We've got the gadgets and gizmos to take your trips to the next level.
Like it or not, smartphones have changed the way we explore the world. From electronic ticketing to GPS, not to mention those all-important social-media updates, our phones are our constant companions; even out of service range or in airplane mode, we're using our devices to take pictures, navigate Google Maps, and supply the soundtrack for new adventures. Since we won't be leaving home without 'em anytime soon, we found six accessories that will make your phone even better—all for $70 or less.
Get Up Close and Personal
(Courtesy SIRUI USA)
Cheap smartphone clip-on lenses are readily available for less than $20 a set, but if you’re serious about photography—or stepping up your Insta game—paying a little more for higher-quality versions will garner better results. “If you use your phone for more then just snapshots, you should have a 60mm lens,” says Budget Travel photo director Amy Lundeen. “The Sirui 60mm clips on easily and ups the quality for portraits and details like flowers and food—the images are nice and sharp, even if you’re a little further away from the subject then you might want.” The only downside? It weighs down the phone a bit, making it a little more difficult to hold, but if you’re not willing to invest in a real camera or tote around the one you have, this is the way to go. It’s available individually, but it also comes as part of a set, in a carrying case alongside a fish-eye and an 18mm wide-angle, for $150.
Sirui 60mm Portrait Lens, $70, bhphotovideo.com.
Fit More in the Frame
To capture that expansive skyline shot, a wide-angle lens is also a must. “The wide-angle is perfect for a sunset or rooftop view,” Lundeen says. “It gives just enough extra in the frame to make images from your favorite destination more dramatic.” Cheaply made lenses will lend a fish-eye look to your photos, but this one from Bower offers 50 times the magnification with a 110-degree field of view, giving you more room to play with only a hint of curve around the edges. It has a built-in clip so it's compatible with front and back cameras, but it doesn’t fit well with a phone case—I had to remove mine in order to get the lens to line up properly. As long as you’re willing to run the risk of droppage to get the perfect shot, though, this is an ideal option.
Bower HD Cinema-Wide Lens for Smartphones, $50, bhphotovideo.com.
Light It Up
Let’s get two things out of the way: Yes, this LuMee light-up case was designed to take better selfies, and yes, it’s been endorsed by the most famous Kardashian. But thanks to LED rails on the front and back, it’s good for much more than just snapping well-lit self portraits. As a former food blogger, I have a compulsive need to document everything I eat, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much better this made my shots, especially in dimly lit dining rooms and dark, divey bars. I did feel a bit conspicuous whipping it out in close quarters—the backlight is pretty bright, even on the lowest setting—but when I saw the results, I was converted. That said, the case adds quite a bit of bulk to your phone, and it’s so difficult to get on and off that the company had to make a video to show how it’s done; plus, without a way to lock it, it’s all too easy to graze the power button and turn it on unintentionally. But those quibbles aside, this case is a great tool to have if you often find yourself taking pics in low-light situations.
LuMee Duo, from $39, amazon.com.
With social-media platforms leaning ever more toward personal broadcasting (see: Facebook Live and Instagram’s new TV feature), you don’t have to be a professional to justify an equipment upgrade. This 10-inch tripod offers a lot of bang for not a lot of buck, with bendable legs that anchor your phone to take steady shots, even when a level surface isn’t available, as well as an adjustable, universal phone mount that allows you to change up the POV. (It also comes with mounts for a proper camera and a GoPro.) And, with a shutter remote that works up to 30 feet away, it can even serve as a selfie stick—especially good news for solo travelers.
KobraTech Triflex Mini Cell Phone Tripod With Remote, $25, amazon.com.
Juice It Up
I’ve been using this portable charger for seven months and counting, and let me tell you, it is a game-changer. Weighing in at just six ounces, at 4-¼ inches long by 2 inches wide and just ½-inch deep, this little guy takes up next-to-no space in my bag, and its built-in lightning iPhone and micro USB cables not only give a serious battery boost in very little time, they also eliminate the need to carry around extra cords. It takes four hours to reach full capacity, but it holds a lot of power—during a recent weekend in San Francisco, it had enough juice to top up my phone and a friend’s multiple times before it needed to be recharged. Just two drawbacks to note: The power button is super-sensitive (on more than one occasion, I’ve pulled it out of my pocket only to discover that I’d accidentally turned it on), and given the positioning of the cables, it can be slightly awkward to hold both phone and charger in one hand—the cables are flexible, but the two units don’t stack very easily. But despite those caveats, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Jackery Bolt 6000, from $30, amazon.com.
Boost That Battery
Content distribution manager Amanda McCadams carried this charger on her last trip to Puerto Rico, and she came back raving about it. “When I travel, I use my phone non-stop: for navigating, selecting places to eat, looking up opening hours at attractions, buying tickets, checking my email, and constantly texting and taking calls if need be,” she says. “Plus, I’m using my phone to take photos and videos of nearly every interesting thing I encounter, so I quickly drain my battery. This Anker charger was awesome—I used it at least twice a day to charge up my phone, and it still had enough juice that it didn’t make me nervous.” With a slim profile and nine-ounce weight, it fits nicely in a day bag or backpack, and when you pair it with an extra-long USB cord, you can stash it in your pack and keep using your phone while the battery replenishes. It also comes with a case to wrangle your cords, and it charges via USB, so you'll only need to carry one brick for all of your devices.
Anker PowerCore II Slim 10000, $34, amazon.com.