Best travel products of 2023

Here are some of the best tech products, gadgets and services that made my traveling easier in 2023.

INUI MagSafe Battery Pack – The INUI MagSafe battery snaps onto the back of an any iPhone (models 12 and newer) and recharges it from near empty to full in less than an hour. It can also charge other devices, such as an iPad or Android phone using its USB A and USB C ports. It’s a powerful 10,000 mAh battery and is a bargain at its current sale price of $29 on Amazon or even at its normal price of $39. Its charge level indicator is a novel paw print instead of a series of LEDs.

Datashur Pro+ C Locking Memory Stick – This pocket sized device fits on a keychain and lets you travel with all of your computer files, photos, or whatever, yet without the risk of them being stolen, lost or accessed. The thumb-drive has a numerical keypad built in that requires entering your own password to access its contents. Enter your 8 digit code to unlock, allowing the files to be accessed. $57 to $154 for 4GB to 128GB of memory. Home site.

Flighty iOS App – When I discovered what I thought was just another flight app, but one that cost $50 per year, I was skeptical. Why should I pay for something that others give away? But having used it for more than a year, I was wrong and can say it’s well worth the cost.

The app is unlike the others that basically track our flights. Flighty keeps track of all upcoming and past flights and provides much more information leading up to and during each flight, including real time mapping, even between the gate and runway, departure and arrival gates, alternative flights, and past performance of the flight.

It shows you where your plane is coming from days in advance and predicts possible flight delays. It also provides lots of minutia such as the aircraft type, tail number, and year it was built. Best of all, it automatically searches your calendar for your flights and adds them to your list of upcoming flights.

I find that Flighty is able to provide updates faster than most other apps, and certainly faster than the airlines themselves. In fact, as I’m writing this column from Gate 32 in the Oakland Airport, it alerted me that the incoming plane for my flight to San Diego was diverted to LAX. Twenty minutes later Southwest changed their signage that the flight would be an hour and a half late without any explanation. I learned more from the app than from the airline, who made no announcements, either at the gate or on the plane about why the flight was delayed. (This is the new Southwest with poor communications, delayed flights and a surly flight attendant experienced all at once.)

Sony SRS-XB100 Wireless Bluetooth Portable Travel Speaker – This tiny, attractively styled portable Bluetooth speaker is great for traveling with it’s excellent sound quality and diminutive size. It has a long lasting 16-hour battery and lets you stream music in your hotel room, at the beach, or most anywhere from your phone. It’s waterpoof and dustproof as well. I’ve shared it with a few friends and they’re impressed with the big sound. $48 on Amazon.

Apple Watch – The Apple Watch is the ultimate travel watch that has replaced my many multi-time zone mechanical watches (and saved me lots of money). It sets to the local time automatically and, using a number of its custom configured dials, shows the time, sunrise and sunsets for a multitude of cities. And it’s always accurate to the second. Its other functions allow you to time your trip or set the countdown timer to the duration of your trip. The SE2 model costs as little as $249, and has all but a few of the advanced health features found in the most costly models. Of course, it requires that you use an iPhone; Android users are out of luck.

Inflatable Footrest Pillow – My wife wondered if there was such thing as a footrest for flying. She has short legs and finds economy seating uncomfortable on long international trips. She discovered this product on Amazon that inflates to different levels yet compacts into a tiny package. She used it on a flight to Madrid earlier this year. It worked especially well, since we had bulkhead seats and she was able to stretch out and imagine what she was missing in business class. $25.

Anker 735 Nano II 65W Charger – This is the one charger for all your devices when traveling. It will charge most notebook computers (up to 65 watts), your phone, iPad and other devices with its 3 ports. It’s smart enough to know how to distribute power based on how many devices are plugged in. It uses the latest GaN technology and is not much larger than your phone charger. $40 from Amazon or Anker.

Panasonic Mens Electric Shaver Model cv70 – I never had much interest in electric razors, because I never found one that shaved as close as a blade – until I discovered this Panasonic model. It’s especially designed for traveling with its small size, long lasting battery, and a form-fitting rigid protective case. It’s much smaller than their standard models, although it has the same shaving head. The catch is it’s a model for the Japanese market, but it is available from a Japanese company selling it on Amazon. It’s developed an almost cult following because it’s so well designed and works so well. It cost $237, which is similar to its price in Japan. The instructions are in Japanese, but the seller will provide a translated version if requested.

AirPods Pro (2nd generation) – Why are these included here, since they’ve been out for a while? Because of the new software upgrade that transforms them into almost an entirely new product that make them much more useful for traveling. The earbuds can be set to always listen for nearby external conversations. When they occur, It pauses the audio that was playing, turns off the noise cancellation, and use its microphones to amplify the conversation. Once the talking ends, it returns to listening mode and the audio resumes playing. In addition to this feature, which makes it easy to hear flight announcements, loud noises, and even your spouse, they provide excellent noise cancellation, almost to the level of full-size noise reduction headphones. They’re also now able to play spatial audio recordings using Dolby Atmos that puts the sound all around you, assuming you have Atmos sources. The latest model now has a USB-C connector, replacing Apple’s Lightning connector. $249 at Apple.

by Phil Baker