Gadget

The best travel gear for graduates

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Travel is once again a rite of passage for many new grads, and as a parent, you probably want to ensure your child has a great time exploring the world. Visiting a new place can be a little tricky, but a few gadgets can help make the experience easier and more enjoyable for your new grad. These are some of the best travel accessories that always earn a spot in our bag whenever we head out on a new adventure.

Red Heart

If your grad already owns a decent set of Bluetooth earbuds, you can instead gift them the AirFly Duo. It’s a device that will allow them to use their wireless headphones with a plane’s inflight entertainment system. All they need to do is pair the AirFly Duo with their Bluetooth headphones and plug it into their seat’s headphone jack. If they’re flying with a friend or partner, they can even use the AirFly Duo to stream movie audio to two pairs of headphones. — Igor Bonifacic, Contributing Reporter

$45 at HSN

Photo by Billy Steele / Engadget

Crying babies, turbulence and rowdy passengers — there are a lot of sounds that can make an already trying travel experience even more tiresome. Speaking from experience, comfortable and capable noise-canceling headphones can go a long way toward making a flight more peaceful. Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find the best option in the field: Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5.

Outside of masterful noise canceling that you can customize, the XM5 has one feature that makes it especially suited for traveling: You can get up to 30 hours of playtime on a single charge, and another three hours after just three minutes of charging. In other words, they’ll easily get your grad through a marathon of flights, layovers, and international travel excursions. If the $398 cans are outside of your budget, you can still find stock of their excellent predecessor, the WH-1000XM4, at some retailers. — I.B.

$328 at Amazon

Anker

If you have a giftee who lives in the Apple ecosystem and constantly travels, pick them up this 3-in-1 MagGo Charging Station from Anker. Its looks are deceiving: it’s roughly the size of a deck of cards, but it unfolds into a base station that can power up three devices at once: an iPhone, an Apple Watch and a pair of AirPods. It delivers up to 15W of power and can fast-charge both an iPhone and the Watch, plus it supports Standby Mode on iOS when you recharge the iPhone in landscape orientation. Much like other Anker MagSafe accessories, the magnets are strong on this one and the built-in, flip-up Apple Watch charger is super handy (many other multi-device chargers require you to connect your own Apple Watch pad). On top of all that, this power bank comes with the charging cable and 40W adapter they need to recharge it. — Valentina Palladino, Deputy Editor, Buying Advice

$110 at Amazon

BESHON

If there’s one thing that everyone needs when they travel internationally, it’s a plug adapter. Your grad can forget recharging their phone, laptop or anything else unless they have one of these on hand. Beshon’s two-pack is a good value not only for its affordable price, but also because each plug includes three outlets, two USB-C ports and one USB-A connector. That means they’ll have extra space to plug in regular items plus three USB options for tech like their smartwatch, game console and more. Although the prongs don’t flip down, each adapter is pretty compact and Beshon offers them in various country options — Europe, China, South America and Australia are all covered. — V.P.

$16 at Amazon

BAGSMART

You don’t need us to tell you that packing cubes are an essential for any trip, so gifting a set to your new graduate will help them in the long run on all of their business trips, vacations and weekend getaways. Bagsmart makes some of our favorite travel accessories and their set of six compression packing cubes is a great value. While standard packing cubes are great for organization, compression cubes go the extra mile by letting you make those bags as small as possible, giving you a bit more space to work with in your suitcase. They’ll get one large, two medium and two small cubes, along with a dedicated shoe bag as well. After they stuff their clothes and belongings inside, a dedicated zipper on the exterior of each cube will let them squish all of their things down as much as possible before packing it all away in their bags. If they’re really Type-A, they’ll also appreciate the label slot on each bag, which will let them designate which cube has their shirts, jeans, pajamas and more. — V.P.

$40 at Amazon

DJI

If your grad has a relatively recent phone like the iPhone 14 or the Samsung Galaxy S23, they don’t need a dedicated camera to take great-looking video during their trip. But what can elevate their footage is a smartphone gimbal like the Osmo Mobile 6 from DJI. The company makes some of the best drones you can buy, so it knows a thing or two about camera stabilization. The Osmo Mobile 6 will help your grad film smooth and cinematic videos while they’re on their trip. The company’s latest gimbal features a built-in extension rod that makes it easier to snap the perfect selfie. Plus, it only weighs 309 grams, so it’s a lightweight addition to almost any travel kit. — I.B.

$149 at Amazon

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Every trip involves some amount of downtime. Between long flights and train rides, as well as lengthy layovers, there are plenty of opportunities to catch up on some reading. For that reason, an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle makes for the perfect travel companion.

A previous version of this gift guide recommended the Paperwhite but with all the enhancements Amazon added to the 2022 Kindle, there’s little reason to stretch your budget for the more expensive model. Our favorite budget e-reader, the standard Kindle, features a 300ppi display, 16GB of storage and USB-C charging. Best of all, with a battery that can go up to six weeks on a single charge, there’s one less cable and charger for your grad to carry on their next trip. — I.B.

$100 at Kohl’s

Sony

If your graduate has dreams of being a social media star, or they prefer to capture travel memories on something a bit better than their smartphone, the Sony ZV-1 II will be a big step up for them. This upgraded model is one of our favorite vlogging cameras, and it comes with a wider f/1.8-4 lens that will make it much easier to vlog at arm’s length. Additive to that is the camera’s lightweight body, built-in microphone and flip-out display. It also has excellent autofocus and image quality, plus vlogging-specific features like background blur and “product showcase.” Combine all of that into one compact camera and you get a solid value that will be a noticeable upgrade for them from their smartphone. — V.P.

$898 at Amazon

Manta Sleep

Between long-haul flights and the eventual jet lag that sets in after hopping countries and continents, getting a full night’s rest can be a challenge. That’s where a sleep mask can help and the best one I’ve found is made by a company called Manta, which also makes neck pillows, ear plugs, and other travel items. At this point, it makes a lot of different eye mask models, so take a look at their website to find the one that will best suit your kid. That said, the original Sleep model is a good all-purpose option for frequent travelers. What makes it stand out is that the memory foam eyecups aren’t sewn into the mask. Instead, they’re attached using velcro, allowing you to reposition them to make the mask as comfortable as possible. The company says they’re also 100 percent effective at blocking out any light, a claim I’ve found to be accurate. — I.B.

$35 at Amazon

Peak Design

Peak Design is known for making some of the most practical camera bags and accessories you can buy. But over the last few years, it has also made a name for itself in the travel bag space. If you want to help your grad organize all their cables and gadgets before they leave for their next trip, look no further than the company’s Tech Pouch. Exterior handles make it easy to open and hold the pouch, even on a plane flying through turbulence. Inside, you’ll find loops and Peak’s signature origami dividers that make it easy to organize things like pens, SD cards and batteries. Another handy detail is a cable passthrough that allows you to keep a power bank in its interior and connect it to your phone in the front pocket. Plus, the nylon exterior is water-resistant, so your grad can relax knowing all their electronics are secure from most accidental water damage. — I.B.

$60 at Peak Design

Otterbox

At some point during their trip, the battery on your grad’s phone is likely to run low or even die at a critical moment. It could happen when they’re trying to navigate a complex subway system, which will make an already stressful situation more dire (especially if they don’t speak the country’s language). Help them avoid situations like that with a power bank. There are a lot of capable portable chargers out there, but we like the ones from Otterbox. For an affordable option, consider the 10,000mAh model that’s on Engadget’s best power banks list. It offers 18W multi-device fast charging, enough capacity to fully charge a smartphone more than once and a set of both USB-A and USB-C ports. Best of all, it costs less than $50. — I.B.

$35 at Otterbox

ExpressVPN

Regardless of if they’re traveling for work or pleasure, your grad should get into the habit of using a VPN to keep their browsing private and secure. ExpressVPN is our top pick for frequent travelers because it has thousands of servers in 105 countries, solid upload and download speeds according to our testing and allows for up to eight simultaneous device connections. Plus, it works across all major platforms including iOS, Windows, Android, Linux and more, so each and every device they use should be covered. A subscription also includes access to the company’s password manager, which will help them login to their accounts more quickly whilst on the road. — V.P.

$8.32/month at ExpressVPN

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