These gadgets and apps will help you travel worry-free

If you’re a little paranoid, you’re going to love this summer travel season.

Assuming this spring is an indication of things to come, you’ll have political turmoil, terrorism, natural disasters and airline security scares to worry about. Oh, and don’t forget the 33,700 Americans who die in car crashes every year.

More than eight out of 10 travelers are anxious about their safety, according to the latest Global Rescue Travel Safety Survey. But for every travel problem, there’s a solution. A range of new gadgets and apps, all targeted at security-conscious travelers, are sold to jittery tourists. Though they may address a few of your concerns, they fail to fix the one thing no one talks about. I’ll tell you what that is in a second.

First, let’s talk about some of the gadgets and apps that can ease some of those misgivings:

  • The portable safe. Travelers bring their own safes on the road. A portable lockbox such as Safego (, $39.95), which weighs only 1 pound, can help secure your valuables during outings or add protection in hotel rooms. It can fit all of the important things in your life, including your wallet, phone, a small camera and jewelry. Plus, it’s sand- and water-resistant. Don’t forget to attach its heavy-duty steel cable to something solid; otherwise, thieves could run off with it.
  • The auto survival tool. One accessory selling briskly is the all-in-one tool that can help you in a car accident. The SuperVizor (, $9.99) is a combination seat belt cutter and window breaker. The carrying case has a clip that attaches to your visor for easy access. If you buy one of these, don’t forget to tell your kids about it, and explain that it’s not a toy. Otherwise, you could be replacing a windshield.
  • The security camera. Travelers are not just concerned with what happens to them but also to their property. Installing security cameras can be a headache. One solution is Manything (, basic cloud recording plan starts at $2.99 per month), which lets you repurpose an old smartphone into a live streaming security camera that alerts you when it detects sound or motion. It can be used by hotel guests who want to monitor their personal belongings. Note: Do not leave valuables in your hotel room even with a system such as this in place. You’ll get a nice picture of the thieves, but you may never recover your property.
  • The locator. Tracking apps and gadgets are becoming more popular. I mean, who wants to lose a family member on vacation? (OK, don’t answer that.) A productivity app such as Picniic ( is marketed to worried parents who want to keep tabs on their offspring. As a bonus, it includes a shared calendar and a feature that lets you collaboratively plan meals. The real trick is to persuade your kids to download the app. I’ve been trying to get mine to add it to their phones for the past few days. No luck.
  • The secure hotspot. Wireless hotspots do far more than connect your devices. Verizon’s HumX (, $99.99) interfaces with your car’s onboard computer, offers emergency roadside assistance and gives you access to a mechanic’s hotline. It connects at 4G speeds, allowing all the kids to download their favorite TV show in the back seat — if you’ll let them. Concerned about computer safety? Then you might want to shore up your wireless Internet connection with an Anonabox (, $119.99), a portable anonymity router that protects your personal information and deters hackers.

If you’re amused by all of these products, you can probably predict what I’m going to write next. None of these gizmos is a substitute for packing your common sense. You can secure your hotspot, track Junior, monitor your luggage and hit the road with all the survival gear you want, but all it takes is a careless selfie to end your life.

This summer, the best advice I can offer might be: Leave stupid at home.

Travelers, beware! Hacking lurks in plugs and ports

Don’t worry — do this before you go

  • Back up your devices. Phones and computers can get lost, and often the data are more valuable than the device. “If you plan to bring it, back it up,” advises David Dufour, Webroot’s senior director of engineering and cyber security. “Backing up mobile devices is an important defensive measure in recovering from attacks by cyber criminals or device loss while traveling.”
  • Enable security alerts on your financial accounts. Set up auto security alerts on your bank cards that notify you if you’ve made any purchases. “You’ll get a notification to your phone or email detailing purchases,” says Sage Singleton, a safety expert for SafeWise, a consumer website. “This is an easy way to keep track of your spending and be notified immediately if something is wrong.” You’ll want to alert your bank that you will be traveling out of the country ahead of time, so it is aware of foreign transactions.
  • Check your car carefully. “Properly inflated tires provide better fuel efficiency,” says AAA spokesperson Cynthia Brough. “So check the pressure before heading out.” Also, ensure the tread on your tires is still good, and check your car’s fluid levels. If possible, ask your mechanic to run a full diagnostic before your trip.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • DChamp56

    I would add:
    Keep a photocopy of your Passport in a different location from your original, JUST IN CASE!
    Also, Write down the phone #’s of your credit card companies, in case they get stolen, you can stop them quickly. Takes little space tucked in somewhere NOT near your wallet/cards.

  • Alan Gore

    Always bring at least a smartphone or tablet with you for keeping in touch. Every fall, ar least a few of my IT customers come back from vacation proud of having minimized by using hotel and library PCs to check email rather than bringing their own device. This is highly dangerous, because those public computers are crawling with malware. All it takes is a key logger beaming your bank or email login to Nigeria, and you will come home to find your accounts drained or all of your friends having received that slightly ungrammatical email that tells them that you were robbed in London, and could you wire $5000 quick to me at this address? Typically two or three of your closest friends will have fallen for this, and will never speak to you again.

  • Dutchess

    Better yet, scan it (Or just take a good photo of it with your phone) and email it to your self. This way you always have a copy in the cloud.

  • Dutchess

    Actually, best investment in travel gear I’ve made are two pieces of “tech.” First is a portable power strip. One of the few times I’ll actually recommend a Monster product, their 4 plug travel power strip is rated for 100~240V and is immensely helpful in hotel rooms where there’s usually very few outlets. Also, at the airport when someone is using an outlet it’s very easy to share it, I’ve never had someone turn me down. Second piece is also power related, a back up power bank. All those portable wifi hotspots and phones are no good if you don’t have power. I bought one for me and one for my partner, and you can get 2 or 3 full phone charges out of one. We’ve never been left without power, and that’s half the battle!

  • The Original Joe S

    If they fall for it, they are stupid. If they never speak to you again, it is absolutely no loss because they are stupid. They blame YOU for their being STUPID?

    One of my e-mail addresses contains “toad”. Dear Mr Toad: I am barrister Can E. Bal of London, UK, representing the estate of your uncle, the late Farnsworth D. Toad, who died tragically in an airplane crash in East Bumfart, Nigeria [ See attached news story. ] His estate is estimated at $15 million dollars, and I wish to transfer it to you, his only heir. Please provide all the information indicated, and we’ll fix you up good!

    YAY! I’M RICH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • The Original Joe S

    Surge suppress EVERYTHING: Your computerized oven, dishwasher, over-engineered refrigerator with WiFi, TV, Sound system, computers, etc etc. You’ll be glad you did. Saved my oven and dishwasher from dirty power provided by the electric company.

  • Annie M

    Unless your phone gets stolen.

  • AJPeabody

    If you are surge protecting everything, it’s cheaper and easier to get an electrician to put in a whole house protector rather than adding a device and a wire for every device. It will also protect the circuit board that controls your electric range.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    With gmail or hotmail, I can access my email from any computer, not just my phone, so if the phone is stolen, I would still have access.

  • The Original Joe S

    I am my electrician. I heavied-up my house immediately 37 years ago, because 60 amps with edison base fuses just didn’t make it. I put in a whole house surge suppressor – takes up 2 slots in the CB panel. Don’t get no cheaper than that. The individual suppressors cascade well with the main one.
    Don’t have electric range – gas oven with computer control. Over-engineered, really, but that’s what they make nowdays. The analog ones were better – you could override ’em to get 600° – 700°F for puffing up a pizza the right way.

  • Annie M

    But if makes it a bit more difficult if you aren’t traveling with a laptop and have to find a computer to use.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Of course, but if you’ve lost your passport on a trip, you’re probably replacing it and can use the consulate’s computer or the hotel’s computer.

  • common sense is certainly not common, it seems. ;/

  • those are good ideas. I’d also add: carry your IDs/cards in an unexpected way, so there’s practicaly zero chance to be stolen in the first place. A purse or bag is the last place one should rely on to carry one’s valuables. Especially when you’re traveling.

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