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Best travel tech gifts

Your passport likely got far fewer stamps this year. But even a staycation, or a drive in the country, can be better with this travel tech.

Let's face it. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, your travel this year most likely involved moving from your living room to your bedroom. But that doesn't mean you have no need for travel tech. Maybe it's a drive in the country just for a change of scenery, but even if your wanderlust is limited to a staycation, there are still plenty of must-have gadgets for your holiday shopping list. And if you don't use them now, consider that you're stocking up for that not-too-distant magical future when it's safe (and possible) to wing our way around the world again.

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A good backpack with lots of pockets is a must. Among other things, pockets keep your tech stuff organized. Our pick is the Solgaard Lifepack. It comes with the standard things you'd expect -- a padded compartment for your laptop, nifty pockets for your phone and sunglasses -- but it's also got a few secret pockets for valuables and an anti-theft lock on the inside. One of the really handy features is the built-in power bank with a Bluetooth speaker. You can charge it in a regular wall outlet and there's also a solar panel on the front so it can slowly recharge when you're out and about. Skip the speaker for a thinner powerbank and you'll save $24.

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Speaking of Bluetooth speakers, the Tribit StormBox Micro is a great choice. This recent CNET Editors' Choice Award winner originally sold for around $60, but you can often find it on sale for less than $50. For that price you get up to 8 hours of battery life and more bass than pretty much every speaker of this size that CNET's tested. It's waterproof and dustproof, and it's got a nifty strap on the back for attaching it pretty much anywhere.

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Whether you're trying to block out the sound of an airplane or just your neighbours, you need a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. We love Sony's WH-1000XM4 headphones. They retail for $350, but that price often comes down in holiday sales -- in fact, you can almost get two of these for the price of a single pair of AirPods Max. They have great sound quality, including on voice calls, offer excellent noise cancellation and can toggle between two separate Bluetooth-connected devices, like your phone and your laptop.

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Whether you're curling up on the couch or trying to distract the kids on a long road trip, this is a must. The eighth-gen iPad, released in 2020, is our pick. It has Apple's A12 processor so it's great for gaming. Add the first-gen Apple pencil and the Apple Smart keyboard, and you've got a decent homeschooling rig in a pinch. The retail price for the 32GB model is $329 but it's often discounted down to $299. That said, the better option is holding out for price cuts on the 128GB model -- its list price is $429, but we've seen it dip to $380 this season.

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If you want to get away from screen time and get outdoors, then the DJI Mini 2 drone is great for taking on holiday or just playing around at your local park. Retailing for $450, it gives you 31 minutes of fly time on a single charge and shoots in 4K at 30 frames per second. Another selling point? If you've been stuck at home all year, it's the quickest way to go flying without getting on a plane. This model is so small, you don't need a drone license in the US, either.

For something a bit different from the standard action cam, try the Insta360 One X2. This nifty little camera will set you back $430 and lets you shoot cool 360-degree video and edit it easily on your phone. It has an "invisible selfie stick" and great image stabilization so you can get dronelike shots without the drone, and there's a cool bullet-time mode that lets you swing it around your head for awesome aerial panning videos. Adults and kids alike will have a lot of fun with this.

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No matter where you are, a fast-charger is a must.  This 30 watt dual-port charger from Aukey has USB-C with power delivery support, which means it can charge devices like smaller MacBooks. You can also use it to charge two devices at once, like your phone and your iPad, all for $21.

Aukey USB-C 21W Car Charger with Power Delivery 3.0


For the car, Aukey also makes a 21W USB-C Car Charger, with dual ports, fast-charging and power delivery support. And it's got a low profile so it's designed to sit flush with your car. This one lists for $15, but it's frequently on sale for $10.

David Carnoy/CNET

And finally, Aukey's PB-N83 Mini USB-C Power Bank gives you 10,000 mAh of juice in a footprint that's smaller than a credit card. It's got an LED power indicator, and both USB-C and USB-A ports. You can charge two devices at once or plug it in to charge the power bank and your device at the same time. It sells for $20 at retail, but like the other chargers it's often on sale.