Twelve Incredibly Useful Travel Tools

It’s probably no surprise to you that I travel somewhat frequently.  There are people who travel much, much more than I do (and I envy them–especially the ones who get paid to go to fabulous resorts around the world and review them! Anyone know where I could get that job?)  Nonetheless, I travel enough that I’ve found it worthwhile to invest in some travel accessories and gadgets that tend to come in handy.  Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

Note: Every time I try to add pictures to this, Firefox crashes. So this will be just words for now!

  • Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale is a little scale about the size of a large cell phone.  You put the strap around the handle and then pick up the bag by the scale handle, and wait for it to beep. Switches easily between kg and lb on the display.  This is VERY handy if you want to quickly test whether your bag is within the airline’s weight limit.  It can also be useful around the house (I have used it to weigh my cats in their carriers!)  Some suitcases actually come with a scale built in, which is cool, but obviously limited to that one bag.  This one is versatile, and is small and lightweight enough to take with you on a trip.
  • LL Bean Travel Wallet: The brand isn’t super-important (although I do like the simplicity and quality of the LL Bean one).  What I love is having a wallet big enough to put my boarding pass, itinerary, and other paperwork when I travel.  The little wrist strap is great because it’s easy to keep your hands free for other tasks.  I used to have one of those around-the-neck types, which really are more practical but a) they look dorky, and b) they make you take that off to go through the metal detector, which kind of cancels out the added convenience.
  • iGo Everywhere Power Adapter: What’s cool about this is that it allows you to plug in basically anything, anywhere.  You do have to buy the “tips” to adapt to each of your devices separately, but that’s fine with me–I can travel with just one charger and plug in my laptop, cell phone, Kindle, Bluetooth headset, or iPod into a wall, car, or plane outlet.  As a bonus, as long as you have a plug adapter, you can use it in other countries too; it can handle 100 to 230 volts.
  • ICOON Global Picture Dictionary: This little passport-size book is a must when traveling internationally (or anywhere you might run into a language barrier).  It has little pictures, mostly line drawings but some color photos, showing virtually every action, question, emergency, item, or food you might need to communicate. You just find the picture and point.  If you’ve ever tried to gesture or draw something like “Where is the nearest laundromat?” you will appreciate the usefulness of this book!
  • Amazon Kindle e-Book Reader: Definitely the most expensive item on this list, but this has quickly become an essential for me especially when traveling.  Much lighter than carrying around lots of heavy books; might save a few trees; the books are cheaper than the paper versions; and you can buy books wirelessly and they download automatically to the Kindle right away (in the U.S. only; if you’re out of range of the Sprint network you have to hook it up to a computer to download the new books).  It’s easy on the eyes, has long battery life, and you can change the font size to make it comfortable for your vision–I find larger print easier to read and less intimidating than teeny tiny, personally.
  • Instant Hand Sanitizing Wipes: Sometimes those public restroom sinks look like you’d get your hands dirtier by trying to “wash” them there, so I keep some of these individually-wrapped wipes in my purse for those situations.  In a pinch they can also be an (admittedly lame) substitute for a shower, if you’re desperate and no bathing facilities are available.
  • My Cell Phone: This probably goes without saying, but cell phones are extremely useful when traveling!  In addition to the obvious abilities of calling and text-messaging people, a smartphone can serve lots of other purposes.  Mine doubles as my camera; I can use almost any website from it over Wi-Fi or 3G wireless access; it’s a GPS for when I’m driving somewhere unfamiliar; and I even have a folding Bluetooth keyboard which I can use to type into it almost like a computer.  On my 12-hour layover at the Dubai airport last summer, I sat at the airport Starbucks and typed a several-page-long journal entry right into my phone.
  • Teeny-tiny Containers: I haven’t been able to find pictures online of the perfect little containers I bought last year in Seattle (at a great store called Storables that I really wish had east coast locations!) so I took my own picture.  Given the TSA rules about everything having to fit in a 1-quart zip-top bag (see below) and my “need,” as a girl, for about a dozen different liquids and gels just to get through a day, those 3-ounce travel sizes are still just too big.  I mostly refuse to check bags anymore–even without the fees, it’s just too much of a hassle and makes you less flexible–so the only solution was smaller containers.  The smallest one in the picture is 1/2 ounce and the purple spray bottle is 2 ounces. One of my favorites is the mini chapstick; it is more than enough even for a long trip.
  • Zebra Compact Pen: This little pen has a loop to fit nicely on a keychain.  You can take the pen part off and leave the cap on the chain, and when you put the pen back in the cap it actually stays in, unlike some other keychain pens I’ve tried where the pen falls out of the cap too easily and is then lost forever.  I probably don’t have to tell you that having a pen at your fingertips at all times is extremely convenient. This one also is pretty slim and short, so it doesn’t take up a ton of space on the keychain or in your pocket.
  • Folding Pop-Up Brush and Mirror: This cute round folding brush/mirror is awesome.  I got several for a dollar each at Target and I keep one in my car, purse, desk at school, and in my bag when I travel.  Cheap, does what you need it to do, and small enough not to get in the way when you don’t need it.
  • Clear 1-Quart Bag with Actual Zipper: Yes, I know, a plain Ziploc bag does the job just fine. After a few days in a suitcase, though, it starts getting little holes in it and looking all crumpled and icky. A clear one-quart zippered toiletry bag is tougher and easier to handle, but still conforms to the TSA rules. Considering it is full of liquids and often winds up smooshed in right next to my laptop, I’d rather not have it spring a leak all over my bag, thank you.
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Mine are Sony MDR-NC22 ear buds.  Noise-cancelling headphones have become very popular with air travelers in particular because they cancel out some of the aircraft noise so that you can hear what you’re listening ot without cranking it up to full volume.  I like my ear-bud style over the bigger over-ear style (which I also have a set of somewhere around here…) because they do the job almost as well and take up way less precious carry-on space.

All right, that’s all for now.  Let me know if there’s something especially useful that you think I should try!

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3 responses to “Twelve Incredibly Useful Travel Tools

  1. Great list.. some I have, some I would have purchased but too late now… as I am down to hours, but especially agree about the Kindle, what a fantastic invention!

  2. I think your site was so great and it is really awesome..Of course it really impress me a lot..

    Good job dude and i hope you can keep it up..

    Good blogging !!

  3. So I took your advice and got my own version of teeny tiny containers and 1 quart plastic bag. I found them as a package for $15 at Staples (Business Depot) made by samsonite. Since I’m only flying through the States (I’ll be in New Jersey (possibly NYC) July 8th, then back through on July 12th on the way home) for a brief trip to the Bahamas, I actually just care it lasts for this one trip!

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