When I travel I prefer to travel as light as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of the things I love to do while traveling — video, writing, photography, etc., etc., — require electronics that have to be plugged in and charged. I admit it, I am a bit of a nerd. Over the years I have developed a number of tricks, or hacks, that make my traveling with electronics easier.
- I always carry an inexpensive multi-outlet power strip with surge protection when I travel. When you buy a power strip, be sure you get one with universal outlets similar to the one shown here. This is of course handy if the place you are staying in doesn’t have enough outlets, but it is useful in many other situations as well. For example, electrical outlets in airports are notoriously scarce or often being used by other people. If you have a power strip you can ask another accommodating traveler to use the wall outlet and you can share the four outlets on your power strip. It is a great way to meet people while traveling!
- In order to save energy, hotels often require you to use your key card to keep power on in the room. This works fine when you are inside, but not so well if you need to charge your batteries and devices while you are out. Often it is possible to bypass this simply by using a card, say a library card, in place of the key card. When that is not possible another hack is to plug your multi-outlet power strip into the refrigerator outlet at the mini-bar; typically, this plug does not turn off when you leave the room. If you do any of this, please be fair, conserve energy and turn off everything but the essentials when you are out of the room. Also, if you use the plug behind the refrigerator trick, make sure nothing inside will spoil while the fridge is off or just use one of the outlets on your power strip to plug the refrigerator back in. Sometimes, it is easier to just explain to the reception staff that you need keep your things charged and ask for an extra room key.
- When traveling abroad I carry a universal all-in-one worldwide travel power plug adapter. You can get fancy ones like this, but my favorite is an inexpensive all-in-one unit like this that handles US, UK, AUS/NZ, and EU outlets. You may only be able to use it one one outlet, but that is another place the multi-outlet power strip comes in handy. Make sure your unit can handle a range of voltages and you are good to go.
Use the plug behind the refrigerator to keep charging while out of the hotel room
- For long train, bus ride or plane flights I carry a portable USB battery charger, or power bank. These come in various sizes capable of doing everything from extending the battery life of a single cell phone to fully charging full-sized tablets multiple times. Some of these units can get relatively bulky and heavy so choose wisely. Also, use caution because I have recently noticed that airlines in some places are starting to restrict the amperage of these units and insisting that they be carried in the cabin instead of in checked luggage.
- Depending on the situation I will sometimes take a portable multi-port USB charging station to charge multiple devices at once. These are a great alternative to carrying around several different “brick chargers”, but choose carefully and make sure the device is powerful enough to charge all of your things at once. It is kind of useless to have 10 outlets if you can only use two at time.
- If you are going to be on the move a lot, but have some down time, keep everything topped-up as much as possible. It is frustrating to be delayed because you need the maps or notes on your smart phone and your battery is dead. Don’t get ridiculous or overly obsessive about it, but just take a few seconds when it is convenient.
- The number-one best way to handle electronics while traveling is to remember less is more. I know sometimes it is nice to just leave all of your cameras, and phones, and computers, and tablets at home and not mess with all of the electronics. I know a paper pad and pencil will work for taking notes. I know sometimes postcards are as good as taking pictures yourself. I know a paper book doesn’t need a charged battery to be read, but that is not me. I love making photographs of new landscapes and the people I meet. I love being able to get maps and train schedules and the history of random places, as I wander cities, off of my cell phone. I love taking pictures with my drone and making videos of local markets.
It does require a bit of organization, especially if you are traveling in very remote places, to keep up your electronics charged. Honestly, it is also a bit of a hassle dealing with these things. But, if you develop a routine, take a few minutes to sort out what you really to bring and remember it would be a very rare situation where not having you iPhone charged would be the end of the world, handling your electronics while traveling need not be a major burden or headache.