Survive vacation! A mobile toolkit for the road

Off the beaten path doesn’t mean offline, as long you take these mobile essentials with you.

The road warrior's essential mobile toolkit: Summer edition
Credit: Thinkstock
The road warrior's essential mobile toolkit: Summer edition

Summer is full swing, which means millions of Americans will be cashing in their vacation days and enjoying time away from the office. But for those road warriors who can't disconnect entirely, we've augmented our road warrior's essential mobile toolkit with some of this summer’s best options to stay connected, protected, and productive no matter how far you roam. So hit the beach, pool, or trail this summer without missing a beat from your digital life.

Power
Power

Whether you’re embarking on a cross-country road trip, taking a hike in the mountains, or enjoying a day at the beach, chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time this summer away from a power outlet. Mobile power supplies are perhaps the most important tool in your travel kit, and there are options to fit nearly every budget and need.

For those days when you’ll be completely disconnected from a power supply, you’ll want to pack a mobile battery in your backpack or beach bag. Poweradd’s Pilot X7 packs a whopping 20,000 mAh capacity, meaning most smartphones can be refilled five to eight times on one of the battery’s standard charges. It comes with a 2.1A port for high-speed charging and an LED indicator so that you’ll know when the battery needs it own charge. It’s a bit bulky at 6.1 inches and nearly a full pound, but currently priced at $30 on Amazon, it’s one of the most affordable high-capacity battery packs you can snag today.

If traveling light is a high priority, take a look at some of the increasingly efficient and lightweight options from Mophie. Formerly focused solely on the iPhone, the case maker has dramatically expanded its portfolio to include options for Apple’s full suite of iOS products, Samsung’s Galaxy line, and even LG’s new G4. Mophie’s flagship line is its Juice Pack, starting at $99 and available in Air, Helium, and Plus models, which can double your battery life and add minimal bulk to your device. If you have a few extra bucks to spend, check out Mophie’s latest endeavor, the Space Pack, which offers the same battery benefits along with up to 128GB of additional storage.

Protection
Protection

Despite utilizing increasingly resilient technology, mobile displays are still no match for a sandy day at the beach, which makes a screen protector a wise and affordable summertime investment.

Zagg has become the industry leader here, thanks in large part to its attention to the details that make other screen protectors such a hassle to use. Zagg’s flagship InvisibleShield protector, made from military-grade materials, is available for nearly every flagship iOS and Android device. It’s easy to install, comes with a lifetime guarantee, and starts at $14.99. The original model uses flexible plastic, while the more premium InvisibleShield Glass model, starting at $34.99, offers increased impact protection and smudge-free nano-coating.

For full-body protection, Casemate’s Naked Tough cases offer unbeatable coverage with a supersleek design. Starting at $35 and available for most major Apple, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and LG devices, the Naked Tough case boasts a slim, dual-layer design, a protective bumper, and scratch-resistant coating.

Audio
Audio

Leaving your home or office doesn’t mean leaving your music behind with it. Bluetooth speakers are more affordable than ever, and they finally have the audio chops to compete with conventional wired sound systems. If your travels will put you anywhere near water, the Fugoo Sport is an excellent option. At $200, it offers 40-hour battery life, interchangeable “jackets,” Siri and Google Now integration, and full, rich sound. In addition, it’s completely water- and shockproof, which means you don’t have to worry about that unexpected high tide. If your adventures don’t call for such maximum durability, Bose’s SoundLink Mini is similarly priced and offers even better sound quality and portability, even if it isn’t quite as rugged. Both options, like most Bluetooth speakers on the market today, can double as speakerphones, making that transition from poolside tunes to the 10 a.m. conference call fairly seamless.

For a more personal experience, Sony’s Walkman Sports MP3 Player is one of the most innovative audio products on the market today. These wireless headphones come with a built-in Walkman-branded MP3 player with either 4GB or 8GB of storage and easy drag-and-drop loading. The Walkman Sports MP3 Player is completely waterproof, meaning you can take it swimming without any drop in sound quality. Regularly priced at $99, the Sports MP3 Player was recently slashed to $79 and is available directly through Sony’s website.

Connectivity
Connectivity

Should you find yourself at a hotel or guesthouse, you might want to take advantage of an actual television rather than relying on your phone and tablet to consume media. Pack a Chromecast: It’s compatible with almost all modern televisions and is a breeze to set up on most Wi-Fi networks. Once connected, you’ll be able to stream Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and more from your device to the big screen. It's priced at a modest $35, so you can even grab a spare that can live in your luggage permanently.

Alternatively, if you’d rather mirror your mobile device’s display onto a larger one, you’ll want to make sure you have a solid MHL cable handy. MHL technology connects the micro-USB port on your phone or tablet to the HDMI input on most modern televisions, making sharing presentations, photos, video, and even games with a larger display a breeze. JETech makes a dependable kit that stretches up to 6.5 feet and is available for $10 on Amazon.

Peripherals
Peripherals

In the event that you have to catch up on email by the pool, a waterproof Bluetooth keyboard might be worth considering. Menotek’s Flexible Bluetooth Mini Keyboard offers a compact typing experience in a foldable, waterproof silicone package. It’s highly portable, can fit into even the tightest piece of luggage, and can hold a charge for at least a full day. Typing can be a bit uncomfortable for some due to the keyboard’s small size, but shooting a quick email from your Bluetooth-enabled tablet or smartphone shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. The Menotek Flexible Bluetooth Mini Keyboard won’t win any awards for design aesthetic or longevity (the keys have been known to get loose after repeated usage), but priced at $17 on Amazon, you can treat it as a one-and-done travel accessory.

For additional mobile peripheral options, including specialty mobile hardware, check out “The road warrior’s essential mobile toolkit.”

Apps
Apps

Finally, there are a few apps you’ll want to preload on your device before heading out on the road. Priceline (iOS | Android), Orbitz (iOS | Android), and Expedia (iOS | Android) allow for fast and easy booking of hotels, flights, and rental cars, while Hotel Tonight (iOS | Android) will give you the best last-minute hotel deals in the city of your choosing. FlightAware (iOS | Android) will help you track your flight with the most current information available, while GasBuddy (iOS | Android) will show you the closest gas stations sorted by their currently listed prices. Then there’s Localeur (iOS | Android), which aggregates advice from locals and translates them into restaurant, bar, and attraction suggestions for tourists. Each of these apps is available on both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store.

For apps to stay connected to the office, check out our “11 tools for Android road warriors” to find the essential email, calendar, conference calling, and file sharing apps that will let you keep the office-issued phone at home.