At the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this trusty travel technology columnist saw and tested tons of new prototypes and products from around the world. Here are his favorite available and soon-to-be released travel gadgets, to help you stay powered up, healthy and entertained in your journeys this year.
1. Trakdot Luggage Tracker
Why We Like It: From anywhere inside your bag, this small FAA-compliant and FCC-certified device continually monitors cell networks to determine its location. During the flight, it automatically goes to sleep. (Jealous?) When you land, it wakes and sends you (and others, if you like) a text and/or email to let you know where in the world it has been and (fingers crossed) now is. You can proactively track the device through the website or optional app, which will alert you when your luggage is within 30 feet of you. Each checked bag requires a separate device.
How Much: $59 (includes activation) + $13 annual service fee
Availability: April, Trakdot.com
2. Rugged rukus Solar Speaker
Why We Like It: This tough, lightweight, splash-proof Bluetooth speaker is about six inches squared. So it's small enough to travel with, yet features a large enough solar panel to keep the music going all day. It fully charges in less than five hours in direct sunlight, or just a couple hours via AC power. When the sun goes down and you're not near an outlet, its battery can keep blasting tunes for another eight hours—less, depending on how much you conveniently use it to supply power to your thirsty mobile devices.
How Much: $100
Availability: March, ShopEtonCorp.com.
3. Music Talking Stylus
Why We Like It: The name says it all: This slim, multi-functioned Bluetooth device can play music through its tiny speaker, allow you to talk on the phone (with it held to your ear), or be used as a simple stylus on touch screen devices. It's got built-in volume controls and vibration functionality, along with a headphone jack and a Micro-USB port. From a full charge, it can stand by for over a week or give you five hours of talk/play time.
How Much: $80
Availability: Spring, Dexim.net.
4. PocketCell Duo
Why We Like It: This cute, pocketable battery is less than four inches tall by two inches wide, yet delivers enough juice (6,800 mAh, for closet geeks) to fully charge a tablet once or a smartphone up to four times. Through its fast-charging ports, it can safely recharge (but won't overcharge) two devices at once. And to top it off, the package includes Innergie's super-handy, triply connective Magic Cable Trio (a $20 value), with adapters for Apple 30-pin, Micro- and Mini-USB.
How Much: $90
Availability: March, MyInnergie.com.
5. Harman/Kardon NC Headphones
Why We Like It: These sleek, sophisticated, rectangular-cupped headphones from the new Harman Kardon line feature a sumptuous fit, superb sound, and amazing active noise cancellation. (They blocked out the noise of the CES show floor, even at low volumes!) Best of all, if your listen-while-you-travel time somehow exceeds their generous 40-hour rechargeable battery life, unlike with others, you can keep on listening (sans noise cancellation). And their fold-flat design and classy case make them easy to travel with.
How Much: $299
Availability: Now, HarmanKardon .com.
6. Apex HD + WiFi Video Snow Goggles
Why We Like It: These streamlined, water-resistant, helmet-compatible goggles not only take wide-angle 12-megapixel stills or Full HD video, but (with the free companion app) can stream images live via WiFi to a nearby smartphone or tablet. You can adjust the lens with up to 30 degrees of tilt. And they feature a continuous shot mode, for hands- and worry-free point-of-view image capturing. The package comes with a memory card; charging/synching cable; replacement foam; two straps; and two anti-fog, fully UV-protected lenses.
How Much: $400
Availability: Now, LiquidImageCo.com.
7. GamePad Gaming Tablet
Why We Like It: Already available in Europe and soon to hit the States, this slick 7-inch tablet features the most current version of Android (4.1 or "Jellybean"). So at the very least, it's a reasonably thin, light, fast tablet that can run a bajillion apps. But it's also got built-in physical controls for gaming. And the ringer: For gaming apps originally intended just for touch screens, it comes with an on-screen tool you can use to map controls to the hard buttons. Altogether, it's very cool, especially given its great graphics and sub-$200 price tag.
How Much: $170
Availability: March, Archos.com.
Why We Like It: With a little help from its free companion app, this tiny, keychain-friendly accessory unites your headphones, speakers, and any i-device. So you mobile DJs can rock the party, pre-listening, cueing, and crossfading tracks like a pro. The software lets you do all sorts of fancy stuff, including synching, smoothly mixing, and—when the urge strikes you—scratching. Why lug around two turntables and a microphone?
How Much: $15
Availability: February 1st, Urbanears.com.
Why We Like It: In theory, this cutting-edge cutlery can help you eat healthier. It measures how frequently you feed yourself a forkful and how long it takes you to finish your meal. Throughout the meal, it uses flashing lights and gentle vibrations to promote a pace of consumption that leads to portion control, better digestion, and less weight gain. As long as you don't game the system (say, by using other eating implements on the side), it seems like one possible way to feel better during the journey and not tip the scales too much after.
How Much: $99
Availability: Spring (USB version), Summer (wireless version) HAPIlabs.com.
10. PlugBug World
Why We Like It: Piggybacking your laptop's adapter, this set of five snap-on plugs adds international flair to this popular adapter system. Now Mac users can charge their laptop plus an additional device virtually anywhere in the world. Simple, easy...and two for one is always a great deal, right?
How Much: $45
Availability: Now, TwelveSouth.com.
Award-winning Fodors.com Travel Technology Columnist Scott Tharler is an expert in gadgets, gambling, and travel. He's written four books, hundreds of mobile and wireless tips, and dozens of freelance articles. In addition to his Discovery News gadget blog contributions, you can find links to other gadget articles, social feeds and lists of his current favorite gadgets at about.me/gadgetfans.
Photo credits: 1. GlobaTrac, LLC; 2. Eton Corporation; 3. dexim Inc.; 4. Via www.techcrunch.com; 5. Harman International Industries, Inc.; 6. LIQUID IMAGE CO. ; 7. ARCHOS; 8. Zound Industries International AB; 9. www.hapilabs.com; 10. Twelve South LLC.