by Michelle Lentz
For me, 2009 was the Year of the Suitcase. I traveled more, for both business and pleasure, than I ever have before. That trend looks like it will continue into 2010, which is pretty exciting. In fact, my 2010 kicks off next week with a trip to Las Vegas for CES 2010, where I’ll probably find new gadgets to lust after. Until then, however, I’m thrilled with several of the gadgets that have gotten me through the last year of travel. Some of them aren’t as new as they possibly could be, and some of them are pretty basic, but they all serve their purpose.
Amazon Kindle 2: I pre-ordered this last February. It was my first big gadget purchase of the year and I don’t regret it for a second. Sure, I occasionally lose a lot of patience with Amazon, considering that it won’t read the ePub format. I am a big proponent of ereaders, Kindle or otherwise, and evangelize them to everyone. See me in an airport and want to play with my Kindle? No problem. It has made traveling a lot easier (I used to pack tons of books and now I just pack the Kindle) and I still end up reading myself to sleep by the light of a booklight attached to the Kindle cover.
Sennheiser PXC 250 Noise Canceling Headphones: There are probably better options out there, but these Sennheisers fold up rather small and slip into my purse or briefcase. They block out just about everything, which makes flying so much easier. They’re also a whole lot cheaper now than when I purchased them, currently coming in at $62.66.
Luggage Scale: Without fail, I tend to both overpack for a trip and shop once I arrive. This means I’m always checking one bag, despite the ridiculous fees. To keep myself on the safe side of 50 pounds, I rely 100% on a portable digital luggage scale. These things retail for around $13 and have routinely saved me on excess fees and helped control my overpacking and shopping urges.
Wine Diapers / Wine Skins: Being a wine blogger, I can’t seem to travel anywhere without a bottle of wine, and I also tend to buy wine where ever I end up. This means that I not only need to pack the 750 ml of liquid in my checked luggage, but I need to keep it from breaking and turning a white designer sweater pink en route. I’ve been testing out the Wine Diaper, which works well and has the benefit of being reusable, but I rather prefer the Wine Skin.
Dell Mini: I ordered the Dell Mini 10v rather cheap (<$200) from the Dell Outlet. Not only that, I was able to score a pink one, which I quickly outfitted with a pink mouse and pink USB stick. I purposely bought a lower-end Mini, the 10v, which has the VGA port. Why? Because when I present at conferences, I need it to be as easy as possible with a low-barrier for whomever is setting me up / letting me use the equipment. The Mini 10 (no V) includes fancy items such as GPS and an internal TV tuner. I loaded up the Mini 10v with Windows 7, Word and Powerpoint, Thunderbird, Acrobat, and Firefox. With just that amount, it’s perfect for presentations, email, and surfing. However, a few weeks ago I had to write an RFP while traveling. Don’t buy a 10-inch netbook for your primary machine if you need to write anything more intensive than a basic blog post. At that point, the 10-inch screen is a hindrance. But for travel and presentations, the machine is a dream.
Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go: To complement the Mini 10V, I also picked up the Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go stick. After doing some price comparisons, it seemed the best option. Most of the places I go actually have wireless. However, occasionally the broadband or wireless in a hotel will be ridiculously expensive or just a poor connection. Sometimes I even find myself at conferences where I don’t have wireless available in the sessions rooms. Remarkable, but true. To combat this sometimes-but-not-always problem, I went with the pay-as-you-go option. I tried it out for the first time last week in Key West and it worked beautifully. I was able to do everything from surf the Web to uploading files. I bought a $20 card, which got me 250 MB (the equivalent of 2 hrs browsing, 1 hour web video, or 25,000 emails). It was a leisure trip, so I wasn’t online much, but I still have about 150 MB left. The catch is that your data allowance expires anywhere from 10-30 days after purchase, depending on how much you buy. But if you buy strategically (in my case, before every trip), it shouldn’t be an issue. The initial hardware purchase will set you back $99 and there is a lot of freedom in being able to get online anywhere, anytime.
Motorola Droid: I realize I just got my hands on this in November, but it’s quickly become a huge part of my life. Now that I have service everywhere I go (unlike my last two years with AT&T), I am constantly tweeting, texting and emailing. I realize that might not be a good thing, but my ability to be connected has greatly increased. The keyboard makes everything easy for me and I have no problem finding free apps I like and need from the Android Marketplace. I can’t say that the Droid has changed the way I communicate. But it enhances my communications and allows me to communicate in ways I couldn’t with my iPhone.