9 Travel Gadgets I Have In My Carry-On

Filed Under: Advice, Travel Technology
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Probably the single most useful lesson I’ve learned living in hotels is how bogged down we are with material possessions. I live out of a carry-on (admittedly it’s a generously sized carry-on), and when I moved out of my Seattle apartment early last year I realized just how much crap I had purchased. Crap which I really didn’t need.


As a result, I’ve gotten good at only having material possessions which I really need. If it doesn’t fit in my carry-on, I don’t need it. And I have limited carry-on space, so it makes me think long and hard about every object in my bag.

With that in mind, I figured I’d share the nine “gadgets” I have in my carry-on at all times. I’m sharing the specific ones I have, though am not suggesting there aren’t better brands/options out there (if you know of better ones, by all means chime in — that’s what the comments section is for!). They’re simply the ones I have.

In no particular order:

Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

I wrote about these yesterday, as they’re presently on sale. Every road warrior needs a good pair of headphones to minimize the nosies we have to deal with day-to-day. I remember when I was 14 and bought my first pair of Bose headphones with money I had saved up. I’ve been a customer ever since.


Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

It might seem silly to have two sets of noise cancelling headphones, but it works really well for me. While I wear the on-ear headphones on planes, I find the in-ear headphones to be much more versatile. They’re useful at the gym, if you’re walking around a city, etc.

In terms of space, the great thing is that my in-ear headphones actually fit in the same case as my on-ear phones, so it doesn’t take up any extra carry-on space. They’re also great if I’m traveling with someone, so I can lend them one of my pairs of headphones.


Belkin Headphone Splitter

Speaking of two sets of headphones, I love having a headphone splitter. When I’m traveling it allows me to listen to the same music or watch the same movie as the person I’m traveling with. I’m big into bringing my own entertainment along, so it’s the best way for two people to enjoy it at once.


The Anker Portable iPhone Charger

I’ve written about this one in the past when it was on sale. I can’t even count how often I’ve been in a situation where I had no iPhone power left but desperately needed to do something on my phone, despite my best efforts to keep it well charged. Having a portable iPhone charger is worth the weight it adds to my bag. The best part is that this will charge your iPhone six times, and can charge up to two phones at once.


Universal Travel Adapter

This one is probably a no brainer, but having a universal power adapter is a must for any international traveler. While you can often borrow ones from hotels, you don’t want to be reliant on that. I also like this particular one since it also has a built in USB charger.


Monster Power Strip

I got this one a long time ago, after View from the Wing wrote about it, and it is indeed awesome. I spend so much time in airline lounges which have a shortage of outlets, so being able to turn one outlet into four is a pretty useful tool. This is equally true in hotels, where much to my amazement many desks only have a single available outlet.


13″ Apple MacBook Air 

I do everything on my MacBook Air. I’ve had it for years (actually I’ve replaced it a few times, but that was only due to spilling stuff on the laptop — oops!), and it’s fantastic. Great battery life, light, small, etc. And it’s easy enough for a tech-dummy like me to use as well.


Apple iPad Mini

For years I held out and didn’t buy an iPad Mini, but in the meantime I couldn’t live without it. And that’s despite the fact that I only use it in a very narrow set of circumstances.

I know many use iPads for catching up on email and browsing the web. For the most part I just use it as my portable TV. Since I don’t have a TV I watch all my shows through Hulu Plus and iTunes, so the iPad Mini is how I stay entertained while on the go.

Iberia-Economy-A320 - 6

Canon S95 (Canon S110 is the more modern version)

I could probably use a camera upgrade given that I largely reviews travel stuff for a living. But I sort of subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy when it comes to the camera.

While I’ve considered getting a “professional camera,” I think that would considerably complicate my picture taking. By using a small point-and-shoot camera I can seem like I’m taking amateur pictures, so am less likely to arouse suspicions from airline employees.

So I think it’s a good compromise camera.


Bottom line

Those are the nine gadgets I have in my carry-on at all times. While some might seem a bit frivolous, they’ve all proven themselves useful time and again, or else they wouldn’t be in my carry-on.

What gadgets do you have in your carry-on?

  1. Ben, you’ve helped me so much with your blog that I think it’s time I help you out for once (not counting the numerous CC’s I’ve signed up with your links). And you just have to trust me when I give you this advise and do it. While the S95 is a decent camera for it’s size, it’s time you upgrade to a Sony RX100. It’s not much bigger than the S95 (I can still fit it in my pockets), but the quality of the pictures, especially in low light, will be mind blowing. Just trust me on this one piece of advice and you can thank me later 😉

  2. I agree with Luis. Get yourself the RX100 v4 for photos. It will be a writeoff for you and its the best pocketable camera out there.

  3. I bought proper Noise Cancelling headphones a few years ago but find that I never use them because all my long-haul travel is in J or F where NC headphones are provided. Its bulky and inconvenient to lug them around for the odd short domestic flight when iphone style headphones do fine for an hour or so. I also don’t know how people sleep with them on because you have to sleep on your back and can’t roll over.

    When do you actually use yours?

  4. Third vote for the Sony Rx100. I still own the original version, but currently use the M3 model. Fantastic image quality and just about pocketable. Particularly find the wi-fi capabilities useful, which allows you to download apps that enhance the camera’s features even more (remote shutter via smartphone, etc). Amazing low light capabilities too. Check out the pics on my Instagram (phatmoocow) – lots of travel pics, even more food pics.

  5. I switched from Bose to Shure in ear buds a few years ago and am happy about it. Better sound quality, 1/5 the size. The only drawback is that if it doesn’t have sound coming through, it isn’t noise cancelling. But since I can’t sleep comfortably with the Bose on (I’m a side sleeper), it’s not a problem.

    The reliability of the universal adapter you sue is good? I’ve had troubles with the ones I’ve had breaking down in a year or so.

  6. Also Lucky, I assume you have a huge passport wallet given how many credit and loyalty cards you must carry around with you? Does that weigh you down?

  7. Thanks for the list of your 9 travel gadget. I love the duffle bag. Like the look and the size what is your choice of carry on bag?

  8. I still use the original RX100. The newer versions are bigger and so look less like a point-and-shoot. I agree, the S95/S110 in the article above are junk by comparison.

  9. Your Tumi carry-on is way too heavy. Strip to a hard case. Dump the Bose full-size headphones and just use the QuietComfort 20’s – friends usually carry their own buds.

  10. Bose QuietComfort 15 (older model replaced by the 25) is by far better than the new model. There are several reviews comparing both and the 15 is still way better. Costco has the 15 on sale.

  11. Another vote for the Sony RX-100. I also have the original version probably wouldn’t want to go much bigger. The magic with this series is in the sensor size: it’s much larger than in just about any other pocket-able size camera and that’s what allows the excellent low-light performance and puts it in a class higher than other compacts. Don’t worry about it not having a big optical zoom number; the image quality is so superior that you can crop your way to a larger zoom effect in post processing, say via iPhoto, and still come out way ahead of compacts with megazoom optical lenses. It’s a nice bit of quality design and build.

  12. Thanks for the reminder on the headphone splitter. Been wanting to pick one up for a while but it’s so little and not necessarily a must have so I keep forgetting.

  13. Ah! I love MML–very nice for mindless in flight entertainment. I do the same thing, always BYO entertainment. You fit a ton of stuff in there, and nice personal item bag, can’t see who makes it?

  14. In my carry on, I keep three things that I can throw into the seatback pocket immediately when I get to my seat: a bottle of water, ipad mini, and an old United amenities bag that I’ve filled with noise cancelling earbuds, ipod, replacement battery for the earbuds, ibuprofen, antacids, pepto tablets, gum, pen, small pad of paper (lifted from a hotel), breakfast bar, business cards (you’d be amazed who you end up next to sometimes), and airline drink coupons. I keep all these items in the seatback because on some flights, the pilots seem to forget to turn off the seatbelt sign. It has served me well on my last 400 flights or so..

  15. For the headphone splitter I like the mono price 2-way splitter with volume controls. I find the volume controls are surprisingly important when splitting an audio source.

    Also, I like the normal audio in-ear 3D printed headphones. They block out plane noise but aren’t isolating and I can’t stand the pressure of active noise cancelling.

    Also a data travel service like keepgo to avoid data roaming charges.

    Amazon basics has cheap cases that are useful for travel gadget go-bags.

    Other than that I’m with you 100% especially on the anker charger. I love those.

  16. My top tip for carry-ons is to pack the gear I use in flight in a number of musettes. Thin, light bags, typically used to distribute food to racing cyclists. One for laptops, one for reading material, one for pyjamas etc. It makes finding the right gear for the flight or hotel a breeze. Useful for an around town bag when you arrive.

    I have a bunch from going to bike races and they’re often given away free with bike gear, but cheap enough to buy anyway.


  17. What are some ways you guys download movies/TV shows for flights where you do not have inflight entertainment?

    I have a google nexus that I use to download shows. It works okay, but I have 2 issues — the disk space is not a lot and for some reason, it takes a while to charge it. Other ideas that have worked well for people?

    I have a fear of flying and having some good entertainment helps me take my mind off thinking about the flight. Anyone else face this?

  18. Funny that I came to say “get the RX100” and figured out so many commenters had said exactly the same thing. In fact I think your iPhone has a better image quality than most of the entry to midrange point-and-shoot camera. Anyway another hands up for the RX100.

  19. The Anker iPhone Slim battery case is the probably the single most useful gadget I found last year. Super easy to put it on/off and it increases the battery life for over 100%! I used to carry a separate battery bank like yours, but then I sometimes forget it, or sometimes I am just too lazy to carry an extra thing. With the battery case, I almost always have it on, traveling or not, and never have to worry about exhausting the iPhone battery in one day any more.

  20. I’m glad to see the Monster power strip mentioned. It’s also an absolute necessity when traveling abroad — it allows you to use a single plug converter and still power up to 4 separate devices. On our travels abroad, we prefer VRBO type apartments and we will take two or three plug strips for the different rooms.

  21. Really surprised you don’t have a multi port Anker USB charging brick in your luggage.

    One plug, up to 7 devices charging.

    Must admit, its all I carry now…

  22. Why get a camera at all, wouldn’t life be easier with a new iPhone, the best part about having an iPhone and your Macbook Air is that they sync up so much easier, and the iPhone 6s does have 12MP camera, pics can be saved in the iCloud, and then you can pull direct from iCloud on your Air or iPad. Travel Adapter yes. For headphones I have only one and they are amazing, their the LG Tone Infinim Wireless Headphones, I love them because they wrap around my neck, the headphones retract into the sides, and you can wear at the gym without all the wires, they also work with the Apple Watch as well. (http://www.adverts.ie/bluetooth/lg-tone-infinim-bluetooth-headphones/9458352) these are mine that I’m selling, since I don’t travel as much as I did the past year.

  23. @ AA — I just buy season passes to the shows I like through the iTunes store, though I know others have much more “creative” solutions.

  24. Lucky, I’m still have my old S95 and is a great camera, great colors even in low-light conditions. I have the Rx100 III too which is my main camera (my wife use the S95), but is not pocketable at all. My advice, get the last S120, I’m sue will shot better pictures than the current S95 and record 1080p. The Sony is great but the quality of the pictures is not going to be a big difference for the blog, besides, the S95 take better videos under low-light conditions (Sony RX100 III is darker).

  25. So funny. I carry a regular noise cancelling headset and an earbud noise cancelling headset as well. When I sleep, I often put on my earbud.

  26. @Lucky

    To clarify you mean the new ripstop hard shell Tumi cases?

    If so totally with you on that – I think I have about 12 in the collection now – they are awesome for kit!

  27. I know the camera thing has been discussed before. I think any of the Sony Rx series would be a great fit for you. If you keep your stuff for a long time and it seems like you do, I’d go for the newest model though it is a little pricey.

  28. Ben, what power adapter were you able to use in Bali? The outlet there on the wall is round so some don’t fit.

  29. That’s quite an interesting article and I find this very useful even though it is old. These are some important gadgets to carry while travelling, but I felt you can replace the bigger Bose headphones with portable speakers. Its better to go for the new Microsoft Surface that can replace the Mac book and I pad. And things have changed instead of going for a camera, the higher end smartphones can capture some sharp shots.

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