Best Travel Gadgets and Accessories for Tackling the Open Road

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As a mother daughter travel blogger team, we’ve learned the rule of the road: be prepared for nearly every contingency. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of must-have travel gadgets and accessories.

And while we usually write our travel trips and guides separately, we’re tag-teaming this article to bring you the complete list of travel gadgets and accessories we’re really excited about this year.

Kat’s List of Best Travel Gadgets and Accessories

1. Charge it up and Never Lose Your Precious Travel Photos

I rely on iCloud to back up my travel photos and have rarely been let down.  However, I have had the occasional glitch when pictures I take on the road don’t upload to the cloud for awhile, particularly when we are out in remote locations. That’s why I’m especially excited about this travel gadget. The Sandisk iXpand wireless charger helps to alleviate the concerns I have about protecting travel photos while wirelessly charging my phone in the process.

A generous 256GB solid-state hard drive backs up this charger with some serious image-saving power. With the ability to hold over 32,000 8 MB pictures, it’s enough to keep my entire camera role on hold just in case the unthinkable happens.

Best of all, it backs up as it charges, so you can go to bed at night knowing that you’ll wake up in the morning to a ready-to-go device and safely stored images. Just understand that it may take several backup sessions to download your entire camera role, so to protect the photos you take on the road, start using the charger to back up old pictures before you head out.

The Sandisk iXpand works with all Qi-compatible phones. For those of us who aren’t as tech savvy as some, that covers most of the brands on the market today, including iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, LG, Microsoft Lumina and Blackberry. Sorry, Android users, this one leaves you out.

You can easily restore images to your device’s camera roll through the iXpand app or download them to your computer by removing the SD card from the charger and inserting into your computer’s card reader.

While we love the iXpand, it does have a few downsides. The first is price. This particular device isn’t easy to locate through typical sources. In fact, about the only place I currently see it for sale is the Western Digital Store where it retails for a hefty $159.99.

The iXpand also comes in lower capacity models. A 64GB, for instance, will hold just over 8,000 images that are 8GB in size and is much lower in price. While I love the ability to seamlessly charge my device and backup photos, the price and limited availability may put many people off this charger.

If you don’t need a charge but want an easy way to back up photos while traveling, Sandisk also makes the iXpand flash drive. Just connect this small thumb drive to your phone’s lightning port and start saving your images. When it’s time to transfer to a computer, you’ll find that the other end sports a handy USB adapter.

Sandisk iXpand travel gadget for backing up photos from iPhone
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The iXpand flash drive comes in four sizes: 32GB, 64Gb, 128GB and 256GB. Retail pricing starts at $37.99 at Best Buy.

For my purposes, I use the HooToo iPhone flash drive. It provides the same plug and play functionality with an intuitive app that lets you select the exact images you want to download. It sports a 128GB hard drive and is currently available on Amazon for just over $40 but is getting harder to find.

If you need to back up an Android device, you’ll find a wider selection of devices. Samsung’s Duo Plus offers the same variety of sizes as the Sandisk iXpand for iphone at a similar price point. For a  smaller, even more portable, version, try the Kingston Digital Data Traveler Micro Duo. At just over an inch in length, it’s compact enough to slip into your pocket while packing the power of a solid back up drive for your phone

Kingston traveler backup flashdrive for android devices
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2. goTenna Mesh – Communicating When off the Grid

We first caught wind of this travel gadget a few years ago when the company was first starting out, and we were immediately interested. Dreamed up by sibling team Daniela and Jorge Perdomo in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the goTenna Mesh provides off-the-grid communications even in the absence of cell phone connectivity. Since we spend a lot of time outdoors in remote locations, this sounded like a safety device worth considering.

Since that time, goTenna has gone through many iterations and is a favorite of state and local emergency response teams, including search and rescue.

That’s all great, you may say, but how does it work? It’s pretty simple, and pretty ingenious actually.

First, the goTenna Mesh is paired to your phone using Bluetooth. This allows the device to send messages to your phone, or that of someone nearby, while communicating over walkie-talkie radio frequencies.

In essence, the devices create a mesh of connectivity, allowing you to send messages between goTenna devices that are then transferred to a connected cell phone. It’s great for keeping track of people during a long through hike or when exploring the great outdoors in a group where you could get separated.

There is a catch, however. Two-way communication can only take place between goTenna devices and the range is limited to anywhere between a half mile and up to 10, depending on the terrain. Presumably, it is more difficult for the radio waves that goTenna relies on to transmit across mountainous terrain.

That makes goTenna great for keeping in touch with people nearby, but what about calling for emergency help when you’ve lost a cell phone signal? It works, but only if there is a mesh of goTenna users nearby who can receive your message and call for help.

Garmin inreach travel gadget for calling for emergency help in remote locations
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If you’re looking for an off-the-grid emergency device, you’re better off going with Garmin’s inReach satellite device. The inReach Mini provides two-way text messaging as well as location tracking and sharing, but it does require a subscription, as your call for help will be routed to a professional monitoring service.

3. Prepare for Those Dark Moments with this Travel Accessory

We discovered the necessity of an easy to tote, but super bright flashlight, on a recent visit to the lava tube caves outside of Bend, Oregon. It’s true, you never really realize what dark is until you find yourself underground and completely sealed from outside sources of illumination. Our standard beam flashlights could barely cut the gloom, so we started a search for the world’s brightest, but most portable flashlight.

I read far and wide, learning things that I never knew about flashlights. For one thing, brightness is determined by something called lumens. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter your flashlight. For greatest visibility inside those caves, we’d want a flashlight with over 1,000 lumens. However, if we just wanted to see around a campsite at night, a lower luminosity would do.

We also looked at durability and size, narrowing it down to the Nitecore EA 41. With 1020 lumens, it’s sure to pierce the dark and its scant 4.6-inch length makes it easy to tuck into a backpack, purse or glove compartment. We also like that it runs on AA batteries instead of rechargeables, giving us greater control. It’s much easier to swap out a few disposables on the road than it is to plug in and recharge a lithium ion unit.

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Overall, this one of our favorites on this list of travel gadgets and accessories

Ali’s List of Best Travel Gadgets and Accessories

Pivo: turn your smartphone into your photographer

Pivo is the ultimate smartphone tripod for adventurers and influencers alike. We live in the world of social media, and does it really count as travelling if you don’t post something on Instagram? With its included app, Pivo tracks you as it films for perfect photos, videos, and even more.

Pivo can spin 360 degrees to track you, your dog, even your horse while you adventure. Now the technology is not perfect. For example, if you get too far away, Pivo will lose you during its tracking, but all things considered, I think it works pretty well. Plus it’s tiny, making it a packable travel accessory!

I often use mine to film my rides on my horse, and I love being able to take these videos without having to bring in a second party to shoot. And I know when it comes to hikes this summer, Pivo will be coming along for the ride to help my mom and I get more photos together that aren’t selfies.

The Gadgeteer has a great in depth review of the Pivo that can be found here. We’ll put up some travel footage as soon as we can get out and travel again.

First Aid Kit- the Travel Accessory You Hope You Don’t Need

Luckily, during our travels, we have not needed any emergency supplies, but it is best to be prepared. A first aid kit is an essential travel gadget or accessory, especially for outdoor adventures.

But, when traveling you want to keep your baggage as light as possible. This small first aid kit from amazon features 100 pieces, and weighs just 8 ounces. The kit includes Band-Aids, a tourniquet, CPR mask, eye wash, and many more essentials. Plus, it is rated 4.8 stars out of five on amazon!

travel accessory first aid kit
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Reviews praise this first aid kit as “small but mighty” and “compact, convenient, and perfect for travel!”

Another great option is the Adventure Medical Sportsman series medical kit. It comes with many of the same supplies as the Amazon kit, except that it’s waterproof and contains a trauma pad instead of a tourniquet. Since each play a different part in bleeding control, it would be nice to find one that contained both, but for a small travel kit, both are excellent choices. Best of all, the FSA store says the kit can be purchased using FSA funds. Be sure to check current federal guidelines though, as these things can change.

Binoculars: So, You Can See All Your Adventures Crystal Clear

We often end up hiking or driving through some remote places with incredible views. Unfortunately, our family is not blessed with perfect vision, so all too regularly we are left wondering what is in some of the more distant views.

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These binoculars are lightweight, yet powerful, and will make it easy to get the best of all the views along your travels. They come with a great reputation of 4.6 stars out of five with over 2,500 reviews. And many reviews even state how great the company is to work with.

These ten times magnification binoculars are an item we are adding to our travel bags for this summer.


More Travel Tips from Kat and Ali


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Kathleen Hesketh

Kathleen is a travel agent with Mickey World Travel, a platinum level Authorized Disney vacation planner, where she helps people discover the magic of a Disney vacation and other travel destinations. She is also the chief author and editor for Seconds to Go - a travel blog where she shares experiences from traveling the U.S. with her daughter, Ali.

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