Traveling can cramp our style—we're used to creature comforts like wireless Internet and on-demand music. To help you stay connected en route, U.S. News Travel picked the best travel gadgets that can improve your travel experiences in small but meaningful ways. These pint-size devices aren't entirely necessary, but they make your flight, hike, hotel stay, or layover that much more manageable and even safer. And at these prices, our choice gizmos won't cause a big deficit in your budget.
Everyone's left his or her mobile phone on the kitchen counter or bedside table at some point. When that happens, you can be caught in a vulnerable position without your cellular ally: on the side of a highway with a flat tire, lost in the wrong part of town, or just in need of speaking with family. Just like a tire, why don't you carry a spare cell? The SpareOne Emergency Phone can come to your rescue. At $69.99, this phone can be easily stashed in a glove compartment or a suitcase and forgotten about until needed. It runs on only one AA battery, so you don't have to bring a charger. The one-button emergency line dials directly to local response teams and does not require subscription to a telecommunication network, like Verizon or AT&T. If you can install your own SIM card, you can recover your contacts and dial other numbers while using your own network. As an additional safety measure, the phone can be geo-located. All in all, it's pretty handy in a sticky situation.
Swiss army knives have long been the lifesavers of boy-scout types, but in the age of technology, everyone could use one. The Victorinox Slim looks exactly like a slender Swiss army knife, but it carries a 4GB USB memory stick rather than a blade (which would lead to a full-body pat down at airport security). Whether you're spelunking in the depths of a cave or writing a paper in the depths of the university library, you can use this gadget to back up your work, photographs, and other electronic files. The Victorinox Slim can be invaluable if your laptop is lost or stolen mid-trip. Best of all, this gadget is waterproof, so it won't let accidental spills or rain destroy your vacation memories.
Apple continues to engineer some of the handiest (and stylish) travel tools. The Airport Express follows this tradition, making wireless Internet easily accessible in homes, hotels, and (of course) airports. During your travels, you're bound to encounter some less tech-savvy locales with only wired Internet. In a hotel room where two teenagers are clamoring for Facebook time and one adult needs to check work email, Internet access is at a premium. Plugging the Airport Express into the wired connection creates a fast wireless network that can support up to 10 devices. That's an easy solution to wireless woes.
We've become accustomed to music at the tips of our fingers, thanks to easy-to-carry MP3 players. On trips, our electronic devices have to weather many storms, and an iPod (or other generic MP3 player) won't fare well in the rain. That's where the UWater G4 Chrome MP3 Player is superior. Its compact size (less than half an inch thick and 1.75 inches long), light weight (under one ounce), and waterproof frame make it ideal for sporting activities like surfing, hiking, and skiing. The UWater player can hold more than a thousand songs and last through six and eight hours of continuous play time, which will keep you rocking plenty of waves, trails, and slopes.
Traveling with a laptop can expose it to the elements, but theft doesn't have to be one of those. The Kensington Computer Products Group says "well implemented security policies reduce laptop theft by 85%." There are plenty of laptop locks on the market, but the Kensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock sets the standard for security and ease. Let's be honest: We're more likely to use a lock if it's quick and simple. Kensington's one-click security device avoids complicated combination codes with the implementation of a key. You can also register your particular key online, so if you lose it, you can purchase a replacement. Tethering your laptop to a weighty desk or table, this slim cord and lock will comfort you when you need to step away for a short second.
This is the simplest gadget on our list, yet it may be the most important for a traveler. We use our smartphones so much on the road that they are bound to take a beating. Therefore, we should give these beloved handheld tools the best protection available. Enter OtterBox: This company produces incredibly durable cases for specific types of smartphones. OtterBox cases can be criticized for being too thick and bulky; however, that's a small price to pay for shielding your phone (and all those handy apps) from deadly drops.
Tablets are spreading like wildfire. Their thin size and slight weight make them easy to transport—a key quality for frequent-flyers—but also susceptible to damage. And while some people have adapted to typing on a digital keyboard, others can't maintain the same pace they achieve on a standard keyboard. The Logitech Keyboard Case solves these two dilemmas of protection and efficiency for iPad owners. You can place your iPad face-down in the case, whenever you need to transport it. When you need to type emails or documents, you can orient your tablet horizontally or vertically in the recess behind a set of keys, which is revealed by removing the iPad. What you ultimately have is a sleek collapsible, detachable laptop. (Note: Since the device uses Bluetooth technology to communicate with the tablet, you're not permitted to use it on airplanes.)
Simple in its design, the Bedol Water Clock is one of those miraculous devices that reminds you of an elementary school science fair, when potatoes powered light bulbs. In this case, you have water generating enough electricity to sustain a digital alarm clock, which will come in handy if you need to rise early while traveling. The Bedol Water Clock's quirky shape and bright color (it comes in every color from lime green to pink) attracts the eye, making it a mini wonder in the hotel or around the campfire. With no batteries required, this device is worry-free and functional—two hallmark qualities of the best travel gadgets. Just remember to empty the clock before packing it in your suitcase.
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