5 tips to travel smart with mobile gear

5 tips to travel smart with mobile gear

Summary: Frequent business travelers know that smart planning can make the difference between a good trip and travel nightmares. Following these tips will help make that vacation or business trip provide smooth sailing.

TOPICS: Mobility, Laptops

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  • Bring a cable stash

    Whether traveling for business or a vacation, forgetting one of the chargers/cables for your mobile gear can get you started on the wrong foot. I learned long ago that the best way to prepare for a trip is to get a cheap cable stash for keeping all the gadget chargers and cables in one place.

    Since I always travel with a laptop and a tablet, I tend to buy an extra power adapter for each gadget. These spare adapters stay in the cable stash, and at packing time I just toss it in one of the pockets of my carryon luggage.

    In addition to a power adapter for the laptop, tablet, and phone, I always have a long ethernet cable in the stash. Some hotels still only provide wired ethernet connectivity so having an ethernet cable comes in handy. 

    Many gadgets now have some sort of USB charging solution with a microUSB connector on the device. For this reason I always have an extra USB-to-microUSB cable in the stash just in case.

    Cable stashes can be found almost anywhere, and you don't need anything fancy. Make sure you pick up one that is big enough to handle all the adapters and cables you plan to bring. 

    I've used the cable stash shown above for years and I don't remember where I bought it. You'll notice the mesh top of the stash which makes it possible to see at a glance what is inside. I find the security people at the airport like this visibility, and it is less likely they search the luggage when they can see inside.

  • Mobile power strip

    Frequent travelers have no doubt dealt with a lack of convenient power outlets in hotel rooms. There are often not enough outlets to charge the laptop, tablet, and phone. Mobile power strips are a simple way to deal with the outlets in any hotel room.

    I have used the Monster power strip shown above for over 5 years and it has been a wonderful solution. The 4 outlets are easy to access and I never worry about the power situation.

    There are a number of brands of mobile power strips and most of them should work just fine. The important thing is to get one and put it in the cable stash so you don't forget it.

    Many mobile power strips, including the current one from Monster like the one above, now include USB charging ports. This makes it possible to leave the charger for the phone (or other low power gadgets) behind and just bring the USB charging cable.

    The mobile power strip makes it possible to unplug all devices and then hide the power strip with all adapters attached in a hotel room drawer when heading out for the day. I prefer to do that rather than leave my gear exposed where it can possibly disappear.

Topics: Mobility, Laptops

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  • You take both a laptop and a tablet?

    But the apple community swears that the mba can replace both a faster bigger laptop and a smaller more portable Surface, the advantage being that you replace 2 devices with 1.

    Huh, guess they were lying.

    We also want to know where your Chromebook fits into all this. I know the advantage of the Chromebook is that it requires less maintenance but that's only a benefit of you STOP doing maintenance on all your other devices. Otherwise the Chromebook ADDS to your maintenance workload. Why does this matter? Because first you promised us that the ipad could replace a laptop. Then you bought the Chromebook and swore that IT could replace a laptop. Then you bought an mbp and swore it was perfect. Then you bought an mba and are now trying to convince us that it is perfect. We don't believe you anymore. You have a credibility deficit. You say that all your reviews are just "you" and that you aren't telling us what we should buy but you aren't even true to yourself.

    So here is my travel advice: buy a Windows 8 tablet. That's all anyone needs. ipads are useless because they aren't powerful enough to do real work. mba are too bulky and aren't portable, ESPECIALLY if it doesn't even allow you to leave your tablet at home. Replace 2 devices with 1, this is what the apple community has stated is appropriate.
    • What was your point?

      I myself take both an MBA and iPad. Each device is used when it is the better tool for the task. Both stay in sync.
      There is never one tool to do it all.

      Don't know about the supposed Apple community you refer to, but in any case, those people cannot make an statement like this, because they simply do not care about the Microsoft Surface -- or if it even exists. Nor do they particularly care about Windows 8.

      At the end, buy whatever you like/want or more likely, what you can afford.

      I am however puzzled, as you attack James on what model notebook and mini tablet he owns, but don't say a word about the brand of bags and other travel gear he uses. Which is precisely the subject of this article -- not computers.
    • go away

      kudos to zdnet when they close your account.
    • Please go read....

      about how Microsoft finally making changes (even if they aren't enough changes) to please most of their upset user base, before acting so smug.
  • Which size TravelPro: 20, 22, 24?

    Just curious... I have to replace a bag soon and this seems like a nice option. I'd like to see pictures inside of it.
  • A few more pointers

    First off - all Android tablets with LTE or 3G can also do the wireless hotspot trick, just to be complete.

    If you're travelling abroad, get a short contract SIM like KeepGo or RoamMobility and bring along a second phone or your 3G/LTE capable tablet and now you'll save a ton on data and phone charges and package like KeepGo can work in almost 30 countries in Europe without any modifications or extra fees. With a second phone - you can put your regular SIM in the space, the roaming SIM in your normal phone and be able to get calls on your normal number while using your normal phone for everything else.

    The Brookstone Saddlebag is amazingly useful and when you pop the side clips, it becomes a TSA acceptable bag for your laptop and tablet.

    I use a Rbk (Reebok) rolling carryon that also works as a backpack.. very useful for long trips.

    Also, always carry a Go bag. These are heavy nylon bags that fold up into a small square and fit into a pouch sewn on the side. If you end up buying something you don't want in checkin, you check your carry on case in, and use this instead.

    Finally - rather than the strip you show, I recommend the Monster Outlets to Go mini power bar and charger. It collapses up more compactly and includes two 5V USB chargers - a high power one for tablets and a low power one for phones.

    One important note: the thing that trips almost everyone up at an XRay machine: don't stack your hardware. Place them around your clothes in your bag and get a laptop bag that you can lay flat without overlapping hardware. You'll save a LOT of time and hassles.

    • Werewolf

      Can you give us the links as to where to find the products you're talking about? If it's not too much trouble?
  • My list of gear...

    Small laptop backpack that fits under seat. Carryon bag for clothes, toiletries. T-Mobile SIII phone with hotspot capability, Verizon 4G MiFi, noise suppression headphones, bluetooth headset, a few snacks for when no time to catch meal, small bag of cables & chargers inside laptop bag, light weight Windows 7 laptop, Galaxy Tab 10.2 inside of same backpack. airline apps, Skype, Tripit, and Waze/GPS on phone. Tums, Advil, Pepto, and Zyrtec. Pens, paper, some coins, TSA-Precheck traveler card, and Kindle app on tablet, and a hard-copy of travel information, in case of an EM pulse that takes out the electronics. :-) Put anything critical in the backpack, and at the last second volunteer to let overhead bag get stowed in hold. This will get you early boarding, and your bag will be the first off the plane, or shell out the $10 for bump in boarding priority. (else your bag will get stowed, and you get worst of everything) Always get paper copy of boarding pass, as some airline electronic boarding passes don't have your TSA precheck number, and you'll get shoved over to restart security line. Don't put anything critical in luggage. Keep valuables in backpack that is with you. You can go shopping for clothes much easier than your missing laptop with presentations you were going to be presenting. If you want food to eat, bring it with you. Give yourself extra time at airports. Sitting is so much better than running :-)
  • Great tips!

    I use most of them myself - except for the laptop/tablet in the carry-on bag. All electronics go in a Tumi knapsack.

    The important tip I would add is to purchase a second laptop charger that is always kept in your small bag of cords. Do not take your primary charger with you. Why is that? Because I guarantee you'll forget your charger one time when you're in a hurry and forget to pack it. But if a travel charger is always in your bag, you will never forget it.

    Also, props on bringing BOTH a laptop and tablet. In fact, the year the first iPad came out doing just that saved my butt when I was several thousand miles from home. I pulled out my laptop and found the hard disk crashed. The iPad (version 1!) with Jump Desktop installed combined with the iPad's VPN support allowed me to connect to my desktop PC at home and do just about everything I needed while the laptop hard drive took the next 24 hours to run its detailed scan.