Seven Travel Gadgets to Pack for a Solo Trip Abroad

Two years ago, I took a solo trip to Cancun, Mexico. For four days, I sunbathed, scarfed tacos and toured the faded ruins of a 12th century Mayan city. Though it was a worth-while experience, I returned home from it with a splotchy sunburn, a camera’s worth of blurry photographs of my left earlobe and a feeling of regret that I never got the chance to swim in the turquoise-colored ocean that Cancun is so famous for.  Had I thought to pack better, that story may have ended differently.    The following is a list of seven solo travel gizmos I didn’t pack with me…but wish I had. 
DualView Digital Camera
Sunscreen Applicator
Waterproof Case
"Spy" Sunglasses
Jetlag Alarm Clock
Rescue Whistle
Backpack Alarm
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DualView Digital Camera

Part of the pain of traveling on your own is having no one to take your picture. Sure, you can ask a stranger to do it, but half the time that stranger either won’t know how to work your camera properly or won’t have the patience to. The end result will be a photo that’s either zoomed out to the point that you can barely recognize yourself or else taken at an angle that captures in perfect detail…the inside of your nostril.

A DualView digital camera (with a screen on both the front and back) makes taking a self-portrait possible, because unlike with a single-screened camera, you can see what you’re taking a picture of before you take it. This eliminates the hassle of having to blindly shoot multiple photographs in the hopes that at least one of them is of your entire face and not a close-up of your forehead.

Photo source: sucelloleiloes (cc)

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Sunscreen Applicator

Asking someone if they’d mind rubbing sunscreen on your back can be a perfect conversation-starter with, say, a cute lifeguard, but when you’re sunbathing alone and surrounded by honeymooning couples or beer-binging frat boys (as I was during my vacation in Cancun) you might want to use a roll-a-lotion applicator (which looks and functions like a backscratcher). Though you’ll likely look ridiculous swiping at your back with a sponge-on-a-stick, it’s better than sporting a sunburn as red as the color of your strawberry daiquiri or garnering unwanted attention and touching from strangers.

Waterproof Case

A waterproof storage bag can prove extraordinarily useful should you find yourself caught in a monsoon or needing to suddenly abandon ship. It’ll also prove helpful for those occasions when you find yourself beach or poolside with no one to guard your stuff while you go for a dip. I had precisely that problem during my trip to Mexico. I desperately wanted to go swimming, but didn’t trust my camera, cash and hotel key not to grow legs and wander off while I wasn’t looking. If I’d had a waterproof bag, I could have taken them with me.

Photo source: Simon (cc)

"Spy" Sunglasses

They look and work like regular sunglasses, except the mirrored lenses allow you to see behind you, which can prevent you from getting pickpocketed, mugged or worse. And who doesn’t want to feel like Lara Croft every once in a while?

Photo source: Niels van Eck (cc)

Jetlag Alarm Clock

Traveling alone means that you have no one to shake you awake after you’ve conked out on the train and missed your stop. This makes an alarm (and a loud, jet-lag-proof one at that) all the more important. The passport-sized ‘Jetlag Alarm Clock’ is one example that’s particularly handy for travelers, because its display panel shows both the current clock time as well as the alarm time (which makes it easy to set even for the most sleep-deprived of travelers).

Photo source: renaissancechambara (cc)

Rescue Whistle

Even if about the scariest situation you find yourself in while abroad is facing the wrong end of a hermit crab, a rescue whistle can prove to be an invaluable tool for warding off all sorts of creepy creatures: from stray dogs and monkeys to eight-legged pests and the pushy salesmen who act like them.

Photo source: JoeBGood (cc)

Backpack Alarm

Solo travel can feel empowering and liberating, but the moment you’re forced to hover over a squat toilet with a fifty-pound backpack because you have no one to watch your stuff while you use the restroom, solo travel can begin to feel anything but.
Though rigging your backpack with an alarm might seem a little extreme, it might alleviate worries of having your bag stolen while you’re snoozing on the train or ordering at a cafe. A cord can be attached to your belt buckle or wrist, so that if someone tries to snatch your bag, an alarm is triggered to alert you and anyone else within earshot. While it won’t prevent pick-pocketers or the most determined of thieves, it could mean the difference between a vacation descending into Hell or being, well, saved by the bell.

Photo source: Jonathan Garro (cc)

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