Top 10 tech tips for easy travel

If you travel a lot, you probably already depend on a growing list of gadgets and apps but here some important ones you should know about
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Travelling? You probably already depend on a growing list of gadgets and apps. A handy checklist – from a battery-pack to power all those gadgets, to offline downloads to help you save on data charges – helps. Here are ten must-have gadgets, apps and other items that should be on your travel list.

A big power-bank

Want your phones, tablets and more running through a full day away from power outlets? Go for a 10,000 mAh model with two USB ports. These can charge a phone four times over. Brands such as Sony, Samsung, Xiaomi and OnePlus sell at well under Rs 1,500 online but stick to well-known shopping sites as fakes are plenty abound.

A good camera-phone

A good camera-phone is a must. Most midrange phones will do fine for outdoor shots, but good indoor shots need better cameras. iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy 5, Moto X and others in the class will let you travel without a dedicated camera. Even if you do carry a camera, a phone lets you quickly share a photo.

A camera

If you’re into photography in a big way, you can’t beat a dedicated camera with its optical zoom lens. Fortunately, you don’t have to buy an SLR. For under Rs 20,000, you can get good compact cameras with manual controls, great zoom, and wifi for wireless transfers to a phone or tablet. For instance, the Canon SX710.

A selfie stick

A telescoping stick that holds your phone at one end; you extend the stick to move the phone-camera further away to reduce ‘selfie distortion’. Invaluable for group selfies as well as scenic tourist shots when you’re in the frame. Check that it holds your phone firmly, especially if it’s a smaller one like an iPhone 4 or 5. Cheaper (Rs 500 upward) versions with a plug that goes into your stereo jack are okay: they work with iPhones and most Android phones. Bluetooth ones cost up to Rs 2,000, need to be recharged, and drain your phone’s battery quicker.

GoPro action camera

This is the only serious, near-professional piece of gear here. If you want to take action videos on a trip, there’s little to beat a GoPro. You could clip one to your helmet while skydiving, or while scuba diving (with a few accessories), or to a drone, or simply to a selfie stick to walk around with. They start at Rs 13,000.

A backup device

Your pictures are precious, and if you lose your phone or drop it into water, you could lose those photos. You can set up your phone to back up to the cloud when you go into a wifi zone (you don’t want to do this over expensive roaming data) but a great little gadget to keep is a memory stick that backs your phone directly. For Android and most other phones you have well-priced options such as the SanDisk Ultra Dual USB drive (Rs 600 for 16 GB), but the iPhone and iPad have very few options, and cost more: the SanDisk iXpand 16 GB is Rs 4,490.

A local SIM card

Buy a local SIM card for the place you’re travelling to (only for foreign travel). If you’re travelling from India, you can buy SIM cards from companies like Matrix, for the country you’re travelling to; these are easy to understand, with clear charges known in advance, though you may be able to pick up cheaper prepaid cards in the country you’re travelling to.

Tip: look out for data

Travel adaptors

A world travel adaptor is useful. Many of our devices (such as phone chargers) already use two-pin European plugs and should work in many parts of the world without an adaptor but it’s always useful to carry an adaptor that works with a range of outlets. Even better if you buy one which also has a USB socket build in, so you can charge your phone directly from it.

Taxi apps

Uber is useful in many parts of the world, to quickly summon a cab, even though some countries in Europe and elsewhere have been clamping down on such apps. You need to keep a credit card linked to it. Within India, you may also want to keep Ola, Meru and other apps installed and handy.

Offline stuff – maps and research

Despite our connected world, it helps to keep some things offline, not least of all because of high roaming data charges. One such thing is maps. For Google Maps, sign in to your Google account, open the Maps app, search for a place like Paris, zoom in to the area you are interested in, and from the menu, choose ‘Make available offline’. This saves that part of the map so you can view and use it even with data off.  Other than maps, it’s a good idea to store documents, ID copies, and travel guides and other books on your tablet, or, if you have one, your e-book reader.



AUTHOR'S BIO: The author is one of India’s leading technology writers, a media consultant and green evangelist.