Essential Travel Tech

I do my best to travel light – I hate to carry something around that only gets used once on a trip, or never used at all. So, when it comes to travel technology and gadgets, I keep things pretty simple. However, there are a few things that go in my bag for every trip.

Plug Adapters

I’ve come to be a big fan of the all-in-one plug adapters which combine universal adapters with multiple USB ports. Even on domestic trips, where a plug adapter isn’t needed, having a whole bunch of USB ports is really convenient. One of these, along with the appropriate cables, can charge your whole universe of tech simultaneously – laptop, tablet, phone, smartwatch, etc. Hotel rooms invariably have too few plugs, so these are a real lifesaver.

One thing worth mentioning – you probably already know that most of the world operates on 220 volt electrical systems, instead of the 110 volt system we have in the US. That used to be a major concern when traveling with tech, requiring special voltage converters. Nowadays, it shouldn’t really be an issue. Laptop chargers all support both systems, as do pretty much any other plugs for devices that charge – electric razors, game tablets, etc. You’ll always find the voltage labelled on the charger so you can double check. Unless you’re bringing high power devices like a curling iron or a toaster, you’re almost always safe with just a basic plug adapter.

Backup Battery

Your phone battery goes dead faster when you travel. Some of this is because you’re probably using your phone more than usual – taking pictures, texting, posting all your selfies on Instagram, or using navigation tools. If you’re on a cellphone plan with slower data while overseas (many of them), your phone’s wireless radio will also spend more time powered up, which is a huge drain on the battery.

I’m a huge fan of keeping a backup battery in my bag. For years I’ve travelled with a large Anker power pack – it’s relatively hefty, but has enough power to fully charge two phones multiple times. That’s overkill for most folks, but Anker (my go-to brand) has a whole range of devices. For most travelers, their PowerCore 10000 is a great option – enough power to charge a phone twice, and the ability to charge over USB-A or USB-C.

Oh, and remember not to put your backup battery in your checked luggage – it’s illegal and potentially dangerous.


Ok, this one is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. One feature of the Apple Watch (and presumably the Android options) is the ability to help you navigate using haptic feedback (taps on your wrist). After setting your destination on your maps app and telling it you’re traveling on foot, you can put your phone safely in a pocket or a bag and set out. You’ll get different sequences of taps on your wrist for left turn / right turn / go straight, and can always glance at the screen for a hint.

In busy cities, especially places where organized phone theft squads are ready to snatch a phone out of your hands while driving past on a scooter, it can be really comforting to not be starting at your phone trying to find your way around. It also helps you keep your attention focused on your surroundings, which boosts your memory formation. Should you rush out and buy a smart watch just for travel? Probably not. But if you’ve been looking for a way to justify one anyways …

Really Cheap Earbuds

I don’t personally travel with noise cancelling headphones – I don’t like the bulk of carrying them for a whole trip just to use them for a few hours on a plane. And, while I’d love a set of Airpods Pro someday, using them with an inflight entertainment system means carrying yet another Bluetooth dongle (thankfully, inflight entertainment systems are gaining Bluetooth support).

Instead, I carry a set of $8 Amazon Basics earbuds. They come with a few different size rubber adapters, so you can get a pretty good seal to your ear. They sound infinitely better (and are more comfortable) than the free pair the airline will offer you. And they weigh next to nothing and take up almost no space.

Wrapping It Up

Honestly those are the only three must-have items in my bag. Personally, I bring a laptop and an iPad as well, but that’s more of a personal choice. And remember, there are tech stores at every corner of the planet, so if you forget a cord, or have something fail, you’ll have no problem replacing it on the go.

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