Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tech for Travelers

Wondering what technology and gadgets to take on your next trip? You're not the only one. Long gone are the days where a Walkman and film camera were the height of travel tech. At the very least, you’re likely to need your PC/Mac and your smartphone.

Let’s take a look at some useful technology you will want with you the next time you travel...
Consider carrying a tablet computer instead of a laptop. Smaller, lighter, cheaper, and with better battery life than a laptop, tablets are more convenient for travelers. The most well-known examples are Apple’s iPad (mini or full-size) and the Microsoft Surface. While either of those lines will do just fine for a traveler, a good value for money now is in the Android O/S tablets. Good choices are a Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy, Huawei MediaPad and the Amazon Fire lines of tablets.

The Android OS supports lots of productivity apps, as well as games. To stay connected to your home or office, the devices all have WiFi connectivity, and some include the ability to connect to a cellular network. Plus, they all have at least one camera with good resolutions. However, I still can't get used to people taking pictures with their tablets.

VPN Software
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you are connecting to an unsecured WiFi network in airports and hotels. A VPN routes your internet activity through a dedicated, encrypted server. When you have a VPN and you are online, you establish a secure connection to the VPN server, locking out anyone on the same network as you. All of your transferred data is encrypted between you and the VPN service provider.

Select a VPN service that has host servers in the USA. When traveling internationally, connect to a USA-based host server so you can access streaming and social media websites that you may not be able to access from within a foreign country. In addition, some streaming services (i.e. Netflix) offer different content overseas as compared to being within the USA. You can connect to a local host server for all other website access. I use NordVPN since it has over 3,300 servers in 60 countries, is priced well, and is well reviewed.

Smart Luggage
These suitcases and travel bags include built in technology for the traveler. Some include a rechargeable battery and USB ports so that you can keep your smartphone charged during a long trip. Of course, you will need to remember to recharge your luggage. The one caveat with using this technology is that some airlines do not allow travelers to check luggage with lithium-ion batteries. So, check with your carrier.

Some of this type of luggage have Bluetooth installed and allow you to track the bag via an installed smartphone app. Some have a built-in digital scale so that you know the bag's weight before you check it - saving you airline over-weight charges. Others have internal pockets made from material that block RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) signals, which can prevent some forms of identity theft.

Portable Device Chargers
Until there’s a real breakthrough in battery technology, a portable charger might be your best solution. A portable charger allows you to use your devices for longer periods of time without the fear of your battery dying. Typically, small in size, they give you additional power for when you are not able to recharge your device's battery during a long trip or daily commute.

Noise Cancelling Headphones
While there are several brands and models of these tech gadgets, the Bose QuietComfort line is among the most popular. In fact, I own a Bose QuietComfort 15, which is now considered an older model. The primary advantage of using noise cancelling headphones is that it almost entirely eliminates airplane & rail noise, as well as loud conversations. This will help you better enjoy your music and movies when traveling, and help you get some sleep.

Power Converter and/or Plug Adapters
Foreign countries often use different electric current and different plug configurations than in the USA. Most electronic devices can recognize and adapt to the local electric current. If you will travel with electronic devices that require current used in the USA (120 volts, 60 Hz), then you need a power converter. Even if your device can use the overseas electric current standard, you will likely need a plug adapter, so you can plug your device into the wall outlet. Click here for a list of plug sockets and currents by region and country.

Often, we're unsure of what we really need when traveling. However, choosing the right gear to travel with doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Making a few smart choices and limiting yourself to what you truly need will give you all the benefits that technology can bring while avoiding most of the downsides.

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  1. This is a really useful post that can help with traveling and staying connected. Thanks.

  2. David - very nicely done - timely information

  3. David, thanks for so generously sharing your knowledge on tech topics!


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