Travel gadgets for your next trip

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Whether you’re a hardened air warrior, travelling thousands of kilometres on your platinum airline cards, or someone who just likes to get away from wherever you are as often as possible, you’ve probably got a few travel gadgets you wouldn’t leave home without. Got room for a couple more? Read on.

Keep the noise down! Travel can be a joy if you have a good book and enough snacks and hydration to get where you want to be. The big problem is usually noise. Noise-cancelling ear buds are a good idea to help filter out the idiot playing dance music at full tilt with the sound all coming back out through his ears, the kid playing Nintendo DS games at high volume or simply the incessant hiss of a plane when you’re trying to sleep. Ear buds are often better for travel, as their small form factor makes them easy to tuck into a pocket. Expect to pay a premium for noise-cancelling, with most reputable headsets costing around a few hundred euros. Bose seems to lead the field at the moment but if you’re a real audiophile, the ‘shape’ of the sound is not adjustable and may not be to your liking. As the Americans say, your mileage may vary.

I hear you knocking. If you’re a back-packer or a business pro, you’ll have encountered doors that are far from secure. If you’re of a nervous disposition, or if you just really want to keep your belongings, a portable door lock could be the thing for you. Howsar makes a simple, lightweight plastic gadget that will secure any door, whether it already has a lock or not. Weighing in at 30g, it’s small enough to fit anywhere and will not set off any alarms at customs. Just the thing, too, for those hotel cleaning staff who don’t understand the concept of ‘do not disturb’.

What have the Swiss ever done for us? A really useful travel gadget is the good old-fashioned Swiss Army Knife. Victorinox and Wenger, as usual, have the market pretty well saturated, but they do have some excellent pieces. Forget the old days when you used to wonder if you’d ever use the attachment for ridding horses of uncomfortable stones in their shoes; today’s knives are right up-to-date with all the fittings you could think of and some more besides. Many knives can now be bought with USB storage and MP3 players in addition to the more traditional blades, scissors, magnifying glasses and all the others you’d expect to find. It’s surprising how often a simple blade comes in handy, too. Just remember not to put it in your hand luggage.

Have an appy trip. Practically everyone in the Western world has a smartphone of some kind, so there’s always a useful app or two to make your trip go that little bit better. TripIt is the darling of the travel apps world right now. Send it your hotel, flight, restaurant or conference confirmations, and it’ll pull out all the confirmation codes and present them in a nice easy-to-read format, as well as creating an itinerary for sharing with others. Of course, there is a ‘pro’ version, which will track your air miles and give you real-time gate changes as well as providing a flight finder and prompting you with the best seat options. If you think that’s worth nearly 50 euros, go for it.

Another app making a big noise is Entrain, chiefly because it claims to reduce or eliminate jet lag. If you’ve ever experienced the joys of laying wide awake at four in the morning, you’d probably pay good money for this. The good news is, it’s free. Developed between researchers at the universities of Michigan and Yale, this is no pretty app with an outrageous claim. By monitoring what are known as the body’s circadian rhythms. Simply, these rhythms are interrupted by how much or little light you get and the app tries to strike a balance by getting you to go to bed at the correct times. It’s already a top ten travel app in the App Store; it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.

Freebies to consider include Google Translate (a must have), XE Currency and SkyScanner, a cheap flight finder that has the fantastic option of anywhere. Tell it when you want to go and it’ll tell you where. All apps mentioned above should be available for Apple and Android devices, except Entrain, for which an Android version is “coming soon”.

None of the new-fangled nonsense. You’ve got the lot, from a portable nuclear bunker to an electric giraffe washer but did you stop to think about the basics? The humble power bar can be an amazing use of space. Hotels never have enough sockets, so a four-way power bar with a specially shortened cable to save space is a must. They can be bought extremely cheaply in Ikea. How about a torch? An LED version can be only a few euros but can be useful if the power goes out somewhere, or if you need to find whatever has rolled under the bed. All the high tech stuff is fun but don’t forget the simple stuff either.