Travel Technology

The Most Innovative Travel Gadgets

Who doesn’t love a list?

Time magazine has unleashed a doozy. Time recently named the top 100 most influential gadgets produced since 1923 (the year the mag began publication), noting that many items “get the nod simply because they were the first of their kind. First may not always be best, but it’s surely a sign of smart innovation.”

I was intrigued, and not only because I’ve always gotten a kick out of the Clapper and the Roomba (no, I don’t own them, and, yes, they’re on the list). What piqued my interest was the fact that so many of Time’s gadget greats turned out to be invaluable travel aids. For every Taser and Cordless Electric Drill included, there’s an equally useful tool for road warriors.

Here are five of Time‘s picks that travelers can particularly relate to:

Apple iPod
I used to think the Sony Walkman (also on the list) was indispensable, then I got my hands — and ears — on the iPod. Now, the moment the flight attendants give me the all clear to use small electronics, I can’t turn that thing on fast enough and start zoning out. Bonus: It’s ridiculously easy to pack.

Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones
Ok, I never sprang for the $350 version, opting instead for (much) cheaper Bose wannabes. Still, credit goes to the company for coming up with the technology, and I’ll take the soft hum of nothingness over the drone of airline engines any day of the week.

Mattel Electronic Football
I’m a bit ashamed that I’m old enough to remember this gem (it came out in 1977). This portable electronic football game kept me occupied for hours in Dad’s station wagon on road trips — until the batteries died, that is, and the back-seat battles with my sibs would begin.

Credit Card
Ah, yes — every traveler’s little helper. Without it, how would we book online, eat in restaurants we can’t afford and make impromptu decisions to buy overpriced knickknacks when we don’t have enough foreign currency on hand?

From my wallet to the pockets in my travel pants to the handle on my duffel bag, it’s literally the one thing that keeps my vacations from going to pieces.

What do you say? What gadgets do you swear by when you’re on a trip?

— written by John Deiner

By Sarah Schlichter

Deputy Executive Editor Sarah Schlichter's idea of a perfect trip includes spotting exotic animals, hiking through pristine landscapes, exploring new neighborhoods on foot, and soaking up as much art as she can. She often attempts to recreate recipes from her international travels after she gets home (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires—no humans or animals were harmed).

Sarah joined the SmarterTravel team in 2017 after more than a decade at the helm of Sarah's practical travel advice has been featured in dozens of news outlets including the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Budget Travel, and Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A journal. Even years later, reading my notes from a trip can bring back incredibly vivid memories."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Road tripping and hiking through the rugged mountains of Patagonia."

Travel Motto: "'To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.'—Freya Stark"

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle. I get restless on long flights and like to be able to move around without disturbing anyone else."

Email Sarah at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *