Monday, January 21, 2013

Gizmos & Gadgets

With a new year well under way I'm starting to get my vacation plans together. My trips will vary from a swanky girls' getaway to roughing it in the woods. These trips will cover a wide spectrum of activities, attire and transportation. For better or for worse, I have to admit that the one thing all of my trips will have in common is technology. So, how does one keep untangled in the wild world of wires we live in? Here are my favorite tips and tricks!

Old Meets New
I use an old cassette case to store my headphones in my bag when I travel. Then when I'm stuck in a hotel room or on a train I can flip the case open & use it as a stand for my iPhone. Your 1980's Hall & Oates cassette won't miss the case and it'll keep your wallet from getting tied up in your headphones.

Photos: Betty Kane
Left: Closed case holds earphones.  
Right: Open case can support an iPhone. However, this photo was taken with my iPhone,
 hence why it is not sitting on the case. 

The Power is Mine
When I travel with a small or large group I bring a short power strip. Mine has enough outlets to plug in four items. This way when four people are hunting for enough outlets to charge their phones, cameras & other gizmos I only need one. It also makes packing up for the return trip easier because all of my chargers are in one place.

Dancing in the ... Hotel Room
I love to listen to music when I get ready in the morning. When away I just pop my iPhone into a hotel cup or mug. This amplifies the sound. You may have seen this idea all over Pinterest. I've done it and it really works!

Beauty & the Beast
To travel with beauty accessories or not? That is the question. My answer? It depends on what you are doing. Sure, if you are going to meet the Queen of England you'd want to be all decked out. Short of that, I say, find shortcuts. Do a little research, if the hotel promises a hair dryer, leave yours at home. If it doesn't you may want to get a travel dryer. You can find them as a solid unit, like mine below, or with a folding handle. Don't bring both a dryer and a straightener unless you absolutely need both. Share when you are traveling with others. Four girls on a weekend getaway can survive with one hair dryer & one straightener. It's possible, I've done it.

Photo: Betty Kane
My travel dryer has gotten some good milage and is still going. It's a Vidal Sassoon. 

I'm always looking for ways to pack less and pack light. However if you're bringing gadgets of value, then place some value in how you transport your belongings. A $200 camera that goes into your bag without a case can come out worth $0. Take the time to find a case or cases for your gadgets that fit well. Also, consider the elements. I picked up a waterproof pouch to keep camera and ID in when I kayak. That pouch came in real handy when I was caught in a couple of Florida downpours in Disney. Check the camping or water sports section of your local sporting goods store for a "dry sack" or "dry bag." You can also check for some items of this nature. They come in a wide variety, small clear bags for phones to large bags meant for sleeping bags. Be creative and find one that fits your needs.

Inspector Gadget - Cell Phone Style
Make the most of the options your cell phone comes with. Use the notepad or take a photo of important aisle and section information in massive parking lots, such as a theme park or at the airport. Preprogram the contact information for your travel agent, airline and hotel.  If you are going somewhere in which you'll be facing a language barrier take pictures of some basic items you might need. It'll be easier to point at the picture of your hotel, a coffee cup or a bathroom if you are looking for directions to any of these.

Taming of the Wires
If you are one of those techie junkies who refuses to leave home without a mile of wires then the least you can do is keep them neat and tidy. There are two ways I've gone about this. The first being divide and conquer, by keeping each wire in a different part of the suitcase. I usually stash chargers in shoes or in a separate ziplock bag each. More commonly though I wrap each one up, secure it with string, tape or a zip tie and keep them all in one pouch.

Creative Cooking
One of the best gadgets I've ever purchased for traveling is a heating coil. Budget accommodations don't always include a microwave. This allows you to boil water easily. You can make tea, hot cocoa, coffee, ramen noodles and oatmeal easily. sells the heating coil and this folding heat tolerant cup. I use this pairing on nearly every trip I go on.

dual-voltage-heating-coil-22262.jpg            foldacup.jpg

Photos courtesy:
Left: Heating coil 
Right: Folding cup that can handle boiling water. 

I can't emphasize this enough. Once in a while you should put the camera down and just experience your surroundings. Turn off the bleeping cell phone and connect with the people around you. Spend the usual 15 minutes of morning time you would use with the hair dryer or iron to just go for a walk in your vacation surroundings. Hell, we could all use a little of this at home too, but I won't get carried away.

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