I’ve backpacked Asia, lived in Thailand, surfed and dived Southeast Asia, hiked in Nepal, trekked through Colombian jungles, lived in Europe, road tripped the US, and visited a dozen US cities on business. Gear matters. The right bag, the right adapter, little things make big differences. As I find cool gear perfect for traveling, I’ll add it to this page:
The first time I flew to Asia, I didn’t bring a camera or even a lonely planet. I thought I was going to rough-it. Over the years, I’ve learned that traveling isn’t all safari hats and Goretex shirts. I travel with my laptop, my iPhone, USB drives for printing at shops, etc. Add to that the need for credit cards, passports, and cash and you start to realize that traveling with the right bag makes a big difference. I suggest you pack two.
A Day Bag For Gadgets
When traveling with expensive toys, an old backpack doesn’t do the trick unless you want to be worrying about pickpockets. This bag is obviously suited more towards cities and less for jungle trekking.
It unzips from the protected side, keeping your laptop right against your back. It has pockets for all your small stuff. However, it does cost about $120 USD.
The Simple & Cheap Bag Solution
If you’re on a budget and looking for a cheaper option, may I suggest the drawstring backpack?? It has been my go-to for years. Stuff it in your pack or luggage during long hauls, pull it out for day trips.
No zippers, no pockets. That means no chance to make a dope move and leave your wallet in an exterior pocket. It means you won’t have your camera stolen when you forget to put the combination lock back on after a quick-stop. Simple and cheap ($13).
An ‘Oops’ Proof Bag
Another bag that you can roll up and pull out for day trips is the dry bag. It does what it says, it keeps things dry even when you get wet. Cause rain happens, sometimes when you don’t expect:
Great for rainy days, boat trips, jungle treks, river excursions, etc. This one is fancy, running you $35, but you can get them for $15. Also, added benefit, it’s easy to clean. Jungles are muddy, boats can be grungy, you get the idea. Drop it in the mud, tie it to a boat’s railing and let the waves splash over it, it’s a care-free kinda bag.
The Coolest Bag
This one is for the bag nerds. I had to mention this famous Kickstarter messenger bag. They asked for $100,000 to fund making this bag and $4,869,472 has been pledged at the time of this writing.
It’s super versatile. It works as a camera bag, laptop bag, or overnight pack. It can be worn in several ways. It’s the only messenger bag I’ve ever seen that offers a waist belt to keep it from sliding around. When you need less space, it folds into a smaller bag. It’s the bag of bags.
The Ideal Charging Adapter
Yes, you obviously need an adapter in many countries. But it’s not that simple. The issue you might forget to plan for? The room with too few power outlets. Solution? Carry a long, bulky power-strip!! No. Buy something like this:
It can charge three devices at once AND you can plug your phone / tablet USB chargers directly into it. Plus, it works in a bunch of countries as it has a handful of plug types. I haven’t used this one specifically, but the point is, be prepared for one outlet.
A Small Battery Backup, or Two
Here’s a question, when power is power, how do you chose which battery backup to buy? You buy the one with about 18,000 positive reviews, that costs only $12 USD.
Also, buy two. Cause why not? Power gets you through that never-ending flight. Power saves your ass when your phone is about to die and you’re still on the street, dragging your luggage, looking for your accommodation.
A To-Do List App
You need to make a pack-list, to print out your boarding passes, to book that next leg of transport or hotel in your next destination, to copy the directions to the hotel, etc. But it can’t be an app that wants to sync and doesn’t work offline, because you don’t have internet on the plane or in the street of foreign countries. Enter Do.List:
It’s not a calendar app. It’s a list app. List what you need to do Today, Tomorrow, and stick everything in the “Later” list. There are also life lists for packing, projects, etc.
Full disclosure, I did also happen to think up, design, and develop this app. (-: But I built it to be all the things my previous to-do apps were falling short of, functional.
Before we left to travel for a couple years, we’d cut down on our weekly TV time but still had a few shows we couldn’t do without and I was starting to get really it watching the Red Sox. Not knowing if it would be of any use, we brought our Apple TV to Thailand and to Spain. It works great.
Netflix and HBO
Netflix just rolled out a ton of content globally. Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) is brilliant and got the movie companies to stop being stingy. Now our Spain Netflix selection is better than our US selection, packed with popular shows and movies. HBO also offers a Now subscription for those who don’t have cable. For $15/mo. you can watch all HBOs content from the Sopranos to Game of Thrones.
Renting and Buying
Apple TV allows you to rent and buy movies too, but the prices are indulgent. When Steve Jobs wanted iTunes to be a success, he personally visited the record companies and convinced them. When Reed Hastings wanted Netflix content to be of high quality for every country, he personally negotiated for it and publicly gained support for it. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for iTunes rentals, where a 24-hour digital rental costs $4-6 USD. In my opinion, Tim Cook needs to get his ass out there and get us some better prices.
Works with Your Apple Devices
However, Apple TV has other useful perks. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer then you can send and watch content to your TV from your device. Have a digitally downloaded movie (from any service, not just Apple)? You can mirror it onto your TV.
Other Cool Stuff
You can also watch YouTube videos directly through your TV, watch content from tons of apps like Nat Geo and Vimeo, and also watch sports. Sports require additional purchases. I paid the $120 for a year-long MLB subscription. For 160 Red Sox games, it was less than $1 a game so that actually seems like a reasonable price. Since games are generally 3-4 hours long, it breaks down to about 25 cents an hour, which isn’t a terrible deal.
Most Helpful Travel Apps
TripAdvisor – For food recs
SkyScanner – Our favorite flight-search app.
AirBnB – We started using AirBnB instead of hostels this year, and we haven’t looked back!
Google Translate – Looking up words is old fashioned! Why not just point your phone’s camera at words and watch Google magically translate it?
Duolingo – Learn a new language by doing. Every lesson is 100% interactive. Free and easy to use.
Tandem – Connects people who want to practice a second language for messaging and video chat. Free.