- June 25th 2012
Well, I’m finally thinking of making the switch to an Android phone. Since my trusty Nokia, previously one of my favorite travel accessories, has started crashing randomly a few times a week, it has to go. And though I’ll be sorry to say goodbye, I can’t help feeling excited about finally being able to check out some of the great apps for travel that are available.
Want to be sure exactly how much you’re spending when you travel abroad? Then you can’t do without this free tool so you always know what’s happening with your money. With up to date info on currencies you will always be able to tell if you’re getting a bargain or getting gypped.
If you need to keep track of your business travel expenses then there’s no better way to do it than with Expensify, a free tool that most business travelers rank among their must-haves. Incorporating credit card and bank account sync and receipt scanning, as well as standard expense logging, this program will take the hassle out of generating expense reports.
Real time flight info is essential when you travel and FlightView’s free flight tracker gives you just that (provided you are tracking flights that start or end in the US. Set up flight status alerts, share itineraries and check out delays. There are also paid versions of this ad-supported app.
The free Google Maps app is one of the best ways to take advantage of your phone’s GPS features. It has 3D buildings and Street View so you know what you are looking at, voice guided navigation and directions for public transit, cycling, walking or driving. There’s even info on traffic jams and local search is also built right into the app.
Rated a top app by more than 200,000 people (and counting), Google Translate allows translation between 64 languages, allows you to speak the phrase you want to translate (in 17 languages), reads the translation aloud (can anyone say Universal Translator?) and much more, including, of course, a built in dictionary.
Those are the first five on the list of must-have Android travel apps. Tune in tomorrow for part 2.
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- October 5th 2011
Here on the blog, we’ve been running an occasional series on best travel gadgets. One of the recent travel accessories featured was my Amazon Kindle. But with the recent launch of 4 new Kindles (including a tablet), does my own Kindle suddenly look less shiny? Let’s have a look at the new options.
First of all, the Kindle 3 is now the Kindle Keyboard, with Wi-Fi and 3G versions – no particular appeal there, except the graphite finish and the slightly smaller size and weight than my Kindle 2. These also hold 3,500 books and are priced at $99 and $139. Not much change either to the Kindle DX, as far as I can see.
Then there’s the Kindle, an entry level Wi-Fi Kindle with a 5-way controller and no keyboard. If you’ve already got a Kindle, I don’t see the point, as it holds fewer books and has a one month battery life, but at less than 6 ounces the weight is appealing and you can’t argue with a $79 price tag.
Then there’s the Kindle Touch, the cheapest new Kindle with its new touchscreen interface. I have to admit this one appeals. Compared to my Kindle 2, these have a longer 2 month battery life, are lighter at 7.5 ounces for Wi-fi and 7.8 ounces for Wi-Fi plus 3G), hold more books (3,000) and will stop me from ever having to click again. I’m wondering if the narrow area for paging back will work well, as this is a function I use a lot. The two versions are priced at $99 and $149 respectively.
The new hotness, as my sister would call it, is the $199 Kindle Fire, which aims to take market share from the iPad. This is the first color Kindle device and it looks good. Touch enabled, this Kindle has a 7 inch color screen, has 8GB of onboard storage, runs on Android, has a new browser (far better than the experimental version on other Kindles) and more. It allows you to run apps and games, play movies and browse the web. What it doesn’t have is a camera or microphone, so you won’t be able to Skype your friends (at least, not using video).
There’s no denying that the idea of seeing magazines in color is appealing and at $199, the price tag isn’t too shabby either. If you want a reading device on which you can also play games, watch movies and browse the web, then why wouldn’t you have the Kindle Fire? If you want a more interactive web experience, then it probably won’t cut it compared with the iPad. However, if you don’t need to Skype and want an all purpose entertainment gadget for your kids, then this will knock the socks off other gaming devices.
As for me, I just like to read on my reading device, so the Kindle Fire isn’t likely to be my favorite travel gadget anytime soon. However, I could be tempted by an upgrade to the Wi-Fi Kindle Touch once the international edition is available. Which one would you choose? Check out all the options on Amazon.
- September 5th 2011
One of my favorite travel accessories is a real workhorse, so it seems fitting to feature it today – the rucksack (or backpack). I had my first rucksack more years ago than I’m prepared to reveal and since then I’ve loved the sheer convenience of it. It’s great to be able to carry stuff on your back while leaving your hands free, and somehow the weight doesn’t seem as bad when the load is spread, especially if you choose one with broad, highly padded straps. I especially love rucksacks with lots of zipped pockets because it makes it easy to organize your stuff. Here are some of the ways I’ve used them:
- as a handbag – though bigger than the average purse, the various pockets make it easy to carry everything you’d normally have in a purse without being weighed down.
- as a laptop bag – my first laptop was heavy and the only way to carry it comfortably was on my back.
- as a shopping trolley – there’s no better way to store your purchases when you browse the markets and stores on your trips.
- as a pillow – if you’ve ever had to sleep in a car or wanted to take an afternoon nap after a picnic in a park, a full rucksack is a great place to rest your head.
Over the years, I’ve struggled to curb my laptop addiction. Now that I’ve got a smaller laptop and since carry-ons have got much smaller, my rucksack of choice at the moment is a yellow open-topped yellow model with a single zipped pocket. That said, I still find myself looking at rucksacks whenever I’m in the luggage section. Do you like rucksacks? What’s the best one you’ve ever had?
Check out more favorite travel accessories.
- August 22nd 2011
On my recent trip, I tested the Tugo drinks holder. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s an ingenious little device that gives you an extra hand when you’re traveling with your laptop, hand luggage, purse or briefcase. If you’ve ever wondered what to do with your coffee while carrying 2 or 3 of these items, then the Tugo is the solution.
The Tugo is available in various versions. The basic model is a piece of hardened rubber with a circle in the middle and a fastener on each end. The circle is the right size to hold a small or regular sized takeaway cofffee cup. An addition to the Tugo is a piece of netting with a rubber ring at the top that slips into the original Tugo so that you can also carry a bottle of water. All you do is fasten the Tugo between the handles of your carry on and you’re good to-go.
Invented by Karen Porte, described on their site as a ‘multitasking mom’, the Tugo is a useful accessory. In testing, I found it useful not only when on the move in an airport, but also when I was unable to score a seat with a table. I was able to keep my drink right in front of me, instead of having to hold a hot coffee cup while waiting for it to be ready to drink. One tip: turn the drinking opening towards one of the handles when in motion to minimize sloshing.
The Tugo recently won a Gold Medal at the Invention and New Product Exposition (INPEX), so clearly I’m not the only one who finds it useful. I’ve got mine stored with my carry-on so it will be ready for my next trip.
Have you ever tried the Tugo? What did you think?
Disclosure: I received a Tugo and mesh bag for testing.
- August 11th 2011
Although my Nokia phone is great for trips where I only need to connect occasionally, sometime I need a bit more. That’s when my Samsung netbook comes into play. I have an N110, which has now been replaced with the NC110.
I’d describe it as ‘small but perfectly formed’. It’s got a 10-inch screen, which isn’t that big, but it’s very clear so there are no problems seeing anything. It finds Wi-Fi signals easily and has no problem getting connected, unlike my old laptop which would occasionally drop the signal. On the NC110, I’m running Windows XP, Chrome and MS Office. Everything works pretty quickly and it’s enabled me to keep up with work on the road.
The one thing I found is that it’s very much an individual computer. It didn’t cope well with multiple user profiles, so I eventually abandoned that in favor of individual folders, each with their own copy of the portable browsers we use. I also need to take a separate mouse and keyboard if I’m going to use it for extended periods.
As well as being a work tool, the Samsung netbook has come in handy on family vacations for late night, last minute trip research, though I could also use the phone for that. Which laptop do you take with you on the road? What do you like best about it?