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Thursday, October 2, 2014 (read 1286 times)
Best Travel Gadgetsby David
Travel to Spain
Traveling abroad may have lost some of its romanticism in the last few years but it is still exciting to see and experience other countries and cultures. In this day and age we no longer have to pack books, maps and other material since most those things have a digital or electronic counterpart today. If you are planning on coming to Spain to study or for pleasure, there are some great gadgets that can make your trip a little easier without having to sacrifice valuable luggage space like before. Here are some things that I would recommend bringing to Spain on your next trip.
Today, a smartphone is like an electronic Swiss-army knife--it does a heck of a lot more than make phone calls. Coming to Spain with your smart phone will permit you to access valuable information and communicate with people whenever you need to. Gone are the days of buying phone cards and going to a cyber café to take care of your communication needs. Obviously, the best way to acomplish this would be by connecting to free Wi-Fi every chance you get but if you want to have mobile internet and the ability to make phone calls, you'll need to bring an unlocked smartphone with you. You can buy a pre-paid SIM card from any one of the mobile operators here in Spain and you can put money back on the phone in just about any kiosk or supermarket as needed. If you are going to just want internet, there are plenty of prepaid internet-only options too.
We like the tablet for the same reason as the smartphone: the convenience of being connected to all kinds of useful information and travel resources. But the big difference between this and the Smartphone is the larger screen which allows you to read ebooks, watch movies and browse the internet with greater ease—something important to remember when stuck on an airplane for hours.
Even though our portable devices have GPS and map applications, nothing does the job as well as a dedicated satnav device. You can carry these devices with you in your pocket or on your windshield and will get you around with little to no problems. Plus, since these are dedicated satnav devices, their navigation is faster, they have better graphics and you can navigate more easily to points of interest like gas stations and parking lots. The European TomTom 6000 has free connectivity so it is always downloading traffic, radars and GPS quick fixes from Spanish mobile networks which is a great option. Unfortunately, the American versions don't have this capability, but you can connect to these services via your smartphone. If you don't want to buy a new satnav device, see if you know someone who will let you borrow one. You will find that it is well worth it.
With all this need for connectivity a router for all of these appliances is a must. If you don't want to go through the trouble of purchasing a data plan here in Spain, you can always bring one from home. In the US there are some companies that will rent you a wireless Mi-Fi router that can connect to the mobile network here in Spain. Usually you will pay a flat rate for unlimited coverage per day when you connect. This is an excellent option if you are going to be traveling for a short period of time (one to two weeks) and want to have guaranteed internet access.
Wireless Travel Router
If you don’t feel like paying to rent a router or would like to maximize the flexibility of your Spanish mobile data plan, then a wireless travel router may be what you are looking for. These tiny little routers will let you connect to a connected ethernet internet connection (like what you will find in some hotels) and you will be able to convert your room into a Wi-Fi hotpsot. These nifty gadgets will also act as a repeater which will let you turn your phone or tablet into mobile data hotspot by wirelessly connecting various devices to your phone's data plan. Luckily, you can find these gadgets at prices that are more than reasonable. Here is a selection of some to give you an idea of what's available.
12v to USB Charger
Traveling, especially by car, you will need to keep that phone, GPS and Mi-Fi charged and running. To accomplish this, a 12v to USB car charger is a must have. Many come with two or more outlets so all you have to do is connect the devices' cables to the charger and you won't have to worry about their batteries running out of juice. You can find these with relative ease both here in Spain and in your country of origin. Typically these adapters don't cost very much, usually less than $20.
220v to 110v Plug Converter
Most electrical devices, like phones and cameras, work with both 110 and 220 electrical networks, so you will only need a grounded plug adapter or a simple ungrounded one to keep them charged in Spain. It's a good idea to bring at least one of each kind of adapter since a grounded plug adapter will not fit into an older ungrounded electrical outlet which are common in older buildings. In the case that you have a device that doesn't have a built in transformer, like a shaver or curling iron, you will need a small converter to make it work. Remember, that small converters are not made for continuous use or for powering laptops or heating appliances, so it's not a good idea to have them plugged in a long time.
Noise Canceling Ear Buds
If you're like me, getting a pair of $400 noise cancelling headphones isn't in the cards. For long trips and noisy hotel rooms there are few things better than a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Fortunately for us mortals, there are some excellent options available with prices a little more within our reach. There are many earbud options at reasonable prices if you are looking for something that can cancel out the noise without sacrificing sound quality or breaking the bank. Once you try some good noise cancelling headphones you'll be asking yourself why hadn't you gotten them earlier.
A Good Point and Shoot
What good are all these gadgets going to do you if you can't remember your trip? Get a good point and shoot camera—one that takes good pictures without taking up a lot of space. Here is a roundup of some excellent options that would work well for most travelers without breaking the bank. Having a good camera will help you remember the people and places that took part in your Spanish adventure and will hopefully give you the bug to return again.
So there you have it: A list of what I would have with me in my carry on. It's amazing how travel and communication have changed in the last 20 years. Today we are more connected than ever and navigating through strange and new places is no longer a mystery. Come to think of it, some of my best travel stories have come from being completely lost and at the mercy of the locals. Hopefully by using these gadgets we aren't sacrificing that sense of adventure and unknown, and instead we are making it easier to maximize our ability to blend in and have the opportunity to make other kinds of memories.
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