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22 top gadgets for summer

Great holiday gear, from iPods to satnavs

The sun's out and the beach is beckoning, so it's time to throw on some shorts and head to the airport. But what gadgets should you take along? You'll want a camera, of course - but what about a satnav, a music player, an e-book reader (primed with a guide to your destination) or even a laptop?

The following article details some of the lightest, cleverest and most useful gadgets worth a space in your luggage.

Planning your trip

One of the most enjoyable aspects of going on holiday is deciding where to go and where to stay. Rather than take a travel agent's word for it, you can use sites such as TripAdvisor.co.uk to get other travellers' opinions on the best destinations.

If you're looking for inspiration for where to go, BestTripChoices.com uses a fun questionnaire to suggest suitable destinations based on your personality. Triporati.com, TravelMuse.com and Tripbase.com, meanwhile, suggest locations based on your interests.

Flights and accommodation

Many sites are devoted to getting you the best deal on a flight. LastMinute.com, Expedia.co.uk, eBookers.com, CheapFlights.co.uk and JustTheFlight.co.uk are among the best known. Some offer more comprehensive searches than others, so check the range of airlines covered by each site before you begin.

When it comes to booking hotels, LateRooms.com and Hotels.com help you to find and book accommodation in hundreds of cities worldwide. Such websites can narrow down searches based on price or star rating, and provide local maps to pinpoint the hotel.

It's worth checking out the hotel on TripAdvisor before you book your stay there. Here, you can read honest reviews by customers who have stayed there previously.

Where to go

Once you've booked a trip, you'll want to check out the locale. Google Maps is an excellent aid here, particularly if your chosen area is also covered by Google Street View. Plenty of detail is also available at streetmap.co.uk and Microsoft Bing Maps.

For suggestions of restaurants and attractions, try PlanetEye.com. This offers colour-coded, geo-tagged Microsoft Virtual Earth maps and photographs and reviews of restaurants, tourist attractions and activities in your chosen location. TripAdvisor and Expedia are worth visiting, too.

Keeping track

You'll need to keep track of all your different booking confirmations to save them being mislaid. A folder full of printouts is one option, but Gmail and other webmail clients offer a handy place to store your various web receipts - you can save them in PDF form and even store the attachments separately.

Forward your flight, hotel and other booking confirmations to TripIt.com once you've registered and the website will create a master itinerary. You can then customise this with maps, weather information, photos and walking or driving directions.

WorldMate.com offers the same function, but does so from your BlackBerry, Nokia or Windows Mobile handset. The free version lets you export confirmations and other travel information from an email into the application, and then create itineraries that can be accessed while you're away. Other useful tools include a currency convertor, weather forecasts and a global clock.

Upgrading your membership to 'Gold' status (from $29 - around £18 - but depends on your particular handset), lets you access real-time flight information from your mobile phone, so you can keep a close eye on whether your flight is delayed.

Next page: Destination anywhere: satnavs and GPS devices >>


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