Travel Tips

Travel Tech Bargains for Holiday Shoppers

Locations in this article:  San Diego, CA

shopping bagsWith the economy flailing as the holiday season approaches, there has never been a better time to be frugal when buying gadgets and toys for the tech-obsessed traveler.

The consumer products industry is notorious for making items obsolete every three to six months, and then trying to convince us that we want—and need—the very latest model.

But, in most cases, you don’t need the latest model and there are plenty of affordable products that perform just as well as the pricier versions—if you know where to look and where to buy.

So get help finding bargains for cameras, smartphones, GPS devices, laptop computers, music players, and all the technology you need.


The Canon Elph SD1100IS is a terrific ultra-compact camera that takes excellent photos. It has an 8 mega-pixel sensor, image stabilization and a 3x optical zoom. At $175, it’s a much better deal than last-year’s Elph model which cost $400, and it works just as well.

If that’s still too expensive consider the larger Canon PowerShot A590IS, which costs only $120. It’s also an 8MP camera with 4x zoom and image stabilization and takes equally good pictures.


Sprint InstinctBy now we all know about the iPhone and that the basic price is only part of the story—the monthly charges and all the extras take their toll. So, if you want to keep your costs down on a product comparable to the iPhone, consider the Sprint Instinct phone which costs $129 with Sprint’s all-in-one plan.

For $99/month you get unlimited talk time, data, text, and TV. For $59 a month you get 450 minutes plus the other amenities unlimited. These rates are about 40 percent less than AT&T and Verizon. While nothing yet matches the iPhone, this is a decent alternative at a bargain price.


There are dozens of new brands of GPS devices that cost under $100, but the drawback is that they can be difficult to use.

Garmin, which is still a leader in the industry, has responded with two new models—the 200 and 250 can be found for under $150 and offer all the key features you need.

It omits the built-in MP3 player and picture viewer, but offers the same maps as devices that cost three times as much. The biggest sacrifice is not a major one: directions are described in terms such as “next left” rather than spoken street names.


HP Mini 1000With dozens of new netbooks or mini-laptops available, you can now find a decent model for under $400. They run the preferred Windows XP instead of Vista, which requires less memory and a less powerful processor. I like Lenovo’s S10 and the new HP Mini 1000(at left), each for $399.

For a full-size notebook, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X61s is a real bargain. The X61s has been a mainstay for business users and costs $1,029 on Lenovo’s Web site. It’s nearly as good as the top-rated X200, their latest widescreen model, which costs $1,600.

If you’re looking for a Mac, their new line of notebooks starts at $999. The best buy is the 13-inch aluminum MacBook at $1,299. It has the same case design as the $2,500 model that is machined out of a solid block of aluminum. Gamers will appreciate the nVidia graphic processor that handles graphics five times faster than normal.

But if you don’t require a brand-new processor, check Apple’s online store for some great deals. A refurbished last-generation 15-inch MacBook is available at 40 percent off retail.

iPhone vs. iPod comparisonMUSIC PLAYERS

This year you can get an iPod for just $49; it’s the 1GB shuffle that holds 240 songs. However, the latest iPod Touch at $229 is the best model yet. It has all of the features of an iPhone (except the phone and the monthly charges), but it’s a lot more than a music player.

It’s also a Web browser, a photo album, and carries your calendar and phone book. It also works with most of the applications including the games and book reader.


The reviews on Amazon are a great source for researching products, particularly electronics. Additional recommended review sites include for laptops and for cameras.

And, as always, compare prices before buying: the Canon SD 1100IS is $180 at (with a free 2GB memory card), $165 at Amazon, $180 at, but $262 at!

By Phil Baker. Originally published in the San Diego Transcript. Check out Phil’s blog at

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