If you thought that tech was limited to the business world, you’re sadly mistaken. Technology has also found its way into the world of travel and is changing tourism as we know it. Who would have thought? The younger generation already sees the benefits. The internet has opened up access to parts of the world that many people never thought they’d visit. Apps and gadgets have made it easier than ever before to have a great time when you arrive at your destination. So what does all this vaunted technology actually look like? What is the travel tech you absolutely can’t live without? Let’s take a look at what’s out there.
Additional Power Packs
Today’s smartphones are marvels of modern engineering, but they have an Achilles heel: the battery. While the other components have been doubling in capability every couple of years or so, cells have been stuck in the doldrums. Smartphone batteries have improved by just five or ten percent per year.
This state of affairs isn’t a problem when you’re at home, just a couple of steps away from the nearest power outlet. But, it can be an issue if you’re hiking, on a tour bus, or slumming it at a campsite. Your phone whirrs away as it usually does, before failing catastrophically, when you need it most.
Power packs, therefore, are the tech world’s solution. These are essentially giant batteries that you can lug around with you in your luggage and then plug them into your phone to charge it when it starts to flat-line. Most of these packs are quite large compared to the battery in your phone, providing perhaps four separate full charges before they run flat themselves. That’s almost enough juice to keep you going for a whole week!
If you’ve ever watched a video of somebody cycling or skiing on YouTube, you’ll have noticed something rather odd – the camera doesn’t shake at all. The reason it doesn’t is because of a kit called a gimble. Essentially, it’s an arm that allows the camera to compensate for the movements of the person carrying it, creating a smooth image.
Until recently, there was no such thing as a gimble for your phone. But with the arrival of the OSMO Mobile and Mobile 2, that’s all changed. You just put your device in the gripper and then carry it around with you wherever you go. The gimble will then smooth out the video feed, even if you’re running along the beach or climbing a thousand steps to a Buddhist temple in Tibet. This is a great piece of travel tech you absolutely can’t live without.
Luggage That Powers Your Devices
We’ve already discussed the problem of phones running low on battery while you travel. Now, though, a company called Away thinks that it has come up with a solution: a travel case that comes with an built-in charger.
The exterior of the case is the usual rigid polycarbonate – no surprises there. But the interior is something wholly different, with lithium-ion batteries built right into the frame.
Just be warned, though, you can’t take lithium-ion batteries with you on a plane because of the fire risk, so the practical advantages of this type of case for long-distance travel are lacking. But if you’re going somewhere in the car, it’s perfect.
Mobile Tablet Readers
There’s nothing like sitting by the pool, reading a good book while you relax in the sunshine. It’s what holidays are all about. People love books – they’re interesting and whisk you off on a whistle-stop tour of your imagination. But books aren’t THAT popular – not in the same way that mobile devices are, anyway.
The good news, though, is that with devices like the Fire HD from Amazon, you can have the best of both worlds. You can indulge in your favorite novel and then when you’ve had enough of that, watch a bit of TV. Granted, it’s more expensive than books from the discount store, but you get a heck of a lot for your money.
Bluetooth Travel Speakers
Nobody takes their hi-fi on holiday with them – it’s just not practical. But that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to your playlists on demand. You can!
Bluetooth speaker technology has come on leaps and bounds over the last five years or so. Manufacturers know that people want speakers that are small enough to fit in their travel cases, waterproof enough to survive the beach, and loud enough to be worthwhile. Today, a range of companies, including Bose, make speakers that are ideal for long summer holidays, perfect for blasting your tunes all afternoon by the pool while enjoying a cocktail. Or two.
If you’re traveling to a non-English-speaking part of the world, it can be a challenge to communicate with local people. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation at a restaurant where you have no idea whether the waiter has understood a word you’ve said or not. Here’s where translator apps can help. All you do is speak into the app, and it then transcribes your sentence and translates it into your chosen language. All you then do is show the output to the waiter (or whoever), and they can see precisely what you mean.
Using apps like these might create problems with your data plan, at least according to operators like SMARTY mobile UK. They warn that some providers charge extra, depending on where you travel, so always check ahead before tapping into the cloud on your mobile. You don’t want the ordering of your food to cost you more than the eating of it.
When it comes to translator apps, there’s only one game in town: Google. The California-based search giant has the best machine learning technology, and its translator is currently streets ahead of its nearest rival. That could, of course, change, but don’t hold your breath. It is a fabulous piece of travel tech that you absolutely can’t live without.
There’s no denying that food is a massive part of the travel experience. For some, it’s the highlight. I know it is for me. Sometimes, though, you get an itch to try something specific – perhaps a dish you’ve seen on your favorite travel blog. Translating the picture of the thing you want to eat into a restaurant decision on the ground used to be a massive challenge. But with the advent of apps like Foodspotting, that’s all changed. You just hop on the app, look at pictures of dishes you like, and then grab the location so that you can try it yourself. Simple!
Strictly speaking, packing cubes aren’t high-tech, but they are a fun gadget, and they do come in handy if you’re planning a long break. The purpose of these packs is to allow you to stuff as many clothes into your suitcase as possible, without winding up with a jumbled mess. Packing cubes are mainly just small cases in which you put clothes and then use a vacuum to suck out all the air, saving space.
White Noise Sound Machines
Changing location can have a massive impact on your ability to sleep. If you live in the country but visit a city, it can be difficult to ignore all the cars and sirens going on outside. Fortunately, you can blot out the sounds coming through your hotel or apartment window with a portable white noise sound machine. The way these machines work is very interesting. What they’re mostly doing is churning out a jumble of sound frequencies that have the effect of canceling out incoming noise. The result is a much quieter experience than you would get if you went without.
Unfortunately, not all travel is for pleasure – for some, it’s business. Thus if you are traveling for some sort of corporate event, making sure that your shirt and pants are free from wrinkles is vital. You don’t want to open your suitcase, only to find that your suit is practically unwearable. Here again, innovative companies can help. Firms like OVO, for instance, now sell travel irons and steamers that don’t rely on cords or sockets at all. You just switch them on as you would any other device, and then use them as a regular iron to relieve your garments from all those unsightly fold marks.
Currency Converter Apps
When you’re on holiday, it can sometimes be a challenge to know how much money you’re spending. What do 25,000 Indians rupees translate into in dollar terms? Often, you don’t have a clue. Here’s where currency converter apps can make a big difference to your experience. If you see a price tag in a shop abroad, you can just whack the price into your app and get a real-time estimate of the dollar value. It’s the sort of thing that helps you avoid getting scammed and well worth downloading onto your phone.
A Travel Pillow
Finally, where would any of us be without a good travel pillow? Sleeping on a long flight is practically impossible. Your head just lops around whenever you drift off, instantly waking you up. Travel pillows wrap around your head, supporting it if you do decide to get a little shut-eye.