Gadling Gift Guide: Tech for Travel

Tech Gift Guide: Samsung 9 laptopTravel has certainly changed in the last decade and most of us would probably agree that those changes haven’t always been for the best. Fortunately, technology has been one of the bright spots over the past few years however, and we now have a plethora of options for entertainment, staying connected, and getting work done while on the go. Here are a few great gift ideas for the techie traveler on your list this holiday season.

Laptops
More and more of us are traveling with computers these days, even if we don’t always need them to do work. A laptop keeps us connected while on the go, allows to play games, watch movies, upload photos, and so much more. With that in mind, here are three great options for travel.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1
This powerful and rugged laptop is perfect for adventure travelers heading to remote destinations. Built on a carbon fiber frame and packing a water resistant keyboard, the X1 is designed to take a beating and still keep working. It also happens to be one of the thinnest ThinkPad’s ever built and weighs in at just 3.7 pounds, which is amazingly light for a ruggedized laptop. The battery lasts a solid 5.5 hours and can be recharged to 80% of its power in just 30 minutes. ($1467)

Samsung Series 9
If you’re looking for something a bit more stylish than the ThinkPad X1, without compromising durability, then look no further than the Series 9 from Samsung. It’s Duralumin case is built from the same materials as modern aircraft, which makes it strong, yet light and flexible. This ultra-thin notebook is just .6 inches thick and weighs in at a mere 2.9 pounds, which makes it a lightweight and powerful travel companion for those extended trips abroad. The 7 hour battery life will be appreciated on long flights as well. ($1550)

Asus Zenbook UX21
One of the first of a new line of laptops dubbed “ultrabooks,” the Zenbook UX21 from Asus is a great option for individuals who like to travel light. This diminutive notebook weighs just 2.4 pounds and is razor thin, allowing it to slip inside your carry-on with ease. The Zenbook offers 5 hours of battery life, features a 128GB solid state drive, and premium sound for listening to music and movies while on the go. It also packs a pleasant price tag, with Amazon offering it up for just $966.

Logitech Ultimate Ears 600vi headset
MP3 players have made possible to take our entire collection of music with us when we travel, but you’ll need a great pair of headphones to get the best sound possible. We were suitably impressed with the Ultimate Ears 600vi ear buds when we reviewed them a few weeks back, awarding them high marks for both comfort and sound quality. The integrated microphone, volume, and track controls work great as well, and the included hard carrying is more than appreciated when throwing them in your pack before you go. ($95)

Travelers looking for a more traditional set of headphones that are both super-comfortable and noise isolating, will want to investigate the Bose QuietComfort 15. While pricier than the Ultimate Ears, they also set the standard for sound quality on a mobile device. ($300)

Want to share your music with friends? Then check-out the iHome iHM79 portable speakers. They feature rechargeable batteries and great sound, in a tiny package. ($42)Amazon Kindle E-Reader
Sure, the Amazon Fire is the new hotness (pun intended!), but it is tough to beat the original Kindle, especially at it’s new $79 price point. The device’s e-ink display is perfect for reading in nearly all conditions and the device has outstanding battery life that is measured in days, not hours. The Kindle has done for books what MP3 players did for music – allow us to bring our entire library with us when we go, and it is still a great gift for the tech obsessed traveler on your list. ($79)

Tech Gift Guide: Nikon 1 J1 CameraNikon 1 V1 Camera
Digital cameras have revolutionized the way we capture photos and video from our travels, and Nikon has one of the best new options for travelers this year. The Nikon 1 is the company’s first foray into the micro 4/3 category, which offers up a compact and lightweight body, as well as a line of interchangeable lenses. Smaller than a DSLR, but more powerful than a point and shoot, the Nikon 1 takes amazing photos and video, without taking up too much room in your bag. ($599)

For those looking for simpler and more affordable option, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP1 is tough to beat. It is a compact point and shoot camera with great image quality, fast focus, and outstanding battery life. ($120)

iPhone 4S
While the iPhone 4S is rightfully getting lots of attention for its new digital assistant, Siri, and it’s outstanding camera, that isn’t why we’re putting it on our holiday list. The newest version of Apple’s iconic device is also a World Phone, which means you can now use it in over 200 countries. That alone makes it easy to recommend for travelers looking to stay connected while visiting foreign lands and previous iPhone users will rejoice that they will no longer need a separate phone when traveling abroad. ($200)

Outlets To Go Powerstrip
Keeping our gadgets powered and charged while traveling can be a real challenge, especially in hotel rooms, which seem to always lack convenient places to plug-in. A simple travel powerstrip, like the Outlets To Go from Monster, can help solve that problem. The tiny device packs three AC outlets and an integrated USB port, which is fantastic for keeping your phone, iPod, or other small electronics charged. ($12)

International travelers may want to pair the powerstrip with the Kensington All-in-One Plug Adapter as well. I take one with me whenever I leave the country, and have found it useful on many occasions. ($15)

Roku 2 HD
While not specifically a gift for travelers, who doesn’t enjoy returning home from a long vacation and curling up on their own couch? The Roku 2 HD streams all kinds of Internet content to any TV, including Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, YouTube, and so much more. It is also a great way to share photos from your latest adventure with friends and family, on your big-screen, high defnition television. Best of all, it costs just $70, which isn’t much for a tiny wireless device that offers so much entertainment. ($70)

Holiday gift guide for business travelers

gadling gift guide business travelers dci universal chargerIf you like with someone who travels extensively for business, you know how chaotic life can be for them (and you, too). Any gifts that you give them that can simplify their lives and make their time on the road easier will be greatly appreciated. That said, business travelers – and most frequent travelers, for that matter – can be very particular about what they like and what gets left at home. If you’re planning on surprising the business traveler in your life with a gift this holiday season, be sure to read on before you spend a dime. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite travel gear that are sure to become part of your business travelers arsenal against road weariness. And, lest you think that such trinkets are sure to break the bank, rest assured that many of our suggestions are economical enough to be stocking stuffers.Franklin Covey USB Universal Charger

This little device lets you charge up to 10 gadgets with a single USB port. With plugs that fit most mobile phones (including iPhones, Android devices and Blackberries), you never have to worry about leaving one of your cables behind. Not bad for $15.95.

BlueLounge Cable Clips

Prefer to carry around all of those individual cords? At least keep them tidy with these clips. Available in small, medium and large, as well as a variety of colors, they keep your carry-on bag or briefcase from looking like an octopus graveyard. They’re perfect stocking stuffers for under $10.

gadling holiday gift guide business travel nau shroud of purrinNau Shroud of Purrin Blazer

Looking for a big ticket item that’s worth the money, versatile and practical all at the same time? This is it. Nau’s Shroud of Purrin Blazer is formal enough to be part of your business attire, hip enough to be worn casually and made to keep you warm and dry wherever go. The top front pocket is slightly askew (fashionable!), but also has a both a snap and zipper, keeping things like passports, boarding passes and cellphones secure. The interior pocket is great for your wallet. Add to that an exterior that is wind resistant and water repellent along with a fleece-lined interior and you have the only jacket you need to bring on your business trip from spring through fall. That helps justify the $365 price tag. Available now directly from, um, Nau.

DODOcases

Time on the plane, in airports and at the hotel don’t need to be lost time. Nor do you need to spend every waking hour of your business trip working. You deserve a break to read a book, watch a movie or just play Angry Birds. That’s why you pack your iPad or Kindle when you travel, right? Well, those devices need to be protected and you might as well look good while doing it. DODOcases make your iPad or Kindle look like a notebook but, unlike the Moleskin version, it lacks a notepad, thus cutting down on the weight. The DODOcase for the iPad weighs a mere 8 ounces, while the DODOcase for the Kindle checks in at just 5.28 ounces. The DODOcase is $59.95 for the iPad and $49.95 for the Kindle.

gadling business travel gift guide kensington absolute power chargerKensington Absolute Power Charger

We’ve been fans of Kensington chargers for a while now, but the Absolute Power might be the best one we’ve seen yet. Capable of charger a laptop and two USB devices, it packs 100 watts of power for all of your charging needs. It also comes with 10 adapters to fit most laptops (sadly, not Apple). It features a USB port and a mini USB port, along with a mini USB to USB adapter, as well. If you use your gadgets all day, backup power is a must. The Absolute Power is well worth the $100.

ioSafe Rugged Portable Hard Drive

This durable hard drive is built for travelers who don’t want to rely on “the cloud” to backup or store their data. This drive will drive will survive almost anything you throw at it. It’s available in 250GB, 500GB, 750GB and 1TB. Prices start at $108 on Amazon.

gadling business travel gift guide j.crew montague weekenderJ.Crew Montague Leather Weekender

In past business travel gift guides, we’ve recommended rolling luggage. We recognize, however, that not everyone likes wheels on their bags (such as our esteemed editor-in-chief). As such, we saw fit to include a handsome, sophisticated and durable alternative to the classic roll-a-board. J.Crew’s Montague model features 82 liters of storage space, sleeves to organize your gear and a detachable shoulder strap. It’s built to last and easy to carry as you pass by everyone in the airport by dashing up the stairs. It’s available now for $475 at J.Crew.

Knomo Dundee Briefcase

A perfect carry-on will hold your computer and some paperwork, features a few pockets for organization and isn’t so big that you’re encourage to overpack. The Knomo Dundee does all of that while also featuring soft leather, magnetic closures on the pockets and including a detachable shoulder strap. It will fit up to a 17″ computer with just over 12L of storage space. The handle easily slips over the arm of your rolling luggage (we get it, some of you prefer wheels). It’s a handy bag for $295.

Could your cell phone make you an in-flight killer?

Could my Kindle have the potential for murder? Mayhem? Needless to say, I may think twice before firing it up during takeoff on my trip to London at the end of the month!

I’ll be the first to admit that I thwart airline rules about turning on electronic devices during takeoff and landing. I don’t like reading print, and a year and a half after getting it, I still have a comfortable yet steamy love affair with my Kindle. I just can’t resist flipping the switch at the riskiest of times during my flights.

According to a report that ABC News got its hands on, though, I might be putting many, many lives at risk. ABC picked up a confidential industry study that indicates the safety issues could be real. Very real.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) studied survey responses from 125 airlines from 2003 to 2009 and found … “75 incidents of possible electronic interference that airline pilots and other crew members believed were linked to mobile phones and other electronic devices.” Twenty-six of them, a tad more than a third, “affected the flight controls, including the autopilot, autothrust and landing gear.” Another 17 hit navigation systems, with 15 affecting communication systems.
Of course, the report “stresses that it is not verifying that the incidents were caused by PEDs,” according to ABC News.

Some of this stuff is straight out of horror flicks: clocks spinning backwards, GPS devices malfunctioning and “altitude control readings changed rapidly until a crew member asked passengers to turn off their electronic devices.”

Scary stuff, no doubt.

So, is all this real?

Apparently, it’s hard to say. According to ABC News’s aviation guy, John Nance:

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, but it’s not evidence at all,” said Nance, a former Air Force and commercial pilot. “It’s pilots, like myself, who thought they saw something but they couldn’t pin it to anything in particular. And those stories are not rampant enough, considering 32,000 flights a day over the U.S., to be convincing.”

The feedback is mixed, it seems, leaving each of us to decide whether to roll the dice.

Top five travel gadgets NOT to take on your next trip (and what to pack instead)

gadget, gadgets
I’m in the throes of packing for a two-month journey to Ethiopia. I try to pack light, other than the inevitable pile of books. While some tech freaks pack a lot of travel gadgets, I find these to be more of a hindrance than a help. Here are five things that you might want to leave behind if you’re heading out for some adventure travel.

GPS
Yes, these are handy, but they can break with rough handling and are very attractive to thieves.
What to bring instead: A compass. It’s cheaper, much less likely to break or be stolen, and with a good map is just as useful. It also makes you notice the terrain more and become more aware of the lay of the land.

Ereader
Ebooks certainly save space, and many travelers like ebooks, but ereaders are far more stealable than some tattered old paperback. Plus you need to recharge your device and you can’t give or exchange books with the locals.
What to bring instead: A paperback or three. Preferably something you don’t mind trading or giving away.

IPod
Music is fun to have on the road, but it cuts you off from the sounds around you. I want to hear the muezzin’s call, the chatter of foreign languages, the local tunes blasting from shops and cafes. My playlist is part of my life back home, so I don’t need it while I’m away. I can listen to it when I get back.
What to bring instead: Nothing.Translation software
Translation software has improved a lot in recent few years. There’s even Word Lens, an iPhone app that overlays English onto foreign writing. When Jeremy Kressmann visited me in Madrid earlier this month we tried it on a menu. It was impressive but didn’t translate some of the culinary terms. I prefer learning a language the old-fashioned way. Except for France, all of the 31 countries I’ve visited are filled with people who want to help you learn their language. What better way to hook up with locals?
What to bring instead: A good dictionary and phrasebook. Also pack a good attitude.

Laptop
To be honest, I do take a laptop on some of my trips, but not on an adventure. My laptop means work, and while part of my work is travel writing, the best way for me to do that job is to focus on what’s going on around me. Computers can be a huge distraction and you always have to worry about them getting stolen or blasted by a power surge. If you do take your laptop to a developing country, pack a voltage regulator.
What to bring instead: A notebook and pen. Don’t worry, even Ethiopia has Internet cafes.

If there’s a theme to this, it’s that all of these gadgets distract you from the place and people you’re visiting. Doing without them for a month or two can be a welcome break, and your trip will be richer because of it. I didn’t need any of these things twenty years ago when I started doing adventure travel, and I don’t need them now that they exist.

[Photo courtesy user rkzerok via Gadling’s flickr pool]

Books! Travelers share what to read on the road

book, books
There’s nothing like a trip for catching up on your reading. Even if you’ve filled your schedule with dawn-to-dusk sightseeing, there are still quiet moments at the hotel or by the pool, not to mention those long flights. So what’s best to read while traveling? On Saturday I’m heading to Harar, Ethiopia, for two months, so this has been on my mind. I asked a bunch of seasoned travelers what’s in their pack. Their suggestions fall into several overlapping categories.

Disposable
Most agree it’s best to bring books you don’t feel the need to bring back. Not only does this give you a chance to pick up something unexpected at a book exchange, it also frees up space for souvenirs. You can also give reading material away, as Catherine Bodry explains, “I always treat myself to magazines at the airport (People, Runners World, Oxygen, Nat Geo Traveler, etc.) and I usually stockpile a few issues of the New Yorker from the weeks prior to a trip. They also make great gifts if I’m headed to a censored country like China!”

Entertaining
Some people go for light, unchallenging reads. Annie Scott Riley says, “I’ll finish anything I’m already reading; usually fiction, but anything I start on vacation has to be just for fun. For example, the Chelsea Handler books, anything Dave Barry, Chuck Klosterman. I guess I like some pop culture commentary to assess what I’m getting away from.”

Educational
Many well-heeled travelers bring books that teach them about the places they’ll see. Mike Barish says, “While in Hawaii earlier this month, I read Blue Latitudes about Cook’s voyages in the Pacific Islands.” Laurel Kallenbach says, “It can be nice to read Yeats in Ireland, Shakespeare in England. I lived for a few weeks in the French village of Ferney-Voltaire, so I read Voltaire’s Candide there–and then toured the author’s castle.”

Variety
Many people like to have a variety of books. Mary Jo Manzanares finds her ereader handy. “Before leaving I load it up with a bunch of books from a variety of genres, then I can pick and choose what to ready while on the road. I like a variety of reading–something light for the airplane or on the beach (a mystery or chick lit), something historical when I’m on site, and I can also read blogs, magazines, and newspapers on it as well. Last year while staying in the middle of a vineyard in Tuscany I saw that one of my favorite authors had just released his new book–just a minute later I was able to download and read it. Best of all, I can take all this reading with me and take up no space at all.”Small
With ever-increasing baggage fees, it’s best to bring something small. I prefer mass-market paperbacks, leaving the hefty hardbacks at home. Like Manzanares, Gadling cruise correspondent Chris Owen saves space with ebooks. “On cruises, we read a book a day so long sailings required separate luggage just for the books. iPads changed all that, especially now that our local public library offers books online too.”

So what’s in my pack?
English language books are in limited supply where I’m going, and many tend to be foreign imports at Western prices, so I’m bringing a two-month supply. They are:

Nostromo by Joseph Conrad: A thick, fast-paced classic in a mass market edition that I can leave behind. I can always find another copy.

Eating the Flowers of Paradise: A Journey through the Drug Fields of Ethiopia and Yemen by Kevin Rushby: A fascinating study of qat, the drug of choice in the Horn of Africa. It’s impossible to understand the culture without understanding qat.

The Bible: I’m an agnostic, but as a professional historian I can’t ignore one of the most influential books ever written. I haven’t read it for more than a decade so it’s due for a reread, especially since I’ll be spending most of my time in a Muslim town. Muslims read the Bible too, and I just reread the Koran last year.

Thus Spake Prophet Muhammad: These selections from the Hadith are in a tiny little edition I picked up in India. It can’t hurt to brush up on my knowledge of Islam if I’m going to live in a Muslim town.

Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre: Hararis are a philosophical bunch, and I rarely pick up this sort of heavy reading when I’m at home working. I’m sure someone over there will want it when I’m done.

The Best Stories and Tales of Leo Tolstoy: This is actually an Ethiopian edition I picked up when I was last in Harar. I’m nearly done with it but I want to give it to a friend.

Articles about Harari history and culture: I printed some of these out and have dozens of them on a thumb drive if I want to print out any at an Internet cafe. I also made copies onto two CDs for some Harari friends.

Amharic dictionary and phrasebook

Brandt Guide to Ethiopia

What do you bring to read on the road? Share your bookish habits in the comments section!