Last May the clever folks at Condé Nast Traveler shipped three adventurers to Moscow in the dead of winter for an unusual hotel and restaurant scavenger hunt.
The twist? One brought an iPhone. The second a BlackBerry. And the third an old-fashioned guidebook.
And guess who won? The Luddite with the old school map and guidebook. (Turns out data retrieval isn’t always reliable in the East). I was elated to read the results as I’ve spent the past eight years as a travel writer, trying to find inexpensive low-tech travel gadgets to rival the expensive gizmos being produced by the likes of Apple and Microsoft.
Here’s a list of five of my favorites, which are as reliable in Moscow as they will be on your next trip to Disney World.
On Your Weigh Luggage Scale: There’s no avoiding those annoying “luggage taxes” that airlines are now levying on checked bags, but this sleek, portable electronic scale will ensure you won’t ever be tagged with an overweight-luggage fee. Slip it onto the handle, lift up and a digital read-out will let you know if you’ve limbo’d under the 50-pound weight limit or need to repack.
$24 at Amazon.com.
Easy 2 Pick Luggage Finder: The worst part about returning home after a long flight? The inevitable scrum for luggage at the baggage carousel. Here’s how to stay out of the fray. Attach this special “homing” tag to your baggage handle before boarding. When you exit the plane and are near the carousel, just activate the Easy 2 Pick remote. Step back. Relax. When your bags roll by, it’ll flash like a beeper.
VinniBag: Originally designed to ensure safe transport of expensive bottles of wine, these inflatable “air bags” can also be used to protect perfumes, expensive toiletries and other precious cargo. Simple place the item in the bag, blow a few gentle puffs of air inside, fold the bag over and seal it up. VinniBags are reusable, can withstand fluctuations in temperature and are fully recyclable.
$24.95, at Amazon.com
BedVoyage: Turns out that bamboo is not only a wise ecological choice for a home remodel project but an invaluable material for air travel. BedVoyage’s (pronounced like Bon Voyage) naturally antibiotic and odor-resistant travel sheets are made entirely of thin sheets of softened bamboo. They’re cool in the summer and warm in the winter and will ensure you’ll never have to reach for an airline blanket again.
$19 pillow case or $39 travel blanket, bedvoyage.com
The Strandle: The name says it all. The Strandle is one part handle, one part strap. When you have an extra carry-on purse or bag, simply twist-tie the strandle onto the handle of your rolling luggage. Not only does it reduce muscle strain and tension in your arm, it allows you to have a free hand to sip that all-important cup of morning joe on the way to your flight.