As we settled in to our 8th flight during a recent trip to Peru, I felt quite glib about 2 things. 1. So far, despite multiple hotel changes, some jet lag and several early morning wake up calls, we hadn’t yet lost anything important. 2. After much trial and error on our family travels, for this trip, we had packed well. Not too much, not too little — our bags and travel gear were just right. Upon our return home, I decided to take note of those indispensable items that helped make our trip just a little bit easier. Whether you are looking for a nice unique travel gift, or just some great travel items for yourself, here are my best travel accessory, gear and gadget recommendations.
The Best Travel Gear and Gifts for People Who Travel 2018
1. The Spider iPhone Stand / Smartphone Holder
Over the years, I have probably tried out just about every type of holder or stand for my smartphone for use during travel. I hate being all crunched over my device watching a movie, and worse, I hate watching my kids all hunched over theirs. The tricky part for airplanes, is that many iPhone holders or smartphone stands tend to slide off the airplane tray table with the slightest amount of turbulence. The Spider, however, does not. You can hang it up, or you can bend it into a very stable stand that does not slide around easily due to its rubber coating. Better yet, it is really inexpensive. We have one for everyone in our family, plus a couple of extras in case one gets lost. I will confess, that one of ours did end up with a broken appendage, but I do believe that my kids had been using it as a Gumby-type figurine at the time.
Check prices for the Spider Cell Phone Stand and Holder on Amazon.
2. The Luggage Scale
The squeeze is on with many airlines cracking down on how much luggage you can fly with. Using a luggage scale alleviates some of my travel stress, knowing that I won’t have to quickly repack something at the airport (or pay some kind of exorbitant charge). The scale itself is really light, so I bring it along with me on my travels in order to weigh my bags before the journey home as well.
Check prices for a the digital luggage scale on Amazon.
3.The Lightweight Duffle Bag
Now, try as I might, sometimes I bring back too much stuff. More than once, I have had to buy a cheap extra piece of luggage on a trip just to get our souvenirs home (but these cheap bags never last long). My husband took the initiative to buy me a decent extra bag to shove in our luggage for just such situations. This particular bag from Samsonite is really quite strong and well made (notice the reinforced straps that will not tear easily under strain). Now, the color combinations are not my favorite, but it is a super solid bag that only weighs a little over a pound.
Check prices for the Samsonite Lightweight Duffle Tote on Amazon.
4. The Portable Device Charger / Portable Backup Battery
Over our years of travel, we have become increasingly dependent on our smartphones. My iPhone is my primary camera, my navigator, and it also holds my itinerary and travel confirmations (via the awesome Tripit app). Having a low battery really stresses me out so I travel with a portable charger. Naturally, there are many to choose from, but I like the options offered from Anker and RavPower. You need to find what is best for you, but I prefer a relatively small size and, at minimum, two charging ports.
Check prices for Anker PowerCore+ Premium Charger on Amazon.
5. The Headphone Splitter
As we travel often, for budgetary reason, we are usually in bare bones economy seats. This can mean no in-flight entertainment (which I have never relied 100% on anyway), and no in-seat chargers. To save some juice, sometimes my husband and I will marathon watch our latest favorite Netflix series together — using only one smartphone and a headphone splitter. Personally, I like the Belkin Rockstar splitter best, but there are many out there.
Check prices for the Belkin Rockstar Splitter on Amazon.
6. The Portable Bluetooth Speaker
Nothing makes me feel more at home in a hotel room than a little music. What’s even better, is when that music can be enjoyed by everyone. While I have one of the original Oontz Angle Bluetooth speakers, the new one is even better because it is water resistant (perfect for impromptu patio or pool parties !). Now….does is have the sound of a Bose speaker? No, it does not. But for the super low price, it is pretty good.
Check prices for the Oontz Angle 3 on Amazon.
7. The Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader
I will admit to really loving reading books in the old school way — where they weigh a ton and take up way too much space. At some point, however, one has to accept the fact that the Kindle is an amazing travel solution. The Paperwhite model holds hundred of books, is front lit to reduce eye strain, and has a battery that can last up to 6 weeks on a single charge.
Check prices for the Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon.
8. The Ultimate Device Charger and Voltage Converter
While most of my travel appliances and electronics can handle both 110 and 220 volts, over the years I have destroyed the odd thing. One was a baby monitor and the other was a hair straightener (that also took my fringe with it — burnt it clean off). I am quite in love with this all-in-one 220 to 110 power adapter and multi-port charger. We are a family of four with many devices between us. It is so nice to only need to search for one outlet, rather than unplugging lamps to make use of several. My current favorite, the Bestek Charger, also comes with UK/AU/US/EU plug adapters.
Check prices for the Bestek Universal Travel Adapter on Amazon.
9. Trip it – Travel Organization App
For a long time, I didn’t trust an app to take care of all of my travel details. As of late, however, I have done away with the reams of paper confirmations taking up valuable space in my luggage. Tripit (or better, Tripit Pro), takes all of your travel confirmations and drops them into one handy file on your smartphone that can be shared with other travelers. On a recent trip, for example, I shared our plans with my husband who was on the trip, and my parents back home, so they would know where to find us in the event of an emergency. I have used both Tripit (free) and Tripit Pro ($49/year). Both are good — but frequent travelers will love the flight alerts feature on Tripit Pro that is helpful when details change.
Note: To use Tripit once you have set up an account and a trip, you simply forward your travel confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Most confirmations from major travel companies drop into your itinerary just fine, but sometimes I need to add certain plans manually. Such was the case on a recent trip where I was staying at a number of independent hotels in Peru. Once I had entered them manually however, the app was fantastic.
Here is screenshot of Tripit from our most recent trip. Within the app you can click on any item for more information (confirmation number, phone number etc.).
Sign up for a free 30 day trial of Tripit Pro here.
10. The Nightlight and Emergency Flashlight Combo
On our travels, we tend to change hotels frequently. I have never enjoyed the feeling of waking up in a strange room, in the pitch black, having no idea where I am. To help solve this problem, I travel with a nightlight, that can plug into a wall socket but can also work as a flashlight. The one shown here from Lite Saver and is dual voltage (110 /220V).
Note: When our kids were young, we traveled with battery operated night lights like this one from Munchkin so that we did not need to worry about outlets, adapters or voltages issues.
Check prices for the Lite Saver Emergency Light on Amazon.
11. Reusable 3oz Silicone Travel Bottles
We often prefer to use carry-on luggage during our travels, to avoid lengthy post-flights waits at the luggage carousel. If you are like me and prefer to bring your own shampoo, conditioner, face creams etc. reusable 3oz (100ml), TSA compliant bottles are a must. There are tons to choose from, but I prefer the BPA-free, silicone, squeezable kind that can easily be refilled.
Check prices for 3oz Liquid Travel Containers on Amazon.
12. Packing Cubes
While my husband is very good at keeping all of his clothes nicely rolled up in his suitcase, the kids and I are not quite so organized. I have become a big fan of using mesh packing cubes to keep our suitcases in order (one cube for shoes, one cube for dirty laundry, etc.). I especially love them for ski season, where each family member’s ski clothes are kept in their own color coded packing cube and then tossed in our larger gear bag.
Check prices for mesh packing cubes on Amazon.