As a technology journalist, I’m constantly traveling internationally for conferences and events. Out of sheer curiosity, I tallied the numbers up and was shocked to realize that I spent three long, lonely months of last year living in hotels and cramped airplane seats. When I told my wife, she suggested I start paying rent to Manchester Airport rather than our landlord.
Make no mistake, travel is lonely. Technology dulls the sting somewhat, but when you’re in a country where roaming isn’t free (as a Brit, I can use my phone unrestricted in 27 other EU countries – for now), it’s difficult. And then I got the Skyroam Solis X. This 4G travel hotspot lets you use the internet from over 130 countries without racking up a hefty cell phone bill. You can choose to pay based per gigabyte (1GB costs $9), or by the day (24 hours of usage costs $9).
It also comes with some features I’ve never really used – or understood, for that matter. It packs an 8MP camera, allowing you to take hands-free selfies. There’s also a smart assistant that works with IFTTT, and you can use it as a power bank to charge your gadgets, although this inevitably cuts into your Internet time.
And it’s not particularly attractive, either. With my glasses off, the Skyyroam Solis X looks a bit like the unholy lovechild of a hockey puck and a high-visibility jacket. I’ve often joked that it’s the official travel accessory of the Gilets Jaunes movement.
But despite those flaws, I’ve found this portable router to be an invaluable travel companion. There’s something genuinely comforting about being able to video chat with my wife when we’re separated by time zones. All I have to do is press the “on” button on my Skyroam, wait a few minutes for it to power up and connect to the local cellular network, and then can I see her face.
And on multiple occasions, the Skyroam has proven to be a professional lifesaver. In August, I was sat on the terrace of a rustic café, high in the Swiss Alps. As I looked over the pacifying vista of vineyards and Lake Geneva, I had the unwelcome revelation that I was about to miss an important news embargo. Oh, and there was no Wi-Fi. The Skyroam saved my bacon. And the connection was annoyingly faster than what I’d get at home. I was getting 42Mbps, which was more than adequate for filing copy.
The Skyroam Solis X costs $180. You can also rent it at certain airports. That said, if you were to invest in a unit, I’d recommend you instead opt for the cheaper Skyroam Solis Lite, which retails for $120. It’s virtually the same product, except without the camera and smart assistant. | Get it on Amazon >
On the rare occasions I get to travel for fun, I’m always accompanied by my wife. We typically vacation in the US, where my wife lived before immigrating to the UK. And as you’d expect from a nauseatingly loved-up newlywed couple, we like to watch the same in-flight movie together.
In the past, we used a cheap headphone splitter that we bought from a random Amazon vendor. Although this worked well, it was a bit tricky when one of us needed to go to the restroom.
Enter the RHA Wireless Flight Adaptor, which lets you connect two pairs of Bluetooth headphones to a standard 3.5mm output or one of those awkward two-pronged jacks you only see on aircraft.Hailing from Glasgow, RHA is a rising audio tech brand. Its headphones come highly rated, but the Wireless Flight Adaptor is the company’s first foray into accessories.
It’s a fairly nondescript square of plastic. Squint, and it looks a bit like a scaled-down version of a Square card reader. Its internal battery can broadcast for 16 hours, or continuously when plugged-in via the USB-C connector.
And it’s a vastly more comfortable way of watching movies while ensnared in the misery of coach. When I’m traveling solo, I don’t have to remember to bring a wired cable with me. And when I’m heading stateside with my wife, I can pass the time watching Two Broke Girls with my wife’s head on my shoulder. Bliss. | Get it on Amazon >
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