8 Electronic Essentials for Every Traveller

Smartphone with Applications

Every traveller carries at least one electronic gadget with them.  Many carry more.

What are the essential apps that every traveller needs?  And how many devices do you really need to cover off on the full set of apps you require including any  specialist extra apps?

1.      Phone & SMS/MMS

Phone and SMS access are a standard requirement for most travellers.  If you don’t do your homework you will take your existing handset and SIM card and pay typically ruinous international roaming rates for voice and data services.

As a much cheaper alternative you can purchase a prepaid SIM card or a combo SIM card and phone for your destination phone network.  This option is good if you are travelling to a single country.  Often you can add a cheap data download package to the prepaid account.

If you will be travelling to multiple countries then you can instead purchase a prepaid multi-country SIM card before you depart which should provide you with cheap calls, SMS and data in your destination countries.

2.      Internet

Access to the internet is a critical app to have available.  Whether you are paying for data access with your phone or whether you use free or paid Wifi your internet access enables you to research anything about your location.  You can also do banking, make online bookings, purchase entertainment downloads and check the weather.  With readily available internet access you may not need a guidebook.

3.      Email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Other Social Sharing Apps

Most people like to stay in touch as they travel.  Some people use email, others use social sharing sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus and many more.  These applications can all be accessed via an internet connection or as a specialised app on any Smartphone, tablet computer and other internet connected device.

4.      Camera / Video Recorder and Download Options

Most travellers take photos and/or videos.  The current generation of Smartphones have quite good camera functions if you are mostly taking point and shoot photos or videos.  If you want to do a bit more you may wish to purchase a compact or DSLR camera.

The key limitations with any camera system are the storage memory space and the battery life.  Understand the pros and cons of each option to decide what you need.

5.      Calculator

Every time I travel I use a calculator on a regular basis.  I use it to do unit conversions, work out how much money I need to withdraw and keep track of my expenditure.  Every Smartphone, tablet computer and laptop/netbook/ultrabook computer includes a calculator in their applications.

6.      Music Player

If you like to listen to music then load up music before you go and it is great to help pass the time while you are waiting.  You can either get a dedicated music player or have an app on your Smartphone or Tablet.

7.      Ebook Reader

If you like to read then an ebook reader is worthwhile.  There are dedicated eInk devices which have non-backlit screens and long battery lives.  You can also access ebook reader apps on most Smartphones and Tablet computers.  The beauty of any of the ebook reader options is that you can download a new book wherever you have internet access.

These days you can also download travel guidebooks as ebooks which will provide you with the convenience of a guidebook without the extra weight in your luggage.

8.      GPS Navigation

As a traveller a GPS navigation function is often worthwhile.  You can either have GPS as an app on your Smartphone or Tablet, or as a dedicated device.

If you are only likely to use GPS periodically then the app option should be adequate, providing that you have enough data access on your device to download the maps.  If you will be driving or using GPS regularly then a dedicated GPS device will enable you to avoid additional data costs.

Travel Device Combinations

Each person will take a different set of devices to cover off the essential apps, plus any specialist apps they require.  Set a goal to keep the number of devices you take while travelling to a minimum.  A key determinant to how many devices you take is battery life.

While you can use your Smartphone to do all 8 essential applications, consider whether your battery will last for a day.  If there is a good chance that your battery will expire before the day ends, then consider which additional devices may make sense to include in your travel gear.

The apps you will use the most are clear candidates to enable you to decide to use a dedicated device.  For example:

  • If you spend a lot of time staying in touch with friends, colleagues and family then either a Smartphone or Tablet may be appropriate.
  • If you are an avid reader then a dedicated ebook reader will enable you to read as much as you like.
  • If you prefer to watch TV shows and movies for entertainment then either a tablet, netbook, ultrabook or notebook computer will provide a larger screen and greater battery and storage space.
  • If you will be driving a vehicle then a dedicated GPS may be worthwhile.
  • If you listen to a lot of music then a dedicated music player may be appropriate.
  • If you are likely to take many photos or videos, again have a look at dedicated devices.  You also need to consider how you will download your photos.  The new generation of cameras include an onboard Wifi connection – therefore enabling you to download your photos directly to an internet storage location.

If you have other specialist apps you require, such as for blogging or photography then you may have additional device requirements.  These include the use of a tablet, netbook, ultrabook or notebook computer.

Work out whether the remainder of your device needs will be met by the equipment you plan to carry.  Keep the devices to a minimum so that your luggage weight does not substantially increase.


What devices and apps do you use when you travel?  Please share your experience in the comments below.

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7 thoughts on “8 Electronic Essentials for Every Traveller”

    • Yes, Smartphones are amazing!! This is where I am looking forward to upgrading shortly to the latest generation of Smartphones which have a larger screen size – I think it will make the screen so much more usable than my two year old Smartphone.

    • I had a good look at the new Samsung Galaxy phone and it is niiiice… I currently have a HTC Desire Android phone which has been great, but I need something with a higher on board memory (I hate having to juggle my apps at the moment) and the larger screen looks like a good option and should still fit into my pocket or handbag.

  1. Thank you for the great advice, PreTraveller! I recently got promoted to a position at DISH that requires a ton of travel, and I have found that my smartphone covers all these bases. I’m not a big reader, so I would trade the E-reader for a streaming app like DISH Remote Access. I have found that a little entertainment can go a long way when it comes to flight delays, layovers, and cancellations. I can stream all of my live TV channels and DVR recordings from my Hopper to my phone, so I always have a way to stay sane while they figure things out at the airport.

    • That is great that you have a mechanism to easily get your entertainment preference. Waiting in airports can be extremely tedious so you need anything you can get!!

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