Tech goodies to bring along on trips
DENVER -- Your swimsuit and your sunscreen are in the luggage, and your boarding passes are all printed out.
But did you remember your gadgets and chargers? Did you download enough entertainment? Do you know where you’re going?
In my travels, I’ve come across a number of products and services worth bringing along:
Keeping your gadgets charged
Duh. You’ll need not only the charging cord, but also the unit for plugging into the wall outlet. Bring a power strip, too, if you’re sharing a room. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting for the few outlets that aren’t hidden behind furniture or dangerously near a sink. If you’re going abroad, bring adapters and make sure your chargers will work with the voltage there.
Also consider ways to keep your gadgets charged during the day. If you’re driving, bring a USB charger that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. There are also portable chargers you can plug gadgets into. Some phone cases also serve as spare batteries.
One product that stands out is Mophie’s Space Pack for the iPhone 5 and 5s. It not only doubles battery life, but also gives you additional storage for photos and videos. A 16-gigabyte version retails for $150, while a 32-gigabyte one costs $180. A 64-gigabyte version starts selling next week for $250.
I’ve been a loyal user of TripIt since I reviewed it in 2007. Back then, it was strictly a website for organizing your travel plans. Now, there are apps for various mobile devices. The apps remind you where to go next and offer easy links to your phone’s mapping apps for directions.
TripIt automatically creates a day-by-day itinerary based on all the flight, hotel and other confirmation emails that you forward to it. TripIt automatically pulls out flight numbers and seating information from the email, while adding useful information such as gate numbers. For hotels, TripIt pulls out addresses and check-in times. You can add notes such as the hours for a national park you’re visiting.
The basic service is free. I haven’t found a need to pay $49 a year for TripIt Pro, which offers information on alternate seats or flights and ways to track frequent flier programs. TripIt Pro also offers alerts when gates and departure times change, but I get those free anyway as TripIt tries to show the benefits of upgrading.
Beyond TripIt, you might want to download apps for your airline. In many cases, you can check in and get a boarding pass on the phone -- no printing needed.
You might want to download some books, magazines and video ahead of time for when you don’t have a good Internet connection.
If you’ll be driving, consider an FM radio transmitter. These gadgets transmit whatever’s playing on your digital music player over an open frequency on the FM dial.
I bought Griffin’s iTrip from a Best Buy in Minnesota in 2009 for about $50. It has become essential for all my road trips. I simply plug the iTrip cord into my iPod’s headphone jack. I then tune the car radio to an open FM frequency that iTrip finds for me. Podcasts, audiobooks and regular music come over the car speakers.
There are separate models for Apple devices depending on the type of charging port it has. For other devices, use the iTrip Auto Universal Plus, which uses the standard headphone jack. If you’re getting Space Pack, you’ll want this universal version, too, as the case covers up the iPhone’s regular port. This model also has a USB port to charge gadgets while driving.
These transmitters don’t work well in urban areas, where there aren’t many free frequencies. Also, sound quality isn’t as good as what you normally get over the radio. But it beats silence. Beware that other motorists within 30 feet might also be able to tune in to what you’re listening to.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.