The last decade or two have seen a massive worldwide explosion in digital technology…and with it the travel industry too has been revolutionised like never before. Today’s travellers carry everything they may need literally at their fingertips in that tiny little gadget called the smartphone.
Forever gone are the days of physically going to a travel agent, getting a box full of brochures of places to visit, having to physically pick up a printed airplane ticket, standing in long queues to get information, struggling with international phone calls and language barriers as you try to make bookings in distant places, being virtually unable to compare packages, itineraries, hotels and other options beforehand, having no visual idea of the places you have booked, having to wait for taxis that never arrive, battling with changing money and foreign banks that don’t accept your cards, or searching for hotels or restaurants while getting lost in strange cities.
Before the technological revolution, travel so often became a nightmare experience that it made you want to pack up and go straight back home.
But it is not only the traveller or tourist who benefits; the entire industry with all its various service providers have all gained from this revolution. And it keeps on getting better. Today you can plan, prepare, book and experience your entire trip flawlessly from your smartphone or laptop. Even strange languages are no problem: just use one of the many translator apps.
And no-more lugging a heavy camera around; your phone does it all and you can send the pics and videos to anybody around the world…instantly. No more developing and printing, and making copies to send to loved ones via snail mail that often loses it. Remember those? Need a taxi? No problem, just call Uber or Taxify. Navigate your way around the maize of narrow streets in Dar es Salaam or Cairo by using your smartphone’s GPS or Maps. You arrive at your hotel to find a double-booking and no spare rooms: no problem, just check for alternatives on Airbnb. Quick and easy. I’m sure you get my drift.
We shopped around for some of the latest tech gadgets that will make your life on the move even smoother, easier and more fun. Here is a selection of eight of the best:
- Rugged portable hard drives from LaCie
Ever lost your precious pictures and videos by accident by erasing them from your memory card while travelling? LaCie Rugged, a US company, offers a solution with its products – a range of rugged, durable, compact and light portable hard drives for mobile storage. There are different models and types at different prices available with storage capacity from 500MB up to 5TB. So free the space on your memory card and store your pics and videos safely.
- AllreLi USB Charger
This handy travel companion allows you to charge up to four USB devices from one single socket at a time. It is perfect for airports or hotels, and comes with clip-on adapters that allow you to use it in some 150 countries. A big time and hassle saver! And cheap at under R300 from Amazon.
- Portable USB charger
Need to make that urgent call but find your phone’s battery is flat? You no longer need to go into a coffee shop, buy a R40 cup of coffee just so you can use their wall plug to recharge. Get yourself a portable USB charger. For instance, the Adata PT100 Power Bank offers high-capacity 10000mAh charging via two USB outlets that allows you to charge your smartphone and tablet simultaneously and quickly. This is capacity enough for up to 5 full charges on some smartphones, and 1.5 charges on some tablets. It also comes with a handy LED flashlight to light up your mobile life. There are also a number of other similar products available in South Africa from portable charger suppliers.
- AirSelfie Drone
If you love to take selfies of yourself and your friends while travelling, here’s just the thing for you. The AirSelfie Drone is a pocket-sized drone packed with a 5-megapixel camera, 3-minute flying time and self-generated Wi-Fi. While you and your friends hang precariously over the edge of Table Mountain for that pic of a lifetime, fly the little drone up to 20 meters above or away and capture that full-view selfie that shows it all: you, your friends, the mountain, and the city and bay far below. It makes the old selfie stick look so obsolete! And they really don’t cost much.
If you are an avid reader who likes to read away the time spent travelling on planes, you most likely long ago got yourself en E-reader, and most likely a Kindle. If you haven’t, it’s certainly time you did. There are other products besides Kindle that may have more extras and fancy new features, but none have the capacity of Kindle, the leading E-reader in the market. You can get yourself either a tablet or E-reader, depending on your needs. The Kindle E-readers come in four varieties direct from Amazon. For those who say they still prefer to hold a printed, real-paper book in their hands, just try it! Take Kindle’s most popular model, the Kindle Paperwhite…it looks, feels and reads just like an old-fashioned book. With 4GB of storage, you’ll be hard-pressed to run out of space to store all your Kindle Store purchased books, newspapers, magazines, side-loaded PDFs, Microsoft Word files, and other documents. And you can carry your entire library with you wherever you go. You can browse the Amazon online bookstore and order your books instantaneously, from anywhere. Read them on the plane, floating in the middle of the ocean or sitting on a ledge high up in the Drakensberg. All the Kindles, and other makes of E-readers, are small and light enough to fit into a purse of a backpack to take along wherever you go.
- Skyroam Solis
This revolutionary and handy little device gives you unlimited 4G LTE data in over 100 countries. Simply pay a flat fee of around R100 and you’ll get 24-hour Wi-Fi hotspot access in any of these countries. It also doubles as a power bank to charge your phone while allowing you to connect up to five devices at once with 16+ hours of battery life. You don’t need SIM cards – just a quick touch of the finger and you’re connected.
- Tile Mate Anything Finder
Forever losing something while travelling, like a key or your phone? Well here’s one of the best little travel companions to solve that problem. The TileMate is a tiny Bluetooth device you can attach to your keys, your phone or just about anything. You’ll never lose it again and will always know exactly where it is. And they come cheap at under R300 from Amazon and other dealers.
- Belle Hop Travel Door Alarm
Concerned about your personal safety when travelling to far-off, strange lands? Well, for extra peace of mind you can now take your own miniature alarm system with you. Just attach this pocket-sized alarm to the door or window of your hotel or lodge room. It’s very simple to install and remove on any door or window in seconds, while the alarm is triggered by a sensor and will produce loud, high-pitched sounds with flashing LED lights to alert you and deter any intruders. Now you can feel safe wherever you go.