If you were travelling the world, what geek tools (software & Hardware) would you take to help on your trip?
July 22, 2009 3:21 PM   Subscribe

If you were travelling the world, what geek tools (software & Hardware) would you take to help on your trip?

My housemate and his soon-to-be wife are going travelling after they get married next year. He's too busy to post this himself, so I thought I'd help out.

The trip is currently in its embryonic stages, so will be liable to many changes. They will start in the UK and make their way east, using the rail systems to head through central Europe, eastern Europe, Russia, china and beyond.

As a card carrying geek my housemate is after technical solutions to help make the journey go smoothly. He is also after any advice hardy seasoned travellers can give in regards to travelling in general.

He has decided to get a netbook for travelling. If there are good websites that help travellers plan and execute their journeys please mention them. More importantly please mention any good software for route planning/itineraries etc. My first thought for route planning was google earth but it won’t necessarily cache everything you need for offline use, so that’s not an option.

Any and all advice is welcome.
posted by thelost to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
GPS USB dongle, like this
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:29 PM on July 22, 2009

to go with the netbook...
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2009

Is this more backpacking + hostel in nature or rail + nice hotel in nature ?

Netbook (you got it)
Windows Netbook - Roboform with passwords.
Hackintosh Netbook - 1Password
Several thumb drives, at least one with portable apps suite.
Scanned copies of passports
Usb cables
Cat6 cable
Pdf's of as many maps as you can find (also on thumb drive).
List of consulates or embassies and numbers in countries where traveling (on thumb drive).
Rail schedules.
Skype account.
Google Voice Account
Credit card you dispose of and/or cancel when you're done traveling (after paying it off).
Silk sleepsack and pillowcase.
Good Gps (if at all possible).
posted by iamabot at 3:33 PM on July 22, 2009

and a 3G USB internet stick
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:35 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: PDF scans (read: weightless) of a number of guidebooks for the regions you are going.
posted by Spurious at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Printed or otherwise stored lists/maps of Internet cafés and Wifi hotspots, along with whatever specs are relevant to him (Wifi provider, for example). If he can, figure out Wifi providers that will work with most of his destinations (note: there's a company called "Free Wifi" in Paris that means free as in speech, not as in beer - in other words, you have to join & pay to use that "Free Wifi").

Converters for the power cords to fit various wall outlets. Obvious, but on the list. It's almost always cheaper before you leave home.

Also, I'm sure no one else would do this, but when I was traveling I stupidly left my camera battery charger at home. Don't do this.

Finally: small camera that fits in a pocket. DSLR is great and all, but you get tired of lugging it around pretty fast. I have a Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS that was perfect.
posted by amtho at 4:30 PM on July 22, 2009

I don't know...reading through all these suggestions I can picture your friend rather weighed down with machinery at the expense of enjoying being wherever he finds himself. The more gadgets he has the more time he will spend messing about with wifi connections, trying to find cable connectors, trying to find mains outlets to charge up batteries and worrying about somebody taking everything. My own advice for a travelling geek is "if in doubt LEAVE IT AT HOME". This is particularly the case when it is easy to access skype, email, metafilter and all life's other essentials from pretty much any computer.

If he wants to have fun with a geeky gadget then I would suggest
1. Everybody has a GPS but there are not many people who know the celestial navigation tricks required to use a small sextant like this.
2. By all means take a point and shoot digicam - or even something more elaborate if you are really keen. But more exciting would be a portable camera obscura.
posted by rongorongo at 4:51 PM on July 22, 2009

if you're carrying a computer or pda anyways, a piece of software (or a static softcopy) with important and useful phrases in a bunch of languages. including written versions for both the roman alphabet and various local alphabets.

i saw a freebie years back from a long distance carrier that was a laminated fold-out set of nominally universal pictoral representations for things like "restaurant", possible animals your food might be, hotel, doctor, etc etc for communicating across language and literacy barriers. something like that might work, too.
posted by rmd1023 at 5:29 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: Thumb drive with decent encryption. Should hold scanned copies of passports, visas and other travel documents (insurance, travel itineraries, frequent flier # etc.). Also, phone numbers of banks, embassies and consulates they may need.

This would all hopefully not be needed but available if the occasion demanded. Case in point, friends of ours got pick pocketed in the Paris metro last week, and it took them a while to contact the banks to cancel cards. You don't need this worry.

Disposable phone calling card for pay phones should you lose your cell phone.

Also, essential for any serious traveler: earplugs.
posted by arcticseal at 5:51 PM on July 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Netbook (check).
Handful of SD cards or whatever your camera takes.
Cheap SD-USB reader.
Portable Apps
Going foreign, proper power conversion stuff for netbook.
Devices (like cell) that charge or work over USB from netbook.
Cheap like dreamhost/etc ISP that you can keep password info (on USB-SD thing in keepass) so if you get the chance you can upload all of it somewhere other than you are and expect it to be there when you get back no matter what.
Extra small cheap as **** SD cards you can put things on and toss in an envelope and send home.

Above scan your things if you can. But the little SD-USB thing with Portable Apps is like your
computer on anything you can plug it into.

Got a Nintendo DS? Peel a sticker off some simple game and cover your SD card with it. The one that is your Portable App machine.
posted by zengargoyle at 6:21 PM on July 22, 2009

Best answer: This guy has thought of everything you could possibly need - from an altimeter to a nose hair trimmer.
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 6:42 PM on July 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oooh! I brought a tiny compass (keychain) and used it all the time when I was traveling in a strange city. Much lighter and more fun than a GPS. Also no delay while it boots up, no worries about battery power failing or lack of cell service nearby - used it in conjunction with a little map. Awesome.

zengargoyle is right - too many devices weigh you down. A phone that will work with new SIM cards (in my area, that's a T-Mobile phone or a jailbroken iPhone), a compass, maybe a tiny laptop (IF you'll have Wifi available where you're staying), and the ability to find Wifi / Internet cafés, and you'll have a great time.
posted by amtho at 11:17 PM on July 22, 2009

I would try to figure out some sort of backup solution. It's too easy for a drive failure or theft to result in a whole trip's worth of lost photo, writings, etc. Probably small external hard drive (powered from netbook) and try to backup to the cloud as often as possible.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 11:39 PM on July 22, 2009

nothing. ie nothing techy. Just take a camera and a mobile phone and a few adaptors to charge things.

Everything else is a distraction.

Also I think you need guidebooks / phrasebooks in printed form. you don't want to need to open a netbook to look up what XXX is in a fancy restuarant.
posted by mary8nne at 5:26 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

most of these suggestsion are absurd. (and that guy who thought of everything is nuts - when i'm onn holiday I want to experience the local shit not spend 90% of my time looking for WiFi hotspots so I can Skype my friends. jesus. - you will see them when you get back, i'm sure any good stroies will still be good stories when you get back.

Small Phrasebooks, a Guidebook or two, a Camera, and a Mobile Phone. (+clothes)

Scan all your passports, tickets etc before you leave and upload to a Google mail acount you knwo have acess to them almost anywhere if something goes wrong.
posted by mary8nne at 5:33 AM on July 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

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