There's something many travelers overlook when they're searching for a new gadget. No matter how flashy or popular an item may be, it ultimately needs to have two characteristics: Be portable and functional.
Simplicity is key to people on the road. Tech tools need to help them save time, find some sort of serenity, or make a complicated procedure painless. Otherwise, the gadget is just taking up space in the suitcase. Here are 10 examples of things the road warrior can't (or shouldn't) live without.
By Chris Morris
Posted 13 January 2011
Frequent travelers quickly learn that time spent on a plane can be agonizing. Noise-canceling headphones block out the crying baby three rows back and the chatty fellow sitting next to you, giving you some time to yourself. There are plenty to choose from, but two of the best are the QuietComfort 3 line from Bose, retailing for up to $350 — or, if you'd prefer to spend less, Logitech's Ultimate Ears 600 Noise-Isolating Earphones, which run about $100.
Hotel WiFi charges can be ridiculously high — and the service is often spotty even if you choose to pay. These ultra portable cards use a phone carrier's 3G (or, in some cases, 4G) service to give travelers high speed WiFi on the road. Several carriers offer them, but Virgin Mobile's Broadband2Go MiFi 2200 is widely praised. The device costs $150, but comes without a contract, letting travelers use it on an as-needed basis for a lot less.
Carrying around the paperwork that builds up during business trips can quickly become overwhelming. Losing a receipt is the same as losing cash when it comes time to get reimbursed — and a lost business card could cost you a sale. SlimScan's credit-card-sized scanner will help you make digital copies of receipts for expense reports, business contacts and more. The $140 device can hold roughly 600 scanned images.
A dead cell phone can be fatal when you're on the road — especially if you're in the middle of a call. Kensington's slimline battery pack adds up to 3.5 hours of talk time, which is typically plenty to keep you connected until you can find a plug. Better still, it costs $20 to $40 and can fit in your pocket.
Depending on external IT departments to have a projector ready for your presentation is asking for trouble. The $400 MP180 is an all-in-one solution that will project your PowerPoint presentation clearly on the wall, can run for two hours, and hold up to 4GB of data internally. And at roughly the size of a remote control, it will save you plenty of space in your briefcase.
Sharing files on the road is a hassle, since you'll have to find passwords to access your client's wireless network, and once you do log in, everything on your laptop is accessible to them. Think of the $100 iTwin as a cableless cable. It's a pair of USB plugs that attach to the two machines you're working with, allowing an encrypted data transfer that bypasses the company intranet. One twin contains the files you want; the other is where you move them.
Laptop screen space is always at a premium — and if you're a multitasker, it quickly becomes a headache when you're on the road. This USB-powered second monitor offers 14 inches of screen space, is less than an inch thick and weighs less than 3 pounds. As a bonus, it folds up nicely to fit in your briefcase. A second monitor might seem a luxury, but it will quickly become a road warrior's best friend to get things done at the end of the day.
Despite the hype, tablets haven't replaced laptops — and aren't likely to do so permanently anytime soon. The new line of Ultrabook computers ease back strain for frequent travelers, blending incredibly thin and light hardware with powerful processors. Asus and Toshiba have models on the market now ranging from $700 to $1,500, but dozens more will hit the market this year, meaning prices will drop fast. Powered by second-gen Intel Core chips, they're faster than most desktops and boot up in no time (the "resume" time from sleep mode is a mere two seconds).
Power outlets are often a rarity in hotel rooms. And while a power cord is the ultimate tool, it's often the first item jettisoned when the suitcase starts to get full. Zuni's Connect won't add more outlets, but it comes with two USB chargers, which allow you to charge your phone, tablet, or other electronic gadget. It also can be turned into a WiFi hotspot, giving you an added layer of protection when you use the hotel's service.
It looks gimmicky, but this $30 gadget for your car lets you charge everything from phones to laptops off your car battery and arrive at your next meeting ready to go. The shape is more than cute; it fits snugly in a car's cup holder rather than other options that are less secure (and more likely to result in your electronics falling to the floor).
It's a traveler's nightmare. You're late for your flight (or meeting) and can't find your keys. Cobra's key ring attachment lets you "call" your keys from your phone. Or, if you walk too far from your keys accidentally, it will immediately send a text or email to your phone alerting you that you've left them behind, with GPS coordinates telling you where they are. Consider it a $80 insurance payment for that time you somehow leave them in the freezer the night before.