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Technology for the Travel Savvy

Portable Reading Devices

Portable reading devices, such as Amazon’s Kindle or the Sony Reader are gaining popularity amongst frequent travelers. These devices can hold hundreds of books, and the weight is much less in your travel bag. Depending on the reader you select, it may also have access to blogs, newspapers and magazines. I personally have not switched away from real books and magazines yet, but several travelers I know have. I’m a book-aholic and love the feel of a book in my hands, so I may be one of the last hold-outs for such a techy gadget. But when arthritis starts in my wrists from the heavy load of my laptop tote bulging with a hard cover book, I may just relent. Here are some details on the devices to get you started: USAToday review and CNET review.

Wireless mouse

For those who need to do a lot of scrolling and dragging, a wireless mouse is wonderful. You may like a mouse that offers four-way scrolling so you can scroll left and ride in addition to up and down. Also look into selecting a mouse that is ergonomically designed for maximum arm and wrist comfort, and also with a long battery life of several months.

Blue-tooth Headset

Driving with a headset makes it so much easier to focus on the road while you’re talking. And in some states and countries a headset is mandatory when driving.
Even if it is still legal to hold a drive talking on your cell phone, it is far safer to avoid this whenever possible.

A wired headset will also work with your phone, but then you’re tied to your phone. With my blue tooth headset, I can be talking on the phone while I’m walking around a couple of rooms in my house or in my hotel room and easily be multi-tasking.
A blue tooth headset is more expensive than a wired headset, but so much more convenient. Check out How to Choose a Blue Tooth Headset.

iGo Charger

These handy chargers supply power to laptops, cell phones, iPods, and a host of other techy items and have different tips for powering multiple devices. They also have laptop power cords that work on power-ready airline seats, which is really nice on a long flight. My husband and I were able to travel with one iGo laptop charger with two tips rather than both bring our own laptop chargers. Visit iGo for more information, or look for an iGo kiosk at many airports.

Directory assistance (in the U.S.)

Google’s GOOG-411 is simple, fast, straight-forward, totally free. Store 800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) in your mobile phone. Provide the location (city and state) and business information by speaking clearly into the phone. Once the information is obtained, Google provides three options to users:
Google will automatically connect the caller to the business at no cost
If your mobile device includes text messaging, Google will provide further details on the business by sending a text message to you. Simply say “text message”
If you have an Internet capable mobile device, Google will send a map of the area to the users cell phone by saying “Map It”
The service is currently available for businesses only in the United States., but also seems to work in some areas of Canada.

UPDATE: Google has since removed their GOOG411 service.

Microsoft’s Live Search411, or 800-Call411 (800-225-5411), includes other information the other listed companies do not offer. Live Search411 includes traffic maps, driving directions, movie information, and weather and travel information all on your mobile phone. All of the information is completely free and does not include any type of advertising. 800-Call411 is available anywhere in the United States.
To begin, dial 800-225-5411 from any phone in the United States. Live Search411 will automatically know your location.
Specify business or other services, which include weather, movies, travel and maps.
Movies-Once the location is given, information includes new releases, movie ratings, show times, and includes ability to purchase tickets (surcharge fees apply)
Travel – Includes air, hotels and rental cars info
Traffic maps-Includes driving directions and traffic conditions sent to users by text messaging. Not available in all areas
This service does not offer live assistance

800-FREE411 (800-373-3411) offers free directory assistance for businesses and residential. After dialing 800-Free411, there will be a short audio advertisement. Directory assistance is available by phone and online. International expansion is planned. The “Driving Directions” feature allows you to retrieve directions via text message.

The information provided by these services is invaluable for those stuck along the side of the road in need of emergency roadside assistance or other emergency needs. Besides saving money, the services listed above provide ease of use, peace-of-mind, and convenience.

Other items worth mentioning

Travel speakers for your iPod. There are several portable speakers that allow head-set free listing to your mp3 player. I like using the speakers when I’m exercising or working in my hotel room, and want to listen to an audio book or music while doing so. I also have a Pillow Speaker for my iPod. This speaker fits at the bottom of my suitcase as it’s very flat. It’s great for listening to relaxing music when I’m trying to fall asleep in a strange hotel room, and it also works well as a table-top speaker when the volume is turned up higher. I found my Pillow Speaker on Amazon.

Travel-sized external hard drive (for backups, personal documents and very large files).

Portable GPS for you to use in any rental car. My SmartPhone has a GPS system, but I also have a portable GPS that I use at home as well as travel with when I know I’ll be doing extensive driving and would like a bigger screen. My portable GPS also has an option for a deep male voice, which my ‘smart’ phone doesn’t have!

Have fun with these gadgets and tools!

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