Best Travel Gadgets for Kids on the Go

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What are the best travel gadgets for kids? If you travel with kids, you know that keeping them entertained en route is one key to a great family vacation.

While we have strict rules about “screen time” at home, during flights and long car road trips with kids, we are more liberal with the electronic travel gadgets.

And are grateful for their existence.

Read on for a list of travel technology we never leave home without, including all the accessories and apps it’s easy to overlook.

Learn about great tech-free ideas for long car rides with kids.

Best Travel Gadgets for Kids

An iPad or iPod Touch

I resisted buying an iPad for a long time, but now that we travel with one, I really wish I had three — one for each kid.

What makes it an indispensable travel tool? Its ability to be all things to all my kids.

On one device we can download movies to watch in the backseat, play music, listen to audio books as a family, play games, and read books.

We can also map our route, check for nearby restaurants and parks, and do some light work from the road.

You can buy all the fancy game apps you’d like, but my kids’ favorite travel activity with our iPad is already installed.

They spend hours making videos (most of which I delete to save room).

Each kid does a daily video log detailing their travel experiences, then they take turns making goofy home movies.

best travel gadgets for kids
best travel gadgets for kids

If multiple iPads are not in your budget, as they’re not in mine, consider purchasing an iPod Touch.

Essentially, it can do everything an iPad can do, albeit on a smaller screen.

Our older two boys love having their iPod Touches while traveling; they’re easy to slide into a pocket, they can take video and photos as we go.

But I still don’t let their young eyes read ebooks on that small screen.

iPad accessories and apps you need

If you travel with an iPad or iPod Touch without 3G or 4G, you’ll definitely want to download a handful of movies on iTunes ahead of time.

Remember that you can rent titles as well as buy.

Other favorite apps we use on every trip include Tales2Go, a wonderful library of audio books for children, and the free Kindle app, from which the kids can access all their downloaded books.

Be sure to have a sturdy case with a nice stand for watching movies. You may also want to check out the best wireless headphones for easy watching.

Remember to bring an external speaker if everyone wants to hear the audio book or music.

Portable DVD Player

If you don’t have an iPad, or have very young children who like to watch the same movies from your DVD collection repeatedly, a portable DVD player for travel is essential.

They’re cheap to buy, sturdy, and easy for kids to operate.

If you don’t want to cart along a stack of DVDs, consider renting a few at a RedBox kiosk and returning them at another en route.

Download a Redbox location app.

This way you avoid late fees while avoiding purchasing and packing a bunch of DVDs.

If you are on a road trip and your car or minivan has a drop-down DVD player, Redbox is especially easy.

It was a lifesaver for us on a very long road trip of 7,000+ miles last summer.

On days we had really long drives, we stopped for a few movies in the morning.

We were able to keep them until the next evening..Best portable DVD Players

DVD accessories you need

If more than one child will be viewing a movie, and you don’t want Barney blaring in the front seat, a good set of headphones and a splitter is crucial.

By far, KidzGear makes the best child-sized headphones…Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids – Green.

There are two great features to Kidz Gear headphones.

They are sized appropriately, making them comfortable to wear.

And even better, the volume is limited to approximately 80% (~20 decibels lower) of maximum speaker capabilities.

Handheld video game device

To be honest, iPod and iPad apps have replaced my kids’ love of their handheld game devices, such as their once-beloved Nintendo DS.

And certainly apps are cheaper than Nintendo DS games.

That said, young kids have an easier time navigating and manipulating a handheld gaming device than an iPod, and games tend to have more value.

We travel with a used Nintendo DS for our seven-year-old.

The battery lasts a long time, and the games are current.

Video game device accessories you need

Definitely bring a car charger (sometimes these don’t come included) or at very least, a wall-plug charger.

And if you don’t want to hear that annoying gaming music for 400 miles, let the Kidz Gear headphones pull double-duty.

Kindle or Nook

I love my Kindle, and if my kids weren’t content to read books on their iPods, they’d have their own as well — especially since they’re so affordable now.

If you want the kids to have access to their book collection but don’t want them reading on an iPod/iPad screen, an e-reader is definitely worth the investment.

Plus, low-tech games like maze puzzles, word searches, and other types of logic are cheap or free in the Kindle store.

What’s more, kids can download books for free from their local library.

E-reader accessories you need

A cover is crucial, but otherwise, the appeal of an e-reader is how low-tech it really is.

Do you need to upgrade to a KindleFire or Nook tablet? Not if you already have an iPad.

And if you don’t, will a Fire work as a tablet-lite?

Yes, as long as you don’t mind being restricted to Amazon products (including apps).

best travel gadgets for kids
tech gadgets for kids

Great tech-free ideas

For families who prefer to travel tech-free, or for trips with technology just won’t be an option, kids can still be well-entertained.

Depending on how long we will be away, we usually make our capable readers commit to reading a chapter book of their choice… an actual book, not in electronic format.

We love the pre-packaged (in reusable cinch packs) travel kits which include car games, small reusable toys, coloring books, and even the option of hotel and travel safety items.

Most come in their own fabric cinch bag.

Best for the under age-8 set, consider purchasing a travel kit and keeping it hidden until the ride home, when everyone is extra bored (and probably overtired).

Some of the best travel gadgets for kids could be little handheld rolling ball/maze games; word search or look and find books; travel I Spy games; bingo games (you can have your kids design their own game!), and made up games that the entire family can play.

We’ve also passed the time with the well-designed travel bingo from Knock Knock, which are printed on recycled cardboard and last for multiple trips.

Check out a great non-tech option SpaceRails Level 2 but it’s best for land, not the car.

Some of the Best Travel Gadgets for Kids aren’t Gadgets

Especially on a road trip, it is nice for kids to be “bored” once in awhile.

You also have the ability to pack more things, like games, drawing pads, etc.

Let them daydream out the window.

Talk about things you will do on your trip.

Teach younger children something new.

Over the summer, I have brought their spelling lists from the year, and give them mini spelling tests… just a few words here and there.

On a trip from Washington state to Indiana, I brought a plastic clock and taught them a little about telling time.

They also started learning how to tie their shoes.

It is also fun just counting cars and trucks and making up other games.

I gave them each a spiral-bound drawing pad, and they drew pictures.

Other ideas for non-tech fun include trading cards for kids.

Are your kids interested in Pokemon cards, football cards, baseball cards, Ninja Turtle cards or anything else?

Your kids can buy a few packs, and organize them in the car.

They will sure to have fun talking with their peers about them too.

We love tech-free ideas for kids!

Best Guidebooks for eReaders

My first overseas experience was a backpacking trip through Europe with my best friend right after college.

Before the trip, we bought the Lonely Planet Europe guidebook.

We couldn’t believe how big it was — and how much it weighed.

At the time, our solution was to cut out the pages we needed and throw them away when we were done with them.

With the popularity of ereaders and tablets, these days you don’t have to resort to destroying books to get a lighter, eco-friendly guidebook option.

Here are the best guidebooks for eReaders, plus the pros and cons of using an eReader instead of a traditional guidebook.

Best Guidebooks for eReaders

Benefits of an eReader over a traditional guidebook:

Weight and space: I really appreciate that I do not have to carry multiple books if visiting multiple areas.

A thick guidebook can weigh up to 2 lb., but the Sony eReader is just 6 oz.

Less waste: As an avid reader, nothing beats curling up in a cozy chair with a good book.

However, I really appreciate the paper saved by using eBooks.

The Lonely Planet India book alone is over 1200 pages!

Downsides to eBooks:

Formatting

It doesn’t seem like guidebook publishers have spent much time formatting the eBooks versions, so they can feel a bit awkward.

Maps are hard to use

Many people have complained about maps being awkward in eBooks.

It may be helpful to print out any maps you need before you leave.

Hard to flip through

I love flipping through guidebooks, and eBooks are definitely more difficult to navigate.

With that said, I think eBooks are a huge improvement over carrying heavy guidebooks for a long trip.

Since many airlines are charging for checked luggage, eBooks can help you with packing light.

Here are some of our favorite guidebooks for eReaders.

All are available on Kindle, Nook and Sony e-Reader.

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet guidebooks are a good option for backpackers and independent budget travelers.

No matter where you are headed, chances are there is a Lonely Planet guide.

They have regional guides, like the Lonely Planet Africa Travel Guide.

Or you can purchase them for a specific area like East Africa, or even a specific country like Kenya.

Since they are not published yearly, information is often outdated.

But because they cover so many areas, Lonely Planet guides are a great option for eBooks.

Frommer’s Guides

Frommer’s is typically geared towards an older traveler, but is also a great book for anyone traveling on a budget.

You can find guides that cover countries, regions, and even cities and help you decide which sights are must-sees when you don’t have a lot of time.

Whether you want to go to the South Pacific or South Africa, Frommer’s has a guidebook for you.

Rough Guides

Rough Guides are also geared towards budget travelers, but tend to be more comprehensive than some of the other options.

Known for offering critical reviews, Rough Guides are great for people looking to steer clear of tourist traps.

Rough Guides are available for many European travel destinations.

They are known for having comprehensive historical and sightseeing information.

Like Lonely Planet, these aren’t published yearly, so be sure to check the publication date.

I really like that Rough Guides offers snap shots of certain areas.

Rather than focusing on an entire country, you can buy a guide for a certain area of the country.

For example, they offer a snap shot of just the Italian Riviera, which is also part of The Rough Guide to Italy.

Rick Steve’s Guides

Out of all the guidebooks available as eBooks, Rick Steve’s publisher has spent the most time making sure his are formatted correctly.

The European guides are some of the best.

Unfortunately, If you are looking for travel guides for somewhere outside of Europe, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Overall, eBooks and other online travel guides are a great options for frequent travelers or travelers visiting a lot of places in a short timeframe.

I recently moved from South Africa back to the United States and I had to get rid of most of my books.

I love that eBooks can come with me where ever I go!

Best Tablet Computer for Traveling

Best Tablet Computer for Traveling ~ With the recent influx of tablet computers flooding the market, many frequent travelers are excited at the possibility of being able to stay connected without ending up at the chiropractor’s office after carrying a 15 pound laptop bag through airports and in and out of train stations.

Every year at CES, one of the largest computer and electronics trade shows, there were more than 80 models of tablet computers and eReaders exhibited.

With so many contenders, it can be difficult to know which model is right for you.

To clarify the tale of the tablets, we looked at three of the best selling options on the market from the viewpoint of people on the go.

We looked at three basic factors, operating system, portability, and available features.

Here is a side by side comparison of Apple’s iPad, Motorola’s Xoom, and Samsung’s Galaxy.

Tablet Computer Operating System

For many people, this is similar to whether you like Coke or Pepsi, it’s all about which operating system you prefer.

Both the Xoom and the Galaxy Tab use the Android operating system while the iPad uses the Apple OS.

Comparing the two operating systems is like comparing apples to androids

It completely depends on your preference.

I recommend sticking with the iPad if you are already own an iPhone or a MacBook, and choosing the Xoom or the Galaxy if you aren’t already tied to Apple OS.

Portability for Travel

In looking at what makes one tablet computer more portable than the others, we looked at several factors including weight, screen size, wireless/wi-fi connectivity, battery life, and Bluetooth accessibility.

The lightest tablet computer in our comparison is the Galaxy weighing in at 1.2 pounds as compared to the 1.3 pound iPad and the 1.6 pound Xoom.

The Galaxy and Xoom tie for largest screen, each boast a 10.1 inch HD display which is slightly larger than the 9.7 inch display on the iPad.

While there are differences in weight and screen size, they are negligible enough that from a best for travel perspective, all three tablets are on equal ground.

Connectivity While Traveling

Next we considered how portable each tablet is in terms of connectivity.

All three tablet computers are Wireless N Wi-fi devices, meaning they meet the 802.11n wireless standard.

Beyond that, it gets a bit tricky.

They all come in a Wi-Fi only version and a 3G version.

If you opt for the Wi-Fi only version, you will need to find and connect to a wireless network or purchase your own hotspot, similar to how you would connect remotely with a laptop computer.

This option often carries a higher price tag and may limit anytime, all the time accessibility, but it doesn’t require any long term contracts or additional monthly fees for access.

All three tablets also come in 4G models, which operate more like your cell phone and use mobile phone networks to provide service.

These models require a contract with one of the mobile phone companies who may offer discounts on the upfront cost of the device but will also require a service contract and monthly fee.

Not all tablets are available from all carriers which may dictate which tablet computer will work best for you based on which carriers provide the best service in your area.

With a consistent average of 10 hours of battery life with heavy use, Bluetooth integration for hands-free operation, and the availability of a variety of optional docking stations standard features across all three tablets, from a portability perspective, the three tablets have negligible differences.

The only factors than may sway your decision to one tablet over another is which carrier offers the best service in your area and the overall cost to use the tablet once all costs are factored in including the upfront device cost plus either a monthly access fee or the cost of an individual wireless hot spot.

Tablet Features

The key difference between the tablets comes down to available features.

While all three tablets offer dual cameras to enable you to video chat or participate in video-conference calls, the Xoom and Galaxy have better cameras than the iPad.

Internal memory is another key difference.

The iPad seems to be the clear winner with 64G of internal memory.

However, although the Xoom offers 32G out of the box, it also has the ability to expand that base making it a better option over the longer term.

The Galaxy Tab trails at the back of the pack with 16G and limited expansion potential.

Although the Xoom and iPad 2 have comparable processing speeds, the Xoom jumps ahead by providing almost twice as much RAM, 1G versus 520MB and a much better screen resolution, 1280×800 versus 1024×768.

Throw in the ability to run Flash and the Xoom begins to set itself apart from the other two tablets in terms of features and functions.

The iPad does have an advantage in terms of the availability of apps in the market, but Android-based app developers are quickly closing that gap.

Best Option for Traveling

After the side by side review, it is clear that you are really the only one who can decide which tablet best suits your needs both while on the road and in the comfort of your own home.

The first factor is operating system preference, followed by carrier service and cost.

If neither of those are enough to sway you toward one tablet over the other, deciding which features are the most important to you will point you in the right direction.

Do you travel with a tablet computer?

Which one and what do you like about it?

E-Reader Review: Sony Reader Wi-Fi is Perfect for Travel

The folks at Sony were kind enough to send me a E-Reader Wi-Fi e-reader, and I have to say, I love it.

It might just be the best e-reader for travel, but its uses expand far beyond trips.

Read more for the full E-Reader review.

Helps the earth and your wallet

I read all of the time. In an effort to conserve and use what is already there — instead of buying all of the time — I love checking books out at my local library.

It’s convenient too; if I don’t have time to peruse the shelves, I can browse online at any hour and then easily reserve them online too.

I also love that by not buying books, I keep clutter and unnecessary objects to a minimum in my home.

I also save money by not buying new books each time I have finished my book and want something new to read.

There are many features to love on the Sony E-Reader: its portability, access to free books via Google Books and your local public library, easily accessible dictionary (just click on a word for the definition), and glare-free screen, which is easy on the eyes.

With wireless on, the Reader’s battery can last 3 weeks.

You can even browse the Internet or plug in headphones and listen to music on the Reader.

The Sony Reader is fantastic for travel because it’s so small and lightweight (under 6 ounces).

It slips into any carry-on and you don’t have to worry about lugging three books with you on a longer trip.

You can download books before you go or even once you reach your destination.

One of my favorite features is how easy it is to check out books from the library on this e-reader.

You simply hook the Reader up with your local library and you can easily browse and check out ebooks.

I’m frugal and rarely buy books new so the library feature is a must for me.

There are also dozens of classics to download for free via Google Books.

In addition to toting it with me on trips, I like to use the Reader at the gym and when I’m nursing my baby.

I can hold it in one hand, which makes it ideal for those activities.

With the tap of a finger, I can turn a page, zoom in, or look up a word in one of 12 dictionaries.

And there’s no worrying about finding my place or searching for a bookmark — the e-reader keeps track of that for me.

I must admit that I’ll never completely give up physical books.

I love the feel of a book in my hands and I especially love used books.

There’s something fun about knowing the book has a history and wondering who else has read this very copy.

But this e-reader is a great addition to any bibliophile’s collection.

The Sony Reader Wi-Fi is the perfect e-reader for times when a physical book is just too cumbersome to haul around, and it’s an excellent choice for the savvy traveler.

E-reader review of the Sony Reader Wi-Fi:

  • It’s great for travel, especially with kids
  • It’s compact and lightweight
  • Its library features are awesome
  • It would make a great gift for any book lover or savvy traveler

This Sony E-Reader review ends with the idea that this would make a great gift, especially for an avid reader.

It is an earth-friendly choice too.

Best eReader for Travel

Best eReader for Travel ~ Almost four years ago, when the Amazon Kindle eReader first hit the scene, we wrote about whether an eReader was a good pick for green travelers.

There are green pros and cons to any electronic reading device or tablet computer while traveling, but all this time later, one thing is clear: the Kindle is here to stay.

The new question is, which Kindle to buy?

Amazon Kindle vs. Kindle Fire – Best eReader for Travel

What’s the difference between a Kindle or Kindle Touch and a Kindle Fire?

We’re big readers in our family and always travel with ebooks, so between us, we access our shared Amazon Kindle library in just about every way possible, on a variety of devices.

Here’s a breakdown: a Kindle is strictly an eReader.

Users can use the built in Wi-Fi to access the Amazon Kindle store, download books and PDF documents, and read.

That’s it.

A Kindle Fire does everything a Kindle does, and considerably more.

In full color, a Kindle Fire can access the web, stream video, play Amazon apps, and store your music library in addition to keeping your book and magazine library at your finger-tips.

An Apple iPad,  as well as iPods and iPhones, can also be used to access your Amazon Kindle library using the free Amazon Kindle app.

An iPad can do all a Kindle Fire can do, plus double as a work horse should you need to work from the road.

If you’re considering a Kindle for travel, ask yourself the following three questions before deciding which Kindle to buy.

What personal electronics do you already own?

As mentioned above, the great part of the Kindle ‘system,’ if you will, is its versatility.

Kindle users can access their Amazon library from a variety of devices, from Kindle eReaders to iPads, iPod Touches, and laptops, thanks to the useful and free Kindle app.

If you already travel with an iPad (either for work or entertainment), no need to reinvent the wheel (and consume more electronics than you need).

Your iPad can do everything a Kindle or Kindle Fire can do and more.

Consider downloading the Kindle app to access your library on the device you already own.

Where will you be reading your Kindle?

One of the Kindle’s best features is its E-ink display: it reads like you’re looking at paper.

This not only saves your eyes from too much screen time, but it means you can easily read in bright light, such as poolside or outside on the deck in summer.

If most of your reading will be done in the daylight, a Kindle Fire, with its beautiful full-color display and back-lit screen, will frustrate you — as will an iPad.

If, however, most of your reading is done at night, when the lit screen will be useful, a Kindle Fire might be perfect.

Also important to consider: a Kindle Fire requires more frequent charging than a Kindle Touch.

If you’ll be using your Kindle in remote areas, you’ll want to plan for this.

What will you be using your Kindle for?

This is, of course, the most important consideration.

If you already own other travel entertainment devices such as an iPad, iPod, or travel-sized DVD player, and plan to use your Kindle strictly to consume books, a Kindle Fire will be more device than you need.

Buy a Kindle instead for considerably less.

If, however, you plan to use your Kindle for on-road or in-flight entertainment, web browsing, reading email, or if you enjoy reading magazines or other visual material on a regular basis, a Fire is the clear choice.

What a Kindle is not:

While both the Kindle and Kindle Fire have Wi-Fi access, and the Fire can be used for internet browsing, neither should be considered as a substitute for an iPad or laptop.

Why not?

While great for entertainment and basic web browsing, you cannot get any work done on a Kindle Fire (though you can view and share documents).

You’ll need to pack your computer for that purpose.

What about all those other eReaders out there?

Yes, there are other eReaders to choose from.

However, Amazon continues to offer the widest selection of both books for purchase and free selections, as well as offer the largest lending library if you’re an Amazon Prime member (opt for the trial basis first to see if they carry the titles you’ll want).

And remember, nearly all public libraries in the U.S. now offer their own eReader lending library.

What You Need to Know to Buy a Kindle Fire vs iPad 2

And for good reason.

Unique Kindle Fire Features:

Android OS:

For those familiar with iOS, you will probably continue to enjoy an iPad, but as a recent convert to the Android operating system, I’m a big fan

Amazon Silk Browser:

The Amazon Silk Browser promises to be “revolutionary” in it’s speed

Free Cloud Storage:

If you’re a huge Amazon user, then the Kindle Fire’s Cloud storage will make it unbelievably easy to access your files

Amazon Whispersync:

The ability to sync where you are in a book or movie across devices seems like it could come in really handy.

For instance if you start watching a movie on the bus and want to finish watching it on your home TV.

The Kindle Fire seems like a good choice for Amazon groupies.

If you’re a Prime subscriber and already have access to streaming videos and TV this seems like a good bet.

It’s close in battery life to the iPad 2 (8 hrs vs 10 hrs), but lacks some of the “universal device” extras that an iPad 2 comes with – like a camera, GPS, and 3G service.

It also seems like a good choice for international travelers and media junkies.

You don’t end up paying for things you don’t need or can’t use on the international road (like 3G and a camera.)

Plus if it breaks you’re out less than half as much as you otherwise would be.

Kindle Fire

What are others saying about the Kindle Fire?

Over at Wired, here’s what they’re saying:

The Kindle Fire tablet … leverages everything Amazon offers, from its multimedia sales to Amazon Prime streaming video service and free two-day shipping and Amazon’s industry-standard cloud infrastructure.

Quick hardware specs for the Kindle Fire: 14.6 ounces, dual-core processor, 7? multi-touch IPS (i.e. infrared) LCD screen. What it’s missing: camera, GPS, 3G. It also has only 8 gigabytes of storage. But that’s a moot point: It’s a cloud-driven tablet.

Video isn’t the only draw of Kindle Fire over the mainstream e-readers. It also has Silk, a web browser leveraged by Amazon’s EC2 cloud processing power. Bezos calls it “a split browser.” It promises to use that extra computation power to do all of the DNS, TCP/IP, interactions, etc., on the back-end to make Silk much, much faster than competing mobile browsers.

It also stores, reformats and compresses common instances of over-sized media designed for the desktop for faster mobile delivery.

An Amazon engineer calls it “a limitless cache” to optimize the last-mile delivery between the web and the tablet.

And yes: Silk runs Flash.

As a soon-to-be mom I noticed the feature of having 1000+ children’s books (and the pictures look great) which would make transporting books less of a hassle.

But you can’t let you kid chew on a Kindle they way they can on a hardback book.

I have resisted the draw of the iPad 2, but I have to admit that I’m now asking myself, should I Buy a Kindle Fire?
Buy a Kindle Fire from Amazon, or a Kindle.

And be sure to check out the best guide books for eReaders.

Using a Cell Phone While Traveling in Africa

Earlier this year, my husband and I moved back to the United States after four years of living in Africa.

We live in a connected world, and it can be great to disconnect from it all and leave cell phones and other technology at home while traveling.

But, even in Africa, it’s helpful to have a cell phone to use while traveling.

We used ours to book campsites, arrange tours, and plan our trip while we were on the road.

Here are my top tips for using a cell phone while traveling in Africa.

Get an Unlocked Cell Phone While Traveling in Africa

These days there are a variety of options for using phones overseas.

If you’re just visiting one country in Africa, you may just want to buy a cheap phone when you get there.

In South Africa, you can buy a cell phone for $30-50 at the airport.

However, if you’re visiting multiple countries you’ll want to have an unlocked phone.

An unlocked phone is one that isn’t tied to a particular cell phone carrier.

You can buy an unlocked iPhone.

The price is steep, but worth it if you do a lot of international travel.

I also know people have had good luck calling their cell phone carriers and asking them to unlock their phones.

This typically only works if you have upgraded to a new phone and have a good reason, such as a trip to Africa, to unlock your old one.

You’ll also need to have a phone that uses SIM cards, like AT&T and Sprint’s phones.

We use an unlocked iPhone for travel in Africa and it works well.

We enjoy having the option of using data to check emails, and we also use the camera when we don’t want to pull out our DSLR camera.

Buy a Local SIM

In most of Africa, you can pick up a SIM card for less than a dollar.

You can also purchase airtime in denominations less than $1 (although it won’t last long).

We typically bought the equivalent of $5 at a time, topping up as needed.

With the SIM card you will get information on how to top-up your airtime, check your balance, etc.

In Southern, Central, and Eastern Africa, the information is usually offered in a few languages, including English.

Each country usually has a few cell phone providers, so you should ask around to see which was best.

Make Sure You Can Use Data

One of the reasons we chose to use our iPhones while traveling in Africa was for the ability to use data to check emails.

We traveled with a satellite phone to remote areas.

But at over $1 a minute, using the satellite phone for local calls would have added up.

So we appreciated being able to use our iPhone to send quick emails to our families.

Cell phone service in many parts of Africa is impressive: we had 3G in most areas.

Once you put the SIM card in your phone, you will be able to use it immediately to make calls and send SMS messages.

If your data doesn’t seem to be working, try calling customer service.

You may need to have someone adjust your phone settings or register your SIM card to use the data.

If they can’t help you over the phone, you can just stop in one of the carrier’s stores and they will set it up for you.

Consider a Satellite Phone for Emergencies

While cell phone coverage in much of Africa is great, it’s not perfect.

If you’re traveling as part of a tour, your tour operator will likely have a satellite phone for emergencies, so you won’t need to carry your own.

However, if you are overlanding or backpacking, you may want to have at least one satellite phone in your group for emergencies.

The phones aren’t cheap, and neither is the airtime; her is the satellite phone I recommend.

But you will be thankful for the insurance if there is an emergency.

Think About Allowing International Calls on Your Phone

If you’re going on a short trip, you can ask your cell phone carrier to allow international usage on your current phone.

This is a good option if you’re planning to use your phone for emergencies only.

If you go this route, be sure to double check the fees — they can be hefty.

Best 4 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Staying In Touch While Travelling

One of the biggest perils of travelling, aside of safety and health issues, is staying away from family and friends while still trying to keep in touch with them.

There are some others who miss their regular office set-up – fortunately, technology has provided a solution for everything.

Today, you have the best strategies and services made available to you that help you stay connected.

International calling is no longer an expensive affair.

Using your own cell phone with an international roaming plan is the most convenient option.

If you have a cell phone that can work over the cellular data network type at your destination namely, a GSM phone as 75 % of the world operates on GSM, you will likely be able to use your phone wherever you go.

The best bet for international travelers is to have a tri-band or quad- band GSM phone for compatibility.

However, choose carefully as only select phone models do so.

The biggest advantage of using your personal cell phone is that you carry your contacts and other information with you when you travel.

Also, you can be reached at any point of time.

Another option is to buy calling cards as and when you travel – this is better suited to people who want a local phone number at their destination.

Refitting a phone with an in-country SIM card provides a local number, allowing for calls, texts, and possibly data service at the local network rate.

They are the most popular with international travelers as they are pre-paid and help them keep a check on their travel expense on calls, apart from other things.

An advantage is that you can get in touch with anyone you want to but not let others bother you with incessant calls when you need your privacy.

The best cost-effective service is the VOIP for making free calls.

Using Internet-based phone services like Google Voice or Skype can be the cheapest way to make international calls.

It can even be free if you use a free Wi-Fi hotspot.

If you are travelling in big cities, you will have ready access to Internet cafes where such a service is available.

However, both Wi-Fi hotspot and net cafe usage depends on your being physically at a specific location.

You can also use VoIP on your laptop using prepaid international mobile broadband, but it’s more expensive and will eat up your data minutes.

Whatever option you go for, it has to take your personal requirements, your travel needs and your budget into account.

With modern technology at your beck and call, you can now keep talking without getting worried about going bankrupt!

Easy ways to recycle your electronics

Most of us have old electronics and gadgets lying around the house or sitting in a box in the garage.

Whether they’re broken or just outdated, it’s hard to decide what to do with them — and some people end up throwing them in the trash.

Thankfully, there are a number of options and ways to recycle your electronics and gadgets.

Many programs will even offer you cash for cell phones, e-readers, and digital cameras.

Look to the Manufacturer

Do you have a PC lying around?

Many manufacturers offer programs to recycle your computers.

For example, Dell will pick up any Dell product for free using FedEx and recycle it for you.

If you buy a new computer from Dell, they’ll take your old one and recycle it, regardless of what brand it is.

Apple offers a similar program.

If you bring your old iPod into the store, they’ll give you 10% off a new one.

They also offer Apple gift cards for many of your electronics—whether or not they are Apple products.

Fill out the form on their website and they will estimate the value of your old electronics.

Send them in and, once verified, Apple will send you a gift card.

Drop it Off at Goodwill

We love this one! Dell has a partnership with Goodwill called Dell ReConnect.

Take your equipment, regardless of the brand or condition, to Goodwill and they will make sure that it is either refurbished or recycled responsibly.

This program has created 250 new jobs and makes sure that your computer doesn’t make it to the landfill.

Get Paid for Your Gadgets

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a plethora of companies that offer cash for your electronics.

It can be hard to know which one to choose.

Some offer phone recycling.

There are some companies that search a network of buyers and gives you a list of offers for your electronics.

They find buyers for phones, tablets, digital cameras and more.

Most companies will also cover shipping costs.

Sell Your Used Electronics

If your electronics still work, there might be a surprising demand for them.

Craigslist, garage sales, and word of mouth are great ways to find people who will get use out of your working computers and other electronics.

When using websites like Craigslist, just be careful and avoid scams.

Craig’s List provides some important guidelines to follow when buying or selling on their website.

Recycle Locally

If you know your computer cannot be refurbished through Goodwill, and you don’t want to bother sending it somewhere, there may be options locally.

Earth911.com llows you to enter the type of item you’d like to recycle, then generates a list of local recycling programs.

This is a great tool for some of the electronics that other companies may not take.

I was able to find places in my area that would take cassette tapes, floppy disks, and even two-way radios.

If you are cleaning out your attic or basement, Earth911.com is a great resource.

Bonus way to recycle: Repurpose them for fun

Many libraries offer children the opportunity to take apart old, outdated, and safe electronics.

Kids can see the inside of a computer mouse, a radio, a keyboard, a non-working phone… the opportunities are endless.

Kids will enjoy the chance to learn about electronics from the inside and learn about repurposing items before disposing of them.

This is something kids can do at home, with supervision, with their parents’ castoffs as well.

My kids love their Fitbit Zip and are wondering what the inside of a Fitbit looks like.

They are already talking about the inside of their fidget cube as well.

New ways to recycle your electronics

Do your part to help the environment and be responsible with your unwanted electronics.

According to the EPA, only 8% of cell phones were collected for recycling in 2009; the rest ended up at the garbage dump.

Have you used any of the recycling programs offered by retailers?

Do you have any tips for recycling gadgets?

Amazon’s Kindle is Good Reading Device for Green Traveler

Do you remember the time when the shelves in your room were packed with books?

Being the voracious reader that you are, it was a challenge for you to organize your home library.

But let me ask you this: do you know how many trees were cut to print all those books?

It’s a good thing that tablets like Amazon’s Kindle have become widely available.

With Kindle, you can have as many as 600,000 books in one cool device.

That’s like having a small bookstore in your hands.

Of course, you can’t read all of those books in your lifetime, but it is comforting to know that you have a wide range of choices as far as reading materials are concerned. Amazon Kindle

As a reading device, there are a lot of good things we can say about the Kindle.

It is not surprising that it is the most preferred e-book reader in the world, even beating the highly popular iPad.

The new Kindle, Voyage, is particularly getting a lot of rave reviews for its high contrast and resolution screen.

It looks crisp and glare-free whether you are reading just before sleeping, or at high noon.

The new Kindle has an auto-adjustable brightness level that eliminates eye strain.

Plus, the color is very similar to that of real books.

It is lightweight enough to be put inside your shoulder bag.

And its page-turning function has been optimized for one-handed use, so you can read your favorite Nicholas Sparks novel while lining up at McDonalds.

The device will also vibrate to recognize that you have just turned a page.

It also supports illustrated e-books for children, plus parental controls that adults would love.

Imagine passing on the hardware to your child who wants to read a Dr. Seuss classic after you had your fix of 50 Shades of Grey?

Yes, the parental controls would allow you to do that without fear of your child getting into your dirty reading materials.

There are other things you’ll love about the Kindle if you are into reading.

You can adjust the size of the texts to make reading easier for you.

You can also make notes.

Amazon Kindle for Green Travel

Kindle is also good for the environment.

Did you know that a single device displaces roughly 22 physical books every year?

According to a study made by the company Cleantech Group, a single Kindle device is responsible for an estimated carbon savings of nearly 170 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

And when a Kindle device’s storage is full, it prevents the emission of nearly 11,185 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

The company arrived at these computations by comparing the average carbon footprint of physical books shipped from online stores and brick-and-mortar stores, as well as e-books downloaded to Kindle.

Cleantech said that almost 125 million trees were cut down for all paper books in 2007.

It added that e-book readers can save up to almost 10 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions in three years.

It’s not difficult to understand why Kindle and other e-book readers are considered to be more environment-friendly compared to traditional books.

Aside from paper requiring trees to be cut down, more energy is needed for manufacturing books.

And we’re not even talking of the gasoline needed to transport books from the printing company to the bookstore.

In fact, 25 to 36 percent of books in bookstores are often returned to their publishers because they were not bought, burning more fossil fuels in the process.

The Kindle’s battery life is also built to last, so there’s no need to recharge it every now and then.

When used sparingly and with minimal backlight, the devce can last for two months on a single charge.

And even when you’re a voracious e-book reader, the Amazon product should last for a couple of days before its battery dies.

Simply put, the Kindle won’t cause any significant increase in your electricity bills.

Amazon Kindle for Traveling

Long flights provide a perfect opportunity to catch up on your readings.

Kindle is great for travelers who don’t want to load up their baggage with voluminous books.

Instead of bringing paperbacks, you can have your favorite novels downloaded to your Kindle device.

Imagine the space you’ll be able to save in your suitcase when you stop bringing books and shift to the use of Kindle.

Kindle can also give you substantial savings, especially when you are the jetsetter who’s often in and out of the country.

Book prices tend to be higher outside of the United States, but if you have a Kindle you can buy and download books to your device and avoid the extra charges.

You can even have subscriptions of US magazines and newspapers delivered or downloaded to your Kindle device.

Kindle is even more useful for travelers who are going to a country where there are limited English language books available.

For example, in case you find yourself in China for an extended period, can you imagine how hard it is for you to buy a John Grisham thriller?

But when you have a Kindle, this should not be a problem at all.

The lightweight and compact design of the Kindle makes it ideal for long bus trips.

You can store it in a backpack.

You can read it while you are lining up to buy a ticket.

And you can hold it even for extended hours.

It is not a stretch to predict that more and more people will eventually stop buying books and turn to the use of Kindle instead because of the inherent advantages afforded to them by the Amazon device.

Kindle is easy to use, and its compact design makes it the ideal travel companion unlike books which can take up a lot of space in the suitcase.

Users of the Amazon device would also be able to save more dollars in the long run.

And with Amazon’s Kindle, travelers who love to read would no longer be at the mercy of bookstores that don’t have as many titles to offer as Amazon.

Books can be reused over and over (I get most of my books from the library or used book store).

When they are thrown out they decompose, but when a Kindle dies?

I think of the picture Kimberly found for her 31 Reason to Travel Travel: In Pictures post.
Amazon's Kindle is Good Reading Device
photo credit: art_es_anna1 – whiteafricanmhayashida – The Creative Penn JaymisgoXunuReviews, jaybergesen

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