Once upon a time, there were cameras with film that needed developing, camcorders that cost more than your parents’ mortgage, dodgy internet cafés and that thing of awkwardly asking a stranger to take a picture of you. It’s hard to believe how much impact technological progress has had on how we travel – and how we share our travels. And if you want to go one step further, and be creative or communicative while on the move – whether through writing a travel blog or rethinking how you share your experiences – technology has transformed the ease with which you can do that. That said, there are always new tricks you can pick up and not all tech gadgets are equal.
Make travel blogging & the digital nomad life easy
I’ve rounded up the top seven gadgets I use while travelling. Some of these are essential for capturing my experiences, some are great for communicating while I travel, or for transforming raw material into blog stories, videos or social media posts. I’d love to hear which are your favourite travel blogging gadgets in the comments!
1. A Smartphone
Ok, this one is easy – but it remains the essential piece of kit in a travel blogger’s bag. Not only can you use a smartphone to call people (rad, I know) but it is also a camera, a video-camera, a photo editing suite, an email hub, a digital note-pad, a social media manager and a place to blog. If you’re in the market for a new phone, which ones should you consider? I’m a big fan of the Samsung Galaxy Series and in my mind, there are a couple of good options at the moment. The Samsung Galaxy 6 was a big game-changer for the line, updating its bendy plastic back and cheap feel to a metal and glass design piece which rivalled the iPhone, while 2016 saw the release of the Samsung Galaxy S7 which takes the camera flush with the phone back and offers waterproofing for up to 30 minutes when submerged in 1 metre of water – which could just be enough to save your phone in the event of a disaster at the beach or out in nature. Since the Samsung S6 update, the battery has become non-removable but the S7 battery is bigger and lasts a little longer, while the Samsung S7 camera also represents a significant quality upgrade, and the micro SD slot is back (great for videographers) but all this comes at a price: around €600 in European markets. This means that the S6 is now available at a more competitive €400 from official retailers, which makes it my smart bet for this year.
Another interesting alternative was a surprise (for me): a good friend recently purchased the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (which comes in at around €500 in Europe) and I had a lot of fun trying out the S Pen and really enjoyed handling this slightly larger device. For writing and watching videos it’s just great – the stylus also means you can jot down notes on the road which feels much more intuitive than typing at times. The photo and video quality is also impressive.
2. A laptop
This doesn’t always have to go on the road with you – I personally prefer to use a larger laptop for writing at home all day, which acts as an ideal replacement for a desktop computer. I’ve had great experiences with the large HP Envy Laptop series, but if portability is important to you, check out their smaller Notebook variants as well. While I mostly use it for writing and editing photos, I also need a computer I can video-edit on so a good graphics card and minimum 1 TB of memory is vital for me. The HP Envy Series hasn’t let me down yet in this department. Why a PC and not a Mac? It’s a personal preference thing – I like plugging in other bits of kit such as smartphones and cameras and find it just so easy to pull images and video clips off them (while Apple takes you down the iCloud route for exporting media) but your experiences may vary.
3. A tablet
I love having a small 8” tablet when I travel – I have all my music loaded up on this so I can enjoy my tunes on long flights (where there’s no connectivity for cloud music services such as Spotify) without draining my smartphone battery. I also pop a few movies on this device before I set off so it is, in part, a home-entertainment system. However, it’s also great if you’re not travelling with a laptop as an impromptu writing tool. When you buy an Office 365 subscription for your principal computer, you get a free repeat download on a tablet, which I find essential for writing stories on the go. Hook it up to a Bluetooth keyboard and you can turn long journeys into really productive sessions (see below). Having a piece of Apple tech in this case gives me access to apps I can’t necessarily download on my Smartphone or PC. I also like shooting video on the Apple iPad mini on occasions when I want to then edit clips on the hoof and upload them immediately to YouTube. Via the YouTube Capture App, you can edit the in and out points for vox-pops or other short video items and start uploading them to your YouTube account in just a couple of clicks (I would recommend locating Wi-Fi to do this). Very easy and looks great if you’re working with time-sensitive items. Otherwise, iMovie is still an easy entry-level interface for video making and really fits the touch-screen capabilities of small tablets.
4. A Bluetooth keyboard
This can be a lifesaver home or away. If you’ve ever been faced with the sudden demise of a laptop you know how desperate that can feel. However, with a Bluetooth keyboard, you can transform a tablet or even a smartphone into a computer and tear off a few hundred words. I really like the classic stainless steel Apple Wireless Keyboard – it’s robust and stylish and you’re essentially typing on a full-sized keyboard. The weight of the keys is excellent and its very responsive. You just have to remember to switch it off or you will drain the battery quickly (been there, done that!)
5. Incase Origami Workstation
I love this smart bit of kit, the Incase Origami Workstation, as pictured above which doubles as a case for my Bluetooth keyboard and a stand to unite the iPad mini or full-sized iPad with the keyboard when I’m typing on the road. It stabilises the two devices, is water-resistant and smart. It’s such an attractive bit of kit that it even stops me gazing out of the window for hours on end on gorgeous train journeys through Italy – that’s how good it is! When you’re using Word on your tablet, it almost perfectly replicates that desktop experience.
6. A great camera / video camera
I have to admit that I would love to upgrade to a separate, professional digital video camera but in the meantime, I’m a huge fan of the latest line of compact digital photo cameras with HD video as a built-in optional. I recommend the Fujifilm X series. With an option to shoot on RAW, you can produce great quality images for professional shoots, or steal paparazzi-style shots without looking like a member of the press. It’s retro styling and sturdy steel frame make it just gorgeous to handle.
7. A selfie stick
You thought I might be joking with this one, right? Well I’m not! If you’re solo travelling, a selfie-stick resolves logistical issues for getting tricky shots or including yourself in the frame. Some even have tiny tripod feet which help you achieve stability for self-shooting more ambitious pieces. Of course, they’re also brilliant for video-blogging and quick pieces to camera from cool angles in case you’re experimenting with vlogging or other alternative story-telling formats. You do need to be a bit careful where you wield them but don’t be shy – they’re cheap enough so pick one up and experiment! Happy travel blogging.