Going on vacation and staying in a hotel may feel like a distant memory right now, but when things start to return to normal, you will know what technology to pack in your suitcase. There is the usual collection of smartphones, headphones, e-book readers, cameras and power banks, but at GearBrain we specialize in the smart home – and think some of it can come with you too.
Of course, we are not talking about smart bulbs and televisions. But devices like smart speakers can be the perfect technical travel companion that gives you an all-in-one device to play music and radio, keep in touch with friends and family at home, ask for location guidance and translations, and work like a morning alarm clock.
Streaming sticks make it easy to add Netflix and more to the TV in your Airbnb property or hotel room, and you can even pack a compact projector to watch movies on a rainy day.
With all of this in mind, here are five travel-friendly devices that can give any hotel a smart, connected makeover. So whether you are staying at the Ritz or a Holiday Inn, these gadgets will make your room smarter and your stay more enjoyable. Do not forget the plug adapters.
Amazon Echo Dot, Apple HomePod Mini or Nest Mini
Echo Dot, HomePod Mini and Nest MiniAmazon / Google / Apple
The compact nature of the Amazon Echo Dot, HomePod Mini and Nest Mini make them the perfect travel companions to slip into your suitcase – whether you stay a few nights or an entire week.
Choosing between the three devices mostly depends on your preferences – would you like to talk to Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant? The sound quality of these compact speakers used to be pretty poor for music listening, but the current generation of Echo Dot and Nest Mini has improved markedly compared to their predecessors, and the HomePod Mini is particularly good for its size. Considering Apple cribs twice as much as its two rivals here, superior music quality should perhaps not come as a surprise.
Once you have selected your speaker, simply plug it into an additional socket, connect it to the hotel’s Wi-Fi via the accompanying smartphone app, and you’re ready. Now you have a personal listeners personal assistant ready to read news headlines, play radio, answer questions about the local area or provide the important weather forecast for your stay.
As a demonstration of how compact smart speakers and their voice assistant can be useful travel companions, we took an Echo Dot to Hong Kong for a few weeks and used it in our Airbnb property. In addition to entertaining us with music and radio stations from home, it also lets us keep an eye on our smart home appliances thousands of miles away and acted as our morning alarm clock.
The voice assistants for smart speakers can also help you discover local sights and provide directions, as well as help you translate and learn a few key phrases. to help with your travels. They also make it easy to have hands-free calls with friends and family at home.
Note: When Echo Dot was first launched, it had trouble connecting to the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, which required login using a web page. Fortunately, Amazon has now addressed this. For Nest and Apple speakers, you may need to connect them to a mobile hotspot broadcast from your smartphone, laptop or itinerary, which we will cover later in this article.
Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku or Google Chromecast
The latest Chromecast comes with a remote control for the first time
Bringing your streaming device on vacation means you no longer need to watch local TV. Instead, you can jump right into Netflix, Amazon or other streaming services and keep yourself (and the family) entertained if the weather turns against you and your beach plans.
Settings from Amazon, Roku and Google all connect to the HDMI port on any TV that is almost always exposed on a hotel room TV. However, some hotels have a separate panel for the TV’s different inputs, usually located on the wall just below the screen.
You then need to connect the streaming connector to either the TV’s own USB port, another USB connector nearby or remember to take the wall charger (and a travel adapter of course). You can also power the device from a power bank if there is not a USB connector or an electrical outlet close enough.
Next, connect the streaming stick to the hotel’s Wi-Fi network. If the network is open and only requires a password, you can connect in exactly the same way as you do at home via your smartphone. However, many hotel Wi-Fi networks require an additional level of authentication, such as your name or room number, which is entered in a site form.
In this case, share the internet connection on another device – such as your laptop or smartphone – to the streaming jack. Windows and Mac OS both do this built-in, so once connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi (or Ethernet), they can share this with other devices, such as Your Chromecast. You can also use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot, but this uses data from your 4G or 5G connection, so be sure to be fully aware of the data usage and data costs in the country you are visiting. In many cases, using 4G data abroad can be extremely expensive.
Instead of watching the local stations, you can now access streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, it is worth remembering that the content of these services varies from country to country due to licensing agreements, so your favorite TV show may not be available at your travel destination.
Bluetooth portable speakers are expensive and easy to travel withanchor
Some hotel rooms have a bedside alarm and a speaker system, but even in recent years we have found that these sometimes offer the extinct Apple 30-pin connection and little else. Fortunately, there is a large selection of travel-sized Bluetooth speakers on the market to bring quality sound for your vacation, weekend away or business trip.
You can use one of the previously mentioned smart speakers, but their quality and volume do not fill a holiday home and are best suited for a regular hotel room. If you want bigger and better sound, there are many options from companies like JBL, Denon, Anker, Sony, Bose, Ultimate Ears and many others. Some smaller options are battery-powered, while others need to be plugged into an electrical outlet, but generally produce better sound. Many battery-powered speakers are also waterproof, so will survive a trip to the pool or beach without being damaged, or you can even attach the waterproof JBL Clip 3 to the shower.
Some of our favorite options in 2021 include the $ 24 Anker Soundcore Mini, the $ 58 Sony SRS-XB12 and the $ 99 Bose SoundLink Micro.
It is believed that Sonos is also entering this market with a compact Bluetooth speaker believed to be called the Move Mini. It is expected to be announced during an online product launch event on March 9th.
Travel router or hotspot
RAVPower AC750 travel routerRAVPower
As we mentioned earlier, it can be difficult to connect some devices to hotel Wi-Fi networks, especially if your hotel asks you to log in via a web page.
To solve this, you can either connect the device to your laptop or smartphone’s internet connection or invest in a travel router. These connect to the Ethernet port in your hotel room (or connect to its Wi-Fi network with a laptop interface) and send this connection as a new Wi-Fi network that your devices can connect to.
Many itineraries also have SD card slots, which means you can access files (such as movies and music or work documents) stored on the card from your laptop, smartphone or other connected device. In addition, some itineraries also act as battery packs to charge your phone while you are away from an electrical outlet.
Itineraries also mean that you can get more units online than your hotel would normally allow, as there is often a limit of only one or two units per day. Room. Because the itinerary counts as one device, the connection can be shared with everything else you have with you.
Options here include $ 45 RAVPower FileHub Plus and $ 33 TP-Link N300.
Similar to the itinerary is the mobile hotspot. These connect to 4G mobile networks and send a Wi-Fi signal that your devices can connect to. When you travel, all you have to do is buy a local SIM card with an included data surcharge and then insert it into the mobile hotspot. You can then access the internet on your portable smartphone and any other Wi-Fi device you have with you, without relying on uneven or potentially insecure hotel Wi-Fi.
This 4G mobile hotspot from ZTE can be connected with up to 10 devices at once and costs $ 65.
Mini projectors fit in your pocket, but can produce 100-inch imagesApeman
Sure you are on vacation and the hotel is really just a place to sleep. But what if the weather has turned against you and you have a few hours to kill in your room? Of course, pack a mini projector and beam film on the wall.
How well this works obviously depends on the decor and layout of your room, but we have stayed in enough minimalist rooms with pale walls to think that a projector would be practical. The $ 200 Apeman Mini Video Projector is pocket-sized, but offers a 1080p Full HD resolution and a 120-minute battery life if you don’t want to plug it in. It can project an image between 30 inches and 100 inches from a distance of 26 cm to 2.6 meters, so it should provide a good alternative to the TV in your room.
Alternatively – and if you have a little more space in your suitcase but less in your wallet – try this $ 130 projector from GooDee, which also supports 720p and offers screen sizes up to 200 inches.