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Five indispensable travel gadgets

SmarterTravel

All travelers have that one thing they can’t leave home without. A favorite piece of luggage. Stretchy pants. Earplugs, maybe. At SmarterTravel.com, we not only love to travel—we do it all the time. And we, too, have some old standbys we always take with us. Here are the five we like the best, as selected in our (admittedly very unscientific) office poll.

Universal travel adapter

Luggage space is always at a premium, and never more so than when you’re heading overseas. A universal travel adapter (for those of us who can’t travel without our electronics) comes in handy, and saves space by eliminating the need for various country-specific adapters. Brookstone sells a good one that’s compatible throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, and South America.

Backpacks with wheels

It’s a carry-on. It’s rolling luggage. It’s a backpack. What is it? It’s Victorinox’s 22-inch Trek Pack Plus, with more compartments, straps, zippers, and expandable parts than you can shake a 360-degree swivel handle at (it has one of those, too). At 22 inches, you can squeeze it in as a carry-on pack on most flights. Straps on the back convert it into an over-the-shoulder backpack, and the wheels help for those rapid airport dashes from terminal to terminal. I take mine on every trip, and can usually fit my laptop in it, too, for added convenience.

Global travel clock

“I like an alarm clock that automatically switches time zones so I don’t have to be trusted to choose the correct time when I’m groggy and jetlagged,” says contributing editor Christine Sarkis. Oregon Scientific makes a few models, including the Automatically Adjusting Atomic Travel Alarm Clock and the Atomic Travel Clock with World Time. Brookstone also sells a Global Time Travel Clock that lets you set the dial to 24 worldwide time zones. Our favorite is actually Sharper Image’s Radio-Controlled Travel Alarm Clock with 130-City World Time, but it is sadly no longer available for general purchase. (You might be able to track one down on eBay, though.)

Body wallet

No matter where you’re heading, it’s a good idea to keep your cash, passport, and tickets safe from theft. Eagle Creek makes a security wallet designed to defend against pickpockets and other travel hassles—like leaving your passport on the hotel nightstand in a small European villa. (True story.) You can wear the Eagle Creek security wallet over your shoulder, around your neck, or at your waist. Cheaper versions are readily available at your local Target, Wal-Mart, or other all-in-one chain, too.

TSA-approved luggage locks

If your checked luggage gets picked for close-up screening, it’s handy to have a TSA-approved lock—otherwise you risk losing the lock altogether. Magellan’s sells a four-dial combo lock certified by the TSA that allows security screeners to inspect your bags without cutting off the lock. The Travel Sentry Four-Dial Combo Lock retails for about $20 and comes with a “just in case” guarantee if the screeners accidentally damage it.

Honorable mentions

Nothing is a recipe for illness like long flights, lack of sleep, and exposure to thousands of other travelers. More than a few of SmarterTravel.com’s editors hit the road with a mini-medicine cabinet full of Airborne, Oscillococcinum, and Zicam.

Comfort is a factor, too, which is why we also like extras such as foamy neck pillows, ultra-thin travel blankets, and any kind of luggage with wheels and extra padding around the straps. No matter where we’re heading, we arm ourselves with the little things that make travel easier.

What are some of your favorite travel gadgets? Email advice@smartertravel.com and let us know!

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