If I was building my travel tech kit again today from scratch – and money was no object – here’s what I’d get. (Because I don’t travel with every piece of travel tech gear for every trip, I wouldn’t have a really heavy bag, as the list might imply!)
Computer, Phone, and Tablet
My travel computer of choice would be the MacBook 12-Inch Laptop with Retina Display with 8GB of RAM and 512GB flash storage. Its small, lightweight, powerful, and 100% suited for travel. To protect my investment, even if money wasn’t a consideration, style and weight still are, so I’d go for the Moshi Muse 12 MacBook case.
I’ve toyed with two solutions for protecting my MacBook Air from scratches and dents whilst traveling. The first is a BodyGuardz skin to give strong protection, without the weight. The other is a hard case. Some travelers use a hard case that looks cheap or inconspicuous (that is, that you’re not traveling with a beautiful MacBook 12″ computer), and not to expect too much from the product (my current solution) or they go for something more expensive. However, the more expensive option doesn’t always seem to guarantee satisfaction. Few products of this type seem to get good reviews. And the experience I’ve had with MacBook cases is that some can be extremely difficult to remove. That said, I’m glad the cracks on the edges of my case are blows that have been taken by the case, and not the MacBook Air.
I’ve used a Maclocks case to protect my MacBook Air from scratches and dents, and have been happy with it. It helps retain the MacBook’s attractive look, and provides basic protection against a snatch and run attack. How it works, is that using a supplied tool, you remove several screws from the base of your computer. The Maclocks case is screwed into the bottom of your MacBook using a set of replacement screws. You can then attach a standard Kensington lock to the Macbook case, and affix that cable lock to a desk or other fixed object. While it might be a deterrent to someone taking your computer while you visit the bathroom in a public library, I wouldn’t leave my MacBook locked in a hotel room and necessarily expect to find it there when I returned. (I note here though the multiple negative reviews at Amazon.com for the same Maclocks product. All I can say is that I haven’t shared the experience of some of the other reviewers at Amazon.com.)
My choice of phone would be the iPhone 6s Plus 128GB factory unlocked model. The larger screen of the iPhone 6s Plus makes it perfect for reading eBooks, travel guides, viewing maps, videos, and so on. The phone though is still lightweight and perfect for taking travel photos. Because its factory unlocked, you can use local SIM cards wherever you travel… which would help defray the cost of some of the expensive tech on this list! Because I’m a phone protection freak, I’d get the Lifeproof FRE Series iPhone 6 Plus/6s case to protect it.
If I needed extra storage for the phones, for the iPhone I’d get the SanDisk iXpand 128GB; for the Android I’d most likely get a 200GB SanDisk microSD card for size/convenience, although I’d also consider the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick 200GB or some kind of OTG storage.
With the 6s Plus, it may even be possible to leave your Apple iPad mini 4 128GB Factory Unlocked Space Gray (Wi-Fi + Cellular 4G LTE, Apple SIM) at home. The iPad mini would be my choice for travel if I had to pack an iPad. They’re tiny, lightweight, and easily slip into your bag so you can take them anywhere with you. They’re not ridiculously expensive, so you don’t have to constantly worry about them being stolen, as you may do with an expensive MacBook. The 128GB model should be enough for a good selection of movies to watch on the road.
Paired with a good keyboard, the iPad mini can also make a good laptop replacement in the right circumstances.
I mostly use minimalist cases for my iPad mini whilst traveling, so as to keep down the weight. If you want lots of protection, LifeProof’s series of iPad Mini cases are worth exploring.
Also, with the unlocked cellular version of the iPad Mini, you can switch in local SIM cards and share the Internet connection with your other devices or friends.
Here’s a related tip from iPhone Travel Life: one traveler can use a SIM card from one carrier on their mobile device, and your partner can buy one from an alternate carrier. That way if you’re getting poor Internet speeds or coverage on one device (or run out of credit), you can easily switch to the other network.
This model of iPad mini has the Apple SIM, which means that in certain countries, you may not have to swap out SIM cards from different carriers in order to get the plan that works best for you. (Here’s a description of how Apple SIM works.)
Power Strip and Adapter
Another device on my ‘ultimate’ list that I already own is the Jackson Industries PT2USB power strip. This power strip can charge up to 4 devices at once, and has a cord that wraps around the board for easy storage. You can buy something cheap in a hardware store, but I don’t know why you would when you can travel with a power strip as beautiful as this one. (They were on sale recently in my home country so I bought a second because I love them so much.) Unfortunately (for international readers), the PT2USB is designed for the Australian socket only. If I was from the United States, I’d get the Monster Outlets To Go.
Likewise I own the Satechi Smart Travel Router with USB Port, and I’d purchase it again in a heartbeat. It’s a router, Wi-Fi repeater, access point, and travel adapter… all in one little package. It has a 2.1 Amp USB port on the side so you can charge a tablet too. You can read my review here.
There are so many innovative USB sync and charge cables available these days its hard to choose which I’d want most. For the times where I want a tiny cable, I’d get the Mophie USB Memory-Flex Travel Kit. And, even if money were no object, I’m no fool, so I’d go for a quality cable like the inexpensive Anker 3 foot Braided micro-USB cableAnker 3ft / 0.9m Nylon Braided Tangle-Free Micro USB Cable. The cable’s durability makes it perfect for travel.
I’d pair that cable with one of Apple’s Micro-USB To 8-Pin Lightning Adapters that can convert a micro-USB cable into a Lightning cable. I’d go for the original Apple version because the cheap versions often don’t have the MFi (Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad) certification. MFi certified charging accessories have a tiny verification chip inside, and when iOS updates, sometimes unauthorised knock-off iPhone adapters are deactivated. Also, as handy as these adapters are, a good number of users report problems with them, including those adapters sold by reputable manufacturers. (I suspect, that in some cases the problem these consumers are experiencing might be caused because they’re using a poor quality micro-USB cable with the 8-Pin Lightning Adapter.) If you’ve bought yours from Apple though – despite paying a premium price – you know they’re going to honour the warranty.
For batteries, I’d go for the Anker PowerCore 1300 because Anker is one of the best mobile phone battery manufacturers around, has excellent customer service, and (what’s almost unrivalled for portable batteries) an 18 month warranty. The PowerCore has two USB ports and intelligent fast charging technology. Its 13,000 mAh power rating is enough to charge a smartphone several times, or a combination of devices, if you’re travelling with a partner.
The ultimate external storage device for travelers would have to be the tiny Samsung T1 Portable USB 3.0 SSD. It weighs only 26 grams and 7cm long, and is up to three to four times faster than a traditional external hard drive. Its big enough to store your Time Machine backups, along with all of the audio and video you might want to take traveling.
For flash drives, that would be a relatively easy choice for me, since I just bought one. I purchased the Patriot 256GB Supersonic Boost Series USB 3.0 Flash Drive, because Amazon wouldn’t ship (my other choice) the SanDisk 200gb MicroSD card to where I am living.
While a lot of professional travelers rave about the Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones, I’d go for something portable like Bose QuietComfort 20i Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones.
I love multi-purpose devices. Here I’d choose either HooToo TripMate Titan or the Hootoo TripMate Elite. These devices pack a router, USB Wi-Fi device, and battery into one small package. (I note here that some people complain about the battery life of the TripMate Titan.)
Given this is an ultimate list – and that I wouldn’t pack everything on the list to take on every trip – I’d grab a Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector Mobile as my luxury item. Then I could watch movies on the wall, roof, or wherever else took my fancy. Its also great for presentations, if you need. Finally, the battery of the Brookstone HDMI Pocket Projector can even used to recharge your mobile device!