10 Gadgets and Accessories to Make Your Summer Travel a Breeze
Everybody has their favorite travel accessories and suggestions – from comfy soft pillows to keep your neck upright while snoozing to fuzzy sweaters that turn into blankets and keep you warm on those chilly flights. If you travel a lot (like we do), then you learn more from experience about what works and what doesn’t for your own personal needs and uses. And yes, those two items are good to have, but here are some of our favorites that really do make traveling less of a hassle. A few products have been around awhile and others are brand new technology.
It’s hard to justify buying new luggage when there’s nothing wrong with your old pieces – other than the fact that they are less travel friendly than the newer lightweight luggage. Most of the updated pieces are also smaller to accommodate the airline’s new restrictions on size, especially the carry-on pieces. The ones I recently purchased are 20 inches and 26 inches (versus my older 22-inch and 28-inch bags).
Since there are very strict weight restrictions with the airlines, I figured the smaller and lighter weight bags were in order. If you pack things tight, it doesn’t take long to reach 50 pounds and you definitely want to save room for items you’ll want to bring home from your travels. But, the best part about some of the new types of luggage is that they spin! All four wheels rotate and it’s literally a breeze to wheel your bags through the airport, hotel lobby, or train station.
With this luggage, you no longer have those embarrassing moments where you’re trying to haul your luggage behind you and the weight and awkwardness of the piece makes it hard to pull and often falls out of your hand from the drag on the bag. Now you can zip down the hallway wheeling your luggage next to you without straining your back while trying to juggle your other items and you’ll look just like a seasoned travel pro. If you haven’t made the leap, then invest in a few pieces of spinner luggage. I recently purchased Delsey expandable soft-sided luggage and love it. (This photo is hard sided luggage, but you can see the spinner wheels.) Yes, it makes a big difference. Price: I bought my pieces at T.J. Maxx for under $100 each.
Digital Luggage scale
Speaking of luggage and weight, we’ve found this tiny gadget to be indispensable and amazingly accurate. Rather than lifting luggage along with yourself onto a bathroom scale and then deducting your weight from that number, simply lift your luggage a few inches off the ground with this nifty gizmo and Voila! you know exactly how much your luggage weighs. Our digital scale is made by Dunheger (see top image). Better to be safe at home or in your hotel than get to the airport and have to figure out what to do with that extra five pounds of stuff in your bag. I’ve seen this happen many times at baggage check. Don’t let it happen to you. 🙂 Price: Approximately $17.99 on Amazon.com.
Another great high tech accessory is this new gadget that can locate your luggage anywhere on the planet, even when the airlines can’t. It’s the first luggage locator in the world and has an app you download to your phone or computer that will allow you to track your luggage with its GSM and GPRS technology. It also automatically goes into Airplane Mode once you’re in flight and its Bluetooth capability alerts you when your luggage is coming up the carousel at the airport. Cool, huh? Impressive and reasonably priced, it gives you piece of mind when you’re traveling, especially when you’ve got a tight connection and are concerned about whether or not your luggage made it on the plane with you. You may not be able to do anything about it if it doesn’t, but at least you’ll be able to track it until it makes its way back to you. LugLoc is flat, weights almost nothing, and will fit neatly in your luggage between your clothes. Price: $69.99
Who hasn’t been out sightseeing and suddenly lost power on an iPhone or Android, and that was your camera? No more pictures, no more phone calls, no more selfies, and no more posting on social media or texting until you get back to the hotel or ship. Bummer. Well, there’s no need for that to happen anymore with the vast selection of portable (and super tiny) battery charges. There are oodles to choose from in varying degrees of sizes, sleekness, and colors along with battery capacity and prices. Just be sure to purchase one with at least a 6000-8000mAh power and 2.1A output. There are larger capacity chargers, but they will be heavier, so check all the stats, sizes, and weights if you’re ordering online. You want something small enough and lightweight enough to carry around in your pocket or jacket when it’s attached to your phone and the latest chargers are far lighter and more powerful than those of just a few years ago. Price: $20.00 – $30.00
Hanging Lightweight Toiletry Bag
With all the restrictions around carrying liquids, what’s a girl to do when it comes to bringing cosmetics, hair products, and other items (like sunscreen) on a plane? A one-quart bag filled with 3-ounce containers just isn’t enough for an extended vacation. That’s when you need a lightweight, compact hanging toiletry bag to pack in your checked luggage. Chances are you have great cosmetic bags for general travel, but they’re probably fussy and heavy and bulky and we’re trying to minimize weight and size when packing a suitcase, especially for flying and long-haul travel, so these bags come in handy. Now you can bring along a few larger items that might weigh more than 3 ounces, like a tube of sunscreen. When you unpack, hang the bag in the bathroom where you can easily access your personal items without laying them all over the counter (chief complaint from husband). I like the compact bag by GearNomad with its one large pouch and two smaller compartments, one that’s mesh and the other that’s plastic and see-through. Price: $8.99 on Amazon.com.
Speaking of packing cosmetics and personal items, when you can’t or don’t want to have a piece of checked baggage and it’s all about traveling light and remaining footloose and fancy free with just a roller carry-on and a handbag, then you need these Savvy Travelers’ packets. I have fallen in love with individual packettes of all sorts of things since there is no limit to how many you can bring and they will fit into any piece of luggage (carry on or checked) or in a purse or jacket.
One of the must-haves for any flight (or train ride) is the Klean offz sanitizer. We’ve all heard of and seen horrific things on those little pull down trays, so it’s best to be prepared when it comes time for your inflight cocktail and bag of pretzels. I also love the Take offz facial cleanser and moisturizer. “No water? No Problem.” is their tagline and it’s true. They even make a lens and screen cleaner so you don’t have to bring a spray bottle and cloth along to clean your electronic devices. Mouthwash in a swipe is perfect when you need to freshen your breath and don’t have a toothbrush and toothpaste stashed in your handbag. And they all fit neatly into whatever you’re carrying. Bring a few of each along and you’re prepared in a pinch! Price: $10.00 – $28.99
Have you ever been totally frustrated digging around in a gigantic suitcase for one particular t-shirt or a certain pair of socks and you end up destroying all of the neatly folded or rolled items and have stuff strewn everywhere? Yep. It’s happened to me a few times, too. That’s why these nifty little nylon packing cubes come in handy to organize all of your belongings. They are particularly helpful when you’re on a long trip and have a multitude of different types of items packed. You can organize them by category (t-shirts, under garments, turtlenecks, sweaters, etc.), so you’ll know what’s in each little pouch and can remove just that one cube to locate what you’re looking for. They’re lightweight and inexpensive and come in various sizes. This particular brand (G4 Free) was very reasonable (on Amazon.com) and it comes with six pieces, which was plenty to organize all of my clothes. Price: $28.99
Around the Neck Passport/Wallet Carrier
If you don’t already have one of these already, this is a great item to add to your travel accessory arsenal. Lightweight and easy to pack, it’s ideal for times you want to be hands free and don’t want anything lolling around on your back. It will carry the essentials you should have when out and about (passport, wallet, cash, phone, and lip balm). They’re especially handy if you’re going to be in crowded places and concerned with securing your valuables. Price: $10.00 – $20.00
Noise Cancelling Headphones
How can you make your flight, train ride, or cruise to wherever you’re going a little less stressful and far more pleasant? Try a set of noise canceling headphones! Have you ever been on a flight with not just one, but rather, three screaming kiddos sitting nearby? Yes, that just happened on our last flight. How about that incessant chatterbox sitting next to you on the train? Yikes. Five hours of listening to stories about people you don’t know and places you don’t care to go to. No, thank you. I’ll listen to music on my iPhone or watch a movie on the plane’s system instead. When purchasing your headphones, be sure to get a wired set (not Bluetooth) if you want to hook up to watch one of the inflight movies when you’re airborne. Some noise cancelling headphones can be quite expensive, but unless you’re an oenophile, there are several brands and types that are lightweight, easy to pack and store, are inexpensive and will work quite well. Price: $20.00 to $50.00
Wine Glass Holders
And last, but certainly not least, how about a hands free wine glass holder?! You can purchase these, but they’re also given out at many food and wine festivals with your souvenir glasses (so save them). They come in handy when trying to juggle both small bites and a glass of wine at the same time, they’re incredibly lightweight, and easy to pack, so it’s worth popping one into your suitcase. Just in case… Price: Free (sort of) to $8.99
There are many more cool accessories and high tech gadgets that make traveling more pleasurable and packing a breeze. These are some of our current favorites. Which accessories do you swear by when you travel?
You might also enjoy 10 Packing Tips for Smarter Travel
Photo credit for images without the Pratesi Living watermark (from top to bottom): Delsey.com; LugLoc; Savvy Travelers; Amazon.com; Stock Media – Pond5.com (image of child): This person is a model and their likeness is used for illustrative purposes only.
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Disclosure – We received the LugLoc and Savvy Travelers products to test. The rest of the items are our own.