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Tech for Your Next Road Trip

by Grant
Tech for Your Next Road Trip

Going on the road for more than a month requires tech to keep up with the demands of life. We simply cannot keep up with paying bills, etc. without having a decent amount of technology with us on a regular basis.

We posted this article back in September 2016 with what we used on our trip to New England. Bonnie and I just got back from a seven-week road trip across the country, so some of our recommendations from our original post have changed or have been otherwise updated.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

Updated July 2017

Apple Gear

There are a lot of folks out there who swear by Windows or Droid. We swear by Apple… so much so that we are 100% an Apple household. Simply, I feel Apple devices work together better out of the box and I believe that enough to put my money where my mouth is.

iPhone

One of my principal cameras is my iPhone X. It is the camera I have with me all the time. It is not the best smartphone camera out there but it is one of the best. When coupled with Photos (Apple’s cross-platform photo editor and management program), iCloud and Air Drop (for moving photos from one device to another), the iPhone is an easy choice for a travel blogger.

We will likely upgrade to the next iPhone in January. We did the iPhone Upgrade Program through Apple, which allows you to finance an unlocked iPhone with Apple Care included for about $20 more than any of the other programs offered by the carriers. That’s $20 total, not per month! I can upgrade every year or I can just pay it off at the end of two years.

Unlike Microsoft, which charges a subscription for its Office line of programs, anyone who buys a Mac, iPhone or iPad gets iWork for free. Another perk is Handoff, the program within Apple devices that allows you to open something on your iPhone, then easily transition to an iPad or a Mac. Through iCloud, customization and accounts are shared from device to device, making for a very efficient mobile workspace.

Laptops – MacBook Pro and MacBook Air

I have a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to use on the road. We are using Adobe Lightroom to process photos and, simply, there are some things blog-related we just can’t do on a tablet.

The MacBook Pro is a champ. We took it with us to Italy and out West. I was able to edit photos and schedule them for posting on social media easily. The Touch Bar is ok. I am looking forward to Adobe adding support for it for Lightroom.

Bonnie has a MacBook Air for her laptop. She does not do any photo editing so we got her a less intensive device. Even as an older model, hers works like a champ.

One thing that is very nice is the ability to easily share files back and forth using AirDrop. It makes it very easy to work together on projects.

iPad

We both use an iPad Mini, which we consider perfect for a tablet. The form factor is great for use as an e-book, to manage social media and to do research on the Internet.

Bonnie reading a book on her iPad at the camper.
The form factor of the iPad Mini makes it a great ebook reader.

In the past, we used the iPads to type blog articles in Pages while the other person is using the MacBook. Combined with the keyboard below, the system works pretty well. Indeed, for our first trip, we used iPads to publish the blog.

Workflow

One reason we love using Apple products is the workflow. Utilizing both iCloud and Dropbox, we are able to wirelessly blog posts, regardless of whether they were written on an iPad or the MacBook Pro.

For photography, managing workflow is a must. We will have four different cameras taking pictures and the file names can be pretty similar.

We are easily able to load photos onto the MacBook Pro using a USB C card reader for the Canon SX40 and 7D MkII. For the iPhones, we use AirDrop to wirelessly transfer the photos from the phones to the computer.

Pro tip: Make sure you have separate folders for each camera.

We had an issue on our latest Italy trip with file names being the same from one of our iPhones and the SX40.

We store all of the photos on the hard drive of the MacBook Pro, as well as a backup hard drive. This, combined with using Dropbox to sync the Lightroom library, allows me to easily transfer files from one computer to the other and pick right where I left off.

Tech For In the Car

Phone Mount

We used to use our iPhones to handle our navigation, so the first thing we needed was a mount for the cell phone on the dash. We like the iOttie One Touch Mount for our iPhones. It uses both a suction cup, with a clamp, and an adhesive to keep the mount and phone secure. Every now and then, especially when it gets hot, it will pop off, but reattaches very well. The mount has popped off probably 2 times a year since we bought it way back when we had iPhone 4Ss.

Car Charger

We use the Aukey 4.8 amp dual port  USB car charger. It will charge two iPads at the same time. While we like this charger, it can wiggle out of place easily. Just keep an eye on it.

Cables

You will need charging cables for your devices. I am a big fan of Amazon Basics cables. The three-foot Lightning cable is $5-6 compared to $19 for an Apple-branded cable. For that price, you can afford to replace one if it craps out on you, which they will, because all things electronic will. We have had very good luck with ours lasting years.

Tech For Once You Get There

The first thing I do when I get into a hotel room is get all of my tech squared away. It makes for a much more pleasant stay and makes writing the blog possible.

Charging Station

I use an AViiQ Portable Charging Station to handle most of my charging needs. I say most because it will only handle so much. We originally bought it when we were traveling with a full-size iPad and a Kindle. We have since upgraded to two iPad Minis (much better!) and the charging station will handle charging two iPhones and an iPad or two iPads and an iPhone, but not all four.

Here is what I really like about this device: It has a nice long, slender power cable, which stows very easily. The USB cables are stored in a tidy cable management system. The whole thing easily zips up. It makes packing it very easy and reduces cord clutter.

To get around the power limitations, we typically charge the cell phones while we are using the tablets at night and then charge the tablets while we are sleeping or out sight-seeing.

Travel WiFi Router

I take a small WiFi Router by TP Link with me when I travel and by small, I mean 2.2” by 2.2” by 0.7.” Combined with a retractable ethernet cable, I can take advantage of any wired ethernet connection in a hotel.

Sometimes, that works very well. Sometimes, it doesn’t work at all. Most of the time, I still have to log into the hotel’s internet portal in order to get to the internet. About half the time, I get a boost in speed. At the very least, I get to avoid the congested WiFi router at the end of the hall in the hotel.

Travel Surge Protector

Belkin makes a great surge protector with two USB ports for charging your stuff. I have the older, 1 amp model, which is great for charging two iPhones. I actually leave this in the truck just in case I need a charger while out and about. Get the upgraded version which will charge an iPad. Having a power strip can come in handy in some hotel rooms, or even when visiting family or friends.

Streaming Stick

As I said above, I am huge Apple fan. When it comes to a streaming device for the road, however, I choose the Amazon Fire Stick over bringing an Apple TV with me for a couple of reasons. The Fire Stick is smaller and easier to pack and, with the exception of movies from iTunes, I can view just about any streaming channel out there.

The Amazon Fire Stick is great for traveling with or without your camper.
The Amazon Fire Stick is great for traveling with or without your camper.

The most important reason to take the Fire Stick is one feature it has that no other streaming device has: the ability to log into Web-enabled Internet portals like most hotels use.

This is a huge boon for streaming content from Netflix, etc. while you are on the road.

Travel Keyboard

Before we got our laptops, we used a travel keyboard with our iPads to type blog articles and we chose the Apple Magic Keyboard. It is rechargeable, uses a Lighting connector, and pairs nearly instantly with an iPad.

The keyboard is full-sized, which is important to me for writing. I have had a compact keyboard for an iPad before and I ended up having to use two fingers to type because it wasn’t wide enough to use comfortably. We got a case for it and it travels very well. I used it for two summers and have not had to charge it yet.

With the tech listed above, I can navigate to wherever I want to go, book hotels and restaurants on the road, research destinations, read a book, stream TV and movies, edit photos, update the blog, tackle finances and generally keep up with life while I am on the road.

Having the right tools in the tech department will make your life on the road so much easier. I hope this list has provided a jumping off point for your next road trip.

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