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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Your smartphone is the best travel gadget you own.

I know, I know—you want to “unplug” and you think the incessant search for wifi and an outlet are no way to travel. Calm down, hippie. I agree with you.

There’s just one problem with your Luddite travel philosophy: Smartphones are too damned useful to ignore. To prove it to you, I’ve compiled this list of every single piece of travel gear in your bag that a smartphone outright replaces. I’ve even made a list of things your phone can do in airplane mode so you can “unplug” like the neo-Luddite traveler you are.

Enjoy traveling with the most advanced piece of consumer technology ever designed, right in your pocket.

Pay Phones, Calling Cards, & Landlines

Let’s start with the most obvious, yet strangely undervalued “travel gadget” your smartphone replaces while you’re on the road—pay phones, calling cards, and landlines.

travel gadget

Remember international calling cards? I do, and let me tell you, millennials, they sucked. Hard. Each minute cost way too much and just figuring out where to get an international calling card in the first place was a nightmare. Why? Because you didn’t have a freaking smartphone in your pocket to Google where the heck they sold them.

Calling cards weren’t universal, meaning you had to get new ones for different countries. I lost mine (constantly), and there were always service fees. Plus, you had to use them at pay phones (remember those?) with confusing country codes and contact info that was never up to date. If you were lucky, you could use the hostel common room landline surrounded by drum circles and hacky sack. The 90’s was a weird time.

The fact that you can call home at the drop of a hat, text your friends on the other side of the world, and share the experience in real time with photos and social media from your own device in the comfort of your Airbnb is a friggin miracle. Stop taking this superpower for granted. Click to continue…

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From the time we started Tortuga, Fred has said that we, as a company, have a few superpowers. Frankly, most them belong to him. However, one of our superpowers is that I — one of our co-founders — am a film and commercial director and producer by trade and training, so we can make media super cheaply and efficiently compared to our competition. I think he’s overstating that as a “superpower” by a fair bit, but it is a convenient competitive advantage.

My goal in this post is to teach you how we pull off our photo shoots so that you can effectively do it, too. The process is much the same as the way I produce content for giant brands (in my life outside of Tortuga), albeit we do it here with much less red tape and many fewer lawyers.

Hiring an agency and/or production company to produce your photo shoots (or any other media, for that matter), will certainly increase your budget by multiples. But you can probably do almost as good a job as those people — who will have no concern for the long-term health of your business — and save a ton of money in the process.

The Two Kinds of Photo Shoots

There are two kinds of photo shoots you might want to do for your company.


The first is lifestyle. These are what most of our images for the new Outbreaker bags are. The photos feature people who look like your audience using your product in a real life setting.

Nike might feature a professional athlete on a basketball court; Apple might feature a DJ in a club; we feature travelers getting on trains. But let’s be honest: this isn’t real life. These are the idealized versions of your customers using a mint-condition version of your product in a beautiful setting.
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When I traveled to Mexico, it was my first attempt packing for an international trip in just a daybag. Although that’s pretty extreme, not having a ton of luggage made travel around Mexico much easier. My partner and I were able to walk from the bus station to our hotel in Oaxaca City, skip baggage check lines at the Mexico City airport, and generally felt less like tourists. Although, yes, it raised some suspicion at customs in the U.S., packing light on our trip to Mexico saved us a lot of hassle.

If you’re wondering what to pack for Mexico — whether it’s to Punta Cana or San Cristobal — below is a Mexico packing list based on ours. We traveled through Mexico City, Oaxaca, and the coast so we needed to be just as prepared to battle mosquitos by the beach as we were for Oaxaca City’s cooler nights. This Mexico packing list can be adapted to any destination in the country.

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