I travel, a lot. According to my TripIt stats in 2014 alone I’ve traveled to 25 cities, 6 countries and over 37 thousand miles. It’s gotten to the point where I can tell you what gate has the most outlets at BWI.
Normally I travel by myself, but this time I was with a wonderful group of people that not only were high energy personalities, but super connected bloggers. This group of people could consume phone batteries and mobile data like none other. Many people had questions about how I keep everything up and running, and I thought I’d answer with my definitive nerd guide to staying connected and charged on the road.
Typically I travel with:
- My MacBook Pro Retina
- iPad Mini
- Nexus 7 tablet
- Droid MAXX Android Phone
- At least one camera
- Bose QC15 noise cancelling headphones
- Jawbone Jambox
To keep all of these devices charged and connected requires a fair bit of kit that I’ll walk you through now. First and foremost, keeping things charged is important. With all the downtime in travel I spend a lot of time poking at my screens. This means increased battery drain. Here’s what I use to keep things charged:
This is my favorite charging brick. It’s got folding metal prongs on the backside, and two charging ports on the front. It was cheap to, you can get it right here on Amazon. It also features a 1amp, and 2.1amp charging port.. More on that later..
I carry this as well. It’s a 12volt charger that worked in just about any car made in the last 200 years. This particular one from Blanco features 2.1 USB amp output as well.
Speaking of power output, not all chargers are created equal. I won’t bore you with the nuances of the USB standard, but I’ll put it like this: Some devices require more power to charge than others. A small smartphone may only require .5 amps to charge whereas a large 10” iPad requires 2.4 or more amps to charge. If you plug a power hungry device into an underpowered charger, it can greatly lengthen the time to charge. This is why I make sure that all of my chargers are at least 2.1 amps so I can effectively charge my tablets, and my phones from any charger. Looking at the back of a charger where the “output” is listed can tell you how many amps it puts out.
Speaking of charging things, when I travel to foreign countries, they don’t have the same outlets as us. Our power plugs are just two flat metal blades. Other countries can have a variety of different configurations. For that I like this sliding adapter. It has different prongs that can be extended for each country you are in. On the backside you just plug in your US device and you’re all set (provided the voltage matches, more on that later) You can find a similar adapter here.
The first adapter I showed you can be used in just about any country, but it’s a bit bulky. If I am out walking around and I want to carry something in my pocket, I usually bring one of these. This particular one is for Germany. It’s much and easier to carry around, and can be found here.
Now, the two adapters I showed you above just turn your metal prongs on your US adapter to the shape needed for overseas. They DO NOT change voltage. In the US, we use 110 volts in our outlets, many overseas countries use 240 volts. If you take any of your chargers or computer adapters and turn them over, look for the tiny text that shows INPUT voltage. If it says 110-240 that means your adapter can adapt to the change in voltage without you having to do anything. In the case of irons, hair straighteners there is often times a switch to change from 110-240.
If whatever device you have ONLY works on 110 and cannot be switched, you need a converter. This is a device that takes in 240 volts, performs some sort of witchcraft on it and turns it into 110 volt. I don’t use one of these as they are bulky and everything I have can handle 240 volts. They can be found here if you need one.
But what if you’re without a power outlet? What is one to do to bring a device back from the dead? I rely heavily on my devices when I travel for navigation and communication. A dead device is not an option as far as I am concerned. My first line of defense is this 12,000 Milliamp charger. This guy has two 2.1 amp charging ports so it’ll juice up devices for even the heaviest Instagrammer. What does 12,000 milliamp mean? A lot. A typical smartphone is 1500-3000 milliamp, so this can fill a smartphone several times over. An iPad mini is about 4500. This charger can be found here.
Another effective method for charging a dead device is using your laptop. Laptops have huge batteries in them compared to a smartphone or tablet. If you top off your laptop before you go out, you can use it in a pinch to resuscitate your phone. Using the right cable is important for getting a fast charge.
If you have an iPhone, the Lightning cable that came with your phone can charge it off of your laptop very easily. In the case of the iPhone, when you plug it into a Mac, your Mac knows it’s an iPhone and pushes about 1.25 amps to it. This will charge it very fast. If you plug it into a PC, you’re getting 1 amp. 1 amp will charge your phone pretty fast as well. If you have your laptop stored in your bag, sometimes you need to plug the cable in, and then open and shut the lid to get the charge started.
For Android phones you have to charge them with a Micro USB cable like this one. When you use a standard cable to plug into your computer to charge your phone, the computer tries to identify what kind of phone it is. If the computer can identify your phone, it will send 1amp to it so it charges quickly like the iPhone. If it can’t identify it, it will drop down to .5 amp. This is sort of a fail safe setting. This will not charge your phone fast at all. To combat this, I found these special cables that trick your computer into sending the higher amount of voltage to your Android phone. They have been very effective in quickly charging my Android phone on any computer. They can be found here.
I always bring a flash drive with me. If I am giving a presentation, I have a backup there. You also never know when you need to share a file without access to the internet.
Mobile data: Being connected is something that is a must when traveling abroad. This could warrant a post in itself... The headlines are: Call your cell phone provider and see if there is a plan they offer for the country you’re going to. Likely it will be very expensive for a small amount of data and minutes. To make things cheaper I buy the minimum plan. Just enough for an emergency. Then when I get to whatever country I am going to, I buy a local SIM card. These SIM cards will get you a new temporary phone number and usually a lot of data and minutes that you can use while traveling. There are many different types of SIM cards and each phone can have a different size. To make sure you’re prepared for any size, grab these SIM adapters before you go. You should also ask your cell provider if your phone is a “world phone” and if it’s “unlocked”.
The Jawbone Jambox. This is a little portable wireless speaker that can play your music wherever you like. Great for waking up in the morning and listening to some tunes.
Speaking of music and your sanity, no traveler should be without these. Imagine this: You’re on a flight to Orlando. It’s packed with screaming children and Mickey Mouse Hats. You’ve scored a seat next to the engine. You pull out your tablet and start watching a movie. You turn up the sound to full so you can hear the dialog. Next thing you know Bruce Willis is saving the planet and in his wake are many loud, high decibel explosions. It’s at this point your eardrums explode along with the villains. To preserve your hearing and your sanity I give you the Bose QC15 Noise canceling headphones. These cans use sorcery (and a AAA battery) to block out all the background noise. Flip the switch on the side and that engine noise will be all but gone. In addition to blocking out all the background noise, Bruce Willis and his trail of destruction never sounded so good.
So I am very picky at how I pack things. You can’t just toss all this stuff into a backpack and expect it to be easy to organize and retrieve. For that I used this little gem called the Cocoon Gridit. It has all these straps on it that are rubbery so they hold all your things in place.
This is the backpack I use. It’s slim and keeps all the weight tight to my back so it’s easy to carry around for a whole day with all this gadgetry in it. You can find it here.
So that’s how I keep everything charged and connected while traveling. I hope this helps you out!