Things I Like: 5 Best Tech Travel Accessories

Yes, I “vacation” with my electronics… :)  I put “vacation” in quotes because it never really is one – I can’t resist the urge to stay productive, especially when long plane trips don’t offer much opportunity to do anything but write or code on a computer.

In 2013 alone I traveled over 10,000 miles by plane: I made it all the way to Alaska, California, Chicago, and Florida!

2013 5 best tech travel accessories

Some of the accessories I brought along totally rocked, so to celebrate their awesomeness, here’s my list of the 5 best tech travel accessories in my carry-on. (Yes, all these things will fit in your carry-on – I hate checking bags!)

1. Joby GorillaPod Hybrid tripod

Welp, this silly looking Joby tripod-thing sure shot right to the top of my best-of list.

5 best tech travel accessories Joby GorillaPod Hybrid Tripod

Joby GorillaPod Hybrid tripod doing what it does best – imitating dystopian cameras run amok.

This three-legged darling is a flexible tripod made by Joby and it is amazing.  I took it with to Disney World this December and I still can’t get over how awesome this thing is:

  • Rugged – I bent and twisted this thing every day. I even took it on roller coasters.  It’s still in one piece!
  • Use with sign posts, railings, fire hydrants, garbage cans, car roofs – you name it, just get creative and you’ll find “tripods” are everywhere around you
  • Can bring into Walt Disney World parks (full-size tripods are not as welcome)
  • Small and lightweight – I didn’t mind carrying it all day, and it fit nicely into my cinch-sack when I wasn’t using it
  • Bubble level – helps you know if your shot is straight
  • Easy to eject camera – the camera screws into an eject-able plate, so it comes off quickly
  • Long exposure shots anywhere! – I took a lot of shots I never could have without it

Usually I get home from a trip and find that my shots are mostly iPhone selfies and a few decent shots from my Canon but nothing at dusk or nighttime and nothing of myself at any further than arm’s length.  No more!  The Joby let me turn almost anything into a camera stand (my favorite WDW object to set it on turned out to be the metal-topped garbage cans everywhere in the parks). I took a ton of dusk and nighttime long exposure shots thanks to the Joby.

Here’s my Joby holding up my Canon as it works on a long-exposure shot.

5 best tech travel accessories Joby tripod in action

This photo of my Joby doing its thing was taken with my iPhone. As you can see, the iPhone 4S’s camera isn’t so great when the lighting’s poor, as evidenced by graininess and the flat black sky.

And here’s the shot my Canon point and shoot camera was able to take with the Joby tripod holding it steady for the 3 second exposure time:

5 best tech travel accessories Joby GorillaPod review long exposure nighttime shot

I can’t believe *I* took this photo!

My Joby tripod also enabled all kinds of creative, timer-delayed shots that were never possible before:

5 best tech travel accessories Joby GorillaPod posed photos

We put the Joby on a nearby fire hydrant and the camera on a 10 second delay to create this fun shot of us at the Gatorland entrance in Orlando, FL.

5 best tech travel accessories Joby GorillaPod on fire hydrant

All kinds of unusual objects, such as fire hydrants and railings, can be used to support the Joby GorillaPod.

So yeah, in short, I love my Joby GorillaPod.

Note: The Joby tripod does not make your camera walk independently and shoot lasers although I really, really wish it did.

2. iLuv Audio Splitter

I took a chance on the unknown-to-me iLuv brand audio splitter adapter after reading good reviews on Amazon.  Good news: it’s awesome.

The iLuv audio splitter had no noticeable effect on the volume or clarity of audio, which is great because I used it in the back seats of a noisy airplane so every bit of volume mattered. I used it to share video audio with my husband, but I think we’ll use it on future trips to share audio books and music as well.

In quieter tests, audio quality seemed unaffected. (Disclaimer: I’m not an audiophile.) 

5 Best Tech Travel Accessories iLuv audio adapter review

Yes, I love my iLuv audio splitter.  Plenty loud and with individual volume controls FTW.

Best of all, even though this thing is cheap (like, under $10), Amazon hasn’t classified it as an “add on” item yet, so you can still buy it by itself (like I did) as of this writing.

3. Power strip

Behold: the humble power strip. My favorite travel power strip isn’t bendy, Octopus-shaped, or color coded, but it is durable and incredibly useful.  I travel with an RCA power strip, and the one I’m using has now endured about 7 years of travel abuse.

5 best tech travel accessories RCA power strip for travel

My favorite power strip is this rugged RCA-brand surge protector.

A lot of “best tech travel accessories” lists like to recommend these compact adapters, but I don’t like them as much.  I own one, and I stopped traveling with it because it’s just not as good as a power strip.

5 best tech travel accessories Belkin SurgePlus

The Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Adapter with USB ports wins at compactness, but doesn’t win at capacity or convenient placement.

Mini adapters don’t offer as many plugs and have to be accessed wherever the outlet happens to be – behind the nightstand or under the table.  I hate bending and crawling under tables, so a power strip with a 6′ cord works much better for me.  I plug it in and set the strip anywhere – usually on top of the table.

Added bonus: A power strip makes you king of the airport terminal if you’re stuck waiting on a delayed jet – no need to fight over the one plug available, there’s room for many on any decent power strip.

Things to look for in a travel power strip:

I like my power strips rugged, with thick cords, heavy plastic, and flat plugs.  I like the cord to be at least 6′ long so I can position the power strip conveniently.  Keeping in mind the one outlet in the hotel room is often under a table or stuffed behind something else, a few feet of cord can be a huge help.

  • Space between plugs to accommodate cell phone charge bricks
  • Surge protection (if you’re paranoid like me)
  • Ruggedness – thick cord, heavy plastic
  • Cord length – 6′ or more lets you position the strip somewhere you can actually reach
  • Polarized plugs – for safety!

4. Retractable cord mouse

If you travel with a laptop but hate being limited to the touch pad, a retractable mouse is a cheap way to improve your workflow.

This Verbatim-brand retractable cord mini mouse is currently Amazon’s highest rated retractable-cord mouse.

5 best tech travel accessories mini mouse retractable cord

Verbatim’s retractable cord mini mouse comes in a rainbow of color options

Alas, they no longer sell the mouse I use, which is a Kensington Ci25m Notebook Optical Mouse. It has survived 4 years of abuse.  Here it is in action on my recent flight to Orlando:

5 best tech travel accessories travel mouse and laptop on a tray table

A mini mouse fits on an airplane tray table with room to spare for the netbook. (Mine’s 10.5″)

Combined with my 10.5” netbook, the travel mouse lets me have the “real PC” experience a bit more while I’m crammed into the back of a jet. Makes me much faster than fumbling around with the track pad.

Things to look for in a travel mouse:

  • Retractable cord – just one less cord to get tangled in things
  • Good size – be wary of super micro mouses, which are basically for fingertip use only, if you’re hoping for something more substantial

5. Bose headphones

Once upon a time (8 years ago, actually) I was a student at an art school that required everyone to get around-ear headphones for a series of audio/video classes. I tried a bunch of cheaper headphones, but the Bose Around-Ear Headphones was the only set of headphones that fit around my ears comfortably and sit on my head for hours without feeling heavy while still doing a good job of muffling the noise around me.

5 best tech travel accessories Bose around ear headphones

Bose has newer models, but these headphones are champions

These headphones were about $150 when I bought them (in 2005) and have since come down in price as Bose has produced newer models.  These headphones are still going strong. I never travel without ’em because they’re slim enough to fit into a backpack (providing I give them some cushioning, you shouldn’t throw them in haphazardly) and do a decent job of muffling the noise of the airplane cabin.  Sometimes I put them on my head and don’t listen to anything at all – they are a convenient way to say, “Shut up, world!”. :D

So there we have it – my five favorite tech travel accessories!  Do you have any must-haves when you travel? Tell us about them in the comments!

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