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Best Travel Gadgets 2011

T+L Tech Awards 2011

Courtesy of Motorola

Let’s admit it: we rely on our phones so much that a low battery can set off sheer panic. Well, now there’s a travel gadget to the rescue: the Mophie Juice Pack Air, a slim iPhone case that also acts as a charger and can nearly double your phone’s battery life.

It’s just one of the winners of the Travel + Leisure Tech Awards, the result of a year’s worth of testing to determine which travel gadgets actually live up to the hype. We used them on planes, by the pool, and in corner bistros, from Canada to Cape Town. We stuffed as many as we could into carry-ons, all the while considering travel-related criteria like portability, versatility, and global compatibility.

If a tablet is one of the first travel gadgets you think to bring on a trip, you’re not alone. Tablets are going mainstream, with 1 in 5 U.S. households predicted to own one by 2014, and the recently upgraded iPad 2 leading the pack in terms of popularity. But two new options that run Android (Xoom) and BlackBerry (PlayBook) operating systems also earned a spot on our list for noteworthy features like speedy access to Flash-based sites. They’re likely to appeal to travelers who don’t want to follow the herd (or just happen to have Sprint).

The latest tablets and smartphones now have dual-lens cameras built in too-but don’t ditch your camera just yet. To capture a perfect, crisp image of that last candlelit dinner in Napa Valley, nothing beats the micro-four-thirds Olympus EPL-2, which has the versatility and speed of a full-fledged digital SLR at a fraction of the size.

Then there are the smaller innovations in travel gadgets that can still make or break any vacation, from the best multicontinent power adapter to an efficient rental car now available by the hour. We even pinpointed which GPS unit to take along-equipped with long battery life, unlimited roaming capabilities, and detailed maps that will get you to your hotel in the French countryside even after a long, rainy day on the road. One thing you won’t see on this year’s list? Apps, which will get their own ratings later in 2011. These great travel gadget choices are strictly of the hardware variety. Add them to your packing list!

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