7 great travel gifts under $20 – San Francisco Chronicle


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Shiny travel gadgets often come with a hefty price tag that make us weigh how much we really need the item before buying it.But fancy things aren’t always required to make your trip memorable and comfortable. When it comes to enjoying a trip, convenience trumps price, and there are plenty of supremely useful items that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Investing in those means you can spend your savings on experiences — isn’t that the point of travel in the first place?Here are seven inexpensive items to add to your vacation packing list.

— Jill K. Robinson, travel@sfchronicle.com

What we liked: With five AUX ports for attaching headphones or auxiliary cables and a hard-wired auxiliary cable for connecting to devices, this audio splitter makes it easy to share audio from your phone, tablet or laptop with up to five sets of headphones.

Not so much: Five jacks may seem excessive, especially when you travel alone or with only one companion. But imagine getting multiple children to stay still when watching and listening to the same movie, and it’s a little magical.

Vitals: RockStar 5-Jack Multi Headphone Audio Splitter, $10.49-$13.95 (depending on color choice) from www.amazon.com.

What we liked: At only the size of a tube of lipstick, this 3350mAh portable charger carries a full charge for an iPhone 8 or at least 80 percent of a full charge for other smartphones. So, when you board the plane for a long-haul flight and realize you’re almost out of juice, there’s still hope.

Not so much: The unit doesn’t come with its own wall adapter, so charge it with the USB port on your computer or the USB wall adapter that came with your other devices.

Vitals: PowerCore+ Mini Portable Charger, $19.99 from www.amazon.com.

What we liked: This 3-in-1 clip with a rotating, folding hook is that sweet travel gadget you’re missing. Use it to keep gear tethered, upright, off the ground, and within easy access. Tuck it in your bag, and you’re bound to use it — hanging a toiletry bag in a bathroom with no hooks, tethering two rolling suitcases so you only have to steer one, hanging a water bottle from the airplane seat back.

Not so much: I regret not knowing about this sooner.

Vitals: Heroclip, $19.95 from www.myheroclip.com.

What we liked: Bring your favorite toiletries along, even if their original containers are larger than TSA-approved 3 ounces, with this bottle set. They don’t have to all be used for liquids, and are also great for carrying vitamins, condiments and even jewelry (like earrings or rings). No need to steal small hotel samples when you can take your own.

Not so much: They’re not completely human-proof. If you use them to store liquids, make sure you screw them closed well.

Vitals: Nalgene Travel Bottle Kit, $10.68 from www.amazon.com.

What we liked: Even if you try to be gentle, paper maps can get torn, wet and stained — and that can make them hard to read. These maps are only 21 grams, waterproof and nearly indestructible. Crumple them up in your pocket or bag, and they take only a couple of seconds to open and use. They’re also available for more than 50 cities.

Not so much: If you’re all about the digital, there’s no need to tote around an old-school map, even if you can crumple it up.

Vitals: Crumpled City Map, about $14 from www.palomarweb.com.

What we liked: This slim wallet is ideal for tucking a few cards inside when you don’t need to bring a larger wallet along, and also blocks RFID skimming technology from grabbing your credit card information. An external slot is large enough to fit four or five cards that you use frequently, and your cash can easily fit in the main pocket.

Not so much: Getting a wallet with RFID protection won’t hurt. But also pay attention to the basics, like good password management and checking your credit reports.

Vitals: RFIDsafe TEC Sleeve Wallet, $19.95 from www.pacsafe.com.

What we liked: The simple device allows you to view your phone or tablet at eye level during a flight, avoiding the neck pain that can result from trying to see the screen on the tray table or your lap. It attaches to most airline seat backs and tray tables, and straightens out flat for easy transport in your laptop bag or carry-on until you need to use it again.

Not so much: Long-term durability may be a concern, so remember to be gentle when you use it.

Vitals: Flight Flap, $9.99 from www.Amazon.com.

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