Travel Gadgets

Travel tools I’ve been using

During my travels in London and Amsterdam this week, my adventures have been made a bit smoother by two tools: HotelTonight and T-Mobile.

The last-minute booking app, HotelTonight, was already on my phone, but until this trip I hadn’t had much need or incentive to use it.

But I turned to the app (and some banked credit) when faced with a shifting itinerary and out-of-my-budget prices for a long list of  familiar and recommened-by-friends hotels.

The app’s curated selection of available bookings – leaning to boutique and indepentent properties – came through for me in Amsterdam, especially, where I found a good last-minute rate and friendly folks at The Albus, a  hip, centrally-located hotel I would have been unlikely to find on my own.

Until now, the HotelTonight booking window was day-of and up to seven nights out, but the booking window has just been expanded in 14 major cities, including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, London and Las Vegas, and should be expanded in around 30 national and international markets by the end of this year

Most all my travel buddies already use – and highly recommend – the T-Mobile ONE plan that includes  unlimited international data and low-cost phone international calls, but I’d been stubbornly clinging to an old ATT plan.

I’ve got a loaner T-Mobile sim card in my phone for this trip and have been able delighted at how it makes it easier to get around, download maps, check out attractions, read email, stay in touch and deal with some less-than-ideal wireless situations in hotels.

Note to self: switch mobile phone service when you get home.

 

No tablet or laptop on the plane? Some workarounds.

 

Whether or not you’re flying on an airline now required to make passengers check electronic devices larger than smartphones on planes headed to the U.S. or U.K, it’s a good idea to have workarounds for getting things done.

Paper books, magazines and the seat-back entertainment offerings (if available) are good options, but if you want to work, check email or watch a movie you’ve downloaded before your flight, gadgets and tools like some of those in the photo above might help.

For example, ZAGG has a Bluetooth pocket keyboard that can be used with both smartphones and small tablets (Apple & Android) and – to keep seatmates from looking at your screen – the InvisibleShield Glass + Privacy screen protector.

And, if you’re going to have to rely on your smartphone for extended hours, Ventev’s chargestand 3000c, is both a portable charger and a phone stand. 

I’m checking out these and a few other gadgets this weekend and reworking my accessories kit to accommodate a few more useful-in-a-pinch items.

 

 

 

 

Visit Australia with Qantas’ new virtual reality app

qantas-vr

Virtual vacations are starting to compete with the real thing.  But Qantas is hoping that by giving you a virtual taste Australia’s offerings, you’ll put get on a plane and go see for yourself.

Qantas first experiments with virtual reality  last year, when it offered a virtual reality visit to a couple of Australian destinations on Samsung Gear VR headsets in its First-Class cabin and Lounges.

Now the carrier has released a virtual reality app  with 13 videos showcasing a wide variety of Australian landscapes and events, with more promised in the next few weeks.

The app offers two modes: split screen for those who have a compatible headset or Google Cardboard and 2D landscape for viewing directly on a smartphone.

And if you like what you see, you can book flights to these destinations directly from the app.

Here are a few samples.

The first is a helicopter flight offering an aerial view of Uluru, one of the great natural wonders of the world.

Other videos offer a hot air balloon ride of Alice Springs and the Australian outback, a helicopter ride to Hamilton Island and a swim in the Great Barrier Reef, a climb on the Sydney Harbor Bridge and a wide  variety of other you-are-there experiences.

 

Would you use this? A bra with pockets.

I know someone who stores her mobile phone in her bra cup and I have to admit it’s a bit odd to be out in public with her and have her reach in there to answer a call.

But for those who like to travel light and keep a close watch on cash, credit cards, keys and passports, the idea of jackets, skirts and shirts with hidden pockets and underwear with hidden pouches seems like a great idea.

That is, if you can remember where you’ve put things and – with the underwear – if you don’t store things in there that you’ll need to access often when you’re on the go.

I saw a fair number of products with secret pockets at the Travel Goods show in Las Vegas last February, but only recently heard from the team that came up with the JoeyBra right here in Seattle.

The concept: it’s a bra with side pockets large enough to store a smartphone, a credit card, an iPod and a car key and comes in both fashion and sports models in real bra sizes.

JoeyBraSports

I’ve got one to test out, but would like to know if you’d use this and, if so, how and when?

JoeyBraFashion Coral Dress and Phone

Paper showers and other ways to stay fresh on the road

Staying shower-fresh and stain-free when you’re on the road can be challenging.

Especially for air travelers who must snooze sitting up and squeeze a week’s worth of cleansing lotions and cosmetic potions into those tiny, zippered, see-through baggies.

Sponge-baths in public restroom sinks can be awkward so, for a story on msnbc.com, I rounded up an assortment of travel-sized products that may come in handy next time you or your favorite road warrior is creased, crinkled or stinky and away from home.

Paper showers and public restroom survival kits

Moist towelettes can be lifesavers when your hands – or the tray table and the armrests on the airplane – are sticky and full of germs. For bigger jobs, there’s the Paper Shower, a two-part packet with a wet side containing a paper towel dipped in alcohol-free soap and skin moisturizers and a second, super-absorbent towel on the dry side to remove what the wet portion leaves behind.

These days you can find all manner of travel-sized soaps, shampoos, toothpastes and hand sanitizers in drugstores but “at the request of several self-proclaimed germaphobes,” Paul Shrater said his company, Minimus.biz,  put together the Public Restroom Survival Kit,, which is stocked with travel-sized packets of toilet seat covers, disinfecting wipes, surface cleaners and toilet paper.

In the on-line cleaning supplies aisle Minimus.biz offers travel-sized odor eliminators and bed bug spray and, elsewhere on the site, Shrater finds that “Travel-sized Febreze and Lysol tend to be very popular.”

Lip-stick sized deodorants and no-brush tooth polish

Over at 3Floz.com (“For those who travel, those who are curious and those who can’t commit”) bestsellers among the personal care travel items include Beze Deodorettes, which are lipstick-sized mini-deodorants that fit into a purse or a pocket, and Supersmile Quikee, a pocket-sized no brush/no rinse tooth polish.

And for those who like to kick off their shoes on the airplane, but are self-conscious about the smell, there are Silver Linings, ultra-thin shoe inserts made with silver to absorb bacterial odor.

Of course, out on the road it’s not just people who get grimy. “For well-traveled smartphones we have cellphone cleaning wipes,” said Minimus.biz’s Shrater. “They’re called Celly Smellys and are a popular and interesting curiosity.”