Globe-trotting at Your Fingertips

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Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to plan your next family vacation or romantic getaway just for two. There’s an app for virtually every travel need and a gadget to make your travel more compact and comfortable.

Free travel booking apps such as Orbitz, Priceline,, TripAssist™ and Expedia, to name a few, are helpful in the planning stages. They allow for flight, lodging and transportation bookings. If you have a favorite airline or a reward program with one, then download that airline’s app for convenient flight planning. Once your travel plans are in place, the Tripit app will save your travel information all in one place. Create a Tripit account so that each time you receive a reservation email, it will be added to your itinerary automatically. Tripit is free, but there are other similar apps available at a low cost, such as FlightTrack (from $2.99 to $4.99, depending on your device), or Kayak (free), that allow you to monitor the status of international flights. They include detailed information on departure gates, delays and cancellations.

European travel authority Rick Steves, guidebook author and TV host, advises downloading Skyscanner to find the most convenient and cost-effective connecting flights. He also relies on SmartTraveler, a free app that offers basic information about a country as well as travel advisories. Steves, who has been traveling abroad since he was a child, created his own app called Rick Steves Audio Europe™. It’s free, doesn’t require an internet connection and includes walking tours of dozens of Europe’s top sights.

Need help with what and how to pack? The low-cost Packing Pro app will take you through a list of what you might need as well as help you organize your essentials. This app also keeps track of each family member’s packing needs.

Other apps make communication a breeze while traveling abroad. Google Translate is one of the most popular translator apps for globetrotters. It allows for conversations between 80 languages, and one of the best effects of this app, which is free, is that no internet connection is needed. So communicating with people in Japanese, Chinese, Swahili, Hebrew, Hindi or Yiddish, among many others, is no problem. SpeakEasy, iSpeak, Interpret and Jibbigo are other apps that are either free or have low-cost upgrade versions.

These apps make smart phones smarter. They allow travelers easy access to information that is important for their enjoyment and sometimes vital for ensuring their safety. Download the EmergenSee® app, which turns your smart phone into a personal safety device. Click a button, and you can transmit audio, video and GPS to selected friends and family who can contact authorities if you cannot. TravelSafe Pro is an award-winning low-cost app (99 cents for Android) that could save your life. It offers a database of emergency phone numbers to police, fire, ambulance and details on the U.S. Embassy where you are.

Downloading helpful apps on your smart phone will eliminate the need for bulky devices such as your laptop and GPS. Some gadgets, however, will be worth taking along and won’t take up much space in your suitcase.

Luggage handle covers not only provide a comfortable grip while pulling a heavy suitcase through an airport, but also make a great identifier. They are bright and colorful so it’s easy to spot your bags when they come around the carousel. Kwik Tek’s DRY PAK® line of waterproof holders will protect your cell phone, passport, identification and credit cards from destructive water damage. Consider the GRID-IT™ organizer to keep your cell phone, camera and accessories packed in one neat system.

A must-have for international adventurers is Belkin’s Universal AC Travel Adaptor, which allows you to charge your laptop, cell phone and PDA in 150 countries. The Turbo Charge TC2 portable cell phone charger provides a boost of emergency power while on the go. If your cell phone battery dies, plug it in for a recharge and keep trekking until you get back to your hotel room’s electrical outlet.

Carry all of these nifty gadgets and more without straining your shoulders and back with the AIRBAC™. It’s a backpack with a built-in air support system that lightens your load. It has built-in shock absorbers so that as you run or walk, the weight is absorbed by the AIRBAC and not your spine.

Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you have to leave your fitness routine behind. The compact FitKit weighs only two pounds and has all the tools needed to help keep you in shape. An online exercise library reveals 250 exercises you can do in your hotel room. It’s also a great gadget for the office.

The apps and gadgets mentioned here are just a few of the plethora available to help you get the most enjoyment out of your next vacation. So, get ready, get set, get planning! HLM