Do you have travel plans this Fall or Winter? No matter what time of year you’re traveling, there’s essential tech that will make the trip go much more smoothly. I am a list maker, so when my family was preparing for a summer trip to Italy – our first – I was eager to jot down all the necessary items I would need to bring along, download, and use back at home. This includes tech.
If you’re planning to travel, this handy guide is for you. Some items are standard ones you might already have, others are ones worth getting, especially for travel to a foreign country. In the process, I reviewed exciting products that are worth adding to your arsenal for your next trip, whether it’s a weekend away in the Big Apple or a two-week long European vacation.
For Packing and Prep
Before heading out on your vacation, there’s essential tech to help you with packing and to prep the home for your lengthy (or even short) absence.
I started using packing cubes a few years ago and love them. They make it easy to divide items up for easy unpacking and filling drawers or hanging items up in the closet upon your arrival. Some sets come with a mesh or cloth bag you can use for dirty unmentionables, which makes laundry when you get back home much easier. I’d highly recommend getting a set with different sized cubes for easy organization. This also makes it simple to pack ahead: start packing items you know you want to bring along and won’t be wearing until the trip anyway.
A Good Set Of Luggage
Yes, your luggage can actually be high-tech. For this trip, I reviewed the Travelpro Platinum Elite Compact Carry-on and Medium Check-in Hardside Luggage Set.
What makes these high-tech? Each one comes with an external USB-A and USB-C port for fast-charge capabilities. Plug your portable charging bank (not included) into the FAA-compliant battery pocket inside the hidden top zipper and you can plug in your phone, headphones, or other portable device into the charging port on the side to recharge while you sit down at the gate waiting for boarding or have breakfast in the airport.
The luggage itself employs TravelPro’s PrecisionGlide system-eight MagnaTrac self-aligning spinner wheels that glide along nicely. In fact, they sometimes glide too nicely such that you’ll need to hold on if you’re on a slanted surface (I had to grab mine a few times when they began to roll away!) The four-stop adjustable PowerScope Lite handle offers a comfortable Contour Grip: despite the fact that my luggage was close to the maximum 50-lb. weight, rolling it through the airport was effortless. Constructed with a durable 100% polycarbonate shell that flexes upon impact, I was confident that the contents inside would be protected.
Looking inside, what I love about the interior of these suitcases is that they have zippered divider panels to organize the contents nicely. While I still used some of my packing cubes, I could have easily gotten away without them thanks to the ultra-organized design.
Among the pockets is a water-resistant pocket for damp items (like a bathing suit you didn’t get to dry before heading back home) and toiletries. With 2 inches of expansion, someone like me who overpacks will make good use of this feature. This also made it easy to bring plenty of souvenirs for friends and family back home.
For overpackers like me, I’d recommend the largest size along with the smaller carry-on for day trips and extras. But checking both these suitcases for a flight to Europe was a perfect way to bring all my essentials, dividing them up in a logical way (yes, the carry-on was pretty much filled with shoes, toiletries, and, on the way home, souvenirs!) The set is on sale for $840 at the time of this writing, regular price $1,050.
A Digital Wallet With Boarding Passes
I love using my Apple Wallet for storing everything from digital credit and debit cards to loyalty cards, even entrance cards to events. I always use it for digital boarding passes as well. Make sure to download the airline’s app before departing. Most airlines, including Air Canada, offer digital boarding passes in the app that you can easily add to Apple Wallet with one click. This not only makes check in simple but also helps reduce paper waste. Check in online first (you can do so 24 hours in advance of the departure time) and once you arrive at the airport, all you’ll need to do is print your luggage tags.
A Roaming Plan
You can get a roaming plan with your wireless carrier, or opt for a local SIM to make calls, use data, and check messages locally in the country you’re in. I’m with Rogers, and the Roam Like Home plan automatically kicks in as soon as the device connects to the partner carrier network. For Italy, the cost is $15/day for eligible destinations. This allows you to use your plan the same way you would at home. For a 10-day trip to Italy, the cost is $150. Put the phone in airplane mode while traveling and take this mode off once you arrive. It may take a few minutes but once the phone connects to a partner wireless network, you’ll receive the notification that Roam Like Home (or similar service from a different carrier) has kicked in if it’s already part of your plan.
If you have limited data, there are a few things you can do to reduce how much data you’re using while away. Rogers advises to disable auto-play on videos in social media apps in the app settings; fully close apps you’re not using; limit location services to just the apps you need (you can adjust this in the app settings); turn off push e-mail notifications so the device isn’t constantly looking for e-mails to download; and connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible. You may also want to pause automatic syncing to iCloud (for iPhone users) which can quickly eat up data as well as battery life when you’re on the go.
Frequent travelers will tell you that an international digital SIM is the way to go, and providers like Airalo. But for the simplest, no fuss option, even if it costs a bit more in the long run, Roam Like Home and other similar carrier options are worth considering.
I never leave for any trip, whether it’s plane ride that lasts two hours or 10, without loading my phone with downloaded content from my favourite streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. Even if the flight isn’t that long, if you get stuck in the airport, this gives you something to do. (Take it from someone who enjoyed being able to binge-watch a show with a glass of wine in a New York airport earlier this year when my flight was delayed six hours!)
You’ll need enough storage on the device, but once you’re done watching, delete the shows, movies, podcasts, and other content to free the space back up. Always download more than what you think you might need to account for flight delays or rainy days in the hotel room.
Keep in mind that most airlines are beefing up the content available through their seatback entertainment systems, too. Air Canada, for example, recently partnered with Apple to offer Apple TV+ shows and movies in flight. For my flight, I checked out shows like Mythic Quest and was able to catch up on the previous season of Showtime series Billions. Don’t forget a good pair of wired headphones to partake with better audio than the free airline provided earbuds (more on that below).
It’s also worth noting that Air Canada now offers free texting for Aeroplan members on flights. Select the Wi-Fi option and note that you’re an Aeroplan member, enter your seat number, and start texting. It works with apps like iMessage and WhatsApp but does not appear to work with Signal.
A Security Camera And Dash Cam
I have come to rely on my Ring Video Doorbell daily and having this safeguard in place while we’re away for an extended period of time is a Godsend. Not only can we check in on the house to make sure there’s nothing nefarious going on, we also receive notifications whenever motion is detected, like a package being delivered or someone at the door. We can then ask a neighbour to grab the packages and mail and keep it for us until we get back. We can check in on the car in the driveway as well.
I also installed the Nextbase 622GW dashcam in my car before leaving. While it doesn’t record continuously when the car is off, it would kick in should someone attempt to steal the car and manage to turn the ignition on. Provided the person doesn’t disable (or steal) the camera, I would be able to get a view of them in the driver’s seat. This could help deter theft, or even catch a thief. There is an option, it should be noted, to run the camera on a constant source of power versus ignition select.
A Travel Itinerary App
I’m the type of person who loves organizing and lists, and when you have tours booked, a hit list of places you want to see, and have spent countless hours jotting down the names of every restaurant the late Anthony Bourdain and actor Stanley Tucci have recommended in their respective shows, you could use some kind of scheduling app.
I turned to Wanderlog, which is highly rated and looked like it had all the features I wanted. This includes being able to map locations, like restaurants, on plot points so we could easily see which one we might be closest to at any given time. I was disappointed that the app requires an annual fee, billed monthly, if you want to access all the features. But the free tier was more than enough for what we needed.
What I love about the app is that you can store all your travel details, including flight and hotel information (either auto-imported from Google with the paid tier or by forwarding a confirmation e-mail to a dedicated Wanderlog one). You can jot down notes, like all the useful tips we learned from the numerous Instagram videos we watched, select places to visit from a suggested list, or add your own, along with notes (e.g. “this is the adventurous spot where Anthony Bourdain finally changed his mind about pineapple on pizza”).
The app worked beautifully as I was able to run down the list of restaurants we wanted to check out, complete with address and a link to navigate to each either by walking or taxi. I stored details for the tours we had booked so I could quickly navigate to the meeting points and run down the list of necessities (e.g. covered shoulders for the Vatican, Passports for identification). All in all, it was a nice, neatly organized app that I would use again.
A Packing List
Did I mention I love lists? I make them every time I pack for a longer trip, jotting down items as I think of them, categorizing them by clothing, accessories, toiletries, tech, and “other.” Now, I use the Rocketbook Pro to jot down a list that I can digitize and save to the cloud. I can then open it up whenever I’m traveling and use the same list to check off items as I pack.
I have one ready for work trips, which include things like my iPhone clip mic, notebook and pen, laptop and charger, and a separate one for personal vacations that includes things like sunscreen, bikini, sun hat, and more.