Whether you're on a short hop to Europe or long haul to the west coast or far east, having the right kit makes the journey just that bit smoother. Our resident business travel expert Mark Frary selects the latest handy gear for busy travellers.
15 minutes – that's all it takes to get between Heathrow and central London on our high speed train services. It got us thinking… what else can you do in 15 minutes? This issue: travel smarter with the latest travel gear and gadgets.
Get on the case
The Trunkster suitcase calls itself “the most crowdfunded travel innovation ever”. It’s not an idle boast either; its Kickstarter campaign raised $1.4 million. So why were those investors so desperate to get one? Not many suitcases are like Trunkster ($325 +$40 for GPS for the 22 inch carry-on Trunkster, preorder for delivery this autumn). When it becomes available, it will feature a built-in weighing scale, ideal for beating the jobsworths at low cost airline check-in, GPS tracking so you can follow your luggage’s progress around the globe and a battery pack with two USB charging ports to keep your devices topped up. It also has a snazzy roll-top closing mechanism making it tough enough to withstand the knocks and jostles of airport baggage handling.
If you are looking more for timeless style, try the beautiful ridged aluminium cases from Rimowa which are both stylish and incredibly durable, if expensive.
Smartphone battery life is the bane of the always-connected frequent traveller. Who wants to lug a charger around during the day? Acer will soon launch its answer to this perennial problem in the shape of the Liquid X2 phablet. The device is just out in the US and is coming to the UK too (price TBA). The battery in question has a monster 4000mAh capacity (the iPhone 6’s battery is just 1,810mAh by comparison). But that’s not the only trick the Liquid X2 has up its slim sleeve. It will feature a 5.5 inch HD screen, a 64-bit eight-core processor and – get this – three SIM card slots, perfect if you have local SIMs for your regular travel destinations.
Mobile bills when travelling can get enormous, particularly if you use data-hungry apps while roaming on other networks. Companies like 3 are making things cheaper by allowing free use in a range of other countries, but if you are on a different network, pick up a Dataroam data SIM card to reduce the cost of staying connected abroad.
The Google Translate app has always been a handy download onto your smartphone, particularly Android devices which have had real-time spoken translations since 2013. The company has now beefed up the app with an even smarter feature, adding Word Lens technology to provide real-time translation of foreign words just by pointing your camera at them. This is really handy if you are confronted by a menu in a restaurant or an instruction sign you cannot figure out.
Translations are currently only available between English and French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish but more language pairs are on the way.
More and more travellers are looking for last-minute accommodation while they are travelling and the Hotel Tonight app has made quite a name for itself in the area. Now the big boys want to get in and Booking.com has launched its own Booking Now app for last-minute hotelseekers, although it is currently only available on iOS.
And, if you're a traveller on the Heathrow Express, try the new Heathrow Express app. Get tickets straight to your phone, real-time service updates and quick one-step purchase. You can buy tickets just 15 minutes before travel.
The Swiss-designed Skross World Adapter Pro+ USB (around £30-35) is like Google Translate but for plugs – it lets you convert pretty much anything to anything through a system of sliders. Just select the correct prongs for your socket and it all slots into place with a satisfying clunk. The adapter works in 150 countries and can handle two as well as three-pole sockets (i.e. ones with earth connections). It also throws in two USB ports which can be used simultaneously. The World Adapter Pro+ is rated up to 2500 watts so you’ll know it can charge most devices on the road without a problem.
They may now be regretting calling their solar charger ISIS, but Freeloader’s (£364.99) travels better than its revolutionary namesake. This tablet of cells is weatherproof and measures 25mm x 76mm x 137mm. Like all similar devices, it takes several hours in the sun to fully charge up, but it can run off the mains too. Once full, it can recharge a smartphone three times over.
Peace and quite loud
Bang & Olufsen H8 wireless noise-cancelling headphones (£399), are as classy as the B&O name would suggest, incredibly light (just 255 grams) and the aluminium, sheepskin and leather design makes them look as though they have just appeared out of a 1970s timewarp. They even have very comforting large L and Rs printed on the earcups so you don’t have to struggle to work out how to wear them.
Creative’s new Sound Blaster Roar SR20 Bluetooth and NFC speaker (£129.99) both looks and sounds good. The gunmetal grille design feels like a high end shaver but rub this against your chin with care – it packs two high performance amplifiers, five drivers and a built-in subwoofer that could pin your ears back.
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