Why not travel happy?
Flight delays, bad weather, traffic jams and frazzled nerves: Welcome to holiday travel. Sadly there is no app guaranteed to lull screaming babies on a plane or a teleportation device to prevent waiting in endless lines on the ground. But there is tech that could help prevent headaches en route to holiday destinations. This subjective list was gleaned from frequent travelers who used this tech to find some relief in the rush.
No need to search for an outlet at the airport.
Nabbing an electrical outlet in an airport on a normal day can feel like finding Waldo. Skip it with backup power. One frequent traveler swears by the ZAGGsparq 6000, a portable power source for USB-charged mobile devices. It contains a lithium polymer battery that provides up to four charges, depending on the device. When you do find an outlet, the ZAGGsparq doubles as a wall charger for multiple devices. Other options: the Mophie Powerstation Pro and the IOGEAR GearPower High Capacity Portable Battery.
Prop up your media.
If you're packing extra light and want distraction during a long layover or flight, you might find yourself relying on a smartphone. Sleek smartphone cases that come equipped with their own little stands allow you to watch a show or movie without having to hold it in your hand or prop it up against an empty food container. Seido makes a Surface smartphone case with an unobtrusive metal kickstand, but there are numerous options out there.
A bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a cover makes everything easier.
Seat space is crunched enough as it is so why not give your hands a break, too. Whether drafting the annual holiday letter to family and friends or working on that novel, a keyboard is easier than composing on a tiny screen. Sharkk makes highly rated wireless backlit keyboards for tablets, including Apple, Windows and Android devices. But Sharkk isn't the only fish in the sea. Several other electronics companies make helpful Bluetooth keyboard cases, including Anker and Zagg.
Locate a rest stop lickety-split.
When you've gotta go, you've gotta go. Avoid having to take a whiz in the woods by using a rest area locator app. The Google play app USA Rest Stop Locator by Innovative Software Technology will help users find the nearest rest stops, welcome centers and service plazas along U.S. Interstates and highways. Browse by state, highway or an exact map location. For iPhones the free Rest Area Locator Lite by O Mecha Online gets positive reviews, including one that called it "indispensable when traveling with kids."
Real-time traffic apps let you avoid congestion.
Millions of people already use the free navigation app Waze on Apple and Android phones. Pronounced "ways," the app draws from an enormous amount of community-based traffic info to provide real-time driving directions. The app can help you reroute mid-trip to avoid jams. If navigating holiday traffic still makes you stressed, Waze recently added an option to get comedian Kevin Hart's voice directions. Maybe you can laugh through your tears.
Block out crying babies, loud phone conversations and cheesy holiday music.
When there's a screaming baby on the plane, don't risk hearing loss by cranking up music in a pair of disposable headphones. Come prepared with noise-canceling ones. Usually noise canceling is synonymous with giant headphones that take up as much room as two old-school Discmen, but the Bose QuietComfort 20i headphones are essentially high-tech, highly packable ear buds. For budget-conscious travelers, Sony sells decent noise-canceling ear buds at a fraction of the price.
Keep the digits warm.
Handling metal devices while in transit can leave travelers' digits ice cold. Add some unwelcome drafts and even the funniest YouTube videos aren't going to warm your hands. This has turned into a known problem because, much like touchscreen compatible winter gloves, there's now a proliferation of USB-heated gloves sold on Amazon.com. Sadly for those with poor circulation, the options for USB-heated socks aren't as good.
Locate your lost luggage, fast!
There's that sinking moment at the baggage carousel when you realize yours didn't make it. Better GPS and tracking tech makes it easier for baggage handlers to get suitcases back to their rightful owners. While no tech can prevent luggage from getting lost or stolen, travelers have had some success using traceable tags. Each kind on the market has limitations, though, so check details and reviews before buying. In the United States, Dynotag and Soren make Web and GPS-enabled smart luggage tags that can be customized to only display certain contact info. And if you're just trying to find your bag on the carousel, there are remote-controlled luggage locators that beep and flash when the remote is less than 60 feet away.
Keep an eye on your home when you're away.
There are so many things we can't control: weather, traffic, flight cancelations. But knowing that all is well at home can bring great peace of mind. An array of tech now makes it easier to keep an eye on your home remotely. Dropcam's wireless camera has a a 107-degree field of view, and includes motion and sound alerts. Y-cam Solutions' HomeMonitor lets you see live views from in-home cameras, including infrared at night. Cloud-based monitoring abounds, and might be that rare case when a serious cloud overhead is actually helpful.
A padded, zip-sealed bag protects breakable items.
How many times have you wanted to pack a bottle of wine, but decided against it for fear that it would shatter inside your luggage? Lightweight JetBags are padded, absorbent bags that protect the bottle and your clothes. Use it for just about any liquid, including perfume, olive oil or alcohol. JetBag also makes bags that protect electronic devices and cigars.