I know people who give the same kind of Christmas gifts over and over again, year after year. Some of them are useful, even when they are warm socks. But why not infuse more fun into the gift-opening night by getting your family and friends some gadgets that will surprise them and let them know that you personalized their gifts, tailored them to their interests and specific needs. Following are some such cool gadgets that I think pretty much every geek and traveler will be happy to receive this holiday season. They include examples of some of the latest electronic gizmos, like laser-projected keyboards and clipon camera lenses for smartphones, as well as some travel accessories that have been around for a while but are more and more needed every day, like power banks, travel chargers with USB ports, and USB hubs.
Cool Gadgets for Geeks and Travelers This Christmas, Many of Them Bargains Under $20
Popular and very useful gadgets that make great Christmas gifts for geeks and frequent travelers (and not only for them) this holiday season of 2014.
Echo Logico Retro Phone Handset
There are many phone handsets around, and they’re very popular these days, not only with geeks, but also with people looking to reduce radiation from their mobile phones. You can buy a retro desk phone that docks your smartphone, or just the phone handset. This phone handset is only $9.98. Other models can go as high as $99. This retro handset is probably the cheapest on Amazon and also one of the best, according to reviewers (who mention that there are a lot of fakes around from another company, Native Union).
These retro handsets have been very popular this year, and, according to buyers who ended up buying several, one after the other, there are a lot of fakes around from another company, Native Union. This Echo Logico handset appears to be the real deal: a great retro phone made for comfort, great sound, and allowing you to easily work on your iPhone or Android phone if you need to while you talk. I think it will make a great Christmas gift for many people. Better than retro phone that also work as docking stations, because those may not fit all types of smartphones.
Universal 3-in-1 Camera Lens for Smartphones
At $19.99, this is not a high-end camera lens, but it offers a lot for the money: you get fisheye, macro, and wide-angle lenses and a universal lens clip that you can use with many smartphones. Of all clip-on camera lenses for iPhones and Android phones, this is one of the most popular. These camera lenses for smartphones have really taken off this year, and given that they offer so much for under $20, I’m not surprised. Again, a great Christmas gift for anyone who’s into mobile photography, people who don’t care to carry a compact camera along as well and yet want some of the advantages of the latter.
Laser Projected Virtual Keyboard
Another gadget that’s catching on fast, not only with geeks but also with people who travel a lot, is laser projected keyboards. They connect via Bluetooth and allow you to easily write long emails or posts about your trips as you travel light. What’s not to love? This virtual keyboard from Keyfob even makes sounds like a real keyboard. Some take a little to get used to it, but you may find you take to it right away.
Foldable Flexible Keyboard
A cheaper novelty keyboard for geeks and travelers is the flexible silicone keyboard. Some people find that certain keys won’t work properly, but others do give it 5 stars. This silicone keyboard from Delicol is only $15.80 on Amazon as I write this.
For those looking for a bit of retro chic when it comes to keyboards, there are keyboard typewriters, such as the Aviator Keyboard from Datamancer. It comes with a hefty price, $725 (+$15 shipping) but other similar keyboards cost even more. The Sojourner Keyboard, for instance, also from Datamancer, costs $1,000. Datamancer, in fact, offers a number of these durable, high-quality, and elegant retro keyboards. My favorite is the Vicar Keyboard, which sells for $500 (the second one below).
Digital Luggage Scale
The market is now flooded with digital luggage scales (no more trying to fit your luggage over your bathroom scales!), but they’re not all made equal. This luggage scale from Tarriss Travel Gear has a rating of 5 stars on Amazon, out of 379 customer reviews. Some of its plusses are that it’s accurate (even above 30 pounds), weighs up to 110 pounds, has a durable stainless steel design, and the company provides great customer service should you need any. It sells for $18.97 and comes with a lifetime warranty, which makes it a great stocking stuffer for travelers!
Universal Travel Adapter
This is not a new gadget by any means, nor is it electronic, but I’m including it because travelers have to have such a travel adapter kit. This one from Lewis N. Clark has four adapter plugs, making it work in more than 175 countries. It’s not a converter, so you won’t be able to use things like hair dryers or irons, but you will be able to charge your phones, cameras, etc. Laptops are also generally fine to charge using travel adapters like this one.
Belkin SurgePlus Mini Travel Charger with 3 Outlets and 2 USB Ports
This mini charger from Belkin is a great gift for travelers who knew to buy an adapter before they left home but didn’t realize that often hotel rooms come with very few plugs, especially if you travel as a couple and have to charge lots of devices (phone, tablet, Kindle, camera, laptop, etc.), some of them chargeable via USB ports. This Belkin travel charger is also great because it comes with surge protection.
Cute USB Hubs
For those looking only for more USB ports, there are many fun USB hubs out there. I’m showing two of the more popular ones: a great, fun poodle USB hub available from Kikkerland, and a Hello Kitty USB hub.
Polanfo Power Bank / External Battery 12000mAh
This ultra-thin power bank stores the equivalent of six iPhone 5S batteries. It can come in handy if you use WhatsApp or the Internet a lot on your phone, or if you go places with poor reception, which also tend to eat up your battery. The solution to this power drain are these portable chargers. This one has a polymer battery that makes it half the size of a power bank with a lithium battery. At $19.99, it's one must-have gadget for both serious travelers and those of you going away someplace remote for the weekend.
EasyAcc 15000mAh Portable Solar Charger
This power bank has a solar panel, which allows you to charge your devices via a USB output port using sunlight. A power bank that you can charge at home before leaving on a trip is always great when traveling, and having the solar charging option makes it great for campers and hikers. It has a much larger capacity than other solar power banks. The Apollo model from Poweradd, for instance, offers only 7200mAh. The capacity of this EasyAcc portable charger is enough to recharge your iPhone 6-7 times, your Samsung Galaxy S5 4-5 times, and your iPad Mini 2-2.5 times.
Audio Light Bulbs
There are many LED light bulbs with built-in speakers on the market nowadays. The ones from Propel cost $43.80 and were first available on November 2013. I’m thinking it’s the perfect gadget for those looking to listen to music in the bathroom, for instance, where there’s not enough room or the right environment for regular speakers.
Slim, Comfortable Bedphones Headphones
Headphones are always a great gift for geeks, and these tiny headphones from Bedphones are designed for extra comfort. They are wonderful for plane travel. No more aggravating earbuds! They are also so thin (the thinnest there are) that you can sleep on your side without being bothered by these amazing bedphones. A great stocking stuffer, I’d say!
A Great Christmas Gift for a Writer Who Travels Often
IBM ThinkPad laptops have always been known for their durability and ease of use. I had a second-hand one a long time ago and loved it. Currently Lenovo (as they are now known) ThinkPads top the 2014 charts in the netbook category. These rugged and sturdy yet still easy to carry around Leonovo ThinkPads are expensive but if you pinch your pennies this Christmas and are willing to carry a slightly heavier netbook, they are worth it. They run Google's Chrome OS, have a Celeron Dual Core 1.5GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 16GB Solid-State Drive, and a 720p HD Camera. It has 1 USB 2.0 port, and 2 USB 3.0 ports. The battery lasts 8.5 hours, according to the manufacturer.
For ultra portability at a lower price, however, you may want to look at another netbook that ranks high for performance and design, the Acer Aspire E 11 ES1-111M-C40S. It weighs only 2.84 lbs. It has an Intel Celeron N2840 2.16 GHz Processor (1 MB Cache), 2 GB DDR3L SDRAM, 32 GB Internal Storage, and 5-hour battery life. It has 1 USB 2.0 port, and 1 USB 3.0 port. It runs Windows 8.1.
Lenovo ThinkPad X131e Chromebook 11.6"
Acer Aspire E 11 ES1-111M-C40S 11.6-Inch
Have a great holiday season!
Enjoy the holiday season! I hope you will give and receive great gifts!