Travel Gadgets 2022
June 1, 2022 5:01 AM   Subscribe

What are the essential gadgets for international travel?

There are some older lists on the green, but most have dead links, so point me to all the latest greatest things I absolutely need for international travel.
I am US-based, and the last time I traveled internationally was in 2009. I'm planning to go to Morocco this fall. I don't want to buy a ton of stuff I won't use often (although I'd love to travel more), but I do want to be comfortable and prepared.
I know I'll need a travel adapter, some sort of pick-pocket-resistant money-storage system, and a travel pillow. But which? Do you swear by a certain pair of shoes that packs light and can be worn for miles on end? Should I get a 'tile' so I can make sure my suitcase is on the plane?
posted by BekahVee to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Over the years the one thing that has always been in my travel bag are active noise canceling headphones or earbuds. Being able to cut out the noise of airplanes, old hotels, buses, trains, etc. is a lifesaver. I don’t have a specific recommendation because they depend a lot on budget and personal preference (and new models all the time) but Sony on the high end and Anker Soundcore on the low end.

And get a zip bag for all your toiletries and always pack it on top. Put a charger in it. Makes packing in and out so much faster and more organized.
posted by Ookseer at 5:21 AM on June 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

i haven't used tiles, but apple's airtags are pretty slick. i have one in each of my bags, and on my keyfob as well. my phone warns me when i've left them behind (often in my hotel but i appreciate the warning). i left my keyfob at TSA when flying internationally, and i was able to track it down at the airport when i returned 3 weeks later.
posted by bruceo at 5:54 AM on June 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

A sleep mask, not just for the plane, but for hotel rooms which have shutters rather than curtains and which let a lot of morning light in.
posted by essexjan at 5:56 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I usually travel just with the shoes on my feet, but when I bring an extra pair, I like Rothy's- very lightweight and comfortable.
posted by pinochiette at 5:58 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

For my USB charger, I bring a short cord to use on the airplane and a very long one to use in places where the outlet is in an awkward location.

Flip flops (less bulky than slides) for bathrooms/hallways.

A WiFi booster/extender.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:59 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Contents of my Camino travel kit, packed into a [8.5 x 6.5 x 2.0 cm] snap-lid cough-sweet tin:
pencil stub; 3 safety pins; 8 drawing pins; 6 paper-clips; 2 each trouser and shirt buttons; needle & thread; 30cm thin copper wire; 3 nails; 3 sticking plasters; small toy; 12 small glass beads; adhesive address labels as biz cards. You can't travel with a bohemian razor blade or a pen knife any more, so buy in the first souk. Also a pack of small playing cards.
posted by BobTheScientist at 6:00 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

I genuinely don't know how american consumer landscape is like but in terms of mobile internet, it's becoming less common to depend on roaming data simply because it's much easier to get a mobile wifi device as rental. I mention the consumer landscape because you can get these devices before leaving the country or upon arrival (either way, at the airport). I prefer getting something before leaving because being at homebase should anything happen i can still drop off the device, but this might not be something that's prevalent in the US. In that case look for mobile wifi rental booths at the airport. You don't pay extra data charges beyond rental fee, only speed will be throttled to 3G speed above a certain download rate (usually 1Gb). The best thing is that it's not on roaming, they are on a domestic network. Having much more affordable internet when travelling internationally has been the biggest change in my personal experience. This is of course most useful if you're travelling in a group because you can hop on a shared wifi connection and if you don't have a phone with a dual sim slot (if you're a solo traveller).

In terms of the rest, it's just updates of longstanding advice. For example, microfiber towels are at various levels of quality and price now and i always keep on hand especially if I'm transiting at Dubai because that airport has decent showers for public travellers (IE those with no access to those lounges).

Other new things in the market I've noticed: a kit of different charger heads + smartphone key (for that tiny hole to pop out the SIM card slot). The one i have comes in a case that can transform into a mobile phone stand. New powerbanks come in a variety of input/output charger heads (USB-C and USB) plus some cute add-ons that can be useful like a flashlight.

Mobile internet + cloud computing is good enough as well that might as well have an upgraded google storage or Dropbox that you can access anywhere for soft copies of important documents. So, a cloud storage subscription i suppose.

I saw 'sleep mask' and if you're open to it, bring a couple of sheet masks, and during transit or at arrival these help a lot to rebalance your face's skin hydration levels.
posted by cendawanita at 6:01 AM on June 1, 2022

I swear by the airhook 2.0 - download movies onto your phone with netflix, disney, prime video, etc, for the trip.

This keeps your phone at eye level. It's so nice. You can lock it in all trip. I personally take a hacksaw to the cup part.

If you really want to fly with style, buy the wifi package. Such a huge improvement for $25.

Then, bringing plane snacks is amazing. I like something crunchy - cheetos are delicious for this.

When you arrive, buying a local sim card for internet is usually pretty quick and easy as well.
posted by bbqturtle at 6:01 AM on June 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Less is definitely more when doing international travel. But that being said, things that I have found helpful and/or things that are harder to get outside of the US:

- Power bank/extra battery - especially if you are going to use your phone to take lots of photos and/or use it for maps
- Specific toiletries if you have any that you particularly attached to - in my case, this is face and body sunscreen (I buy the travel sized versions for shorter trips)
- Seconding noise canceling headphones
- Chapstick
- I really like ON shoes for lightweight travel - you can change the laces so you can slip them on and off, are great for walking long distances and being on your feet all day.
- Pashmina/shawl for the plane + can dress up an outfit in a pinch
- The best thing that I have started traveling with is a packable duffel that folds down super flat - I take it packed flat on the way there, and then on the way home, I have an extra bag for dirty laundry, souvenirs, etc. Same can be said for a packable backpack.
posted by something_witty at 6:02 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh to add on the mobile wifi suggestion: because the rest of the world are big users of WhatsApp, it's just as likely locals will call you via WhatsApp Call rather than the phone line (it can work out to be cheaper). If you're planning any local guides and you need to do any kind of coordination that's usually the communication app of choice (maybe also telegram). It's not a given people will text to your phone number even if they're Moroccan iPhone users.
posted by cendawanita at 6:05 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I travel regularly in Morocco as a solo woman traveller and I would suggest one travel adapter with bonus USB port, a pocket sized USB charger battery, and a Moroccan SIM card you can buy near the airport exit. (They speak English and will set it up for you if you ask.) If you are a woman, I would also suggest a door alarm because I always pack when when I am staying in a hotel.

You don't need a special money belt, it's a distrustful, suspicious vibe from tourists. I just use a cross-body bag, held in the front of my body with the zip tag at my bellybutton rather than at my side, like this. Phone, passport, small travel wallet, hand wipes all fit easily. If you need to carry a camera and more shit, instead use a proper messenger bag with a zip carried the same way.

I have had a phone snatched out of my hand by some kids in Marrakesh in the madina (someone's grandmother shouted at them and made them return it), and now my phone goes in a phone case with a wrist strap. If you are using a camera, wear it over your neck with a camera strap.

This really only applies in Marrakesh, Casablanca, etc. Non-metropolis Morocco is much safer from these annoying petty crimes.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:11 AM on June 1, 2022 [7 favorites]

If you want to use a cell phone as more than just a camera, there are several different ways you can go--check out these links for info on SIM cards, locked vs unlocked phones, WiFi devices, etc.
posted by kingdead at 6:15 AM on June 1, 2022

Best answer: A mini backpack where the opening is against your back when worn is much classier than those look-I'm-an-American-tourist belts and still very safe. Mine looks a bit like this and served me well in very crowded Italian tourist sites.

And make sure you download the Google Translate language pack for Arabic plus the offline maps for the area in question. Even if you get a sim card with data (which I recommend), you might end up somewhere with poor signal.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 6:24 AM on June 1, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I have a couple of yards of shock cord (a.k.a. bungee cord) with hooks on the ends, and a dozen wire clothespins. It will reach across a shower or balcony to dry clothes.

I also bring two or three small (two inch?) spring clamps to pinch shut the sides of drapes: my wife likes a tomb-dark room, and this makes it a lot easier to sleep when a room has curtains with gaps at the sides.

I like a couple of pouches of Cusa or Starbucks instant coffee.

And I bring along a HooToo travel router to make a WiFi hotspot that I can use to stream/download extra movies, and where I can upload pictures to make room on my devices. It also can be used as a charger, and to share hotel wifi. It's awesome for under fifty bucks.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:29 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

This tiny LED flashlight with a clip that I put on my jammies (collar or near the neck) so I can find my way around a hotel room at night.

I have been using one this way 365 days a year for most of 20 years, and I find it handy several times a week even when I am at home!
posted by wenestvedt at 6:32 AM on June 1, 2022

Best answer: Allbirds shoes slip on and off easily (great for TSA checkpoints), and are merino wool so they don't get stinky.

They are soft like slippers so they remain comfy even on a super-long flight.

(I swapped out the laces for elastic cords with a clip at the top, and now I never need to tie them! I paid like a dollar from Ali Express, but you can get them anywhere. Some have a line-loc but others, like mine, do not.)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:36 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some of my essentials are:
- USB data blocker for plugging into unknown USB ports to charge devices
- Something that supports charging multiple devices at once; this could be a USB hub or just a wall charger with at least 2 ports
- Something to carry cables and other bits, like this Incase folio
- ProtonVPN for safe browsing
- An RFID blocking passport holder
- A Kenu Airframe+ for mounting a phone on a car vent
- Allbirds shoes and Bombas socks
posted by neushoorn at 6:48 AM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: For me, the biggest revelation in the last few years was noise cancelling get used to the droning on the plane but it is soooo much nicer if you don't have to hear it and they can also help you cope with other noise you may encounter.

Not a recent revelation but at least when checking a bag I always bring a Swiss army knife with me. It lives in my toiletry bag so there is no danger of it accidently ending up in hand luggage...but between the knife, scissor, bottle opener, cork screw etc it is the single most useful item.

And a thin microfibre towel because I have lots of long hair and they work so much better than normal towels and dry much faster.

Nthing flip flops, very thin duffle bag etc.

If you travel for work/have lots of gadgets it turns out the charger technology has undergone a few changes over the last 10 years....I recently broke out my nice camera for the fist time in 2 years to find that the battery charger uses outdated technology to especially if you bring some kit you don't use all the time, double and triple check you have what you need and not just 5 of the same thing.

Depending on your needs and the kind of accommodation you prefer consider investing in an adapter with multiple USB slots or a dedicated charger with multiple slots or bring your in car charging set up. If you travel to the same country frequently or for a long trip, consider if you don't want to dispense with the adapter and just get some cables with the correct plugs.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:00 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I recently went abroad for the first time in several years. There are really only a few things that changed majorly from previous trips:
- travel adapter with USB-A and USB-C ports along with grounded outlets. Compact, covers several kinds of power, replaces having a separate USB charger + plug adapter.
- cable converting USB-A to whatever is most useful, with a long cord - if you're charging on a plane or in a bus, you might only have access to a USB-A port (the older fat rectangle slots.)
- one of those nylon bags that packs really small into its own drawstring pouch

Things I had before that I continued to find useful:
- toiletry bag with a hook for hanging
- packing cubes in different sizes, including a clean/dirty one
- tiny packing cube with airplane blanket
- flip flops and lock (may not apply if you are not in a hostel)
- good earphones (I don't have active sound-cancelling headphones but towards the same end, I do have earphones with a good seal.)
posted by ASF Tod und Schwerkraft at 7:24 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It’s such a habit that I forgot: a second pair of shoes is a must. If your primary pair get wet (or, in one case, soaked in kerosine. Don’t ask), you will thank deities for them. Anything thin and light and breathable that you can wear outside the room. Even if your mains don’t get wet, it feels nice to change into fresh comfy shoes in the evening.
posted by Ookseer at 7:43 AM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Quick-dry underwear that you can wash in the sink and dry on the towel rack overnight.
posted by credulous at 8:29 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Having a huge Anker portable battery with PD, USB-C, and USB-A ports turned out to be a huge help on a recent trip. It turned out to be easier to use one battery to charge all of my devices, instead of plugging them individually into a wall outlet, and then charge the battery overnight.

Definitely noise-canceling headphones - so useful on longer flights.

In the past, I'd buy a local SIM for affordable phone and data rates, but at least T-Mobile (in the U.S.) offers temporary add-on travel packages that proved to be more economical. I'd check with your carrier and see if they have an add-on that lets you keep your phone number and adds decent data speeds.
posted by Transmissions From Vrillon at 8:49 AM on June 1, 2022

I have a banana-size device from Belkin that plugs into a single outlet, but has a few USB ports and three normal (110V) plugs. That way I can charge several low-load devices at the same time.

Other companies make similar devices, so see what best suits your needs -- but not being limited to a single outlet is niiiice.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:57 AM on June 1, 2022

Whatever gadgets you take, you will need to keep them charged and connect them. The multi purpose gadgets that do this are seductive, but what if they break down or gets lost? With this in mind, I try to have with me cheap basic stuff that is easily replaceable, that I can use in a modular way and gives me some redundancy.

Depending on the type of trip, My bag of travel gadget support stuff typically contains:

-small dual voltage power strip with usb-A/C charging ports
-multiport usb-A/C charger (with a cord because they are took heavy to stay plugged into a power adapter)
-At least 6ft surge protected extension cord
-2 sets of power adapter plugs
-usb-c hub (I have this one)
-2 car chargers (I usually end up giving at least one of these to taxi drivers)
-various usb cables
-HDMI cable
-power bank
-travel router and a short ethernet cable (this one)
-portable hdd loaded with my media of choice
-bluetooth earbuds
-bluetooth speaker
-Basic wired earbuds

As my wife says, "Way too much!". But it all packs into quite a small bag and I'm ready for just about anything
posted by Hash at 9:17 AM on June 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

Not a gadget, but remember to lay out credit cards, ID, passport, and take a couple pictures, and store them online. If stuff is stolen, you want to have that info. A thin Tile or Apple Air Tags in your passport, wallet, luggage, and on your keys is a great idea. I stole my sister's habit of packing underwear, socks, scarves, accessories, etc, in ziplock bags, extremely functional. Toiletries are in a zippered mesh bag.

I use my phone for music, books, video, but I still carry a paper book in case I'm stuck someplace.

Assume that you will be separated from your luggage, and carry a toothbrush, thin washcloth and underwear in your purse. Being able to brush my teeth, wash my face and put on clean underwear makes things manageable.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I usually travel carry-on for 3 to 5 months a year. My must-haves:

- InCharge X charging cables. A single cable can charge every device I own except my toothbrush and beard trimmer. I keep a Max (long) in my residence and have a regular one with me on my keychain, though I rarely use that one as my phone (Note20 Ultra) never runs out of juice in a single day.

- Dual voltage electric toothbrush and trimmer. I use Brio brand.

- Linen beach towel. Much better than microfibre. I use Outlier brand. I recommend you get the brightest color you can (their offerings change throughout the year) as you can see it on the shore when you're swimming, useful for keeping an eye on your stuff and knowing how far you've drifted. Most other brands come in a brown/sand color and only that color. I would not recommend that.

- A good pen with a few ink cartridges. I use a titanium CW&T Pen Type-B which doubles as a Kubotan. I utilize an adaptor to use Muji refills, which are supercheap and available in many colors and thicknesses.

- Good water bottle. I have a few to recommend: High Camp Flask (with built in magnetic cup) or, if you like tea, Viva Recharge Pro.

- Feelgrounds slip on shoes.

- A good international charger. The one I have is a bit bulky so switching to UC01.

- An RFID wallet. I currently use a Freitag / Secrid one but am switching to a MagSnap as it's slimmer.

- Fast drying clothes. I only travel to hot places and use Outlier New Way Longs and merino wool shirts, mostly from Icebreaker and Vollebak. I also like linen, mostly from Alex Crane. I don't really wear socks as I think they're gross, but do carry one pair of Icebreaker liner socks in case I'm going someplace I have to remove my shoes where barefoot isn't appropriate. Have never had to use them, though.

- Thin, packable light jacket and / or rain jacket. I use Vollebak R2Z Puffer and Waterfall Raincoat. I used to use Rains brands, but they're not as breathable. I do recommend their hats if you're going somewhere rainy.

- Greatest Carry-on bag I've ever found: Freitag Voyager. Used to use Tom Bihn but this is miles better. I almost always have one of their Masikura bags as an everyday carry.

- Reusable shopping bag. For me, that's a ZeroPoint Magfoldy Tote.

- Maco Wing sim card holder/kickstand as I always get a local sim when travelling.

- A good portable keyboard. Until I lost my TextBlade a few days ago, that was what I used. Not sure what to switch to now.

- Depending on your needs and savvy, a VPN may be useful. I use a Pico, but bought it for considerably less as it was on Kickstarter.
posted by dobbs at 10:00 AM on June 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

Oops, this is the correct link for the ZeroPoint Magfoldy Tote.
posted by dobbs at 10:24 AM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I don't travel with an umbrella, but if you do, Blunt makes the best umbrellas I've ever found. I use the Classic, but the Metro is their most portable.
posted by dobbs at 11:09 AM on June 1, 2022

Bring your own wash cloth, if that's something you regularly use. Bring a small amount of laundry detergent so you can wash it out in the sink.

Nth-ing to not bring a money belt. Not only is it tacky and unnecessary, it's super weird to have to reach into your pants or your shirt to pay for anything.
posted by donajo at 1:47 PM on June 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Assuming from the USA:
If you want to travel seamlessly with a mobile device, keep your phone number, and pay the same rate for 4G+ data abroad as you do in the USA ($10/GB, capped at 6GB), using Google Fi as your phone provider covers about 90 countries this way, all on one bill. No "daily fee", no renting devices, no messing around with SIM cards.
posted by lalochezia at 4:07 PM on June 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Something that is newer in the cell phone data side of things since the Before Times is eSIMs, which have no physical sim cars that you have to switch out (or have a dual slot for) and go through the trouble of getting once you get to a place (and often have to struggle through a language you aren't fluent in to get it). Often you can just sign up online and they send you a QR code to scan and your eSIM is basically set up. We used these on a recent international trip and it was SO much easier than physical SIMs because we could still receive text messages at our usual numbers for two-factor authentication and such.
posted by urbanlenny at 7:39 PM on June 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

Not a gadget exactly, but I absolutely love the minimalist convertible travel clothing I got from Diane Kroe. Doesn't wrinkle, can be hand washed in a hotel sink easily and dries quickly. Only thing I would change given the opportunity would be to get the wrap in black so it hides stains better than the cream one.

Also, this ebags bag. I have traveled for 14 days with just this bag. It's great not having to worry with checked bags anymore.
posted by crunchy potato at 9:16 PM on June 1, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you thank you everyone!
BobTheScientist, I have so many questions.
DarlingBri, this may be a silly question, but I assume the door alarm is only for when you are inside the room? Any concerns about securing items while you are not in the room?
posted by BekahVee at 5:16 AM on June 2, 2022

Best answer: Travel adapters are nice, but if you forget something like that, you can also buy it there. American travelers are also fairly easy to *spot*; they're the ones carrying large bags and gadgets.

So, advice: go through the list of "can't buy it there", and focus your time there.

Ignoring that advice, Anker makes super lightweight chargers that are also high quality things, and if you're carrying stuff, lightweight is great. I really like 6" or 12" cables, as I don't need to put my electronics 6' away as much as I need less stuff in my bag.

I like noise cancelling earbuds, but mostly for the flight. Bonus points for ones that work *mono*, so I can leave one earbud out while walking around and still hear things around me. Double bonus points for ones that charge with the same port as my phone, so I have one fewer cable along for the ride.

If you wear shirts that need to be ironed (less likely on vacation), the shirt-folder things (I have one from Eagle Creek) are quite good, as you then don't need to iron, and/or can just do a quick touch up.

Google Fi seems to work everywhere, and doesn't heavily gouge on data or voice internationally. Much amazement on that one, it's like living in a future I didn't expect.

Tom Bihn's small and midsize backpacks are truly wonderful; lots of storage, durable as hell, in the right color looks real real good.

Packing things like towels seems weird to me; I'm gonna hope that every nation on earth has by now developed this technology. ;-)

On the flip of it, I always pack sunblock if I'm going to need it, because local places that have a ton of sun, the locals don't use it, and tourist prices are so, so high that... yeah, pack that one. (I've seen a $28 USD bottle before, and WTF to that.)
posted by talldean at 11:27 AM on June 2, 2022

Best answer: DarlingBri, this may be a silly question, but I assume the door alarm is only for when you are inside the room? Any concerns about securing items while you are not in the room?

It's not silly. It is to secure the room when you are in it. You hang it over the door handle when you are in the room. I was just in a very nice chain hotel in Berlin and there is no way to bolt the door from the inside, which I don't love and I sleep much better if I feel secure. In Morocco my favourite riad has doors that barely close because they're about 700 years old, so I'm not complaining but I am also hanging a door alarm.

I do not worry about theft from the room in Morocco any more than I do from a room in Montana, partly because theft is equally likely in both places and partly because I do not worry about things I cannot control. I carry my passport for ID (nobody wants to steal a US passport anymore, nobody.) I have travel insurance but I have never made a claim. I try to travel shrewdly but not suspiciously.

Also you can buy anything you find you need when you get there!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2022

Late to this but have to recommend Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones for noise cancellation. I'm not a fan of noise so have tried many options over the years and found these to be by far the best. Would also always recommend in ear vs over or on ear headphones when it comes to blocking out noise.
posted by Lucy_32 at 1:34 AM on June 5, 2022

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