Have plans to travel? If you’re like a lot of other people, you might be headed on vacation this summer. Or you could have business trips planned. Whatever the case may be, traveling can be fun. But it can also have its own stresses and issues. Whether you’re driving a car or heading to an airport, it can sometimes seem tricky making it to a destination.
Thankfully, there’s some great technology available to make trips a little easier. You might need something to keep kids distracted during family trips, something to help you find your destination more smoothly, or something to give you peace of mind while your home is empty. All of these worries and more can be taken care of with some devices you’ve already heard of (and perhaps some you haven’t).
Tech For Traveling
Don’t lose your stuff
Want to keep track of your luggage or other important items? Tile is one way to do that. Luggage can sometimes get lost. And while you’re away from home, being in unfamiliar places can make it easier to lose things like your keys or your wallet.
With Tile, you can easily track important items, whether it be a suitcase or your rental car keys. All you have to do is attach Tile to whatever you want to keep track of, then use Tile’s app if you need to locate the item. There’s the Tile Slim, which is a thin version of the device that isn’t too bulky in a wallet. There’s the Tile Mate, which has a small hole in the corner so you can attach it to anything, like purses, backpacks, keys, and more. These two are most likely to be helpful during your travels. There’s even an accessory for the Tile Slim that is specifically made for traveling: the Tile Slim Luggage Tag.
There’s also the Tile Sport, which could come in handy if you’re going on a trip that might get a little rough (like if you’re camping, hiking, biking, or doing things outdoors). And there’s the Tile Style, which adds some extra flair to the device for a more fun appearance.
Prices vary for each Tile device, and there are also combo packs. You can buy 4-packs or 8-packs to pay a little less for each device, or you can mix it up and buy the different devices separately.
Keep your passengers entertained
If you’re traveling with impatient kids or adults who aren’t fans of road trips, keeping them distracted can be a great way to eliminate some stress. The answer is simple: bring a tablet. Using phones can be a drain on the battery and run the risk of not having enough battery life if your car breaks down. And using a tablet can seem like a special treat if your kids don’t already use them regularly (if they do, I’m sure you already know how entertaining they can be).
Even if you don’t already have one, buying one for your trip doesn’t have to be expensive. There are pricey options out there, but it can be as easy as buying a Kindle Fire for just $49.99 (and sometimes for less during a promotion). You can easily set up a kid-friendly account and choose which apps they can use. This should make it easier to pass the time.
A tablet can also be a useful way to save space. If you like to read during your relaxing vacations, you don’t have to pack any bulky books—you can just read them on your tablet.
Find your destination with no problem
We all know about apps like Google Maps and Waze. You likely use Google Maps to find your way on a regular basis. But for some, this isn’t the most convenient way to travel. If you’re traveling alone, or if you are particularly uncomfortable driving on busy interstates, through tricky areas, or at night, having a GPS system in your car might work a lot better than having to look at your phone while on the road.
Navdy is one way you can integrate navigation into your vehicle. Information is projected onto your windshield with a transparent display, so you don’t have to look down at a phone. It also dims or brightens appropriately. It uses Google Maps, so that will be familiar to you, and you can also set up a dashboard that shows things like how much gas you have left.
If you can’t quite afford a system like that at the moment, you can also consider Garmin. Garmin offers many different GPS systems, some for less than a hundred dollars. Their website lists their many different products, and you can also find them on Amazon.
Track down your car
You might be worried you’ll forget where you parked at the airport. Or you might be parking on unfamiliar streets in a city away from home. You can take a picture of your surroundings, but that isn’t always enough to find your way back where you started.
Fortunately, there are many apps that you can use to track down your car when you’re ready to leave. The simplest solution? Drop a pin on Google Maps and save your location. By placing a pin at your current location before leaving your car and then saving it to your places, you can easily make your way back.
There are other options if you don’t use Google Maps or want a more streamlined way to get back to your vehicle. Find My Car is a well-known app that saves the GPS location of your car and navigates you back to it later. You can find it on iOS and on Android. There’s also ParkMe, which can not only help you find your car, it can also help you figure out where to park in the first place.
Keep your home safe while you’re gone
If you’ll be away from home for a while and there won’t be anyone staying behind to house sit, there are ways to make yourself feel less worried about your empty home. With smart devices, you can keep watch on your home and make it look as though it’s not actually empty.
Smart security systems are also great for peace of mind. There are a lot of options out there, so of course, research carefully before investing in a system. With these systems, you can typically set motion alerts so you get a notification if the camera catches movement. You can also usually check in on a live feed. Nest offers some popular devices, as well as Frontpoint and Canary. Just make sure you know what the initial installation cost is as well as how much it will cost every month.
Accessibility is an important focus in tech, and Google & Airbnb both reinforced that idea in recent announcements. Both Google and Airbnb will be updating their services to make them accessible for more people.
CNET is reporting that Google is working to make things more accessible in their transit maps. Now Google Maps will be able to show routes that are specifically accessible to people in wheelchairs. The update is live and available to use now. As CNET notes, it’s currently only available in six places, including London, New York, and Sydney, with more cities planned for the future.
If the feature is available in your city, you can access the wheelchair-accessible routes in the Google Maps app. After you’ve entered your destination and are looking at your directions, you simply choose the public transportation feature, then go to options and choose “wheelchair accessible” under routes.
In Google’s blog post, they illustrate how the routes work and how they were put together. Google was helped in building the feature by using meetups with guides to compile the information needed for their accessible routes. They’ve also updated Street View to make public transport more visible before actually getting there. In their blog post, they mention plans for expansion to other areas “in the coming months.”
Meanwhile, Airbnb has made their service more accessible, as well. Last year I wrote about Airbnb acquiring Accomable, an Airbnb-type service that focused on accessible locations. At that time, some basic accessibility search features were available on Airbnb’s website, but now there are almost two dozen search filters available to focus on accessible listings.
In Airbnb’s blog post, they outline the new search filters. According to Airbnb, people will now be able to search for listings based on a variety of different needs. They can find listings with “step-free access,” wide doorways and hallways, elevators, shower chairs, disabled parking spots, and more. Airbnb notes they’ll be focusing on making their filters better in the future, even expanding them.
With these updates to Google Maps and Airbnb, hopefully traveling will become easier for those concerned about accessibility.
Depending on where you live, you might be dealing with some unpleasant cold weather lately. (If not, I’m a little jealous of you.) As always, many of us are dealing with dropping temperatures, freezing rain, blizzards, or a little bit of everything winter has to offer.
There’s a lot that goes into things like weatherization and car care, so of course, this article should act as a supplement to the basics. Specifically, in this article, I’ll be sharing a few ways you can use tech and the internet to make it through winter!
First things first: focus on safety
The most important thing to remember during inclement weather is that you should always stay focused on safety. There are some suggestions in this article that are mostly for convenience or money-saving. However, you should always carefully look into safety tips for different situations.
To go over winter weather tips, take a look at the National Weather Service’s Winter Resources.
For your home
You might want to consider how you can best save energy while keeping warm in the winter. There are many things you can do to cut back on energy use. One way you can reduce energy is by upgrading your thermostat.
For instance, one affordable thermostat is Lux’s Programmable Thermostat. This thermostat doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but it’s helpful because you can program it to change the temperature while you’re away. It can also be set to turn the heat back up at a certain time, so when you get home, the temperature is comfortable again. This way you don’t have to worry about wasting heat for hours every day.
If you have more money to spare, you can also try one of the popular smart thermostats. One option is the ecobee4. It’s much pricier, but you can do additional things like change the temperature from an app and use its integrated Alexa voice control.
You can keep extra warm with a cozy blanket. Maybe you have roommates who aren’t as bothered by the cold, or maybe you just like to curl up under warm blankets. Either way, an electric blanket might make winter easier to endure.
Sure, electric blankets aren’t new tech. But there are better options than there used to be. For example, Sunbeam has a queen size electric blanket that is designed to actually be comfortable while also letting you set the different sides of the blanket at different temperatures, and it has an auto-off feature.
If this is a bit too costly, there are cheaper options available. Just make sure to buy from a brand you trust, and always use an electric blanket as intended to avoid accidents!
Prepare for power outages
Aside from the usual preparations, make sure you have a way to keep your devices on if the power goes out. You might just need or want an inexpensive, low-power battery pack. Or you could look into full-blown backup generators.
You can find small portable chargers for just a few dollars. Aibocn has one for just under $10. If you want more than just one or two charges from your battery pack, Anker has many portable batteries available. Their 20100mAh battery pack can charge some devices up to 7 times from just one charge of the pack.
Consider everything you’ll want to charge during a power outage, and then consider purchasing a battery pack that can charge what you specifically need.
Clear your windows
If your windshield is frozen over, you can use a variety of products to melt the ice and scrape it off. If you want to potentially make things even easier, try adding a new device to your collection. There are ice scrapers available that plug into your car’s lighter outlet and heat up to help melt the ice while you scrape.
One example of this is Zone Tech’s Ice Scraper. It’s heated, uses a squeegee to clear away water, and is designed to avoid scratching windows. Launch Innovative Products has a similar heated ice scraper. This one also has a light so it’s easier to see while you’re scraping.
Warm your seat
If you get out early in the morning, you might have come to dread sitting on your car seat because it gets so cold. Some cars come with heated seats, which is great, but if you have an older car (or don’t have the money for actual heated seats), you have options. Specifically, you can purchase heated seat covers.
There are quite a few of these products on the market, and many of them are reasonably priced. A good example of this is Wagan’s Heated Seat Cushion. The seat cushion is held down with straps, and it’s powered by plugging it into your car’s lighter outlet. You can even add an adapter for extra when you buy it, letting you use the seat cushion other places, like at your desk.
If price is less of an issue, there are also heated cushions with more features. SNAILAX has a seat cushion that can heat and cool, so it works year-round. It also plugs into the lighter outlet, and this cushion automatically turns off after 30 minutes, helping prevent things like overheating.
Keep your drink warm
Warm drinks are important during the winter, especially if you have to leave the house to go to work or run errands. Whether you’re drinking coffee, tea, hot chocolate, or any other hot beverage, it can sometimes be difficult to keep them warm after leaving home.
Naturally, there are products meant to help combat this issue. The electric mug from GEEPIN is one option. It’s a thermos that plugs into your car’s lighter outlet and keeps the liquid inside it hot. You can also just use it as a kettle and make drinks with it on the go. It seems to heat quickly and get hot enough to take care of those icy winter days.
You might also consider a cup warmer. If you enjoy stopping at a coffee shop to pick up a drink, you can keep it warm with something like the Auto Cafe Take-Out Hot Cup Warmer. Like many of the devices mentioned, it’s powered through your lighter outlet. It fits the typical cup of coffee, plus it only turns on when a cup is placed in it, and it turns off once the cup is removed.
For your devices
Get weather alerts
Making it through winter is a little easier if you’re keeping up to date with the weather. Sometimes, despite checking the weather regularly, something can be missed or come seemingly out of nowhere. Weather alerts are a great way to overcome this issue.
There are many ways to get weather alerts. If you already have a weather app on your device, you probably already have access to alerts. Apps like Accuweather and Weather by WeatherBug have options in the settings to get severe weather alerts. If you have a weather app, check the settings to see if you have this option.
There are also apps that specifically cater to sending weather alerts. There’s AlertsPro, which uses the National Weather Service to provide warnings and alerts. Then there’s NOAA Weather Radar & Alerts (by Apalon Apps), which can even let you get alerts for numerous different locations.
Check in with friends and family
If there’s been a serious winter weather event in your area, your friends and family might be worried about you. If you have the Facebook app (or access to Facebook some other way), you may be able to easily let everyone know you’re okay.
If enough people let Facebook know about a serious event that’s occurred, their Safety Check will be activated. This feature is found in the “Crisis Response” section on Facebook. This feature lets you check in and say you’re okay.
Of course, the situation has to be extremely serious, and Safety Check might not be activated even if you’re in danger. In this case, you might consider simply posting on Facebook that you’re safe and then tagging specific friends and family in a comment to the post. It may not be quite as effective, but it can get some peoples’ attention.
Make a shopping list
Shopping to prepare for a winter storm is usually not particularly fun. Stores can be chaotic if winter weather is coming. One way to get in and out more quickly is to make an easy-to-follow shopping list beforehand.
A shopping list app can be particularly useful. You don’t have to carry paper and a pen, plus you can quickly add and remove things as you need to. Try using a popular app like List Ease (for Android and iOS) or Grocery iQ (for Android and iOS).