Hello from Austin! It’s been a while since I’ve needed to travel for work, I’ve actually hadn’t needed to since Baby Girl was born. After traveling with an infant, my “packing light” skills were a little rusty, but I didn’t want to take a big suitcase out for a four day trip. As I was packing, I thought about my “Mt. Rushmore of Travel Toys” – a few utilities that pack a big bang for their small size and help me get the most out of my travel.
Portable WiFi Router
My newest item I added to my Mount is my portable travel router. Ten years ago I used to travel with my old D-Link Router that was the size of a small book. I guess I was ahead of my time because now we have these portable routers that smaller than a pack of gum. When I bought this last week, I was skeptical of the low price, but this thing really delivered. I was able to plug in the network cable right into it and give WiFi to all four of my devices with only having to pay for fast internet once. The one I ended up with is the HooToo TripMate Nano Wireless N Pocket Router.
Quick Sidebar: Homewood Suites did offer free internet, but the speed test reported less than 100kbps down, so I paid the little extra to give me 4.5Mbps. It’s funny how many hotels claim they give away “free” internet, but just heavily throttle it.
When I would go on long trips (or trips where’d I’d have a good amount of downtime) I would drag my Xbox along with me, packed in a laptop case. I’d have to bring it out to airport security, all in hopes that the hotel TV would at least have an RCA jack so that I could stream video. Currently 80% of my Xbox usage is video consumption, so with that in mind I was gifted with a Roku 3 for my birthday. This has turned out to be one of the best entertainment investments I’ve made. The Roku is the size of a hockey puck and is really easy to pack. I also travel with a 10-foot HDMI cable, and at this point it seems like most hotels have TV’s with available ports. If they don’t: no worries, as no big sacrifice was made. The reason I recommend the Roku 3 over the stick (or ChromeCast) is that you can load videos onto a USB stick and plug it into the Roku – no need to be online for that. However if you do have decent bandwidth, Plex makes my movie collection available wherever I need it. One lesson I’ve learned about traveling with the Roku: make sure you take a battery out of the remote before you put it in your bag. The buttons are a little too easy to push, and can easily drain mashed up in your bag.
Targus Laptop Podium Cooling Pad
There have been fancy USB-powered laptop cooling pads for a while now, and they do work great. However my non-battery-powered podium pad has been a great trade off for comfort and functionality for these long meetings. The podium elevates the back of your laptop to give a little extra space for circulation for your fan (and is obviously silent as well). My favorite part is that it makes it also makes it a little more ergonomic to use your laptop all day (both at work and home, I’m lucky enough to dock my laptop and have a full keyboard and monitor experience). The cooling pad is really easy on the luggage as well – the legs are removable and the biggest piece is a flat pad, smaller than your laptop.
Update: This product actually doesn’t look like it’s being made anymore! The closet thing I’ve found is this Cooler Master NotePal. If that’s the case and there’s not a product out there like this – that’s really too bad.
This has taken many iterations over the years, but my current version is my water-proof shower speaker. As a podcast addict, I’m willing to give up the sound quality for the ability to listen in the shower and steamy bathroom – and with it being Bluetooth I don’t have to expose it to the elements. Although I watch a decent amount of TV, I always find that in the hotel rooms I just have the TV on for the sake of background noise. Bringing the speaker enables me to have something that I at least would like to listen to.
There are a few honorable mentions, one of which I don’t own yet.
- USB-based power strip/charger. Given that most things are micro-USB-based, I’d like to just have this in my bag with a couple of extra cables and quell my constant fear of leaving my phone or tablet charger behind. Right now I’m researching the one that offers the best value, but will definitely have it on my next trip.
- Bluetooth Mouse. No one wants to be stuck with their sub-par track pad all week.
- Bluetooth Headphones. In absence of the Bluetooth Speaker, the headphones make it easy to get around the airport or the hotel gym without dealing with the pesky wires.
- A suction-cup hook. This is a must-have if you use a loofa and are traveling with others. There’s only so many places in the shower to hang yours, and this little piece of plastic ensures yours isn’t touching anyone else’s.
So there’s my Mt. Rushmore. What kind of things (tech or otherwise) that you can’t do without (and let’s leave out the obvious things like your laptop, tablet or phone)?