We’re betting these practical gadgets will be popular with budget travelers this year.

Anyone who grew up watching Star Trek rings in every New Year with a sigh. It seems that 2009 will be yet another year without teleportation, space travel, or even a simple flying car.


Photo by nateOne

But don’t despair, travel geeks – travel technology is moving at warp speed, and what’s coming down the line in ’09 is way cooler than just getting beamed around everywhere.

From a solar-powered germ killing ray gun to a laptop that boldly fits where no laptop has fit before, here’s a list of 6 real-life gadgets with some serious Star Trek power – even for those of us who would tell Scottie to take the day off while we shouldered our packs and headed for the nearest bus station.

1. Cassette Adapter MP3 Player


Price: $16.67 | BUY

Nietzsche said “Life without music would be a mistake.”

Well, bringing your iPod, or any other expensive-looking music player abroad might just be a mistake too.

It’s asking to get stolen, draws attention to you, and worst of all, isolates you from everyone else.

But if you don’t want to give up your tunes entirely, what you need is a discreet, cheap music player that will magically foster new relationships rather than keeping you isolated in iPod land.

This MP3 player/cassette tape adapter fits the bill at under $20. Pop in a 2GB SD card and you’ve got yourself a 30-hour mix tape that’s ready to be shared with new friends (or enemies, depending on musical tastes) anywhere in the world.

This adapter also works well in cars with cassette players.

2. The iPod Touch


Price: $214.97 | BUY

Like it or not, the new iPod Touch makes for one hell of a travel gadget.

You’ve got pictures, music, and internet via Wi-Fi right out of the box. Add in a few translation applications, a few games, maybe an e-book or two, and you’ve got yourself an all-in-one entertainment center.

With a little hacking, it’s even capable of PDF support for travel guides and Skype for free long distance calls (although the author does not recommend hacking due to legal issues).

3. A Good, Affordable Waterproof Camera


Price: $329.00 | BUY

I took some of the coolest pictures I’ve ever taken with the worst camera I’ve ever used.

It was a first generation waterproof camera and the pictures were so cool because I could take it anywhere-I just couldn’t get it to focus, flash, or expose the way I wanted to once I was there.

Not anymore.

Waterproof to 33 feet, Shockproof to 6.6 feet, and Crushproof to 220lbs, the new Olympus 1030 SW Camera can take a serious beating, and at 10.1 Mega pixels it can finally take a serious picture too.

4. Netbooks


Price: $378.99 | BUY

Sure, a laptop would be nice while traveling, but the weight and expense just aren’t worth it.

Well, until now.

The Asus Aspire One is just under 10 inches long, boasts 1.6 Ghz processor, 5 hour battery life, an 802.11g wireless card, and a webcam, so you can check your email and keep in touch with friends and family via Skype anywhere you can find a wireless connection.

And at under $400, you might just be able to pay for one and still afford a ticket somewhere. Check back later in ’09 for faster machines, better batteries, and built in 3G cellular modems.

5. A Solar Steri-Pen


Price: $84.99 | BUY

If you’re not interested in a long-term relationship with a foreign toilet, bottled water is just about the only thing you can rely on in some countries.

But bottled water is expensive, sometimes difficult to find, and bad for the environment since a lot of countries have no recycling infrastructure.

The new breed of germ-exploding SteriPens are lighter, cheaper, and require less power than older models.

Now with an estimated 35-liters per charge and an optional solar charging case, you might even make your money back within a few charges.

6. eGuide Books


Price: $11.99 | BUY Various

Ok, fine, this isn’t really a gadget, but I’m including it here because this simple up-and-coming technology makes the Aspire One and iPhone a heck of a lot cooler for travelers.

Both Lonely Planet and Rough Guides offer eGuides now (for significantly cheaper than printed editions) and all other guide companies that want to stay competitive are likely to follow suit in the coming year.

Rough Guides also provides maps with integration for smart phones like the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Lonely Planet offers the option of downloading its guides chapter by chapter in PDF format, which means that you can leave the bulky guide book at home and bring only the parts you need with you.

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4 Best Travel Laptops
10 Gadgets Bonafide Backpackers Should Carry
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