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Whether you're traveling to visit family or friends or just heading towards a winter destination to keep warm, the gear you bring along with you could go a long way in affecting the quality of your trip.
Beyond your personal preferences — from hand creams to books — there are a few things you really don’t want to forget on your next trip, no matter where you're headed: underwear (been there), your toothbrush (been there, too) and headphones for the plane (worst of all, arguably). Even if you like to unplug a bit when you travel, the right tech can make your trip a lot more pleasant, so you might want to consider leaving some room in your backpack for these handy gadgets.
Best headphones for traveling
If you’re going to be stuck on a plane for a few hours, don’t settle for the cheap in-flight earbuds. Grab something that sounds good and isolates noise — I like the Bose SoundSports for their comfortable fit. But most quality earbuds with silicone tips should do the trick.
You could also grab an over-ear, wired pair like the Sony MDR-7506, which is designed to fold up perfectly for travel.
If you want to kick things up a notch, a pair of headphones with active noise cancellation like the Sony WH1000XM3 will help drown out the loud hum of the plane’s engine, among other things.
Travel-worthy portable chargers and battery packs
When you’re in an unfamiliar city, you probably use your phone a lot more than you expected you would — especially thanks to easily accessible maps. But using GPS can drain your battery quickly, so it’s a good idea to carry a battery pack when you’re on the road. I actually bring two with me.
A big portable charger like this RavPower 26800mAh model can charge USB-C laptops thanks to its 30W output.
And a small battery pack like the Anker PowerCore+ Mini (which fits in my pocket when I’m walking around town) will keep your handheld and wearable devices on through the day.
Travel-ready routers provide Wi-Fi (virtually) anywhere
If your hotel provides an Ethernet cable, you can hook it up to a travel router — like the $30 TP-Link N300 Travel Router — for a stronger signal in your room, not to mention better security for your devices. It won’t get you internet where none exists, but it’ll beef up an existing internet connection where Wi-Fi is weak or unavailable. It’ll even help you connect something like a Roku Streaming Stick+ to the in-room TV, in cases where it won’t play nicely with the hotel’s guest Wi-Fi.
If you have a few more bucks to spend, the RavPower FileHub is a travel router that doubles as a battery bank and as an external hard drive, reducing the amount of things you need to carry.
And every time I unpack it in front of people crowded around an outlet, I become the hero of the airport.
Surge protectors ensure you have an outlet during travel
These days, most big airports have a plentiful bounty of outlets around. But if you’re traveling somewhere that isn’t quite as updated, you might have trouble finding a place to charge your laptop. Even if there are a few outlets along the wall, they may be taken up by earlier birds.
That's why I always travel with a small power strip like this three-outlet model from Belkin. And every time I unpack it in front of people crowded around an outlet, I become the hero of the airport.
All-terrain phone cases will withstand the elements
I’m not really a case person. I prefer my phones to be slim and sleek like the designer intended. But if I’m on vacation, I need a little extra protection. And it's not just drops on the pavement I'm concerned about — but also drops into the pool (or beach).
Lifeproof’s FRE series is my go-to since it adds some extra water resistance and impact protection.
A flexible tripod will allow for (much) better group photos
When my wife bought the GorillaPod before our last family vacation, I thought it was a little silly — but it ended up being one of the best things we brought with us. It makes it so much easier to grab pictures of you and your family and friends together, without each photo coming in at an awkward arm’s-length selfie style. There are other tripods out there, but the GorillaPod’s flexible design means you can stand your phone just about anywhere, including an uneven rock jutting out from the waterfall you discover on that one hike. It works as a miniature selfie stick in a jiffy, too. If you have room in your luggage, though, an actual selfie stick might be worth bringing, as well.