SCIENCE AND TECH
Must-have Gear for the Frequent Traveller: Tech Edition
Gizmos that turn your hotel's inadequate sockets into a portable power station, help reset your body clock, bring your favourite movies with you, and more
Anyone reading who’s a hardened, battle-scarred traveller, you probably already have a suitcase full of devices that make your travels easier.
Or maybe you don’t: Perhaps, lacking the requisite gear, you find yourself stuck improvising, compromising or just plain slumming it when charging devices, playing music, accessing in-room WiFi, or using your phone to navigate the roads. Even frequent travellers who think they have their tech situation sorted out should scan Billy’s list of recommended travel gear to see if there’s a little gizmo that will make their lives easier. (Likewise, if you have road warriors in your life, look below for some gift ideas.)
Prices given in both Canadian and U.S. dollars when available, accurate at the time of publishing.
Rise and shine
Looking for a technical antidote for jet lag? Claiming to be “inspired by nature’s sunrise,” this Philips Wake Up Light (C$100/US$90) purports to reset your circadian rhythms using variable levels of light or sound to coax you awake. It does triple duty as an alarm clock, FM radio and bedside light.
You probably rely on your laptop or tablet for hotel-room based Netflix binges, but why not use the flat-screen TV that’s just sitting there? With a Roku Express (C$40/US$30) or Roku Streaming Stick (C$US$40) you can enjoy Netflix or any one of the thousands of other channels Roku offers – and it’s guaranteed to work with your hotel’s WiFi. One of its best features? You can remotely listen to the soundtrack via your smartphone so as not to disturb your partner, who for some reason doesn’t share your Orange Is The New Black obsession.
For those looking to bring music on the road, the Beoplay A1 (C$299/US$244) might sound right. A Bluetooth wireless travel speaker, it’s a bit bigger than a hockey puck and weighs 600 grams (21 ounces), and delivers bass-rich sound that can be carried in your pocket. Listen to music by the hotel pool, or create ambiance for an impromptu dance party. Looking for less expensive alternative? The (C$99/US$99) UE Roll 2 weighs half as much as the A1, yet is routinely rated as one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers on the market. Oh, and did we mention it’s waterproof? Finally, for a higher-end option, the made-in-Germany Speaker 2Go (C$640/US$399) offers the familiar portability, but built to a standard suitable for the travelling audiophile. It also features a built-in microphone so you can pair it with your phone and take calls hands-free.
More power to you
Hotel rooms never seem to have enough outlets to charge up all your electronics. If you would prefer not to reach behind the bed to get to one way back there in the abyss, there’s a solution available in the Belkin Travel RockStar (C$76/US$59). It’s a mini power station for the road warrior, featuring two outlets, a USB port, a 3,000 mAH battery pack and built-in surge suppression. If you don’t need portability but would rather have room to power more devices (how about three outlets and two USB ports?), your solution is Belkin’s 3-Outlet SurgePlus Mini Travel Swivel Charger (C$38/US$30). The wall plug swivels to accommodate hotel sockets in weird places, a feature that we at Billy have found surprisingly helpful on several occasions.
For an in-hotel charging station to take on trips outside of North America, check out the Twist+ World Adapter DUO (US$43), an all-in-one device that provides all outlet form factors in a simple twist-to-select design, two USB outlets, and an Apple power supply-compatible interface. This means you can plug your MacBook or iPad plus one more device into a single power adapter. Just remember: It’s not a voltage converter, so make sure whatever you plug in can handle international voltage.
The other thing your hotel room might lack is reliable WiFi – bring your own wireless router and plug it into the ethernet port and you’re all set). Using the chocolate-bar-sized HooToo TripMate (C$36/US$79), you can not only create your own wireless network, you can also plug in a USB stick or hard drive and share its contents with your friends and colleagues, and run it all without power thanks to its internal 6,000 mAH battery (you can also use the HooToo as a power reservoir to recharge your phone).
Speaking of recharging your phone, the one thing you are almost guaranteed to forget on at least one trip, is your charging cable, forcing you to look for an electronics store at 2 a.m., or beg a hotel staffer to lend you theirs. With the made-in-California Nomad Minimalist Charge Cable (US$10) those days are over. Simply attach this tiny cable – available in Lightning or Micro USB – to your keyring and forget about it until you need it. That’s assuming you haven’t forgotten your keys.
Finding your way
Travelling to other cities often involves renting a car when you get there. But unless you’re already familiar with the streets, you’ll want a GPS. Don’t rent one from the car rental agency – your smartphone already has everything you need. Except, that is, for a way to easily see the screen while driving. The Kenu Airframe+ (C$30/US$20) is a tiny, portable, near-universal mount that lets you easily attach your phone to any car’s dash by gripping the slats of an air vent. The Kenu Airframe+ can accommodate most phones via its spring-loaded clasp. Just don’t forget to take it with you when you return your rental.