The world of travel technology and gadgets is a digital minefield, but it can facilitate real self-reliance on the road. We sifted through thousands of products to find the new essentials
Travel tech takeaways
For some of us, travel technology means not much more than the price comparison websites that seek out the cheapest flights or hotels. But beyond what we might use on our laptops or desktops at home, there is a dizzying array of electronic gadgets, smartphone apps and hi-tech toys that can transform the experience of travel.
They may help us to find out what’s on offer as we explore a new city. Or they may give us the chance to enjoy a few of the comforts of home when we are out on the road. Or, if we have donned our hiking boots to explore remote areas, they may, in extreme circumstances, even help to save our lives.
Here we showcase a few of the most innovative and useful pieces of technology on the market, with prices that are less than eye-watering and sometimes free.
1. DJI Mavic Pro drone
(See above) Where once it was a bulky video camera that tech-loving tourists took on holiday, today the drone is the must-have device.
The DJI Mavic Pro fits the bill for holidaymakers who want something that is light and compact enough to be folded away into hand luggage, but that doesn’t compromise on quality. It boasts a 12-megapixel camera and HD video capability, weighs a modest 743g and can fly for almost half an hour at a maximum speed of 65kph. All of this does not come cheap, however, and its price tag makes the DJI Mavic Pro the Rolls-Royce of drones.
From Dh3,510; dji.com/mavic
2. Micro Luggage
Made by Micro Kickboard, the Micro Luggage combines a wheeled 26-litre suitcase with a child’s scooter. Perhaps the best thing about this carrier, which the manufacturer says saves time in airport terminals by allowing people to scoot along instead of walking, is that it’s aimed at adults. Well, if you cannot unleash your inner child and have a bit of fun while heading out on holiday, then when can you? With the scooter easy to fold away, it can be carried on board as hand luggage and tucked away in the overhead compartment, making it sensible as well as fun. From Dh1,919; microkickboard.com/micro-luggage-reloaded
3. Bluesmart One suitcase
This might be the closest thing there is to an intelligent suitcase. It sets off an alarm if it is taken too far away from its owner’s smartphone, it can be tracked the world over using GPS (if it is switched on), it can be locked and unlocked by phone, and it can weigh itself using inbuilt scales.
Suitable as cabin luggage, the Bluesmart One suitcase also boasts a charger for USB devices, but the price tag matches the technology.
Various sizes are available and a second-generation range is being launched this year. From Dh1,519; bluesmart.com
4. HooToo Wireless Travel Router
This pint-sized device should be enough to cope with the wireless needs of even the most tech-addicted traveller. Available in various configurations, its functions include being able to turn a wired network into a wireless one, and creating a secure WiFi network from an existing wireless network. It can also be used to stream music, videos and photos to smartphones, televisions, tablets and other connected devices. What is more, the router can back up pictures and videos from a smartphone, which is useful for freeing up space.
From Dh401; hootoo.com
5. Handpresso Auto
Technology means that we can still enjoy many of the luxuries of home when we are travelling, and that even extends to when we are in the car.
For example, a rich Italian espresso can easily be made with the Handpresso Auto, which is powered by a car’s cigarette-lighter plug. It takes specially made coffee pods or, simply, ground coffee. For those without access to electrical power, Handpresso makes a variety of hand-held manual espresso machines, so even holidaymakers out camping in the wilds can get a caffeine fix. From Dh1,029; handpresso.com
Hikers in remote areas should never be without a mobile phone in case of emergency, but what happens when there’s no coverage? The hand-held goTenna device lets people communicate with one another when there is no phone signal or WiFi. It creates an “off-grid” network that enables users to exchange messages, a potential life saver if one amongst a group of people who are in the same area gets lost or injured. It is, the manufacturer says, the 21st-century equivalent of a smoke signal.
From Dh749; gotenna.com
7. AroundMe app
Where once travellers may have had to use guidebooks to find the nearest restaurant, cinema or hospital, today a simple search using a smartphone app can do the job. Among the most popular apps, with many millions of downloads, is AroundMe, which is available free for devices with Android, iOS (Apple) or Windows operating systems. Google Maps is included, so users should have little trouble finding their intended location. There are myriad alternative apps offering similar functions, such as Find NearBy (Android) and Find Near Me (iOS). Free (although upgrades, such as an ad-free version, can be paid for); aroundmeapp.com
The sharing economy has had a big impact on what services are available to travellers, and much of this is down to electronic platforms.
Among those to have entered this space is MeetnGreetMe, which is available using a smartphone app or a normal web browser. It allows visitors to get in touch with locals offering concierge-type services ranging from meeting-on-arrival to booking hotels, organising medical care and giving guided tours.
Other apps worth looking at include Symphony, which offers personalised suggestions for individual travellers and a concierge service. Price varies depending upon the service and the provider; meetngreetme.com