On the road
12 MUST-HAVE TRAVEL GADGETS
Man, why didn't we think of that? We've tested them and now we're kinda obsessed with these gizmos!
I love a good gadget. But when it comes to travel, a gadget has to be really good for me to make space for it and lug it around. With bags full of snacks, activities, toys, devices, wipes, back-up outfits, and all the other accoutrements required when traveling with a little one, I only have room for stuff that’s going to be game-changing. So here are some of the travel gadgets that make the cut. We've included links for easy purchasing.
Kidtripster Tip: By the way, I’m slightly obsessed with the website, The Grommet. With more than 2,500 products, this company sources “unique, undiscovered products with a purpose invented by people with a story.” It launched big brand names like FitBit and OtterBox. The site is loaded with brilliant travel gadgets that are truly innovative.
Calling all head-bobbers and flycatchers! This one’s for you. Napping on a plane (or bus or train) just got a lot less embarrassing thanks to this soft but supportive scarf-like, neck saver. Lightweight and easy-to-pack, the Trtl has flexible internal supports that hold your head in a natural, ergonomic position which means no more leaning on anyone or anything. Wrap the soft, washable fleece scarf around your neck or around your face to hide that gapping mouth. It sure beats bulky, U-shaped travel pillows or the awkward and embarrassing blow-up kind! Cost: $29.95
Boring and obvious? Yes, but admit it – how many times have you taken the wrong adapter? Or worse yet, how many times have you had to pack several different chargers and adapters for one trip (one for your phone, tablet, laptop, and camera)? Enter the TWIST Plus World Adapter DUO. This bad boy has 2 USB ports, an AC adapter, and a built-in MacBook charging station allowing you to charge up to four items at a time in a single outlet. And with a simple twist, this universal adapter works in 150 different countries. $42.95
Also perfect for the world traveler: the TWIST World Charging Station. With four USB ports, you can charge several devices at once. Cost: $39.95
If you’re anything like me and the sight of a pedestal sink in your hotel bathroom (and nowhere to put your stuff) annoys you, then you’re going to love this latest invention. The Everything ORGO expands over any pedestal sink or standard sink bowl, turning it into a usable work surface while keeping all your toiletries organized, visible, and accessible. With two large compartments, zippered pockets, and removable organizing inserts, this toiletry case keeps everything neat and actually creates a flat surface to set things on.
I’ve tried dozens of toiletry bags over the years and am forever searching for one that’s better than the last. I’m not going to lie – I was skeptical about this one at first, thinking it was a little too big and bulky for me to love. But then I took a month-long trip to Europe that involved unpacking and repacking at least ten times and couldn’t believe how much faster it made my morning routine. I was able to find what I needed when I needed it without having to rifle through a bag in search of items. And I noticed that there were fewer spills because items stayed in place during travel. It’s durable, lightweight, and wipes clean easily with baby wipes. Cost: $44.95
KidTripster Tip: While the Everything ORGO is perfect for toiletries and cosmetics, it also works for keeping your kids’ toys, crayons, and activities organized on the airplane – even providing a flat surface for playing games, coloring or watching movies.
When leaving your hotel room and heading down to breakfast or the gym or pool, wouldn’t it be great to just carry your phone, room key, ID, and a few bucks? That’s what the woman who invented the Eyn (everything you need) smart phone case thought. Flip it open and you’ll find a hidden storage compartment that holds a few credit cards, your driver’s license, and some cash. It also has a mirror inside, attachable wrist strap, and a kickstand feature for watching videos and FaceTime chatting. You even can fit a single house key or one of these nifty lip glosses, designed especially for this case. Best of all: it actually does a great job protecting the phone too! And the most ringing endorsement? From a teenager I know who thought this case was "the coolest." Cost: $19.95
KidTripster Tip: This case is also great for city living and stroller users, keeping your most valuable belongings close and accessible. No more rummaging around in your bag or under the stroller for your wallet!
I can’t tell you how many parents that I know who swear by packing cubes. I’ve never been into them, mostly because I thought they just added weight to my bag. But then I tried these. The Spacepak compression bags release excess air so you can fit more clothes into less space – perfect for over-packers like me. And with individually labeled bags for clothes, shoes, underwear, and toiletries, this packing system makes it easier to find what you want, when you need it. They’re especially good for keeping you organized on multi-leg trips where you’re packing and unpacking several times. They're the best thing to happen to suitcases since the spinner wheel! Cost: Shoes $30; Underwear $42; Toiletries $42
If you think these are just fun, silly gadgets only your teenager could love, think again. This collapsible phone grip makes your phone or tablet more functional and colorful, too. Stick one to the back of your phone, pop out the accordion-like device, and hold it for a quick selfie or use it as a stand during video calls. Or do double duty and attach two PopSockets to the back of your phone and use it as a horizontal stand for watching movies or use them to wrap your earphones around. They’re not just frivolous and fun, they’re actually functional! Added bonus: it can make shooting video a lot steadier. PopSockets come in a ton of different colors, designs, and patterns. Cost: $10-15
This is THE travel gadget that we never leave home without! At least, not since we had a child who was old enough to watch a screen. The iGuy is a cute, kid-friendly, protective iPad case that makes your fragile devices nearly indestructible. And it’s not just a protective case; it’s a stand too. The iGuy’s soft, squishy arms allow clumsy, little hands to hold onto the iPad easily and its chunky legs allow it to stand upright so kids can watch their shows. The case doesn’t protect the front, so you still run the risk of breaking the glass screen, but when I say nearly indestructible, I mean it. We’ve had ours for about 3 years and in that time, our iPad Mini in the iGuy case has been dropped on tile floors, pavement, and in the gate area of several airports (not to mention on the floors of the airplanes themselves!). Bonus: the case protects the device even while packed in your carry on, so you don’t need a separate padded case. It can be removed and washed with soap and warm water because, well… you know, sticky toddler hands. Cost: $29.95
Every kid’s tablet needs a pair of good but protective headphones. And every parent needs a pair that the child will actually wear. LilGadgets Connect+ Premium headphones are lightweight, foldable, and compact, featuring SharePort technology that allows you to connect multiple headphones to one device, no splitters needed. They’re also comfortable, have a volume control, and come in a variety of fun colors. Cost: $17.95
Getting little kids comfy enough to sleep on a long-haul redeye in coach can be quite the challenge. I can’t tell you how many flights that I’ve had with my daughter stretched out all over me, leaving me sleepless and my limbs numb. So on our last flight from New York to Dublin, we packed the 1st Class Kid Travel Pillow in our carry-on. Designed to allow young children to spread out and lie down (without lying on you), this inflatable, block-shaped pillow sits on the floor of the airplane between your seat and the seat back in front of you. It’s a really great invention – one that I wish I had owned when my daughter was about 1 to 3 years old. But she’s nearly 4 now and very tall, so it wasn’t ideal. However, she was able to lie her head on the pillow and body on the seat curled up, so she could sleep. On our return flight in a bulkhead seat, she used the pillow as an ottoman, so she was nice and comfy as she watched her movies.
This would definitely be more comfortable for younger, smaller children, and I highly recommend it if you’re taking a long flight with little ones. It takes up very little space in your carry-on and is easy to inflate; just hold it up to the air vent above your seat, and it does the work for you (sparing you embarrassment and hyperventilation!). Bonus? This genius invention also keeps little legs from kicking the seat in front of them; with the pillow in the way, they can’t swing their legs! Cost: $22.50
If your travels involve using your phone’s GPS or Waze, then you want your phone where you can see it – not in your lap. That’s where this guy comes in handy. The Chargeworx smartphone mount is magnetized and fits in the air vents of any car’s dashboard. Shove it in the vent, stick your phone to the magnet, and voila – a safer and less illegal way to navigate. Cost: $21.74. We've also seen it at LotLess for less than $10.
Come on, fess up. How many times have you been at baggage drop with that sinking feeling as you wait in line - that feeling of dread that washes over you as you lift your bag onto the scales, praying it's not overweight and you’re not going to be charged a fee or worse, forced to unpack a few pound’s worth of stuff in front of everyone and their mother at the airport. That’s why there’s this little do-dad. It’s a multi-function travel tool: a scale, a flashlight, and a handy USB power cell for charging up your phone. Again, boring and utilitarian, but it's a major sanity-saver.
If you want to stay warm on the airplane but don’t want to waste space in your carry-on with a big, bulky blanket, pack this. The Cocoon CoolMax travel blanket is made from lightweight, t-shirt-like material that packs well. Stow it in its own sack, which it’s about the size of a grande Starbucks cup. Unfold it, and it offers surprisingly warmth. Cost: $35.95
KidTripster Tip: Buy it in black, like I did, and it does double duty as a wrap. I actually wore it out to dinner one night and got a compliment on it!
Editor's Note: I once unwrapped one of those airplane blankets packaged in plastic to find... vomit. Yes, vomit! Proof that the blankets don't get washed! Bring your own!
Marcia Breen is an American writer who went to London, met an Irishman with a Russian name, and followed him to Bermuda. Nearly a decade later, they are married and living in New York City with their 3-year-old daughter.