Nothing ruins a perfectly good trip quite like that moment when you realize you are without something essential like forgetting to pack your cellphone charger. To help you avoid that, “Oh crap!” moment, I’ve compiled a list of the five most useful tech items and accessories I take with me when I travel. I do a fair amount of traveling and have had plenty of, “Oh crap!” moments, so here are the five items I have found useful on the road or in the air.
Rocketfish Vehicle Charger
A Rocketfish vehicle charger ($26.99) is a must have for anyone that owns a smartphone or tablet. It’s such an inglorious accessory, but seriously, I have come to love it. It has been a life-saver in many recent trips. While it is certainly great for traveling, it’s also handy in my day-to-day life. For one thing, it charges my iPhone and iPad really fast. It is noticeably faster than the wall outlet charger that comes standard with iPhones/iPads. I’m charging my iPad right now as I write (riding in the passenger side of the car, don’t worry). My only complaint is that it doesn’t have decent teeth in the plug so it can pull out of the device very easily… it’s a fairly short cord, so you have to be a bit careful… but most people probably just need to plug in for some juice and don’t actually work in the car! Since I have a fairly decent commute every day, it is great to have this in the car to recharge on my way home so my phone can still be used once I get home. Additionally, it’s nice to charge my phone on the way to work if I am listening to music/radio/audiobooks so I can go into work fully charged and now down on my battery. Get one!
Aside from the actual devices I travel with (currently an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air), the accessory I appreciate most is my messenger bag. I don’t even remember what kind it is, but the one I have is durable and helps me stay organized. I use it every single day going into the office and take it on every single trip (business or otherwise). A good messenger bag can fit your gear and all the various accessories you need like cords and a tablet keyboard, for instance. It can also stow anything else you are bringing with you like food or a magazine. It’s great for planes because it can fit underneath the seat in front of you to give you access to your stuff and it’s way less dorky than a backpack. It’s the briefcase of the modern era.
One of the most important travel accessories you can bring with you is a good pair of headphones. On a plane, noise-canceling headphones can keep you sane when there is a crying baby on board and over the ear cans can let you listen to your music without disturbing the passengers around you. Of course, if you have an iPhone, earphones with a mic can be useful for taking calls sans Bluetooth (and the security flaws that come with it). If you are home for the holidays and want to catch up on your favorite shows on Netflix or Hulu+ before turning in for the night but your room is right next to someone else’s, headphones can either make or break the night. If you are a gym rat (or aspire to be one) and plan on getting in a workout or two in the hotel gym, headphones are a great way to make you feel more at home by piping in your regular music instead of listening to nothing or whatever the hotel has on tap. In short, they are good for you and for the people around you.
Everyone needs an auxiliary cable to listen to their favorite tunes on the drive to or from work or in a rental car (though not every rental car I’ve had in the past couple of years has had an aux jack, but most have). Sure, you could use a bluetooth kit to hookup your phone and car speakers, but that can be cumbersome and can drain more battery than it may be worth (although you could certainly plugin the aforementioned RocketFish charger to offset). Either way, a simple aux cable gets the job done cheaply and efficiently.
Keyboard for iPad
If you use an iPad, as I do, and bring it with you when you travel, you need a good keyboard (especially if you leave your laptop at home). The on-screen keyboard works fine for small things like responding to an email or two or making a note here and there–light computing–but it really doesn’t cut it when it comes to real, solid work like writing a report. Personally, I travel with the official Apple keyboard (in combination with the Origami case) because I like the full-size spread and reliability. There are a few cases out there with built-in keyboards (hello, Surface) but to me, nothing beats the real thing. When I’ve got a keyboard with me, I’m much more productive with my tablet.