Tech We Love To Travel With

In this day and age, anyone that travels seems to be defined by what they bring (or don’t bring) on their travels. As a result, this digital age has brought another term to the backpack scene: flashpacker. Flashpacking is simply backpacking with more technological toys. It also usually refers to travellers with a few extra dollars to spend while on the road.

The term affluent is sometimes associated with it as well, but now almost everyone has a few tech toys with them. As such, I suppose you can call us flashpackers but, in truth, I like to refer to us simply as travellers or even nomads since we tend to follow the seasons. Our little ones tell everyone we’re Barefoot Nomads and to be honest, it puts a smile on my face every time they say it.

When we first started seriously travelling back in ’02 one of the first places we stopped was Singapore. At the time Singapore was said to be miles ahead of the West in terms in technology. It usually took a few months for products to show up in Canada and the US that were already collecting dust on the shelves in this Asian country. As such, we had decided to pick up both a digital camera and a new laptop while we were there. Though we were far from pioneers at the time, a traveller with a decent laptop was still a rare sight.

These days, finding a serious traveller without a laptop is a rarity and digital cameras are cheap and plentiful. Some of the equipment the typical backpacker takes and uses could probably fund a small expedition however it’s funny how vital our tech seems to us.

When we travel, we now have an arsenal of tech toys that we have trouble living without. Of course, we also tend to long stay so packing up and lugging this stuff about on a daily basis could help redefine our must have list. We’re also a family of four so a few things on this list are more for the kids than for us and if they help kill a lackluster rainy day while on the road, they’re a welcome addition to our backpack of tech.

Tech We Like To Travel With

Tech We Like To Travel With

Of course, our largest accessory is a laptop. The one we’ve been using while travelling these past few years is probably going to be retired this fall and replaced with something larger and more powerful. This one is ultralight and has a 12″ screen. For its size, weight and age it served us well. We’re still debating whether we should go 14″ or 15″ on the next one. Weight is definitely a concern however staring at a tiny screen for months on end isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. At home we have some gorgeous 23″ IPS displays that we stare at day in and day out and frankly, that 12″ is a little hard to take some days.

The second biggest item is our iPad. When we first bought it I seriously doubted its usefulness. I thought it would be just another gizmo that cost too much and collected dust. Far from it, between us it’s in almost constant use and having to share it has actually caused stress on more than one occasion. Whether you’re lounging on the couch, quickly checking your email on the way out the door, seeing what Mother Nature has in store for the day, Skyping your extended family or friends while watching the little ones in the tub, killing some time playing Solitaire or one of the other million apps available to you in the Appstore tablets are here to stay and great to have. I’ve actually written a few posts with it while in Costa Rica. I don’t believe tablets are anywhere good enough to fully replace a laptop yet however they’re getting better all the time. The new Windows Surface tablet could be a real game changer in that regard.

Of course, we travel with a digital camera and a few extra SD cards. We’re not the best photographers out there and that’s simply because we’d rather enjoy a place than spend time photographing it. With that in mind we usually travel with point and shoot cameras. The smaller, lighter and faster to set up and snap the more likely we’ll take a picture. With everything else we take and with 2 kids in tow neither of us have any desire to lug around a big DSLR with a few lenses. Sometimes I regret we don’t have as many nice pics as some others out there (though somehow we have managed to take thousands upon thousands of them) however we usually use that as another reason to get out and travel some more.

The next most used device we travel with is an unlocked iPhone. A few years ago we had done some serious research into world phones and settled on the iPhone as one of the best in that regards. Neither of us had ever owned a Mac product before then but I have to say, they’re definitely intuitive. We now own a small pile of SIMs from a bunch of different countries that we keep in a small bag. Most are no longer usable (we always buy prepaid SIMs and after a period of inactivity they expire) however they’ve served us well. Most countries sell prepaid SIMs for next to nothing and it’s always cheaper to use them than call long distance. Of course, Skype, Google Voice and a few others make even phones sometimes redundant.

Our son is definitely a gamer so he always travels with his Nintendo DS. Most parents are shocked with how little we let him play it though. We use it more for emergencies and as rewards for good behaviour than normal play. If we didn’t limit his use we might as well be staying at home because his nose would be constantly glued to it and he’d be missing everything we’re travelling for.

A few years ago my brother bought our son a set of decent walkie talkies. These two way radios work for miles, are easy to carry and even have built in weather stations to them. We usually keep one in both our day packs and use them whenever Micki and I go on our separate ways while shopping or giving the kids some one on one time. It’s more of a convenience thing however it has helped us locate each other on numerous locations. At home we each carry a cell so it’s not a big deal, however we usually only use one cell when we travel since we’re together nearly all the time. The kids also love playing with them and they can act as a good distraction when we need a few moments of sanity.

Ever since they’ve come out we’ve travelled with a pair of USB sticks. We’ve found them great as an extra place to store pictures or when heading out to an Internet Cafe. There have been times when one of us needed some time away from the kids and walking to the nearby cafe for some uninterrupted computer time has been great. They also come in handy when you can’t get internet access, but have pre-written an email or two to send back home. We used to love writing up emails while sitting on our porch staring out at some beautiful ocean beach or majestic mountain and then run to the nearby internet place and quickly send them all off. It also saved on the amount of internet fees we used to have to pay.

Some of the other accessories we always keep with us include cables such as an HDMI cable (so we can hook the laptop to a TV to watch movies with) , an Ethernet cable (in case internet is wired we can then set up an ad-hoc network so we can share WiFi with the iPad and iPhone), a headphone to RCA Y splitter cable (so we can push sound to the TV or to a stereo receiver), a Belkin Mini Surge Protector/Dual USB Charger (in case we need a few extra outlets and it also has 2 USB charge ports built-in), 2 iPad/iphone cables and chargers (so we can charge the iPad/iPhone/2 way radios/NDS), a headphone splitter and headphones for all of us (the kids can then share watching a movie on the iPad or notebook in blessed silence).

We also bring along a few spare batteries for emergencies and a Petzl Headlamp. The headlamp has gotten good use in the past and packs up small and light in the carry case . The batteries in it last forever. We also take along a few small disposable flashlights for the kids.

In terms of tech toys that may seem like a lot but to be honest it all fits comfortably in a daypack. We usually split the pile in half for weight and security reasons while we travel and also so we can have quicker access to something if we need it.

If there’s anything you think we’re missing or if you want to know exactly what or why we travel with something send me a comment. I’d love to know what you all consider “essential tech”.

15 Responses

  1. The Modern Nomad

    I have been a full-time nomad since my first quarter life crisis at 30. (I’m planning to have one at 50 and another at 70). My tech includes my laptop (my living), a camera, mobile phone, a tablet and a GPS tracker. Oh, and an electronic pipe! ;-)
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    • Charles Kosman

      Wow, I love your pseudo/domain name! Years go by and times change however living a nomadic lifestyle keeps on going. I think most of us nomads pretty much travel with similar toys (oops, I mean vital work equipment ;) ).

      We’ve taken our GPS a few times and it should probably be on the list however it always depends on where we’re going/what we’re doing. When coupled with it’s bracket and it’s cord it’s generally a pain to lug around.

      I have some decent maps on the iPhone and have used that on numerous occasions however I’ll be honest I find a dedicated GPS to be quicker and more exact. That’s it, it’s now unofficially on the list!

      Safe travels my nomadic friend!

      Reply
  2. Cole @ Four Jandals

    Trying to decide whether or not to buy a tablet to supplement our tech at the moment. We will always have my laptop but need something else I think for Adela.

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Cole, if there’s two of you and you already have a laptop then I think a tablet is a good idea. In my experience, Tablets aren’t laptop substitutes yet. If you’re a severe multi-tasker, power surfer, or like to easily jump around a document that you’re working on then you’ll find a tablet frustrating. If you want to check and quickly respond to an email, do some light surfing, watch movies and videos, listen to music, read ebooks, Skype or chat with friends or relatives and kill some time playing a few games than a tablet is perfect.

      The nicest thing about them is that you can do this anywhere quite comfortably. I’m actually writing this comment on mine right now. Last night I responded to a few comments and emails, caught up a bit on Facebook, checked out a few of my favorite web sites and played a quick game of Risk all from the comfort of my bed. Earlier the kids laid in their bed watching Toy Story on it before going to sleep. Even earlier than that the kids were showing their grandma their favorite games and drawing programs on it.

      I think that if space and weight is a premium and there are two of you and only one laptop a tablet is a smart decision. If you guys have a smartphone you use a lot but get frustrated because of its size, then a tablet might be the answer.

      Of course, deciding to get one is the easy part. Deciding which one to get on the other hand can be a little taxing. Good luck with whatever you decide!

      Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Emma, walkie talkies are great fun for the kids and make travelling in pairs so much easier. To be honest we don’t remember to use them enough but when we do it’s a great way for us to separate the kids for a while to give them some one-on-one attention yet still be connected to the rest of the group.

      When we were in Hawaii earlier this year we lent one to our friends in the other rental car and used them while driving so that we could be in constant contact. It made decisions so much quicker and easier and the signal goes for miles so if we got separated we could usually find each other right away. It also gave us each our own space but kept us connected. I can’t remember how many “Ooh, look at that, over” messages we sent but there were a lot. :)

      Reply
  3. brian

    I always take as many AA batteries (seems like most things use them), and a 15min battery charger with me. I’m a hardcore geocacher and the GPS eats these things. Being able to charge them in 15min at a quick stop is invaluable in many instances. Thanks for another great post.
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    • Charles Kosman

      We’ve taken AA’s and a charger in the past and Brian I still have mixed feelings about it. Almost every piece of tech we own has built-in rechargeables and we can generally charge them with a USB cord. It’s not always the fastest way but it minimizes the weight.

      My Petzl headlamp takes 3 AAA batteries though and I tend to run rechargeables in it so that makes it a little awkward. Luckily, it lasts for a ridiculously long time and I generally only use it here or there when we travel. Since the kids, we always travel with a few spare AA and AAA batteries (never know when we’ll pick up a cheap toy on the road for them that needs batteries). Darn Brian, now I need to rethink whether we need them or not… ;)

      Reply
  4. Randi

    Never thought about Walky Talky as kids equipment. Really useful in case we separate e.g. parents busy shopping while kids play and lose his/her way back to parents. I’m gonna make an article on my blog to my Indonesian readers. Thanks Dude :)
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    • Charles Kosman

      I can remember owning a clunky pair of Walkie Talkies when I was a kid. It was great fun back in those days but they pale in comparison to today’s 2 way radios. Our kids are still a little too young to be off by themselves when we travel but I would imagine that we’ll be using the third one soon enough. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      Reply
  5. Charly

    Hello! I want to say that this post is awesome, nicely written and come with almost all vital infos. I’d like to see extra posts like this.

    Reply
  6. Samantha

    Hi there!
    I stumbled on your website today and I have to say, there is such great information and tips here! I”m amazed you guys are doing this with children in tow..!! My husband and I are seriously considering picking up and leaving for a few months; that alone seems very daunting! We’re not yet set on how long or where exactly but we have about 8 countries on our list so far! Still trying to figure out a ton of details!
    I was surprised not to see a travel adapter of some sort on your list given the different voltage and plug points etc. in different countries. Is that necessary?

    Reply
    • Charles Kosman

      Hi Samantha! That’s a great question and truth be told we do have a few kicking around with us. No idea how they never got on the list, thanks for spotting that!

      As for adapters, we try our hardest to only bring universal chargers and devices with us like the Apple line. Having to down step or up step electricity can get tricky and you’re really at the mercy of the device. If you’re unsure if you need a power converter rather than a power adapter then take a look at your plug (laptop, cell, camera, etc) and see what the Input says. If it says something like 100-240V and 50/60hz then all you need is a cheap (and light) adapter. If not you need to decide if you need to take it or something else will work instead. The problem with converters is that they’re heavy and for the price of one you can usually get 4 or 5 adapters. If you have multiple devices then you might need multiple converters unless you want to plug them all into the one device.

      We usually just buy cheap travel adapters that only change the plug type. We’ve amassed a few over the years. Most cheap dollar style stores in whatever country carry them. Right now we’re in Mexico so we’re still on 120V however in a month we’ll be roaming around Europe and we’ll probably pick up another one or two. We bought more electronics since I wrote that article so our power needs are slowly getting out of hand! ;)

      As to traveling with kids there are definitely times we miss the simplicity of being on our own however for the most part our problems on the road are very similar to what anyone faces with their kids, at home or abroad. They’re slowly becoming world citizens and for that alone, there is no price too high. :)

      Good luck with your travels and don’t pre-fill every moment of it. Sometimes it’s the road unknown that leads to our greatest adventures.

      Reply
  7. Norma

    Hello thank you for the post it is really useful. We have been searching for advice for a while and this list is good for us to comprehend, looking for a radio to suit what we want isn’t straightforward. Thank you again.

    Reply
  8. Joe

    Thanks for sharing your travel tech list. Its always really interesting to see what people take on the road.

    Love the walkie talkies for the kids. Have you written anything on the stuff you take with you for the kids?

    We’d love to travel more with our nippers but I’m not sure how it would work out.

    Great blog!

    Joe
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