I traveled 5,372 miles to Costa Rica — here are 5 gadgets I couldn't live without

5 essential travel gadgets
(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to vacations, having the right gadgets for your travels is essential. Tech can fix all of the biggest problems when heading out on your holidays, from sheer boredom of long traveling times to keeping all your devices topped up.

So when I headed out to Costa Rica with my significant other, this gave me a chance to create my perfect vacation everyday carry — a suite of tech that is guaranteed to help you make the absolute best of every holiday, while being lightweight and portable enough to stash in your personal item like a backpack. 

Oh, and if you're curious, my bag of choice is the Able Carry Daily. It's a little pricey at $138 but it looks sexy in a minimalist way and is tough enough to last for many years.

Rather than me blather on or get into detail about how my pasty English complexion stuck out like a sore thumb in San Jose, let’s just get into my 5 essential travel gadgets.

1. Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses

(Image credit: Future)

Using these in the UK, you’re limited in functionality when it comes to Ray-Ban’s Meta smart glasses. Sure, the photo and video capture capabilities are great, and the speaker/mic combination makes these great for hands-free calling on-the-go. But the AI features that were unlocked the moment I hit the U.S. showed what these are truly capable of.

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses (with transition lenses):

Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses (with transition lenses): $396 @ Ray-Ban
There’s no two ways about it — this is the perfect vacation companion. From the 12MP cameras capturing crispy content in even the more difficult lighting conditions to the multimodal AI enhancing your knowledge of wherever you go, this is an essential purchase for any keen traveler.

Of course, it was amazing to get video when driving an ATV through the jungle, but the real magic came when I got my hands on the multimodal AI beta. This feature set starts with a very simple “Hey Meta! Look and tell me…” followed by whatever query you have.

Whether it was translating Spanish signs to English, identifying the species of jungle cat I was looking at, or getting a history lesson on landmarks I gazed upon, the glasses provide a new dimension to any vacation. It’s not perfect — being in beta, the software doesn’t always get it right. But most of the time, it convinced me Meta is truly onto something when it comes to wearable AI devices.

Just make sure you get the transition lenses. That extra $97 cost may sting, but being able to wear them at all times drastically increases their usability.

2. Mous 3-in-1 Portable Charger

Mous 3-in-1 wireless charger

(Image credit: Future)

The charging struggle is real, and I’ve felt it all too much — whipping out a spaghetti junction of cables and plugs to juice your phone, watch and earbuds. So being able to charge all three on one wireless station is key for a cleaner bedside table in the Airbnb.

For my daily driver setup of iPhone 15 Pro, Apple Watch Series 9 and AirPods Pro 2, I opted for Mous’ portable charger for one key reason: it is super light and super portable. Just a shade over three ounces and almost the same size as your standard credit card (just a bit thicker), you can just throw this into your backpack or case without a moment’s hesitation.

Mous 3-in-1 wireless charger: $40 @ Amazon

Mous 3-in-1 wireless charger: $40 @ Amazon
If you’re using an all-Apple setup on-the-go, there isn’t a better 3-in-1 portable charger in my opinion than the Mous. Plus, if you’re on the Android side of things, these Qi-compatible charging pads will support your devices too.

There’s a slight downside in the lack of certification, so charging speeds are slow (7.5W for the iPhone), but provided you work around this by charging overnight, the design and the low price makes it a worthwhile addition to any traveling arsenal.

3. Shargeek Retro 35W GaN Charger

Shargeek Retro 35W GaN Charger

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to plugging into the sockets, I could’ve gone for a converter to use my 3-pin plugs, but these monstrosities usually take up a lot of backpack space. On top of that, if you’re going for a dirt cheap one, those exposed prongs are prone to scratching other items stashed in there (RIP my old sunglasses).

Shargeek Retro 35W GaN Charger: was $30 now $27 @ Amazon

Shargeek Retro 35W GaN Charger: was $30 now $27 @ Amazon
A cute throwback with plenty of power, this mini 35W GaN charger is able to efficiently charge any device quickly, or power the whole Mous 3-in-1 charger. On top of that, Shargeek gives you a lot of customization options by coming with various stickers to apply over the screen.

That is where my tiny Shargeek GaN charger comes in — giving you 35W of power in a small form factor. Even better, it’s homage to the classic Macintosh is so freakin’ adorable. The light up face also gives you a look at what the device is currently doing by turning blue when fast charging, yellow when super fast charging, green when juicing at a steady speed, or white when it is not charging.

4. Steam Deck

Steam Deck in hand

(Image credit: Future)

Picture the scene. You’re on a long-haul flight; the in-flight entertainment sucks; and the cabin crew makes the announcement that WiFi is not working. It’s a disaster that means you’re stuck watching The Brady Bunch for seven hours with the urge to tear your own eyes out.

That is why the Steam Deck has been a lifesaver on those super long flights for me. Load it up with games, make sure you’ve got offline mode setup right for those games that may start looking for online verification, and you’re off to the races.

Valve Steam Deck: from $399 @ Valve

Valve Steam Deck: from $399 @ Valve
Of course, this is for the standard LCD version (the model I have), but you can pay the additional $150 for that gorgeous Steam Deck OLED with a bigger battery and slightly improved 6mn APU. Whichever one you buy, Valve is consistent with its impressive performance across both AAA and indie titles. 

My favorites at the moment are a mixture of Forza Horizon 5, Star Wars: Battlefront Classic Collection, Marvel’s Spider-Man Remastered, and Cyberpunk 2077 for those hefty travel times. Bonus points if you pair these with the Xreal Air 2 Pro AR glasses — your neck will thank you!

5. Shargeek 100 portable battery

Shargeek 100 portable battery

(Image credit: Future)

When you’re out and about, it’s fair to say you’ll be draining that phone battery by taking many more photos and videos than you normally would. That’s why a portable battery pack is essential.

But what if you have higher demands for charging on-the-go? That Steam Deck battery is going to go flat fast when you’re playing more processor-intensive AAA titles. For that, you need faster charging and a lot more capacity than your standard small battery pack. That’s where the Shargeek 100 comes in.

Shargeek 100: was $229 now $159 @ Amazon

Shargeek 100: was $229 now $159 @ Amazon
With a 25,600 mAh capacity and the ability to charge up to speeds of 100W, this can more than capably charge all of your devices without breaking a sweat or losing too much of its juice. The IPS display up top gives you all the info you need, the dual USB-C and single USB-A gives it plenty of compatibility, and that see-through design is properly eye-catching.

With a futuristic transparent look that gives me serious Nothing phone (2) vibes with a pop of yellow for intrigue, this is a seriously sleek piece of kit, and a lot smaller and lighter than you’d expect — perfect for carry-on.

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Jason England
Managing Editor — Computing

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He has previously written for Laptop Mag, Tom's Hardware, Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.