Travel accessories must haves – Travel tech gadgets

Travel accessories must haves - Travel tech gadgetsThis is the second of our series of reviews of products to consider for your travel accessories must haves. The reviews below cover travel tech gadgets including tablets, mobile phone accessories, Bluetooth speakers, chargers and other travel tech related products that score the highest customer reviews on Amazon, meaning these are likely to be excellent products, especially if the majority of previous purchasers had good things to say about them.

Travel Accessories Must Haves - series posts

 

Tablets


Tablet PCs have really gained in popularity in recent years as great devices that people use in many different ways. For some they are an essential business tool that is versatile, lightweight, easy to carry with a better battery life between charges than many laptops. While for others I have seen many people using tablet PC’s while they are travelling for pleasure. Most have ample storage enabling you to load them up with music, movies, apps, and photos. Many have forward and rear facing cameras so you can use your tablet to take photos and video or keep in touch with family and friends via video calls. With so many apps available to download that you may find useful while travelling on holiday - you can play games, let your kids play games, install travel guides and maps that you can use offline without WiFi or cellular access, the choice of travel related apps is almost endless. You can also use a tablet with as an e-Reader so you can carry as many books as you wish enabling you to do many different things all on the one convenient device.

There are many different makes of tablet PCs available on the market today but if you want to keep things as light as possible when you are travelling, go for the models with a 7”-8” screen rather than the 10” screen.

Apple iPad Mini 3

The tablet against which all other tablets are judged for features, reliability and usability is probably Apple’s iPad. The latest small version with almost an 8” screen is the iPad Mini 3, which is available in several versions.

Pros

  • 7.9” retina touch screen display, bigger than smartphones but still lightweight to carry
  • Models available with 16Gb, 64Gb and 128Gb internal memory
  • Models available with WiFi or WiFi + 3G/4G cellular connectivity
  • 64 bit architecture
  • iOS 8 operating system
  • Fingerprint scanner for security
  • Rear facing 5 Mega pixel camera, front facing 1.2 Mega pixel camera
  • Battery life run time, up to 10 hours between charges
  • Size - 13.5 x 0.8 x 20 cm (0.29 x 5.30 x 7.87 inches)
  • Weight - 340g (12 ounces)

Cons

  • Camera is a bit meagre at 5 mega pixels, pictures can be fuzzy in low light conditions.
  • If you want a cheaper option you could buy the earlier model, iPad Mini 2, at a cheaper price.

Best place to buy

Apple iPad Mini 3

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

For those who prefer Google’s Android operating system one of the best choices of tablet around is the Samsung Galaxy Tab S. This model is available with 10.5” and 8.4” screens but the smaller version is lighter and smaller for travelling. There are more apps available for download in the Google Play Store than in the Apple App Store.
 
Pros

  • 8.4” touchscreen Amoled display which delivers vivid and true to life colours
  • Available with 16Gb internal memory
  • MicroSD cards can be added up to 128GB capacity
  • Models available with WiFi or WiFi + 3G/4G cellular connectivity
  • Android 4.4 operating system
  • Fingerprint scanner for security
  • Rear facing 8 Megapixel camera, front facing 2.1 Megapixel camera
  • Battery life run time, up to 9-10 hours between charges
  • Size - 21.28 x 12.56 x 0.66 cm ( 8.37 x 4.94 x 0.26 inches)
  • Weight - 294g (10 ounces)

Cons

  • Comes with a lot of Samsung apps preloaded which you may or may not use.
  • Camera even at 8 megapixel is not that great compared with today’s compact cameras.

Best place to buy

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

If you use Windows OS on your home and/or work PC and want to have the same operating system on your tablet for ease of synchronising between devices then the best Windows tablet is the offering from Microsoft, the Surface Pro 3. The downside is that this only comes with a 12” screen but can be used as a viable workhorse and laptop replacement as well as a device for leisure activities.
 
Pros

  • 12” touchscreen display which delivers vivid and true to life colours
  • Choice of Intel®Core™ processor family i3, i5, i7
  • Available with 64Gb, 128Gb, 256Gb and 512Gb internal memory
  • WiFi connectivity
  • Windows 8.1 operating system, free upgrade to Windows 10
  • Multi position stand for comfortable positioning wherever you are sitting
  • Surface pen lets you write naturally
  • Front and rear facing 5 Megapixel cameras
  • A separate keyboard can be purchased which also acts as a cover - see below
  • Battery life run time, up to 9 hours between charges
  • Size - 29.21 x 20.14 x 0.91 cm (11.5” x 7.93” x 0.36” inches)
  • Weight - 800g (1.76 pounds)

Cons

  • Bigger and heavier than other tablets reviewed above but could be more powerful with more storage capacity depending on what option you choose.
  • Camera is only 5 megapixels

Best place to buy

  • A Surface Pro 3 Type Cover acts as a cover and a separate keyboard enabling you to convert your Surface Pro 3 into a laptop
  • UK - Amazon.co.uk
  • US - Amazon.com
  • Also available is a Surface Pro 3 Docking Station
  • US - Amazon.com

 

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Unlocked mobile phones for travelling


Unlocked mobile phones and smartphonesTo avoid costly roaming charges on your mobile phone if you are travelling to a foreign country it is a good idea to have an unlocked phone with you. Having an unlocked phone will enable you to purchase a prepaid SIM card, this will have a local mobile phone number for the country your are travelling to and you can use this to make calls, texts and download data without incurring hefty roaming charges.  You have a couple of choices regarding an unlocked phone, you can either get your existing phone unlocked or buy one that is already unlocked. If you only plan to use the phone for calls and texts you could just buy the cheapest unlocked phone available plus the prepaid SIM once you get to your destination. Alternatively you can get your own existing smartphone unlocked before you leave home. With new phones on existing monthly contracts your cellular provider may not let you do this until your contract has expired (1 or 2 years depending on the contract). A prepaid SIM can be inserted into your phone and you can then use this to download data as well as calls and texts. Some smartphones have two SIM sockets which means you can switch to using the new temporary SIM without your existing SIM being affected.

Below are the relevant pages on Amazon where you can buy unlocked mobile phones ranging from very cheap and simple to the more expensive smartphones.

 

e-Readers


Whether you are an avid reader who likes to take half a library with you on holiday or you are just looking to take a few books with you on your travels then an e-Reader is for you. e-Readers can store literally hundreds of books, they are lightweight and compact and with today’s screen technology reading in bright sunlight is not a problem. There are many different e-Readers available but by far the most popular are Amazon’s various Kindle devices.

Kindle Paperwhite

The Paperwhite is the middle of the range model with a built in light for the touchscreen but unlike the Voyage model the screen light is not adaptive to ambient light conditions. The Voyage model also has page press allowing for easier page turning. The basic Kindle model has neither backlit screen nor page press. Other than the differences described above there are just some minor weight differences between the three models.
 
Pros

  • Amazon’s 6" Paperwhite display with Carta e-paper technology and built-in adjustable light, no screen glare even in bright sunlight.
  • Small and light - hold and read using one hand
  • Fully wireless and does not need a computer to download content
  • 4Gb storage - holds thousands of books
  • Free cloud storage
  • Integrated dictionary with X-Ray and Wikipedia so you can access definitions, characters and settings
  • Customisable to your language
  • Battery life - a single charge lasts weeks instead of days. Fully charged in 4 hours.
  • Supported formats: Kindle (AZW3), Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, MOBI, PRC natively; HTML, DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion
  • Size - 16.9 x 11.7 x 0.91 cm (6.7 x 4.6 x 0.36 inches)
  • Weight - Wi-Fi: 205 grams (7.2 ounces), Wi-Fi + 3G: 217 grams (7.6 ounces)

Cons

  • Like all Kindle devices your choice of books is mainly going to come from Amazon, but with they do have a massive selection.
  • Kindle power adaptor needs to be purchased separately as the device comes only with a USB cable for charging via a computer
  • You have to pay extra to get the version without special offers, which display when you are not reading.

Best place to buy

Kindle Paperwhite

Cables


A massive array of different cables are available on Amazon for connecting and charging all manner of devices. A good way to find decent quality replacement cables is to go to the main cables pages linked below and select the #1 Best Seller for the type of cable you're looking for, e.g. Lightning to USB, USB to micro USB. Remember that #1 Best Sellers have reached that position for a reason, usually because they have lots of good reviews and work well.

Best place to buy

 

USB Battery packs


If you use your smartphone, tablet or other devices for tasks that quickly eat away at the battery power, such as taking pictures and video footage, using GPS to find your way or playing games, the remaining charge will soon be in the red. When travelling and you are out and about, with nowhere to top up the battery charge levels a good backup is to carry a portable USB external power pack. You just connect the battery pack to your device via a USB cable and you have an on the go power source.

Anker Astro E6 Ultra-High Capacity Portable Charger Battery Pack

This portable charger has 3 USB ports so you can charge 3 devices at the same time. It has a high capacity so if you are going to be on a long haul flight or other long journey it should easily keep your devices topped up until you can charge from an electrical socket again.

Pros

  • Uses Anker’s PowerQ technology to detect your device and automatically sets the fastest possible charge speed.
  • Ultra-High Capacity 20800mAh.
  • Will charge devices variable number of times depending on the device’s battery: iPhone 6 more than eight times, the iPhone 6 Plus/Galaxy S5 more than five times and the iPad Air more than one and a half times.
  • The battery pack recharges in 10-12 hours
  • Small, lightweight and very portable

Cons

  • The portable battery pack comes with a USB cable but a mains charger is not included and needs to be purchased separately.

Best place to buy

Anker Astro E6 portable USB charger

Travel adapter plugs and chargers


There are a myriad of choices when it comes to travel adapter plugs and chargers for your electronic and USB devices. When you are travelling go for one of the small compact versions which take up only a small amount of room in your luggage and is lightweight.

Universal Adapter World Wide All-in-one Safety Travel Charger

This adapter works in 151 countries and will allow you to supply mains power to one device such as a laptop, while charging two other USB devices at the same time.

Pros

  • Works worldwide in 151 countries including UK, Europe, US, Canada, Asia, Australia and others
  • Single socket to supply mains power to your devices
  • Dual USB ports for charging USB devices
  • Built in safety features
  • Fused with a backup fuse provided
  • Power indicator
  • AC Power Rating: 6A max. 100-240 Vac (660W max. at 110V. 1380W max. at 230V) USB Power Rating: 2500mA + 5Vdc
  • Lightweight 141g

Cons

  • You can only plug in one device requiring mains power at one time

Best place to buy

Mocreo universal adapter with USB ports

Headphones for travelling


Headphones can be delicate pieces of equipment that are easy to break or lose when travelling. When choosing which headphones to take with you on your travels I would pick some that work well and have a good sound but are also cheap to replace should the worst happen. I would advise leaving your expensive headphones at home if you happen to own a pair.

Panasonic RPHJE120 In-Ear Headphone

The RPHJE120 from Panasonic is just such a model. This is a very popular best selling model on Amazon, have great reviews and are cheap to buy.

Pros

  • Fits into your ear canal
  • Comes with 3 pairs of soft ear pads (S/M/L) so they fit to your ear properly
  • 3.5mm right angled jack plug
  • Cable length 115cm
  • For the technical - driver Units 9mm, frequency response 20Hz-20kHz, sensitivity 96 dB/mW, impedance 16 Ohm, power handling capacity 200mW.
  • Comes in a choice of various colours

Cons

  • Must be fitted to your ear properly to get the full range of sound
  • Wire can tangle.

Best place to buy

Panasonic RPHJE120 headphones

Bluetooth speakers


If you want to play the music stored on your phone or tablet and get a decent room filling sound try using Bluetooth speakers. These are compact and can easily be carried in your hand luggage.

Bose ® SoundLink ® Mini Bluetooth Speaker II - Carbon

The Bose Soundlink mini is a small speaker which delivers big sound with deeper low notes than you’d imagine from a speaker this size. With voice prompts it is easy to pair to other bluetooth devices and it has a built in speaker phone so you can take speak out load voice calls.

Pros

  • Small, compact and wireless it is easy to take anywhere.
  • Delivers rich deep sound.
  • Easy to pair with other devices, up to two at a time.
  • Comes with docking station to keep it charged at home.
  • Can be played for up to 10 hours of unplugged play time.
  • Can be charged via most USB power sources.
  • Built in speakerphone.
  • Comes in carbon or pearl colours
  • Hard and soft travelling cases can be purchased separately
  • Size - 18.03 x 5.84 x 5.08 cm (7.1 x 2.3 x 2 inches)
  • Weight - 0.68Kg (1.5 pounds)

Cons

  • These speakers are a bit pricey but as someone who has used Bose speakers for years I can say they are definitely worth the money.

Best place to buy

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker

 

If you found the above reviews of travel accessories must haves - travel tech gadgets helpful, please share so others can benefit from the information as well or if you have any questions or tips of your own for travel tech gadgets and related travel accessories leave a comment below.

Travel Accessories Must Haves - series posts

 

Posted in Top Tips For Holidays, Top travel advice, Travel accessories must haves and tagged , , , , .

Neil

I grew up in the UK and still live there today. Throughout my life I have travelled extensively in Europe, Asia, Australasia and US on holidays, mini breaks, business travel and longer travelling trips, so founded http://TopTipsForHolidays.com to help people by providing top tips for holidays and travel.

9 Comments

  1. Every time I travel on a plane, I never really have any awesome gadgets apart from my tiny smartphone. 🙁

    WOW! There are lots of awesome travel accessories to decide from here. I think a Tablet will do the trick, and the Samsung Tab S sounds like an awesome tech option.

    Thanks for the help.

    Neil

  2. Whether you’re making your way by plane, train, automobile, or even your own two feet, no trip is complete these days without digital accessories.

    • Hi Derek,
      That is only too true! Most people find they can’t do without various items of digital tech gadgets and accessories even when they on holiday these days.
      Thanks
      Neil

  3. The tip about unlocking the cell phone and buying local SIM cards is great and it’s what I used to do. Then I got a phone that doesn’t use a SIM card and I don’t know if there is a way to use it abroad. Can CDMA phones be unlocked? Do you know if they are as accessible abroad?

    • Hi Rick,

      I am not sure and I wouldn’t want to give you a wrong answer, so it’s best if you check with your provider what the options are for your type of cell phone. It’s a bit technical but if you want a bit more information about CDMA phones check this page on Wikipedia.

      Thanks

      Neil

  4. Hello

    Flying out for my summer vacation soon. Was looking for a cheap international charger when I got to your site.

    Wow, you have put all gadgets together that most people need in today`s digital world and l feel real honoured to have found your site.

    I’m very impressed with the Kindle Paperwhite, I read quite a lot and I like the fact that the Kindle paperwhite is so light. l like the thought of taking several books with me yet not feel the weight because they are stored on the Kindle, l know if l don’t like one book, l can always change to the other and get back to it later without the weight.

    Something I did not understand, what make Amazon UK rate higher than Amazon US?

    • Hi Roamy,

      Thanks for your comment. One of the main reasons I like the Kindle devices is because of the weight saving when travelling. Regarding the different ratings between Amazon UK and Amazon US, this is due to Amazon having these as two separate website with two different sets of people providing reviews. So the UK reviewers might rate a product slightly higher or lower than US, but the rating out of 5 is an average for that set of reviewers.

      Thanks

      Neil

  5. This article is awesome, thanks for putting it up and helping me out.

    I do a lot of snowboarding and tend to spend a lot of time on the road bored stiff!

    I think the top picks for me are Apple iPad Mini 3 and those Bose speakers.

    Just a quick question about the Bose speakers- what is it that beats Bose vs say a Sonos which I’m also considering? I know that Sonos aren’t as portable, but would you say the overall sound quality for Bose is better?

    Thanks again- I think I’ll be bookmarking your site!

    • The reason I chose to review the Bose Bluetooth speakers is that they are small and portbale but still have a great sound. The Sonos speakers listed on Amazon mostly seem to connect to your devices via your home WiFi, so you are right they are not as portable. I have used Bose speakers for years and they always have a great sound even though they are a bit expensive. If you look at the reviews on Amazon for the Bose Bluetooth speakers, from other people who have bought them you will see a lot of people have good things to say about the sound quality. Hope that helps.

      Thanks

      Neil

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