Modern Life

9 gadgets and gear to take the stress out of travel

With travelers dusting off their suitcases for a long-overdue trip or trying their hand at a “workcation,” having the right tech and accessories can help make time away more enjoyable for all.

By Tim Barribeau — August 18, 2022

All at once, the world has simultaneously decided that travel is happening again. People are dusting off their passports, pulling out their neck pillows, and piling the kids in an overstuffed car to go on adventures near and far. Something like 80% of Americans announced their intent to travel in Summer of 2022, and this boom has led to overwhelmed airports and stressed out people. Plus, many of us have spent the last few years mostly at home, so we may have forgotten some of our old tips, tricks, and tools for making things as painless as possible. So here are nine gadgets and pieces of gear to take the stress out of travel, so you can focus on the important things like picking the perfect selfie spot or foodstagramming your every meal.  

Left to right: Ceptics World Travel Adapter Set, Roku Streaming Stick, Nekteck Charger

Convertible laptop

The expansion of remote work and extra flexibility about where and how you do it has seen a rise in people working from almost anywhere in the world. Regardless if you’re doing a combined work/vacation trip, doing your job from a new city, or are writing your novel while at a cabin in the mountains, you still need a good laptop. With convertible laptops like the HP Spectre x360 and HP ENVY x360, when the job’s done, you can flip around the screen into tablet mode for sketching, reading books, or watching movies.

RELATED: How to keep your laptop cool, dry, and safe on the go


Airplane bluetooth adapter

You’re on the plane. You have your incredible bluetooth noise-canceling headphones. You have 8 hours. You’re finally going to catch up on all those Marvel movies you missed out on. Then you realize… the in-flight entertainment system requires you to plug headphones in. Even worse, it uses a non-standard two-prong system, so even a standard headphone cable won’t work. Now you’re stuck with the muffled, uncomfortable, and annoying set of freebies that came tucked into your seat pocket. An airplane bluetooth adapter to the rescue! This little gadget plugs into your seat’s headphone port — either one or two-prong — and generates a bluetooth signal for your headphones to connect to.

Backup battery

An external battery pack, like this one from Anker, is a life saver on any trip. It’ll revive a dying phone when you’re frantically trying to find a way back to your hotel. It’ll bring your headphones back from the brink. It’ll give you just those few more minutes on the tablet to keep your kids entertained while you’re waiting in line at immigration, preventing a total catastrophic meltdown. Just make sure you have the right cables to plug in to your devices.

Left to right: Tile Pro, Anker Portable Charger, HP ENVY x360, Dagne Dover Tech Organizer

Cable organizer

Speaking of the right cables… chances are you’re wrangling a whole mess of them on this trip. Smartphones, tablets, watches, portable game consoles, USB sticks, the whole thing. A slim cable organizer, like this or this, allows you to keep them all tucked away in a nice and orderly way, ready and accessible for when you need it, and takes up very little room in your carry-on or rollie.

USB charger

Rather than having to bring along a separate charger for each and every one of your gadgets, bring along one that has enough ports for all (or at least most) of them. This Nekteck charger has two USB-A charging ports, and two USB-C, so between all four you should be able to charge just about anything. And an instant way to make friends at an airport is to plug one of these in, and let multiple people grab juice from a single wall plug. And it’s always safer to charge a USB device off your own charger rather than directly off a USB port at the airport or on an airplane, as those can be used by hackers to install malware on your phone or computer, and you may never know it. 

Streaming stick

The size of a small remote and a USB thumb drive, a Roku streaming stick is the perfect antidote for bored kids on a beach vacation that got rained out. It plugs into the HDMI port on just about any TV or monitor, and connects to all your streaming services. So if you’re stuck in an AirBnB or a motel, you can just plug it in, and have Disney+ up and running in no time. Plus, if you’re trying to watch something while everyone else is sleeping, the remote has a headphone port, or you can limit the sound to coming out of just your phone (and its bluetooth connection).

Left to right: Kenu Premium Vent Mount, 1Mii Airplane Bluetooth Adapter

Smartphone mount

If you’re renting a car on your travels, bring your own smartphone mount unless you like your phone sitting in a drink holder while you frantically navigate to your next destination. For traveling, vent mounts are the best option because they’re so small, and you can attach them to any car and be ready to go. But for your own car, a larger, more permanent, dashboard mount is much more convenient because it doesn’t block any airflow, and is easier to see.

International adapters 

One advantage of the spread of small electronics is that most of them can plug into any voltage without worrying about blowing up (unlike the old days). But you still need the right plug to go into the wall in the first place. Those blocky adapters that claim to be able to be reconfigured for any world specification tend to be awkward, difficult to use, and prone to failure. You’ll have more luck just buying a big bag of adapters, and only bringing the one(s) you need.

Bluetooth tracker

Stories of excruciating lines and pandemonium at baggage claim at overwhelmed airports are becoming increasingly common — assuming your bags are even on the right plane at all. Drop a Tile Pro inside your suitcase before you check it to help figure out where your bag is. Tiles work with both Apple and Android (unlike Apple Tags), and the Pro model has a 400-foot range, so you can easily figure out if your suitcase is even in the right airport. And if it isn’t, marking your Tile as “lost” and as soon as anyone with the Tile app on their phone goes within range, it’ll anonymously let you know where they are, so you can learn that your bags are in Paris? How did they get to Paris? We’re going to Mexico City!


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