The Frommer's Gift Guide: The Year's Best Travel Gadgets, Tech and Goodies

It used to be that a great travel gift meant a warm pair of compression socks or a sturdy piece of luggage. Things have evolved quite a bit since those days, and now an ideal travel gift is likely to have a techy component. The science to make our travels easier, safter, smarter, and cheaper has come into reach, and this year's crop of fun-and-funky travel gifts reflects the democratization of technological frontiers. You'll find something for every budget.
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Nixplay's Wi-Fi Cloud Photo Frame Nixplay
Give grandma this frame. Go on vacation. Then, as you travel, you can beam snapshots and videos to her using an app. They show up right here in high definition. The results could be heartwarming or, if you're feeling rascally, really embarrassing. Either way, it's cool technology. Oh, and thanks to its motion sensor, it'll switch off when she leaves the room.

And now the Nixplay comes in a variety of colors, including blue and rose, and as small as 7 or 8 inches. Those are in its Seed line, priced lower than the Edge line.
 
Why it made our list: We're already thinking of ways to mess with the people we leave back home. And, of course, to make them happy by showing them the world.

Get it from: www.nixplay.com
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LuMee Lumee
This ingenious iPhone case is ringed with LEDs that, with a push of a button, light up the foreground of your vacation photos and balance out what your smartphone can't. The lights will work up to 36 hours on a single charge, which is more than the most conceited Instagrammer could hope to use. This is the biggest advance for vanity since the nose job.
 
Why it made our list: The soft lighting makes you look so good even Joan Collins would approve. The case is plenty strong, too.

Get it from: LuMeeCase.com
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Rather than sort through a junk drawer full of random power adapters every time you travel, buy one and be done. This smartly designed cube is made of an ingenious jigsaw of plug adapters so you'll always have what you need without taking up much luggage space.
 
Why it made our list: It's the smallest multi-plug multiplier out there. They don't get much smaller (or cuter) than this. 

Get it from: www.flight001.com
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Popscope PopScope
Putting your smartphone on a stick and timing the shutter might seem a bizarre thing to do until you see the results. Doohickeys like this one caught on with North Asian tourists this year, and thanks to a fulfilled Kickstarter campaign, now this selfie trend has arrived Stateside. There are a few other versions on the market (like the Looq), but we like the way this one can also stand on its own as a tripod.
 
Why it made our list: It's fun, it's trendy, and to be honest, you look better when photos are taken from above. You also see more of your surroundings.

Get it from: PopScope
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Micro Luggage Scale Micro Scale
It's all well and good the airlines charge for overweight luggage, but how can you weigh your goods when you're not at home? This digital scale that takes up nearly no space at all can save you big time on unforeseen airline fees.
 
Why it made our list: It's super small and super light—seriously, you barely feel it in your hand—which is exactly what you need a travel scale to be.

Get it from: www.flight001.com
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VinniBag Vinnibag
This reusable bag with inflatable chambers swaddles your fragile items with a protective buffer of your breath. You insert your goodies through the bottom, inflate, roll up the bottom and cinch it, and that gives you an air pillow for your goodies. Deflate it whenever you're not bringing your favorite tipple home.
 
Why it made our list: We've been searching for the safest way to transport wine and breakables, and this is as good—and as simple—as we've ever seen.

Get it from: vinnibag.com
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F1 Rubber Luggage Tags
Flight 001 dishes airport attitude right back, and this series of heavy-duty tags make for sassy stocking stuffers. Collect 'em all! After all, the airline may lose several of them along the way, so you'll want some backups.
 
Why it made our list: We may be occasionally guilty of the Layover Happy Hour ourselves.

Get it from: www.flight001.com
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It's the basic backpack-and-waist pack combo with a simple but clever tweak: When you're not using the beltpack, you can swing it behind you and into the compartment, where it's protected even when you're not keep your eyes on it. The main pack has an interior laptop pocket, too.
 
Why it made our list: Clever design that solves a problem backpackers didn't think could be solved. Now you don't have to stop and remove your backpack to access maps, documents, or other important small items.
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FluxMob Bolt FluxMob
Everyone should carry a spare battery on vacation, especially if they regularly use their smartphones for taking pictures and searching maps. This USB charger is pretty, powerful (3000mAh), and a little larger than a box of Tic Tacs. Keep it plugged in and you can use it to charge other USB devices, too. The plug's prongs fold into the device when you're not using it so they won't get bent in transit.
 
Why it made our list: Unlike most spare batteries, it doesn't require a cord. It plugs right into an outlet so you don't have to remember to pack anything except this.

Get it from: www.amazon.com
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TripleC Designs Power Card TripleC PowerCard
FluxMob too big for you? You won't find a less bulky backup battery anywhere. It's literally as big as a few credit cards stuck together and can fit in your wallet. The USB port is a twitch thicker than the battery itself—yes, it's that skinny. You can't get skinnier.
 
Why it made our list: A spare battery that fits into your wallet! You won't get a full charge out of it (1300mAh) and it can't take a beating, but you'll get enough to get you to the nearest outlet and it won't weigh you down.

Get it from: www.amazon.com
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ThermalStrike Heated Luggage ThermalStrike Luggage
We're not making this up: This is luggage that heats its contents to 140 degrees Fahrenheit at the push of a button. Why on earth would you want to do that? Because entymologists suggest temperatures of 118 or above will kill all stages of bed bugs and their eggs. Paranoid much? It'll take a few hours to bake whatever critters you (probably don't) have in your stuff, and when you bag needs a recharge, just plug it into the wall.
 
Why it made our list: Why not? It's heated luggage! Bed bugs aside, imagine how good your pajamas will feel when you put them on.

Get it from: www.thermalstrike.com
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Ultimate Ears Boom Ultimate Ears Boom/Logitech
Mobile phone speakers are terrible. But this attractive cylinder Bluetooth one can speak for them. The battery goes 15 hours on a single charge, and you can tote it to the beach because it's water-resistant (but don't get it truly wet). It'll pretty much fit anywhere a can of Coke or Monster will, connects to your phone from 50 feet away, and it comes in 11 different colors to match your style. Download its free app to use it as a wake-up alarm, too.
 
Why it made our list: It's a fuss-free way to add music to your vacation rental or beach day. There are no wires (except as you charge it). We balked at first at the price, but unlike so many portable speakers, it actually thumps with a lower range and packs a punch. We used one of these to turn a cruise cabin into an afternoon party zone.

Get it from: www.ultimateears.com, www.amazon.com
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Torrain Bags Torrain
Here's something delightfully no-tech—it's just thoughtful and looks smart. A Portland-based businesswoman works with Cambodians who have been displaced from their farmlands and gives them work sewing these hip articles out of old feedbags and cement bags. Each one's a little different, and they come in designs ranging from shoulder bags to totes.
 
Why it made our list: Just look at them—they're cool. It also means something to support local craftsmanship around the world, and it doesn't hurt that each item is a sassy one of a kind.

Get it from: torrain.org
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Moguls Mobile Mogul Mirror and Screen Protector Moguls Mobile Mogul Mirror + Screen Protector,
Yes, we're aware this is odd—but its also oddly useful and a fun low-cost gift. Stick this screen protector on your phone and it'll take the place of a mirror. When you phone's on, you can use it like normal, but when it's off, it's reflective enough to fix your make-up. Still, it's hard to imagine Shark Tank's Daymond John using this product to fix his hair given he's bald.
 
Why it made our list: The protector's hilarious promotional image, in which John seems too busy on his phone to notice his own product and the woman using it is too enthralled to notice him, was reason enough. But on a practical level, everyone needs a frilly stocking stuffer. And when you travel, you want to carry as little as possible, so why not find a way to ditch the mirror? Your reflection may be slightly fun house-y, but the point is the fun.

Get it from: mogulsmobile.com
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The cover of Frommer's & AARP's Places for Passion Cover design by Dave Riedy
Our final pick is low–tech—though you could get the e-book. Places for Passion was a labor of love, quite literally, for us here at Frommer's. Written by Dr. Pepper Schwartz, one of the savvy experts on the TV show "Married at First Sight" and Dr. Janet Lever, a long-time columnist for Glamour Magazine, it makes a compelling case for why, and how, travel can enhance romantic relationships.

Why You Should Get It: Filled with practical info, both about where to go and how to make the most of your time away, the book is not only the perfect gift for your spouse or partner, it also may encourage them to book a romantic holiday for the two of you. Yes, this is the gift that we hope will keep giving and giving. (To purchase the guide, click here).
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