Exactly one year has flown by since I became an expat in Portugal. As a traveler and remote worker, the most important thing I’ve learned is what a difference the right travel gadgets make.
Moving to Lisbon has made me a smarter traveler and a better freelance writer. It’s taught me to pay attention to details, and to be flexible and adaptive. It’s also reinforced the importance of having the right tools for the job.
Top ten travel gadgets
On that note, I’ve pulled together a list of the top ten travel gadgets that I can’t imagine traveling without. So whether you’re a remote worker, tourist, digital nomad, or expat in Portugal, you’ve got to add these to your must-have list.
All-in-one plug adaptor
A plug adaptor isn’t particularly sexy or cutting-edge, but a good version should be at the top of everyone’s gadget list. If you need one, you need one. I bought some off-brand version a few years ago, and learned the hard way while on vacation that cheapest isn’t best.
Do yourself a favor and try the Travel Smart All-in-One Plug Adaptor. This brand has a bunch of fancier and less-fancy adaptors, with USB ports or even a built-in nightlight.
For most of us, this all-in-one adaptor will do the job. It’s affordable and well-made – basically the best $12.99 you’ll ever spend.
The thing about air travel is, once you’re on the plane, there’s nowhere you can go to get away from noisy neighbors. Last week, we were on a flight from Munich to Lisbon with a child who really, really didn’t want to be there. Short of parachuting out of the plane, the best thing you can do is invest in a set of noise-cancelling headphones.
These headphones are pricey if you’re a bargain-shopper like me, but worth it. They’re not just good for flights, but for remote work from cafés or other public spots.
Try JBL’s Wireless Over-Ear Noise-Cancelling Headphones if you want a solid brand for slightly less money than, say, the fancy Bose Quiet Comfort headphones. The JBLs get great reviews – and you can get them with free shipping from Target.
Mike doesn’t like to travel anywhere without a power bank. I, on the other hand, consider getting through a day with a 12-percent phone battery an extreme sport. Despite my stubbornness, these little gadgets have saved me many times.
The Anker PowerCore 20000mAh Quick Charge 3.0 Power Bank is a good choice. With two USB ports, you can recharge your own phone on the go, as well as the phone of the stubborn person traveling with you.
And Anker’s a reputable brand, so you should feel confident choosing any of their power banks. This version is sleeker and lighter than some of its other models, so you’ll save a little space in your bag, too.
Silicone travel bottles
I can be particular about how things feel in my hands. And I can’t stand – truly cannot deal with – the little, plastic travel bottles that feel like they might crack when you squeeze them. Or actually do crack. You know the kind I mean.
Enter the GoToob Silicone Travel Bottles. Yes, they’re more expensive. But they’re exactly the right size for air travel, they don’t leak, they’re made of food-safe silicone, and you can throw them in the dishwasher when you get home. Plus, they feel good when you squeeze them.
If you haven’t caught on to these inexpensive wonders, just try them. When we moved from Boston to Lisbon, suitcase space was precious. I used tons of these to compress and pack more clothes into each bag.
You don’t need a vacuum or any kind of power source to get the most out of these, either. Just squish. I like to sit on mine to get all the air out of them.
Made by Design has a set of five compression bags for $22, which is a bargain when you realize how much space you just saved in your carry-on.
Waterproof Bluetooth speaker
Bose is synonymous with high-quality audio equipment. That’s just one reason I’m recommending this Bose Soundlink Micro Bluetooth Speaker you can take anywhere. And if you’re a little klutzy – like me – you don’t have to worry about dropping this in the pool at your rental villa.
You also can answer calls while the speaker is paired with your phone – if you’re the sort of person who loves speakerphone. (And if you *are* that sort of person, I don’t understand you, but I still like you.)
One of the benefits of working remotely is that you can travel a lot and still make a living. Mike and I visited Venice and the Dolomites a few months ago, and I was able to finish a couple of important assignments from our slopeside patio while he was skiing. Not too shabby.
One thing I love about working vacations is my tech organizer. Nerdy, I know, but having all my adaptors, cords, and office supplies in one tidy place is just the best feeling.
If you don’t already have an organizer, try the spiffy Porte Play Zip Case. It includes a removable pouch, plus lots of slots and zippered pockets.
Hydrogel Under Eye Masks
Oh, I will never not love these. They’re cooling and soothing, and help keep my eyes from looking all puffy and tired. Plane travel tends to dry out my skin, so I like to put on an eye mask either as soon as I get home or – more likely – the next morning while I have my coffee.
The masks feel fantastic after I’ve stared at a computer all day. And they’re even more refreshing if you leave them in the refrigerator for a bit before you put them on.
There are lots of eye mask brands out there, but the e.l.f. Hydrogel Under Eye Masks are an affordable treat. Just $8 for three sets. Self-care for short money.
Handheld luggage scale
I once watched a panicked family repeatedly pack and unpack their four suitcases while standing at an airline check-in counter.
They were trying to figure out exactly what they could check/carry on/abandon in order to avoid heavy bag fees. It was like watching the most stressful game show ever.
You can avoid all of that anxiety with a simple luggage scale. I absolutely love mine. It’s small, inexpensive, and weighs next to nothing. This Travel Smart model lets you weigh bags in kilograms or pounds, and will tell you the temperature while you’re at it.
Red Sox luggage
Ok, no one *needs* a Red Sox spinner suitcase and backpack. But I had to include this because it just makes me so happy.
Plus, if you’ve ever stood around an airport baggage carousel trying to pick your plain-black suitcase out of a sea of plain-black suitcases, this set is a welcome change.
Just don’t tell me if you decide to buy the Yankees set instead.
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