Best travel tech: 9 essential apps, gadgets and tips

Anyone can go on a trip, or plan the right stops to avoid tourist traps and find great food, but the best frequent fliers can do even better with the right travel tech tips. On a recent trip to Tucson, I managed to use a simple list-making app to become a better packer, and I'm already using a new app to plan my upcoming trip to London.

Away's luggage comes with built-in battery packs.

Away's luggage comes with built-in battery packs.

But I'm just one man, so I've also enlisted the help of Tom's Guide senior writer and resident travel expert Caitlin McGarry, who brought me up to snuff on some major tips. So, travellers, here are our top nine tricks for how to be a better techy traveller. Oh, and we haven't tested it yet, but this global power adapter is pretty intriguing because it offers USB-C charging.

Use and revise packing templates

Travelling is all about selective packing, as you can't bring your whole life with you wherever you go. This is why I made a template in the Things productivity app, where I list out every single thing I could need on a trip.

Then, about a week before I leave, I duplicate said template and re-name it based on the trip I'm going on. Then, I edit the items based on the number of days I'll be there, and how I'll need to dress.

This way, no charging cables or toiletries kit get left behind at home. And on a recent trip in Tucson, I made edits to the template while I was there, as I learned about things I'd wished I'd packed for the heat, such as shorts (duh, I know). — Henry T. Casey

Low Battery Mode

This one's easy. On certain days of your trip — especially the first and last — you probably find yourself wishing your phone had a little bit more juice. The best way to enable this is to turn on low battery mode (a setting found by swiping down from the top right corner on an iPhone and from the top of an Android phone).

MORE: Smartphones With the Longest Battery Life

This setting disables background activities, such as downloading emails or grabbing new podcast episodes, which you can do on your own when you need to. Sure, one of our best portable charger picks can help (more on that later) but this will keep your phone going when it's inconvenient to plug in.  — Henry T. Casey

Track pricing

You probably use a website to search for flights, but apps such as Kayak can send you notifications for flights that you won't want to miss. Also, if you're not committed to specific travel dates, try Google Flights for following pricing trends.— Henry T. Casey

"Hey Siri/Google/Alexa, remind me to check-in."

I never remembered to check in 24 hours before a flight until Siri reminded me to do so. Just asking your digital assistant to remind you to check in, though, hours before your flight is sort of a minor tip, something I can throw in to make this hit an odd number.  — Henry T. Casey

Traveling overseas?

Grab a SIM card when you land at the airport. International data plans are way cheaper than racking up roaming charges. — Caitlin McGarry

Suitcases with built-in battery packs

Increasingly popular (see: Away), these bags may look traditional, but pack a valuable piece of travel tech. The power bank it keeps hidden under a flap is a lifesaver when you’re at the airport and everyone else is hogging the three plugs at the gate. Just remember to remove the battery from the suitcase before you board the plane. — Caitlin McGarry

Mobile Passport Control app

Download this app (iOS, Google Play) from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and fill in your details to expedite your entry back into the U.S. You can go through a special express line at customs and save yourself a ton of time. — Caitlin McGarry

Consider the unlimited data plan

When you're on the road and in control of the AUX cable, the ability to stream any song into a car stereo feels like a superpower. — Henry T. Casey

Merge your Maps and Calendar apps

You could use Google Maps and your calendar app of choice, and switch back and forth between them, but that's got a little too much friction for my preference. Instead, I'm intrigued by the Monarch Trips app which combines scheduling and maps in a clean, elegant package. It's also got a ton of suggestions for where to go.

Monarch Trips app

Monarch Trips app

And if you can convince others to download it, you can collaborate on future plans together. Much more visual and useful than a shared Google Doc. The only issue is that it's iOS only right now, so this is a no-go for Android. — Henry T. Casey

Credit: Tom's Guide

Caitlin is a Senior editor for Gizmodo. She has also worked on Tom's Guide, Macworld, PCWorld and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When she's not testing out the latest devices, you can find her running around the streets of Los Angeles, putting in morning miles or searching for the best tacos.