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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  • 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.

  • Prepare for connectivity issues

    Traveling often presents various difficulties getting online and it is wise to prepare for that possibility. It is hard to believe but some hotels still offer no connectivity at all, while others charge an arm and a leg to get you online. Frequent travelers have no doubt seen that hotels may promote in-room internet connectivity, wired and/or wireless, but it can often be a mixed bag. Either the connectivity doesn't seem to work or is horribly slow.

    The best way to prepare for this is to bring your own mobile broadband if at all possible. Many smartphones now have the ability to serve as mobile hotposts to tether laptops or tablets to them to get online. It may require activating the hotspot capability on the phone before tethering is allowed, so make sure that is done and tested before the trip. Note that serving as a hotpost for hours can eat into the data plan on the phone.

    Those who own iPads or iPad minis with LTE have a better option for dealing with bad hotel connectivity. These can serve as mobile hotposts for laptops and other gear for extended periods. I always travel with my iPad mini which can serve as a fast mobile hotspot for over 20 hours on a single charge. The same concerns about watching the data usage on a phone hotspot apply to the iPad solution.

    Having redundant mobile connectivity won't do any good if your carrier has no data coverage so be sure and check the carrier's online coverage map before your trip. These are accurate and provide a visual clue about what to expect with mobile broadband where you are going.

  • Pack smart

    This sounds like common sense but packing smart can make the difference between a happy trip and one you'd rather forget when it's over. 

    Packing smart starts with a good piece of luggage, and these days that means a carryon bag. For years I preferred to check my main luggage so I didn't have to deal with it at the airport but savvy business travelers convinced me that carrying all bags on the flight is the way to go. I've taken that advice the last few trips and I quickly realized that carryon is definitely the way to go with fewer hassles. It also avoids the exorbitant fees to check your baggage.

    Carrying bags on the flight means having a good carryon bag, and there are lots to choose from that you can find online. I settled on the Travelpro Crew 8 bag pictured above and it has been wonderful.

    Whatever bag you choose should have lots of pockets for packing tightly. I can easily pack clothes and items for a four-day trip in this bag, as you should be able in any quality carryon bag.

    One particularly useful feature of the Travelpro bag is a special zipper that runs all around the bag. This can be unzipped, extending the main compartment by two inches. This lets me pack extra stuff for extended trips. Once packed, the bag can be closed normally with this extra space. Then, by simply pushing down on the top of the bag, the special zipper can be zipped close. This brings the bag back to the proper size for fitting in the overhead bins on the plane. This has saved my bacon a number of times, eliminating the need to check the bag due to its overstuffed state.

    The cable stash covered in an earlier slide goes in a pocket on this bag so I don't have to carry it in my shoulder bag. My laptop goes in a special compartment on the bigger carrryon bag which is shown in the next slide.

    I also carry a small shoulder bag while traveling for my tablet and other stuff I may need on the plane. 

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.