Remember the good old days, when in-flight entertainment was limited to an airline magazine and the closest you got to noise-cancelling was two pieces of cotton wool?
No? Probably because those days were rubbish. Travel might be a tonic for the soul, but without the right tech it’s just a whole lot of moving around with bags.
Thankfully, we’ve trawled the tech aisles for 25 travel essentials to give your summer getaway the upgrade it deserves.
So, whether it’s entertaining your mates at the beach or keeping your valuables safe from naughty sorts in nightclubs, there should be something here for you. The sun cream’s up to you, mind.
The best travel tech for…packing
Walli Smart Wallet (£90)
You can lose a lot of things on holiday – sunglasses, flip flops, your dignity – but if your wallet goes wayward then you can wave goodbye to a good time. Whether it’s wads of cash or that napkin with the number of last night’s love interest, Walli will ensure you never leave your stash behind: paired via Bluetooth, it’ll ping your smartphone if you stray too far without it and show you its last known location. It works in reverse, too – so you’ll be able to track down your handset just by tapping.
PacSafe Travelsafe (from £55)
It’s a universal truth that you can crack a hotel safe in five minutes with nothing but a breadstick and a YouTube tutorial. Short of taking your own vault on holiday, PacSafe’s Travelsafe sacks are the answer for go-anywhere security: wrapped in a mesh of stainless steel wire, they’re secured with an in-built combination lock and there’s a useful loop for attaching them to nearby heavy objects. Available in 5L and 12L capacities, there’s now a limited edition 3L version – perfect for keeping your phone safe while you have a crack at kite-surfing.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack (£28)
There’s no overestimating the usefulness of a day pack: whether you’re strolling through a city or walking to a waterfall, the humble second sack is a must for hauling lightweight essentials. Pick up this Stuff Pack from Osprey and you’ll have durable utility in your pocket. Made from rugged ripstop nylon, the 18L backpack is surprisingly comfortable – courtesy of Airmesh shoulder straps – and offers such luxuries as a bottle pocket and an internal stash for your valuables. And it all packs down to the size of a pebble. Talk about innovation.
Time was, packing for a camping trip meant donning a khaki t-shirt, sharpening your favourite penknife and stashing a couple of nutrition bars in the front of your utility shorts. Alas, the world is now a more complex place – which is why we have Trip Tarp: a lightweight, rugged nylon sheet, this Kickstarter-funded friend is printed with eight categorised sections to take the pain out of packing. There’s a master list of 10 highlighted essentials, too, so you’ll won’t be caught short – and it even doubles up as a shelter in the wild.
Eagle Creek Expanse Convertible Carry-On (£86)
With many airlines cracking down on battery-equipped luggage, this convertible case might be a quicker ticket to a faff-free airport experience. Sure, it might not offer the GPS tracking and charging tech of bags three times the price, but the option to swap from wheels to backpack straps makes it a boon for all-terrain travellers. Roll it through the departure hall before slinging the 30L sack on your back for the steps up to the jet, safe in the knowledge that its rugged construction is securely hugging your stuff.
The best travel tech for…charging
Goal Zero Venture 30 (£100)
If your idea of a gentle getaway is lathering yourself in bug repellent and going off-grid for a month, the Venture 30 is your kind of backup battery. Like a bushwacking Bear Grylls in your local Waitrose, it certainly stands out from the crowd – but, unlike Bear Grylls, it’s also weatherproof, equipped with a pair of high-speed USB ports and carries a 7800mAh capacity good for charging your phone two times over.
Anker PowerPort Solar Lite (£40)
Tanning is a classic example of clean energy transfer. You sprawl by the pool for the best part of the day. Solar energy pours itself upon your pasty skin. You become a lobster. It’s science in action – and the good news is that those rays are good for more than crisping your epidermis: this featherweight foldable solar panel will boost two USB devices whenever the Sun is shining. Compact and weather-resistant, it’ll deliver juice at a speedy 2.1A, while its bigger brother can do the same at 3A.
Boom Travel+ (£30)
The best travel adaptors are, well, adaptable – and few can do as much as the Boom Travel+. Besides being compatible with sockets in more than 150 countries, it packs a built-in 6000mAh cell, so you’ll have plenty of juice for those Netflix shows you offlined in the departure lounge. Once you’re back at the wall, it’ll zap a plethora of tech simultaneously thanks to a pair of USB slots above the main plug – provided you’ve remembered your cables.
EasyAcc Monster Power Bank (£39)
Want to be the popular one on your next group getaway? Forget picking up the bar tab: bag this power bank and you’ll have friends practically flinging their tech at you. Equipped with a whopping 26,000mAh capacity, it’s capable of juicing an iPhone ten times over and, with four USB ports at its disposal, clever charging tech can automatically deliver optimal current to connected devices. And you’ll need plenty of them to give this Monster a challenge.
Flight001 4-in-1 Worldwide Travel Plug Adaptor (£20)
Three flights and four time zones away from home, your efforts to cram a three-pin plug into a two pin socket could almost be forgiven. Almost. Put paid to conversion confusion with this handy adapter: its compact 4-in-1 setup will sort you out in some 150 different countries. What’s more, those colour-coded blocks should make plug selection a cinch, even for jet-lagged brains.
The best travel tech for…entertaining
Disc Jock-e (£28)
Sharing is caring, as the old adage goes, and there’s no better way to share your ‘Lit Maga Beach Tunes 2K18′ playlist than by flinging this frisbee around with your crew. Besides offering all the fun of your average piece of circular plastic, it doubles up as a Bluetooth speaker – meaning beachgoers can enjoy the not-at-all disturbing experience of a bright orange disc flying over their heads while producing the sounds of Shaggy. Oh, and it’s waterproof, too – so it’ll survive even if someone slings it into the nearest sea.
Denon Envaya Pocket DSB-50BT (£74)
The tech in most hotel rooms begins with a travel kettle and ends with a tiny TV – and neither is likely to start the party. For a reliable vibe you could do worse than Denon’s diminutive Envaya Pocket: available in two shades of subtle understatement, this Bluetooth bar can handle aptX for high quality audio, will talk to Siri on an iOS device and is waterproof for good measure. Sound quality is solid and it goes just loud enough that the only people banging on the walls will be those wanting to join the fun.
KitSound Diggit (£40)
Like all of the best camping kit, this 360-degree Bluetooth speaker ships with a stake. Why? So you can stick it in the ground and share your sounds outside. It’s weatherproof, naturally, so British showers won’t cause it any bother, while an 8-hour battery life means your tented neighbours won’t sleep a wink. Not since the vuvuzela has there been such an effective tool for keeping the entire campsite awake.
Urbanista Seattle (£89)
If you’re flying long-haul on the regular then a reliable pair of noise-cancelling cans is far more important than one of those silly neck pillows. After all, even a business class bed can’t block out the 3am bawling of a disgruntled sprog. Bose’s QC35 II headphones have long been the benchmark for long-lasting silence, but you don’t need to spend big bucks for good quality: Urbanista’s Seattle ‘phones are subtle, solid and sound great – at a third of the price. Battery is good for 12 hours and you can go corded when the cell runs flat, too.
Chromecast Ultra 4K (£69)
Deep into the seventh episode of ‘Mega Trains’ on the Italian Discovery Network, you’ll doubtless be cursing the regional restrictions of Netflix. If only you’d packed your Chromecast. Stick this pocketable puck into the HDMI slot of a hotel room TV and you’ll be able to sling 4K content from your smartphone or tablet straight to it. Which, if you don’t have a data connection, might mean re-watching those shonky videos of the New Year’s Eve fireworks from 2014.
The best travel tech for…exploring
Tile Sport (£30)
Taking anything of value away from home is always a risk. Just look at what happened when you took your favourite teddy to Thailand. Thankfully, with this tracker attached you’ll always know where your prized possessions are – even if you’re too hungover from all those vodka buckets to go and find them. Fire up the partner app and you’ll see the Tile Sport’s last known location and if it’s within Bluetooth range you’ll be able to make it beep. It’s rugged, too, so it should survive even the toughest night out with Mr Snuggles.
Petzl Reactik+ (£60)
Walking the guy rope gauntlet is easily the most treacherous part of spending a weekend pitched up in a field – especially when you’ve spent the whole day sampling the local ciders. Shed some hands-free light on the situation with this Petzl headtorch. Strapped to your noggin, it’ll automatically adjust to the darkness – and you can even activate lighting profiles via the app. Sadly, it doesn’t have a ‘take me back to my tent’ mode.
Proper exploring means being prepared to scrub your smalls on the go. For this, you have two options: find a nearby river, select the cleanest rock and brave the chilly waters as you work your pants up to a lather. Or stick them in the Scrubba. While the former might leave you feeling at one with nature, the latter truly takes the labour out of laundry. Textured inside like a trusty washboard, using it is as easy as sticking your linen in, squeezing out the air and giving the whole thing a good rub.
LuminAID PackLite Max (£40)
Since the dawn of travel, lanterns have been guiding globetrotters on their adventures – through deep jungles, on high mountains and in dodgy hostels when the electricity goes kaput because the washing machine was on at the same time as the air conditioning. This solar-powered lamp will bring light to any situation: inflate it with a puff for a useful glow or connect your phone to the USB socket for added go. With a 50-hour battery life, it should trump even the longest of power cuts.
You wake in some faraway hotel, draw back the curtains and survey the cityscape before you, enjoying the plush cotton of the branded dressing gown and the shallow comfort of the corporate slippers. You take a long sip of coffee. Yuck! Why did you think a sachet of dried granules would be any different here than at home? While you rue your foolish caffeine faux pas, we’ll be sipping delicious espresso hand-pumped through Wacaco’s wonder machine – now smaller, lighter and more powerful than before.
The best travel tech for…connecting
Lacie Rugged Mini (£75)
Remember that time you made the greatest ever apartment on The Sims, only for the save to fail and your masterpiece to disappear with a ‘Dag Dag’? Losing your holiday photos is like that, only 43 times worse. Don’t take the risk: bag yourself a LaCie backup drive for rugged picture protection. This 1TB model plays nicely with USB-C laptops and ships with a two-year data recovery plan. If you’ve got the readies, there’s also the new Rugged Raid Pro – a fast, hardy drive with an in-built SD card reader.
Nomad Universal Cable (£29)
Cables: a necessary evil. And when it comes to packing, they’re arguably the hardest thing to master. Do you loop them together? Leave them in a loose heap? Stuff them in a shoe? However you choose to stow them, there’s a good chance they’ll have tangled themselves into a bundle of frustration by the time you arrive. Unless you buy this universal cable, that is: clad in a tear-resistant coating, it can do micro USB, USB-C and Lightning duties, and a handy tie-strap means it won’t make friends with your shoelaces in the suitcase.
TP-Link M7350 (£80)
Roaming rates might be tumbling but for far-flung forays it’s still cheaper to buy a local SIM and live the data dream. Pop one in this 4G hotspot from TP-Link and you’ll be streaming before you’ve reached the arrivals lounge. Capable of speeds up to 150mbps, its party trick is supporting up to 15 devices at once – so the whole family can join the bandwidth battle at the beach. And with a battery life of 10 hours, they’ll be at it all day long. Bliss.
Ryze Tello (£99)
What, a drone isn’t a travel essential? Come back once you’re Instagram famous. Aerial holiday shots are where it’s at – and, short of strapping your smartphone to a helium balloon and hoping for the best, sending a pocket flyer up to pap your poolside situation is the quickest ticket to an upgraded Insta feed. This dinky drone isn’t the most advanced around, but it’s unbeatable at the price and image quality is plenty good enough for some #wanderlust.
GL-AR150 Mini Travel Router (£24)
Paranoid that the authorities are monitoring your YouTube usage? This pocket router makes your binge-watching more secure by creating a private Wi-Fi connection from public hotspots, so you can feel safe watching back-to-back Zoella episodes while you sip your macchiato. It ships with OpenVPN pre-installed, too, in case you’re really that worried about your vlogger habit going public.