Don’t leave home without it: A gift guide for a loved one with the travel bug

What do you buy a travel junkie that seems to have everything? Well that’s simple, any one of the following…

Echo-Smartpen

Livescribe Echo Smartpen

If your loved one’s tendency for travel is business rather than pleasure related, the chances are he or she will love the Livescribe Echo Smartpen. This ingenious device records audio and matches it up with what you are writing. People taking notes during a presentation or a lecture can get away with jotting down keywords and later going back and listening to the conversation, cued up to different words on the page. When users download the free software to their PC, when the pen is plugged into a USB port, they can recap both the audio and the notes – most definitely a ‘smarter’ choice of pen.

Available in two different sizes, the 4GB Echo Smartpen costs £110 and the 8GB Smartpen costs £130.

Kayak app

This app costs nothing so cannot be considered as the most ‘generous’ travel gift available. Nonetheless being a simple, searchable app including information on flights, car hire and hotels, it’s a corker.

The Kayak app is available at www.kayak.com

Klipsch Image S4 Headphones

For travellers enduring long-distance journeys, standard ear buds can become slightly uncomfortable to say the least. The Klipsch Image S4 Headphones come in different sizes and are smaller, more tapered and softer than conventional headphones. They may be smaller but they are sturdier and more sound resistant than other standard ear buds – a real ‘must have’ for ardent travellers.

Go Laptop Travel Charger

Times have changed immensely since the days a backpacker’s backpack consisted of a pair of undies, socks and a toothbrush. Nowadays even backpackers insist on taking their laptop with them on their travels. A decent charger is therefore imperative. With a bevy of ‘tips’ or adaptors, that work with different power jacks, a whole host of Windows-based laptops can be charged with ease. And measuring 0.7 inches thick and weighing just 13.5 ounces, the Go Laptop Travel Charger is less bulky and lighter than standard AC adaptors, making more room for those other ‘essential’ travel items.

World Mate app

Another fantastic freebie, the World Mate app is an essential travel portal that provides worldwide weather forecast, currency exchanges and hotel searches.

World Mate can be downloaded at www.worldwidemate.com

Tripit Travel app

By acting as a kind of personal travel organiser, the Tripit travel app creates a master travel itinerary and enables users to access their travel itinerary online. To collate confirmation emails into one travel itinerary, download the Tripit app for free at: www.tripit.com

TWIG:Robot arms, GEKKOLinks and Blackbox M10s

The Week In Gadgets

This week saw the launch of the Blackberry Torch 9800 and Blackberry 6 OS to a lukewarm press reaction. We also saw the release of the call-me-anywhere satellite phone – the iSatphone Pro and a cloud based music service from the Carphone Warehouse. There were also some guitars made from paper.

The good people at thepresentfinder.co.uk pointed me in the direction of the frankly amazing Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm – a build-your-own remote control robot arm.

robotic-arm

I can’t believe I just typed “build-you-own remote control robot arm” but apparently they not only exist but can be yours for £39.99. Billed as an educational tool, the Remote Controlled Mechanical Arm lets you learn how machines work and it is a great insight into the basics of control systems. Get one from here. And get me one too.

Last week we looked at Blackbox’s i10 silencer earphones and this week they released their M10s which have the same Active Noise Rejection technology but in an overear cup style (which rotate so they are ideal for DJs). They also have a similar price to the i10 silencers, retailing at £89.99.

Travel bloggers should check out GEKKOLinks, a new service from the save@gekko people that automatically converts mentions of hotels on websites into affiliate links and makes a small box appear with relevant information including availability and prices from multiple booking engines.

GEKKOLinks

In theory, the GEKKOLinks service should improve sites for readers – you could be reading a review of Hotel Yoruba, decide you like it and book a room without leaving the site. And publishers should get a cut of any bookings as well. You can sign up here.

Over the course of next week we should have reviews of some new and exciting iPod docks, a 3D camera for under £200 (well £199.99) and some spy cameras. Should be wild.

Indispensable gadgets for the beach

In typical fashion, the British summer has taken a turn for the worse – at least in the north anyway – meaning thousands will be swiping last minute bargains and flocking to sunnier climes. Latestgadgets looks at those essential gadgets to spruce up lazy days on the beach.

Beach-Gadgets

Amazon Kindle 3

Perfect for taking all your books with you on holiday. Read our special feature on it here…

Twister Beach Towel Game

The perfect accessory if your holiday’s mission has romantic inclinations attached. As gathering up the single talent on the beach and inviting them to twist, turn and position their bodies in the way only Twister manages, is extra fun when the girls are in bikinis and the guys are in their Speedo’s!

Olympus Mju Tough-3000

Technology and sand does not normally like each other. But whilst posting enviable images of ourselves lapping up the sun on Facebook or sending loved ones back home photos of us smiling on the sands, digital cameras are now as an essential item in the beach bag as the sun cream. And this is where the Olympus Mju Tough-3000 ‘unbreakable’ camera may be the wisest choice of camera to accompany the beach balls and towels. This ‘well-hard’ gadget comprises of an exceptionally durable spec, being able to handle drops as high as 1.5 meters, dips of up to three meters, and will ‘weather the storm’ in excessively high or low temperatures. Some measly grains of sand will therefore prove powerless to the Olympus Mju Tough-3000. At 140 GBP, with its 12-megapixel sensor, 3.6x optical zoom and 1GB of internal storage, we reckon this latest admission to Olympus’s Mju Tough range deserves a place reserved in the suitcase.

Suntracking Beach Chair

A ‘must-have’ for sun worshippers, whose sole intent of their holiday is to return with a deeply bronzed, to-die-for body. This folding beach chair can swivel 360 degrees ensuring you are always in the sun without the painstaking task of having to get up and move the towel. The Suntracking Beach Chair also reclines into three positions and comes equipped with a detachable pillow and integrated sun canopy. Although for $149.95 the majority of us will probably continue to wrestle with our towels.

Finis Swi MP3.1G waterproof MP3 player

It goes without saying that an MP3 player is a ‘must have’ item to attend a day on the beach with us. Although how annoying is having to reluctantly prize the headphones out of our ears as we wearily take a dip in the sea? Although with the Finis Swi MP3-1G Waterproof Mp3 player, having to forsake music whilst we take a dip or run the risk of water logging our favorite gadget has been effectively ruled out. By replacing conformist headphones with slightly less conventional bone-conduction technology, when the units are strapped to a snorkel mask or goggles, music will vibrate through the cheekbones and into the inner ear. What could be more perfect than swimming amongst the corals to Cold Play?

Zoku Ice Lolly Maker

This one’s a definite if you have kids, as costing just 40 GBP will probably save you a fortune in the endless amounts of ice lollies children demand whilst at the beach. Simply pour drinks into the Zoku and within ten minutes they will come out refreshingly frozen, saving you the time, energy and money of taking regular trips to the ice-cream van.

Sound Asleep travel pillow and headboard: soundtrack to sweet dreams

Most people were less than pleased to see the failed English football team disembark from their South African World Cup adventure. One company however manage to snatch victory from the gaping jaws of defeat as Wayne Rooney was snapped very publically holding one of their products – a SoundAsleep pillow. We went down to meet the SoundAsleep team and have a look at two of their latest releases.

Sound-Asleep-Travel-Pillow

The heart of the Sound Asleep product range is the Sound Asleep pillow – either in hollow fibre or memory foam which is basically just a pillow with an incredibly hard to detect speaker built in. Simple as this may sound, it is a pretty effective way of listening to tunes before you sleep (better than sleeping with earphones certainly), and seems like a good way to work though hypnotherapy tapes, language learning materials or even just to background noise for those afflicted with tinnitus.

The Sound Asleep Travel Pillow is a soft, round the neck style plush travel pillow, with a speaker fitted to each end and a little pouch hiding away a 3.5 mm jack. The speaker placement means that you can listen comfortably to an mp3 player without annoying the person next to you – I comfortably worked my way through some Pete Rock & CL Smooth tunes without alerting the lady next to me in the show room. Best of all it’s only £15, which is not that much more than a regular travel pillow. The company behind Sound Asleep’s core competency is in bedding – so like all their pillows the Travel Pillow works well as a resting device as well as an audio output device.

Also on display was the Sound Asleep Headboard for budding Casanovas. A mains powered headboard with a nifty built in speaker system, any device with a 3.5 mm jack can simply be plugged in. Obviously this works well for mp3 players but can also enhance watching videos in bed on a laptop or tablet – or even a TV if you are willing to extend a cable across the room. For approximately £100 it’s not a bad way to get a surround sound effect on the cheap.

myID have your biometric passport covered

When you travel abroad, your passport is by far your most valuable asset. And with the rise of identity theft, not to mention all manner of sophisticated cloning techniques, passport safety is serious business.

A simple holder to pop it into will keep it secure – but where’s the glamour? After all, there’s no point going to the bother of colour co-ordinating your designer luggage to match your designer outfit, only to be let down by your accessories. Fear not. If you can travel in style, so can your passport, as myID have created a range of covers that blend fashion with functionality.

myID-passport-cover

Available in two styles, the £19.99 Executive cover is made from super-soft black leather and comes packaged in a gift box. It is designed with frequent flyers in mind. Alternatively, there’s the Traveller cover, made from faux brown leather and priced at a more affordable £11.99.

These sleek accessories are more than just mere fashion statements though. On a practical note, all passports issued within the UK since March 2006 contain biometric technology, meaning they feature a chip which contains information unique to the holder. This information can be read by fraudsters using easily-available Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology.

If your unique information is exposed, it could lead to cloning, theft and all sorts of other trouble. Worryingly, criminals don’t even need to be in possession of your passport for this to happen – they can read the information from a few metres away. However, myId are one step ahead of the fraudsters and have built RIFD-blocking technology into both covers. It is hidden in both the front and back of the casing for maximum protection.

So, if your priority is enjoying your holiday this summer, instead of worrying about your personal information falling into the wrong hands, myId’s multi-functional passport holders, with an added touch of glamour, will keep you on the right track.

Both myID passport covers are now available to order from www.itsmyid.co.uk.

Best Travel Apps Round-Up (2010)

Mobile technology has revolutionised the way people see the world, and whether you’re staycationing in Britain or venturing abroad, travel apps can help make you the most of your adventures. Here’s a selection of recent additions to the iPhone store to help you on your way.

Travel-Gadgets

Get Packing II
This neat little app will calculates everything you’ll need to take on your holiday, from the exact quantity of items, right down to the specific colour of your clothes. It can tell you which shade of clothing best suits your climate’s destination and contains a wardrobe planner to help you co-ordinate your outfits. The app also protects against potential holiday disasters, such as running out of clean clothes, by calculating the number of days before they’ll need a wash.
Price: £1.19

South African City Guide (2-n-1)
South Africa is a hot destination for World Cup fans, but as this double app shows, the country has much more to offer than football. It focuses on the highlights of Johannesburg and Pretoria, two of South Africa’s most diverse cities. The very reasonably-priced guides can plan each day of your trip, make hotel reservations, point out landmarks and even call you a taxi.
Price: 59p

Britain’s Finest
Details the best places to stay and eat across the UK. A huge amount of useful information has been gleamed from the Britain’s Finest website and condensed in this handy guide. Searches can be narrowed down to the most specific detail, such as finding a hotel that is dog-friendly, for example. The app also includes details of hundreds of special offers and all the information has been thoroughly researched by journalists.
Price: Free

Worth Seeing
Does exactly what it says on the tin – pinpoints every tourist attraction worth seeing in and around the area you’re based. All attractions are sorted by distance from your current location and there are more than 12,000 listings, covering the whole of western Europe. The most useful part is a map view function that shows users the 1,000 nearest attractions.
Price: £1.19

Mobile Street Map
These days, you’re never lost if you have a phone with you – but whether you arrive on time is a different matter. If you find Google Maps too slow, this is a worthy alternative. The data is pre-loaded on to your phone so there’s no need for a continuous Wi-Fi connection and it also means there are no pricey roaming charges. The extensive maps list many useful items, such as cash machines, car parks, museums and landmarks and you can also mark interesting points on the map for future reference.
Price: £1.19

ReboundTag – New lost luggage tracking service

Do you frequently fly with your most treasured memories tightly packed in your luggage? Or are you too cheap to pay for travel insurance that covers your suitcase’s contents? Perhaps you are just paranoid?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, then brace yourself for a solution: the ReboundTag. Using state of the art technology, alongside a barcode, the device stores a personal ID number linked to ReboundTag’s online service, so that if your luggage goes-a-wandering, airlines and airports that use the service can helpfully return your luggage to you.

ReBoundTag

The technology inside of the tags is simply two RFID microchips, that store an a code that identifies ReboundTag as the service provider, an ID to display your user account details, and a spare ID so that airlines can save their own information as well.

The tags also have a printed barcode which complies with the airline standard barcode system, so that even in a low-tech airport, your high-tech solution is ready to go.

The service itself works in much the same way as microchipping a pet – you register the ID to your name, and if it goes missing and then is found by someone with the correct reading apparatus, the tagged item (or animal) can be safely returned – something I refer to as a Good Samaritan Service.

ReboundTag is slightly more technical that chipping a pet, however, as you can not only store your itinerary onto your account, so that your luggage can be automatically forwarded wherever you have disappeared to, but the ReboundTag servers also send out a notification via email or SMS as soon your bag has been discovered.

To work out just how much of a threat permanent bag loss is, we crunched some numbers from the US aviation database. On average, 4.6% of luggage is lost when taking a flight, and 15% of that is never returned to the rightful owner (the rest ends up in a warehouse in the Alabama, sold at auction). This means that on every flight there is a 0.7% chance of losing your luggage permanently.

Whether or not ReboundTag can successfully reduce this number – after all, it doesn’t prevent against deliberate theft – has yet to be proved. However, the service is a mere £19.99 for a three-year membership, or £49.95 for three tags in the Family Pack, and therefore more affordable for the paranoid than a dedicated shipment, or an armed escort.