Travel gear and gadgets for when you're on the go
This collection of gadgets, gear and apps helps travelers cope.
WHAT IT IS A man's travel Dopp kit that looks like a toolbox.
THE GOOD This durable hard-shell case for toiletries keeps shampoo bottles and toothpaste from exploding, as they might inside soft-sided Dopp kits. It's also compact, lightweight (1 pound) and well built, with silicone netting that keeps items securely in place, and neoprene lining that prevents leakage into your luggage. The case is available in three colors: red, gray or black. The Tooletries rugged macho looks will please every traveling home improvement guy in your life.
THE BAD You can't stuff "a bit more" into a hard-shell case as you could with a softer, more forgiving exterior.
COST $39.95-- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
Hotel Upgrade(Credit: HotelUpgrade, Inc.)
NAME Hotel Upgrade
AVAILABLE FOR Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 7.1 or later.
WHAT IT DOES The app connects travelers to hotel perks such as additional loyalty points, suite upgrades, executive lounge access, complimentary drink coupons and more at large hotel chains such as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Hyatt Place, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn and Westin in 27 U.S. cities.
WHAT'S HOT It helps you get more with little effort. The app sends you to the hotel's website to book your room, so the rates you'll find there, as well as discounted rates for seniors, government employees and AAA members, are all available. Once you're booked, submit your reservation confirmation to get your upgrades.
WHAT'S NOTThe perks aren't as good for travelers staying at a hotel only one to four nights. -- Los Angeles Times
Dufl app(Credit: Dufl, LLC)
NAME DUFL app
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS8 or later
COST Free download; service is $9.95 a month plus $99 per round-trip
WHAT IT DOES DUFL is like a valet and virtual closet for business travelers. It stores and maintains your clothes, accessories and toiletries at its warehouse, then ships the items at your request.
WHAT'S HOT You can do it all from the app. Choose your clothes, order shipments and monitor their progress. Have two trips back to back? No problem. Some of your clothes can be sent to Boston in bag No. 1, while others are sent in bag No. 2 to San Francisco. Standard shipping is three days; expedited shipping is an extra $49 per trip.
WHAT'S NOT You can't test the app before registering. You have to ask for an invitation code, which takes three days to get. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Tell the site which topics you're interested in, and it gives you a page of festival options. Topics include cultural, historic, arts and crafts, faith, food and wine, books and music. Add whether you've been to the festival, want to save it for later or are already going, and it will make a calendar list for you.
WHAT'S HOT The site includes a huge number of small-town festivals and celebrations, many of which you've probably never heard of, like the Ramen Yokocho Festival in the Los Angeles area. You can search for festivals all over the world, though you'll get better results by search for a city hub.
WHAT'S NOT Search results are heavy on Texas events at first, which makes sense since Everfest's founders are from Austin. If you try different search terms and add themes, the results will widen.
COST $12.99-$18.99 at phonefetcher.com
WHAT IT IS An eye-catching cord that connects your smartphone to your purse for instant retrieval.
THE GOOD This simple device solves the problem of having to dig through a purse, gym bag or backpack in that frustrating race to find your phone before it stops ringing. One end attaches to a purse handle, the other fits snugly into the phone's earphone jack. Just tug on the cord and -- voila! -- phone in hand. The bungee cord PhoneFetcher is long enough so you can use your phone while still attached. Comes in a variety of colors and styles.
THE BAD If your phone is buried beneath heavy items, and you have to tug too hard, the phone may release from the cord. -- MALERIE YOLEN COHEN. Special to Newsday
Twicer(Credit: Kwarter inc.)
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod touch; requires iOS 7.1 or later
WHAT IT DOES Lets you record video or import existing video and add commentary.
WHAT'S HOT This app lets you add depth and context to your travel videos before sharing them on Twitter, Facebook, etc. If you want to see a good example before you make your own, look at the great series of travel Twicer videos from "Etienne.Leroy" on zip lining, body boarding, river rafting and relaxing in Costa Rica.
WHAT'S NOT Tread carefully through the "Places ... Travel" category, as well as others. Read the video title before you click through to get a better sense of what you'll be viewing. Report anything you find to be inappropriate. -- Los Angeles Times
Lonely Planet: Make My Day(Credit: Getty Images / OLIVIER LABAN-MATTEI)
NAME Lonely Planet: Make My Day
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (requires iOS8 or later), and Android
COST The app is free, with limited content for six cities; additional content is $2.99 per city or $4.99 for all cities.
WHAT IT DOES It's a super-simple app that lets you create your own "Morning, Afternoon and Evening" itinerary for London, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo and Barcelona, Spain. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT'S HOT The app provides a powerful quick hit or "best of" what to do in the world's great cities. You get 13 choices per section of the day with the full version unlocked. Each attraction, such as Les Catacombs or the Eiffel Tower, has a description, website info, hours, admission fee, a map and a recommended place to eat nearby.WHAT'S NOT Be careful with your swiping. One swipe of the page upward and the day you've crafted is gone.
Fly Video Editor(Credit: Fly Labs Inc.)
NAME Fly Video Editor
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone 5 and above, iPad and iPod Touch, requires iOS 8.
COST The app is free, but additional feature packs are $2.99 to $9.99 each, or a bundle for $5.99.
WHAT IT DOES This video editor allows you to combine four travel videos into one. Trim, dissolve or cut to the next video, add music and save the final product to your camera for sharing.
WHAT'S HOT Not only is editing easy, but you can import music from your iTunes library to include in your video. The app even adjusts vertical videos so you can use them with your horizontal ones. Need tips or inspiration? Don't miss the Instagram feed @editonthefly.
WHAT'S NOT You can't include photos in your video at the moment, though a new feature with that ability will launch this summer.
WHAT IT DOES Forward your hotel booking confirmation email (for hotels with free cancellation) to firstname.lastname@example.org. If DreamCheaper finds the same room -- or better -- at a cheaper price, it will book it for you and cancel your previous, more expensive reservation.
WHAT'S HOT Savings keep getting bigger if you're booking more than one room for more than a day or two. The site claims to have found savings for two out of three bookings and cut rates anywhere from 15 percent to 60 percent. Visit the "All about the financials" section in Frequently Asked Questions if you want more information about the payment process.
WHAT'S NOT It works best when one person does the booking. If your spouse doesn't know you have been using DreamCheaper and receives a cancellation email from the first hotel booked, he may panic and rebook a hotel room somewhere else. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES It's a marketplace that connects travelers with locals for authentic experiences, guided tours and cultural activities in New York, Paris, London, Rome and Barcelona, Spain.
WHAT'S HOT The opportunities presented are personal and unique, such as a tour of Rome from the back of a Vespa or a tailor-made culinary tour of Tuscany. Other fascinating tours include one of London's historic docks, and a day trip to the most beautiful cove in Spain's Costa Brava that includes lunch, a swim and a tour from a local who speaks three languages.
WHAT'S NOT It's a crowded category for travel websites, with competition from established sites ToursByLocals, Vayable and SideTour, to name a few. BubbleGlobe is a startup and will have to keep the opportunities interesting and plentiful to attract and retain users. -- Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Requires iOS 6 or later. Also available for Android 2.3 or later on Google Play and Windows. Requires 4GB available space.
COST The app is free; movie rentals are $4.99.
WHAT IT DOES Think Redbox for jet-setters who prefer to download rather than stream. Say what? It's a new movie-rental option found in several North American airports. It works in conjunction with a digital rental kiosk.
WHAT'S HOT It's great if you have a long layover. The kiosk directions are easy to understand and the app downloads quickly. The best part? You don't have to rely on sluggish airport Wi-Fi because the Digiboo kiosk has its own.
WHAT'S NOT Movies take a long time to download (15 minutes). User reviews are fairly poor on both iTunes and Google Play: User experiences seemed to differ depending on their devices and Wi-Fi strength at various airports. -- Los Angeles Times
AVAILABLE iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, requires iOS 7 or later; also available for Android on Google Play.
WHAT IT DOES The app lists hotels that will let you book a room for the day (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) instead of overnight. Available in 11 cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago.
WHAT'S HOT There are so many opportunities this app opens up: day dates for busy parents, a work space for business people or a place to rest before or after a long flight or during a layover, just to name a few. Travelers can search for rooms for "Today," "Tomorrow" or by picking a date on a calendar.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see a drop-down menu to prompt users to choose one of the cities from those that are available. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES This hotel deal website doesn't just find low rates, but also membership and senior rates, discounts after coupon savings and special rates available on your cellphone. You can also compare its prices with those on other popular travel deal websites. Subscription email alerts for personalized hotel deals or price drops are also available.
WHAT'S HOT The "freebies" filter on the left navigation bar will show you how many hotels in your search result offer free breakfast, Internet, parking and child care. The search defaults to results with the best savings, but if you want to dig deeper you can sort by value, price or rating. Also make sure to use the three-star filter (not just four- and five-star properties) if you want to include big-value hotels that you might not otherwise consider.
WHAT'S NOT The filter bar with "Savings Types" is a little confusing. -- Los Angeles Times
Best parking app(Credit: BestParking.com)
NAME Best Parking app
COMPATIBLE WITH iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, requires iOS 7.0 or later. Also works for Android and BlackBerry.
WHAT IT IS A guide to the best daily and monthly parking garages and lots in North American cities and airports.
THE GOOD If you're planning a road trip to Boston, Chicago or San Francisco, or maybe just driving into Manhattan, you won't have to worry about finding a place to park. Once you arrive at your destination, plug in an address, cross street, neighborhood or attraction, and the app will direct you to the cheapest nearby parking lot. Rates are updated regularly and links to any available discount coupons are provided. The app also lists airport parking deals, and covers more than 100 cities.
THE BAD International coverage is not yet available. -- The Hartford Courant
Gas Guru(Credit: AP / Lynne Sladky)
NAME Gas Guru
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch with iOS 7.0 or later; Android on Google Play.
WHAT IT DOES Locates gas stations by price near your current location. Can also search by city.
WHAT'S HOT It can help you find a number of stations that may be cheaper (as much as 30 to 50 cents a gallon) than your usual spot. You can use the app in map mode and get directions or view by list and sort by price or distance, which is a big help on road trips. It's also easier to use than its competitor GasBuddy.
WHAT'S NOT It lack two features that would really make the app perfect -- a "favorites" list, where you could save gas stations, and a road trip calculator. -- LOS ANGELES TIMES
Gociety.com(Credit: Newsday / P.J. Joshi)
WHAT IT DOES This social network connects like-minded adventurers and fun seekers across a variety of interests from skiing to fly-fishing.
WHAT'S HOT The website and its iOS app (for iPhone and iPad) have an inviting vibe. There are 15,000 members across the website and app (membership is free). Click on "Water Sports," "Fun in the Sun" and "Anywhere," and you'll find an inspiring "Early Morning Surf and Breakfast" in Costa Rica and an island-hopping tour in the Philippines. Select "All" activities "Anywhere" in the filter to see the most results.
WHAT'S NOT The site needs a more advanced way to search for activities by destination and dates. You can search "Newest," "Popular" or "Upcoming" plans from the home page, but it would be more helpful to see those activities on a map. -- Los Angeles Times
National Geographic Lodges(Credit: National Geographic Unique Lodge)
WHAT IT DOES A quick resource for boutique accommodations around the world that match the standards you'd expect of the National Geographic brand. Each property is visited and vetted to ensure that guests receive top-notch service and inspiring experiences in a lodge that stays true to the landscape and cultural heritage, has a commitment to conservation and provides benefits to local communities.
WHAT'S HOT The "Spotlight on Sustainability" section features connections between the property and green practices, the land and community. Guests who book their stay through National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World receive a complimentary "National Geographic Exclusive," an experience that helps them connect more deeply to their destination, whether it's a drum ceremony with Buddhist nuns, a dinner under the stars in South Africa or a meeting with the son of a shaman in Costa Rica.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice if you could filter the accommodations by price. -- Los Angeles Times
COST Free for iOS and Android
WHAT IT IS The easy-to-use app offers discounts of at least 50 percent on tickets to live events, including theater, concerts, sports, festivals and foodie tours in New York and other cities.
THE GOOD Goldstar uses your phone's GPS to detect your location to search for events, or you can specify a location where you are planning a trip. You also can provide exact dates to buy tickets before a trip. It can help stretch vacation dollars, especially if you are on a family vacation and need tickets for four or more people. Some events may be a welcome surprise, such as the Wynwood Food Tour in Miami. Goldstar has listings in about 30 cities, including Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
THE BAD Don't expect to find premium seats for most events. -- Chicago Tribune
Citymaps(Credit: CityMaps, Inc)
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with iOS 7.0 or later, Android 4.0.2 and up
WHAT'S HOT It's easy to put together your own map-based guide to favorite hot spots, whether you're collecting as you travel or planning for a trip. Details include contact info, price rating, hours, reservations, and directions for those walking, driving or taking a bus. Use the "Explore" feature to find collections, featured mappers and what's being pinned near you.
WHAT'S NOT You can connect with other people through the app's list of Citymaps users, your friends on Facebook, Google Plus and your own contact list. If your friends aren't Citymaps users yet, you'll have to email or text them to get them on board. -- Los Angeles Times
The Mobile Passport app(Credit: Airside Mobile)
NAME The Mobile Passport app
COST Free for iOS and Android
WHAT IT IS A mechanism created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to speed travelers with U.S. and Canadian passports through customs at U.S. airports.
THE GOOD Input your passport information and take a picture of yourself, then create a pin to open the app for future trips. Answer four Custom Border Protections questions in the app, and then go to special "Mobile Passport Control" kiosks at customs. You can answer the four questions in advance, and then open the app after landing. You may still have to answer a few questions from the passport-control officer, but you'll avoid a long customs line. If you don't have Global Entry, you will want this app.
THE BAD Only Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International and Miami International have those special kiosks, but additional airports will be added soon. -- The Chicago Tribune
Zip + Flip Penguin Pillow(Credit: KIKKERLAND.COM)
NAME Zip + Flip Penguin Pillow by Kikkerland Design Inc.
WHAT IT IS A cute, plush penguin that easily transforms into a comfortable neck pillow for kids for plane, train and car travel.
THE GOOD It's a polar opposite of what it looks like on the outside. Unzip the bottom, flip the penguin inside out, push the microbead stuffing to the side and you've got a handy U-shaped neck pillow for your next road trip or flight. If the pillow gets dirty, just clean it with a damp cloth and mild soap. It's also available in a black bear design.
THE BAD It is aimed at kids, so the pillow may not fit around all adults' necks.
INFO shop.walkerart.org -- Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Connects house dwellers (and their backyards) with adventurous campers. More than half the garden listings are in Europe; the remainder are sprinkled throughout the rest of the world.
WHAT'S HOT It's not always just a patch of grass. The site features a wide range of yards and accommodations, including a 1930s bow-top Gypsy wagon in North Devon, England; a yurt on a sheepherder's farm in the eastern Pyrenees of France; and a 120-acre plantation in southern India. There's a robust facilities search filter if you're looking for gardens that have Wi-Fi or public transportation nearby, allow dogs or provide hot water and other amenities.
WHAT'S NOT Some of the listings did not have photos, which hinders the search process. Be aware of cynical listings such as one that found camping in the heart of Los Angeles' skid row. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Searches for and compares low-cost carriers to help you find the lowest fares among carriers in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.
WHAT'S HOT Plug in your destination and travel dates and up pop two graphs: one charting prices within a certain number of days of your departure date; the other with prices for your return. Click on the peaks and valleys to see the various travel dates and their corresponding prices. Then scroll down to find specific flights. There's a filter bar that opens and closes on the left side of your screen if you want specifics about destinations, stopovers, duration and more.
WHAT'S NOT In a search for flights from Los Angeles to Europe for a family of three, certain segments of the trip had to be booked on different carriers and on different websites. -- Los Angeles Times
Bottle Bright(Credit: Clean Ethics)
NAME Bottle Bright
WHAT IT IS An environmentally friendly effervescent tablet that cleans all water bottles.
THE GOOD Are you loath to use last year's CamelBak or other hydration packs or bottles for fear of ingesting something nasty from its hard-to-clean tube? Clean Ethics has devised a potent, chemical-free formula that cleanses even the rankest carriers. It takes just 20 minutes to eliminate gunk, stains and smells from plastic or stainless steel water bottles, coffee mugs, and yes, even CamelBaks using one chlorine-free, biodegradable Bottle Bright tablet. It will even get rid of stains in your coffee carafes.
THE BAD You might have to soak an item overnight to remove bad stains.
COST $5.99 for a 10 pack, $10.99 for two 10 packs
INFO cleanethics.com -- MALERIE YOLEN-COHEN. Special to Newsday
WHAT IT DOES The website combines itinerary inspiration with multistop flight and hotel booking for global destinations. Use one of its itineraries or create your own.
WHAT'S HOT If you're surfing for a package deal, the website will offer you cash back when you book one of its hotel options. It's easy to filter for budget, midrange and high-end options so you can customize your style of travel. The flight itinerary is broken into individual segments so that if you don't like a segment when booking, you can opt out of it but keep the others.
WHAT'S NOT The site is easy to use, but is it really offering the best price? Checking it against the loyalty program with American Airlines as well as round-the-world fare finders BootsnAll and AirTreks, prices were all about the same. -- Los Angeles Times
NAME RideGuru by TaxiFareFinder.com
WHAT IT DOES Calculates estimated fares for a variety of ride-share options.
WHAT'S HOT Not only will RideGuru give you a side-by-side comparison of fares offered by providers including Uber, Lyft and Hailo (and the breakdown of cost per initial fare and additional miles, etc.). The estimate includes a tip for the driver and indicates how far and how long it will take you to get to your destination. Click on the listing for more details, and you'll see company fare rules plus a meter with fares you could expect if you hit traffic. For those new to ride-sharing, there's a simple description of how it works.
WHAT'S NOT There are no photos (or descriptions) of typical cars a traveler might get if he or she chose Lyft instead of Uber or Flywheel instead of Curb. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT IS A global door-to-door luggage, sporting equipment and college gear delivery service.
THE GOOD Many airlines are now charging big bucks for baggage. Sendmybag.com, through its user-friendly website, makes it easy, and in many cases cheaper, to dispatch your clothing, bikes, skis, golf clubs and college dorm accessories to your destination without the time and hassles of checking and claiming your bags at the airport. Though other services have been doing this for years, Sendmybag.com will pick up from your home.
THE BAD Sendmybag.com will not pack or secure your bags or boxes for you. You also must itemize the contents of each parcel on the shipping label.
COST Shipping prices vary by size and weight, but begin at $99 to send a 33-pound bag from the United States to Europe.
AVAILABILITY iOS, Google Play
WHAT IT DOES Connects passengers and drivers to share rides and expenses in 13 countries, including the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, India, Philippines and Uruguay.
WHAT'S HOT If you use apps like Airbnb or Lyft add this one to your list. You'll find rides from Boston to New York ($43), Los Angeles to San Francisco ($80) and Los Angeles to Santa Barbara ($19). Women drivers and passengers who are concerned about safety can select a "Ladies only" option. The pricing guide is helpful and there are easy-to-understand preferences for sharing a car with people who are chatty or quiet, are smokers or nonsmokers, travel with pets or no pets, etc.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice to see the rides people are offering from your general area in the near future. -- Los Angeles Times
ShaveTech Shaver(Credit: ShaveTech)
NAME ShaveTech Shaver
WHAT IT IS A small, well-designed electric travel razor. It's available in black or white, both of which are trimmed in brushed silver.
THE GOOD This compact, lightweight razor is the size of a credit card and thinner than a deck of cards, so it takes up hardly any room in a briefcase or gym bag. The pop-out USB charger saves space and the need to find a free electrical outlet. And for most, it offers a good, close shave.
THE BAD Manual razor users might not find ShaveTech Shaver results as smooth as their own.
INFO shavetech.com -- Malerie Yolen-Chohen, special to Newsday
Tegu Pocket Pouch(Credit: Tegu)
NAME Tegu Pocket Pouch
WHAT IT IS A set of eco-friendly building blocks that will keep tots entertained on long trips.
THE GOOD The blocks, which are created with beautiful Honduran hardwoods, have magnets safely embedded within them, so they're less likely to topple over. They're also square, which means they won't roll all the way to the back of the plane if your little one does knock them down. The set, which packs neatly into the pouch, includes eight blocks in two shapes: four cubes and four short planks.
THE BAD It would be nice if it came with a few more blocks.
INFO tegu.com -- The Washington Post
Sosh -- City Guide(Credit: Sosh)
NAME Sosh -- City Guide
AVAILABLE FOR iOS
WHAT IT DOES This app acts as a city guide to fun things to do and see (you choose your interests and neighborhood preferences) curated by real people gathering info from local weekly magazines, newspapers and niche websites such as Thrillist, Eater, Zagat, 7x7, New York magazine, and more. Currently available for Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
WHAT'S HOT Sosh suggests unique things to do in each city, such as eating at a pop-up restaurant, discovering the best artisanal cocktails or shopping at a sample sale. Quirky suggestions include a date night at a sushi-making workshop in San Francisco on Valentine's Day and stargazing with astronomy enthusiasts in Seattle. Also available are upcoming events by the week, along with social sharing.
WHAT'S NOT How about an option to vote on a new city? -- Los Angeles Times
Spider Monkey(Credit: Octa)
NAME Spider Monkey
WHAT IT IS A lightweight stand for the tablet or e-reader you've brought along on your trip.
THE GOOD The flexible "tail" on this handy accessory will anchor your tablet to all kinds of irregular surfaces, whether you're reading on a French Quarter balcony, video chatting or watching a movie on a 747. The eye-level viewing reduces neck strain and improves posture, and the 360-degree base rotates for easy screen adjustment. You can also wrap, curl or tuck it in place in bed or on the couch, and it stores easily.
THE BAD It works better on lighter tablets, such as the iPad.
AVAILABLE FOR iOS
WHAT IT DOES Lets you discover new places and create travel bucket lists based on photos from those who have gone before you. Go to Skyscanner to compare flight prices to your destinations. Your list is organized into a map ready for you to use.
WHAT'S HOT When you're looking at images, it's fast and easy to "heart" the ones you like. The app keeps track for you and groups them by destination. Next, click over to the Flights section and see how airfares to your destinations stack up against one another.
WHAT'S NOT The Plan feature's search bar isn't great for cities you don't know. You're better off using the app's funnel tool, and then typing in, for example, "coffee house in Austin." You'll get a list of suggestions with addresses. -- Los Angeles Times
Flight Tonight app(Credit: Hopper)
NAME Flight Tonight app and hopper.com
WHAT THEY DO To use Flight Tonight, a simple iOS app from Hopper.com, input your hometown airport code and it will return same-day flight deals -- domestic and international -- for that airport and nearby cities. Results vary throughout the day because of frequent updates. If you check later in the afternoon and evening, you'll find deals that leave the next day.
WHAT'S HOT It's great for booking a last-minute trip. Check the app early in the day for the broadest selection of flight and deal options. To get details on cheap flights between two destinations, see the "When to Fly and Buy" section on the Hopper.com website. Click on "Deals" for upcoming destination-specific deals from your hometown.
WHAT'S NOT hopper.com is a little more work to navigate than the app, but you'll find even better prices and more destination options. -- Los Angeles Times
Crumpled City Maps(Credit: Palomar)
NAME Crumpled City Maps
WHAT THEY ARE These waterproof, lightweight maps can be creased, squashed and easily bunched into your back pocket.
THE GOOD A no-fuss, convenient solution for the travel buff who prefers printed maps to GPS devices -- without the slapstick of trying to properly refold a map. The maps are printed on a special technological material that can be crammed into your pocket, backpack or the carrying pouch provided with no worry about refolding. Cities range from Amsterdam, Barcelona and Berlin, to Cape Town, Chicago and Hong Kong, and each map provides details about a large part of the city, including streets, monuments and a sightseeing index.
THE BAD Of the 40 maps available, Chicago, New York and San Francisco are the only U.S. cities.
INFO palomarweb.com-- Washington Post
WHAT IT DOES Sounds out the correct pronunciation of names in 14 languages, including Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Bengali and Russian.
WHAT'S HOT It's great if you know how to spell the name of the person before calling or meeting him or her. Input the spelling of a "full name" in the search bar. Once it finds the name (if it can't locate the original among the 14,000 in its database, it will suggest a similar alternative or invite you to add the name), click the sound icon and listen to the pronunciation. There's even a "Slow" button if you need the name pronounced more slowly.
WHAT'S NOT This tool needs to be pocket-size. NameShouts knows that and is working on apps for both iOS and Android. -- Los Angeles Times
Charge Hub: Universal Charging Station(Credit: Charge Hub)
NAME Charge Hub: Universal Charging Station
WHAT IT IS A one-stop charger that can handle up to seven electronic devices simultaneously, at full speed, with just one plug.
THE GOOD The Charge Hub is a small, compact, beautifully designed disc-shaped charger with seven USB ports to quickly power iPhones, Androids, iPads and more with just one outlet. It's perfect for a plugged-in family on the road. An added bonus: You can custom design your Hub with a logo, photograph or art at no extra charge.
THE BAD It does not come with cords, so travelers must remember to bring the ones that come with each device.
COST $49.99, thegrommet.com
WHAT IT DOES This ad-free app lets you search for and book hostels, with more than 35,000 accommodations worldwide. Need a bed at the last minute? Same-day booking is available.
WHAT'S HOT Searching on your iPhone is much easier than using HostelRocket's website (hostelrocket.com). It's a visually appealing, quick-to-use app with hostel photos, reviews and pricing upfront. If you're looking for hostels that surprise and are easy on your wallet, you'll find them here, like Casa Alto Vidigal ($12 a night) in Rio de Janeiro.
WHAT'S NOT The review categories are extremely positive -- "It's clean!" "Awesome staff!" and "I love this place!" -- so if the hostel you're considering has only two out of five stars, be careful. You might be missing out on a different hostel with a better rating.
COST Free, iPhone, Android, web
Travel Money Tracker(Credit: iWitness)
NAME Travel Money Tracker
WHAT IT DOES This app converts a country's native currency to U.S. dollars. You also can set up an alert that tells you when you're overspending.
COST $1.99, iPhone only
WHAT IT DOES iWitness connects to emergency services and records your whereabouts. It is set up to work in 146 countries. International users can select the region, and the app automatically localizes to the emergency equivalent of 911.
WHAT'S HOT Arm the iWitness app, and at the touch of a button or the screen, or by shaking the phone, you can start recording your predicament (for five minutes) or call 911.
WHAT'S NOT Be careful with the 911 feature if you're testing the app. Once it's armed, all it takes is a touch of the screen to set off the "calling 911" alarm. You have five seconds to cancel.
COST $2.99 a month, $29.99 a year
WORTH IT Absolutely. Even if you use it only once, it could be a lifesaver.
5 Blades Travel Razor by eShave(Credit: MCT / Handout)
NAME 5 Blades Travel Razor by eShave
WHAT IT IS A sleek nickel-plated razor that breaks down for storing inside its own easily packable metal canister. The handle uses Gillette Fusion blades.
THE GOOD This thing looks a lot more like art than something as pedestrian as a men's razor. But appearance aside, this razor is so nicely balanced in the hand, it's actually fun to shave. Most important, it was designed to easily expel accumulated hair with a single run under the water. Why can't every manufacturer do this?
THE BAD Expense, plain and simple. This will appeal to guys who are financially comfortable or to generous families of more financially uncomfortable guys who really deserve something special as a gift that's going to make one of life's drudgeries a pleasure. Sometimes the splurge really is worth it.
AVAILABLE FROM eshave.com
WHAT IT DOES Acts as a virtual concierge to help you plan a day-to-day itinerary based on your travel style. Available for five U.S. cities and 28 in Europe.
WHAT'S HOT There are two ways to dive in. Begin at the Destinations page for a great overview of a city and 16 ways to see it -- through sports, entertainment, food, culture, history, etc. Even better: Type in your city and the dates, then check the Trip Profile selector for suggestions. You can toggle between "The First Timer," "The Returning Traveler," "The Luxury Traveler" and "The Backpacker." It's easy to refine the picks by using the scroll bar to indicate your activity interest level.
WHAT'S NOT More cities, please. And once the suggestions were in the day-to-day planner, it would be useful if you could manipulate their order throughout the day by clicking and dragging them in the itinerary planner. -- Los Angeles Times
WHAT IT DOES Scout is a recommendation and review site that covers 370 hotels, lodges and chalets as well as 48 ski resorts in North America, Japan, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
WHAT'S HOT All the website content (and the guidebook given to customers who book a multiday trip through Scout) is written by Sarah Plaskitt, a skier and writer who has visited every resort and property on the site and has hand-picked the destinations. Don't miss the "Scout Collections" if you're looking for the most "extreme steeps," the best family resorts or lodges with the best hot tubs.
WHAT'S NOT In the "Browse ... Book" section, some of the pinned resorts led only to pop-up descriptions. For the full insider's point of view, you must scroll down to a list of the resorts that links to more info.
'Walt Disney World With Kids 2015'(Credit: Fodor)
NAME "Walt Disney World With Kids 2015"
WHAT IT IS A guide to planning a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
THE GOOD The book does a wonderful job of explaining the new MagicBand wristband ticketing system, the FastPass+ program and the My Disney Experience App. Families can pre-plot their days to spend the least amount of time possible on lines. The book includes maps of each Disney park, information on each ride, and tips and advice galore. This is the 25th edition of the book, and the writers have each visited the parks at least 60 times.
THE BAD The guide also covers Universal Orlando, SeaWorld ... Aquatica but these parks are addressed in far less detail. And, when the book went to press, the newer Harry Potter offering at Universal Orlando hadn't yet opened, so that area is not covered in great detail.
NAME Storehouse app and Storehouse.co
AVAILABLE FOR iPhone and iPad
WHAT IT DOES Select photos from your iPhone or iPad and turn them into a magazine-like photo essay.
WHAT'S HOT It's quick. It's beautiful. And unlike most photo apps, it's not so much a place to store your photos as it is to tell a story. Use the Explore feature and hashtags to discover stories related to #travel or a specific destination, such as #london or #sanfrancisco. Push the "circle" button to import photos from your phone, Instagram, Dropbox, Flickr and a menu of your images categorized by time lapse, panoramas, recently added, videos and more. Once your images are loaded, edit the sizes and add text at will.
WHAT'S NOT It would be nice if Storehouse featured more stories from everyday people.
WHAT IT DOES Recommends neighborhoods and hotels best suited to you based on what you want to do on your trip. Destinations include Bangkok, Barcelona, San Francisco, Paris and Seoul, South Korea.
WHAT'S HOT Pick your city, then interests, such as restaurants, bars and pubs, nightclubs, museums, sightseeing and shopping. Then, note who will be traveling and your per-night hotel budget, hit explore and a map of neighborhoods appears. A drop-down list of neighborhoods that have been scored for you and recommended hotels come up. The site is simple to use, and travelers can quickly fine-tune their results by altering star ratings, budget and activities.
WHAT'S NOT Recommendations were spot-on, but for the traveler new to the city, more travel descriptions about neighborhoods would be useful.
WHAT IT DOES Hazel Lane curates and ships boxes of treats that represent a city's spirit. Indulge in vibey, city-themed souvenirs after your journey, when you're feeling nostalgic.
WHAT'S HOT You can subscribe, or give the boxes as gifts, for one, three or six months, with five sizes to choose from and prices ranging from $24.99 to $179.99 a month. You won't know the contents of the box until it arrives. Individual items such as necklaces and art prints also can be purchased separately. The Brooklyn box was full of little-known hipster products in honor of the HBO show "Girls"; the Los Angeles-themed box included fun-in-the-sun items; and the San Francisco box had a foodie theme.
WHAT'S NOT It would be fun to see more single gifts offered by city.
"Cockpit Confidential"(Credit: Sourcebooks, Incorporated)
NAME "Cockpit Confidential," by Patrick Smith
WHAT IT IS An airline pilot's guide to airplane basics, flight and travel.
THE GOOD As a child, Patrick Smith, publisher-writer of AskThePilot.com, watched planes landing and taking off over Revere Beach in Massachusetts, fueling a lifelong passion for the mechanics and romance of flight. What makes this book worthwhile is the way Smith integrates great writing, humor and technical knowledge. He juxtaposes wide-eyed wonder (comparing the aurora borealis, "a quivering, horizon-wide curtain of fluorescence" to "G-d's laundry flapping in the night sky") with practical, fear-alleviating answers to questions such as "Why does a plane bump, jig and turn at steep angles during climbout?"
THE BAD Airplane buffs might find the material familiar.
INFO Amazon.com -- Malerie Yolen-Cohen
WHAT IT DOES This website lets you plan and book golf games in the United States and 47 countries from your desktop, tablet or mobile device. Make a wish list of courses you hope to play.
WHAT'S HOT It's a tempting site for the destination golfer. The home page features golfing destinations in Da Nang, Vietnam; Cape Town, South Africa; and Hua Hin, Thailand, to name a few. There are plenty of course photos, a map and lists of amenities and weather reports, plus golfers can rate and review the courses. Users can make instant bookings in California, Arizona and Nevada.
WHAT'S NOT You're getting just a sneak peek at features. By year's end you should be able to search by city or individual course rather than by just a list of destinations. Also, some tabs do not link to results yet, but they're working on it.
Jackery Giant Rechargeable Battery(Credit: Jackery)
WHAT IT IS A powerful portable and rechargeable external battery with two ports that can charge a smartphone and iPad at the same time.
THE GOOD The Jackery Giant can quickly charge two devices at once and is powerful enough to provide an extra 220 hours of operation. The Giant is great for camping, long flights and blackouts, and it's compatible with Apple products, Androids and most electronic devices. It also serves as an LED flashlight for up to 700 hours of illumination.
THE BAD Squat and thicker than an iPhone and weighing more than half a pound, the Jackery Giant is heftier than a "lipstick"-size charger, so it's best stowed in a glove compartment or large backpack rather than a small purse. (Jackery does offer a mini, less-powerful version.)