret money-stashing slot isn’t strictly a ‘tech gadget’, but the idea is so awesome that it deserves inclusion in this list.
When you’re on holiday and you’re off to the beach, the pool or one of those picture-perfect rainforest waterfalls for a refreshing swim, it can be risky to carry a bit of cash or your credit cards in the pocket of your shorts.
Leaving shorts on a beach in many parts of the world virtually guarantees that someone will either walk off with them or empty the pockets in seconds. It’s the first place thieves look.
A location that thieves don’t generally expect to find valuables, however, is inside a hidden compartment in the sole of your beach sandals. Of course, if they’re the best-looking sandals at the beach, a thief might pilfer them too, but that’s a pretty small risk.
If warm-weather water activities are part of your travel plans, Reef-R Stash Flip Flop Sandals are a handy place to keep your cash, keys, debit card, license and other flattish items while you’re having a swim.
The Velcro-sealed compartment provides a less obvious place to hide your stuff than under your towel (not clever). These sandals boast an easy slip-on design and contoured EVA footbed; they come with a card sleeve and some small zip-seal bags to further protect your hidden items.[viii]
GoPro does it again
GoPro sets the standard for compact, durable, go-anywhere, do-anything action cameras, and their GoPro Hero 4 Silver gives you more choices than ever before.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned action shooter, the video quality, frame rate options, built-in touchscreen and eye-popping resolution should keep you very happy.
For a price around the $550 (AUD) mark, you get the camera itself, two adhesive mounts, skeleton and touch back doors, a 3-way pivot arm for mounting onto a helmet, vertical and horizontal quick-release buckles that attach to the camera housing, a USB cable for computer charging and a waterproof housing that’s good to a depth of 40 metres.
The buttons are easy to use and the menu settings are an improvement over previous models. With built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity allowing access to the GoPro app and a responsive 1.5-inch touchscreen, this is a fun little camera for adventurous travellers intent on breaking the Internet with their gnarly mountain biking or ‘shark attacks kayaker’ footage.[ix]
Yes, there’s an app for that
Simple apps can be incredibly useful for travellers and they’re getting more advanced all the time. Apps make it possible to have lots of cool ‘tech gadgets’ on a single device – saving you tons of packing space and streamlining your travel-related tasks. Here are some of the handiest apps for techno-geek nomads:
Want to know what the live currency rates are when you’re abroad? This free currency converter helps you sort out all that confusing money changing nonsense that’s an inevitable part of overseas travel.
It can be a real chore sifting through dozens of travel and airline sites trying to find the best-value flights around the world. Fortunately, the Skyscanner app does all that hard work for you – and it’s free for Android and iPhone.
Walking around a strange city and asking every coffee shop you come across if they have Wi-Fi is not much fun. The Wi-Fi Finder does exactly what it says: it shows you the location of the nearest wireless Internet in your neck of the woods. You can also download maps and access them offline later.
Not everyone can afford to spend each night in a 5-star hotel. If you’re after accommodation that’s cheap but safe, this app could easily become your best friend. With over 35,000 budget hotels in 170 countries all over the planet, you’ve got a great chance of finding the perfect place to spend a night (or a week) as you tour the globe.
And if you like to know what you’re getting into first, rest easy – this app contains over 3.5 million reviews from past and present users.
This cross-platform messaging system makes communicating with people around the globe as easy as ever. If you’re connected to wireless Internet, it’s free – and messages are received at the other end immediately.
You can also send videos, audio files, photos and GPS tags. If you travel with a smartphone, Whatsapp is a must-have.
Taxi drivers might not like it much, but the viral expansion of Uber’s car-sharing service is proof of its global popularity. If you’ve had a hard night out on the town and are wondering how to get home safely, this app could be your answer.
Travellers are still waiting for the perfect electronic translator, but this handy app is certainly a step in the right direction. Not only does it translate phrases so you can communicate like a local (well, sort of), but it also has a rather nifty feature that enables you to photograph a foreign word and then translate it.[x]