Apps and gadgets for your next flight


Hidden in this unassuming backpack is a battery and adapters for charging your portable devices.

For a solar-powered solution there's the Gomadic SunVolt charger (from US$99.95), a portable charger that claims to charge devices as quickly on a sunny day as a regular AC charger.

The solar panel comes in a water-resistant case and is capable of charging multiple devices with the included cables.

Electronic tags for luggage

One of the most exciting travel-related announcements out of CES this year was the new Trakdot Luggage Tracker. The Trakdot (pictured below) is a small device you turn on and pack into your checked luggage.

While in the air, the device goes into sleep mode, but once on the ground it becomes active and can send you an email or text message notifying you of its location.

You can also track the device through the company's web site or through the Trakdot app (free, iOS and Android). Each tracker costs around US$60 plus US$13 annually for the service.

Trackdot device

Useful to have if you have precious cargo.

PocketFinder Luggage works in a similar way. Slip a tracker into your luggage and you can look up its location around the world (126 countries are supported).

You can also set up 'safe zones', so you're alerted if the luggage exits a certain zone it's not supposed to leave. The PocketFinder Luggage is US$130 plus a US$13 monthly service fee.

Airport apps

We've come across some well-crafted apps for getting around popular airports, but GateGuru (free, iOS, Android) includes airport information on multiple airports around the world.

You'll find maps and restaurant guides, flight status updates, estimated security wait times and more.

GateGuru app

Check out airport maps, restaurants, shops and more with GateGuru.

If you're travelling to a particular airport, check for apps for that specific airport. The Heathrow Airport Guide (free, iOS and Android), for example, includes live flight tracking and status updates, interactive terminal maps, shop guides, restaurant listings and much more, just for Heathrow.

If you need real-time flight information for flights all over the world, take a look at FlightTrack(iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry). You get real-time departure information including gate numbers and any delays or cancellations (you can find alternative flights with a single tap if you need to rebook).

It covers over 16,000 airports worldwide and 1,400 airlines. You also get zoomable maps with satellite and weather radar information.

FlightTrack app

FlightTrack's beautiful maps make viewing your flight path very informative.

Anti-jetlag technology

If you've taken long flights you know how disruptive changing time zones can be to your body clock.

Jet lag can cause sleep problems, loss of concentration, indigestion and other unpleasant side effects by altering the body's circadian rhythms.

To combat jet lag, Australian sleep researchers at Flinders University have invented a pair of glasses to help reset the body's internal clock. The Re-timer ($274) is a set of lightweight glasses incorporating LEDs.

They emit a soft green glow that's heat- and UV-free, but mimics the effects of sunlight in areas of the brain. By using the glasses for 50 minutes a day before bed and/or in the morning, you can theoretically readjust sleep and wake times and help your body fit into a new time zone.

A calculator on the Re-timer web site helps you work out your light therapy needs based on where and when you're flying.

Re-timer glasses

This Aussie invention could cure the world of jet lag.

The Re-timers aren't the only products that use light to combat jet lag. Northern Light Technologies has a somewhat clunkier solution with its Light Visor (US$214).

The visor consists of a baseball cap with built-in LEDs that supply a whopping 12,000 lux. Again, this is a green light generating no heat or UV, but incorporating the benefits of sunlight for weary travellers.

If a baseball cap isn't your style, you can wait until you reach your hotel room and try the lightweight and portable Northern Light Travelite Desk Lamp (US$200). It delivers UV-free bright white light without the flicker or hum of fluorescent lighting.

Light Visor

Can an anti-jet lag hat that shines green light into your eyes ever look cool?

The Finnish know a lot about the importance of sunlight to the body. In a country that receives very little sunlight during the winter months, research on the effects of light to combat seasonal depression is important business.

With the help of researchers at Finland's Oulu University, the Valkee Bright Light Headset (around $280) was created to deliver a boost of beneficial light in a rather unusual way.

The Valkee headset beams bright light into the photosensitive regions of the brain through the ear canal. The product has medical device classification in Europe and has been used by Finnish airline Finnair to help long-haul business class passengers combat the effects of jet lag.

Valkee Bright Light Headset

This headset sends light, not music, into your ear canal.

Anti-jet lag apps

Here's another (much cheaper) weapon in the fight against jet lag: fill in your flight departure and arrival information and JetLag App ($2.99, iOS) will produce tailored advice for you to combat jet lag.

Depending on the information you supply, the app recommends the best times for you to go to sleep, when to seek or avoid light and when to take jet lag medication (if you have any).

According to the developer, all information is based on scientific research.

What gadgets or apps do you use in your travels? Share with us in the comments below.