Best and Worst Travel Gadgets of All Time
There are lots of devices out there perfect for making travelers' lives easier -- PDAs, wrinkle-free clothing, and...flying alarm clocks? Whether it's a way to stash money in your laptop (because no one would think to steal that) or a cup holder that casually swings hot coffee back and forth over your luggage, there are a lot of questionable inventions geared at travelers. Thankfully, there are some that get it right -- think being able to translate words with the stroke of a pen or sanitize your hotel pillow with the wave of a wand. Here are our pick for the best and worst.
Taking a long road trip? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 crashes occur each year because of driver drowsiness, resulting in 1,550 fatalities. And the real numbers are probably much higher, since falling asleep at the wheel is an underreported cause of accidents. It's best not to chance falling asleep at the wheel, but Drive Alert will actually wake you up if you doze off. The $30 device is lightweight and worn around the ear. If your head begins to droop down, a battery-powered alarm sounds off to snap you out of it.
There are many language translators on the market, but none quite like this. You simply write a word in English on special dot paper, tap the pen on the word, and the pen speaks the word aloud in your chosen language. It's not cheap ($129 for the pen and $15 for 200 pages of the dot paper) but the potential is tremendous. Spanish is the only language available now (more options are in the works) and the dictionary holds 40,000 words. The Spanish dictionary is $15 and you can also purchase $3 travel phrase apps for the pen that come with 100 common phrases in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Korean. The pen does come with a free foreign language demo of basic words like numbers, foods, and greetings in Spanish, German, French, Japanese, Korean, Swedish, and Mandarin.
Any surfer, swimmer, or nudist will tell you that there is never anywhere to hide your valuables at the beach. Answer: Flip flops that come with built-in hidden compartments. The left sandal of this $45 pair of sandals has a side slot that holds a customized wallet large enough for several credit cards, ID, cash, and a key. The right sandal includes a side cavity for carrying larger articles and shuts via a snap.
Nano Wand UV Sanitizer
Germ freaks, rejoice! This sanitizing wand can be used on large surfaces -- anything from public toilets to mattresses to pillows to counter tops. Using multi-wavelength 185-365 nm ultraviolet light, this handy tool kills 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, fleas, and lice in just ten seconds. It even destroys E. coli and Asian bird flu viruses. Just twenty inches long and weighing a little over a pound, this $100 magical wand is easy to pack and easy to use. You just click it on, and pass it within a quarter-inch of a surface, and voila! You'll never think twice about crawling into a strange hotel bed again.
Kodak Zx1 Pocket Video Camera
With cameras of all kinds built into cell phones nowadays, you may not feel like packing a video camera for your trip. But there's no need to put up with blurry, murky, and abbreviated videos when you can snag this nifty, pocket-sized camera. It can record up to ten hours of HD video and has a zoom lens and a two-inch front display. Amazing for something that's only four inches tall and an inch thick. Plus the $150 camera can stand up to the elements (it's billed as resistant to sand, snow, and rain) and comes in an array of colors.
Tugo Drink Holder
Invented by a multi-tasking mom who's also an emergency room nurse, you have to give this idea an A for effort. The $9 plastic do-dad is a coffee cup holder that attaches to and suspends between the handles of your wheeled luggage. You can now run to the gate as a hot beverage precariously swings back and forth over your luggage. They claim it doesn't spill, but who wants to test that by rushing through jostling airport crowds?
Flying Alarm Clock
If you have a hard time adjusting to a new time zone and want to be sure you don't lose a whole day of vacation sleeping off your jet lag, this $20 alarm clock is to sure get you out of bed. And possibly give you a heart attack in the process. If you don't quickly turn off the shrieking siren, a flying propeller then spins off the top of the clock, leaps into the air, hits the ceiling, and lands somewhere in your hotel room. You now need to get up and stumble around to find it and put it back on the clock, since it is the key to turn off the murderous alarm.
With this handy dandy $10 device, you can safely hide your money, keys, and credit cards from thieves in the most expensive thing you will be traveling with -- your computer. Which, of course, no thief would ever think of touching.
Wi-Fi Network Detector T-shirt
There are a number of key-chain style Wi-Fi detectors available, but why waste all that valuable time pulling something out of your pocket when you can just look down at your chest? This snazzy $20 T-shirt displays glowing bars on the front, illustrating if there is a Wi-Fi signal within range and displays signal strength for 802.11b or 802.11g. If you know what that means, then this shirt is for you.
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