How can you use GPS to track a lost passport? What is the best way to make free phone calls, video calls or send text messages anywhere in the world? Why is a water bottle that turns local tap water into safe drinking water one of the most valuable things you can pack? Learn how to travel smarter in 2014 with these 10 travel app and gadget recommendations by technology expert Melissa Thompson.


Viber App + (friend with) Viber App = Free Calls (Seriously)

The Viber app allows users to make free phone calls, video calls or send text messages, over 4G or WiFi, anywhere in the world, free of charge (as long as both users are connecting through the Viber application). The app is available on all mobile devices and with 200 million active global users, has become one of the largest disruptors in the online global communication space. 

(Free; runs on: Android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows Phone)

GPS for your passport

Despite the finger scanners and facial recognition currently in use, travelers cannot travel internationally without that antiquated booklet.  Avoid the last minute, “I can’t find my passport!” craze with a DIY digitization.  Tile, one of Kickstarter’s hottest projects of the year, is a matchbook-sized, thin, white plastic square. This self-adhesive device, equipped with GPS, allows any item to be tracked using the owners smartphone app and Tile’s low-Bluetooth technology. Can’t find your passport? If prepared and equipped with a Tile affixed to the passport’s back or case, the owner can located the passport on a map and remotely send the device a signal to emit a sound, hopefully putting an end to the search-and-rescue. This simple device is the “find my iPhone,” for all physical items. Tile, which does not require battery changes or charging, can be pre-ordered for summer 2014 delivery.  Tile for travel could keep your passport and checked-luggage always in your pocket.  ($19.95 for one Tile, $59.85 for four Tiles,


Rove hands-free, with your automated travel diary 

The next time relatives ask to hear all about your trip? Just “Share” from the Rove app and email a link to the trip’s timeline. This free app is an automated timeline, which tracks users’ movements through GPS, estimates the method of travel, and inserts pictures, maps and locations into a timeline. The result is a beautiful visual travel journal– no inputs required. Want to keep Rove personal? The app is 100% private unless users choose to share.  (Free in the iTunes store)


Stay hydrated and healthy with TSA approved LifeStraw by Vestergaard

Described as “one of the ten things that will change the way we live” by Forbes, take this (empty!) water bottle on the road, mitigate the risk of illness, and turn local tap water anywhere in the world into safe drinking water.  The filtration technology integrated into the LifeStraw Go water bottle reduces the risk of bacterial and parasitic water-borne disease transmission. Through advanced filtration technology, water is forced through fibers that only allow the clean water to pass through, keeping contaminants away from consumption. ($34.95, or at select retail stores)


Bring extra juice 

There are many options on the market to pack power for on-the-go charging.  Dark Reservoir’s sleekly designed device is on the higher end of the price rage, but with the pocket-sized device you can quadruple the power of your portable device and charge anything with a micro-USB charger. 


Sickweather App, the “Doppler radar for sickness”

Sickweather’s iOS app uses social status updates, natural language processing, and location data to map zones of illness in categories.  Avoid getting sick on the road through the app’s push notifications and maps highlighting zones with outbreaks of specific illnesses.  Sickness maps can be filtered to ones important to a specific user and included in “illness alerts” or can be mapped by disease category, density, or proximity.  (Free in the iTunes store)


SleepPhones, the “pajamas for your ears”

Developed by a family physician to ease sleep without medication, SleepPhones come with free apps offering sounds of nature or white noise, which should upgrade your flight at a fraction of the cost. These cozy fleece accessories come with built in headphones, or an option for a wireless Bluetooth-enabled band.  (Original SleepBand $39.95,


Don’t get lost in translation:  Word Lens for Google Glass

Word Lens, a popular smartphone app, has come to Glass, providing frictionless translation of written words.  View a sign or a menu through Glass in any language, and the app renders the words in real-time, in English translation, through the Glass lens.  This technology may be the end of the translation dictionary and as a bonus it uses Glass’ local storage, eliminating the need for data connectivity.  As Google Glass devices proliferate, keep Word Lens on your radar.  (Free in the Glassware Shop, and also available for smartphones in the iTunes store or for $4.99 in the Android Store


Overcome power struggles: iBattz Mojo Slim Universal Travel Adapter 

For international travel bring a power adapter that doesn’t require a bag full of interchangeable accessories.  iBattz’s Mojo Slim Universal Travel Adapter is less than an inch thick, covers 150 countries, and has both a USB input as well as a standard plug input for dual device charging.  ($39.95,


Soup up your smartphone: DSLR-like camera lens accessory

Smartphone cameras have come a long way – but while traveling, there is a new hybrid option that allows for higher quality photos and video, without the extra device.  Sony’s smartphone attachable lens shoots video in 1080p and brings DSLR-like features, like pixel-free zoom, that haven’t yet come to our all-in-one smartphones.  ($499.99, free shipping, 25% off through January 11, 2014, available at



Melissa Thompson is the founder and CEO of TalkSession ( and a member of GE & StartUp Health’s Entrepreneurship Program, as well as Springboard Enterprises’ Life Sciences Accelerator. Previously, Melissa was an analyst at Goldman Sachs as well as a technology and business development advisor to multiple startups.


[photo via]


Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".