Blog / Geek Travel Kit

So I took 3 laptops, a cell phone, 5 power cubes, and enough cables and adapters to wire a small office. When added to my travel case full of standard office supplies, I was carrying around well over 15 Kilos of computer hardware. It turns out I used everything except 2 power cubes.While my last outing was an extreme situation, I thought I would share some tips on what the average traveler should pack to insure they stay connected. Some items are more pertinent to the business traveler.

  • Laptop and Tablet: An obvious choice. Personal: Take one device that you are most comfortable using.  Business: Take one device for business and one for personal use.  The personal device may double as a business device if the primary unit fails.
  • Smartphone: Also an obvious choice. You may need an extended data plan – check with your provider. Business: Configure and test tethering your Smartphone to your laptop or tablet. This can be done by USB cable or through configuring the phone as a WiFi Hot Spot. The whole idea is that your phone becomes an emergency Internet connection if the local WiFi is inadequate.
  • Power Cubes: At least one for each device you are taking. Laptops use a proprietary power cube designed by the manufacturer; don’t switch just because the connector is the same. Most Smartphones use a standardized mini-USB connector that also fits other personal technology devices; Smartwatch and powered headphones for example. Many of the Smartphone power adapters have detachable USB cables that can be plugged into a laptop – so the laptop charges the Smartphone. Many airlines have USB power connectors on airplane seats. Business: Take 2 power cubes for your primary device to guard against loss or failure. Insure that all of your devices leave home with a fully charged battery.
  • Power Connectors and Convertors: Related to Power Cubes and relevant only if you are traveling overseas, most other countries use different standards for power connectors and voltages. At a minimum, a Power Connector adapter will be required for these countries. This is often a little cube that plugs into the wall outlet in the foreign country and has a standard North American receptacle on the other side. Equally important is checking the voltage ratings on your device power cube.  Most modern power cubes accept voltages ranging from 100 to 240 volts, which covers the vast majority of available power grids worldwide. You need to read the extra-fine print on your cube to be sure. If it doesn’t match, then you will need a Power Convertor, which is more expensive – and weighs more. It adapts the plug type AND converts the voltage to the North American standard 110 volts. Business: take at least 2 Power Connectors.
  • Video Adapters: These allow your device to be connected to larger display monitors, TVs or Projectors.  Most likely relevant for Business presentation use, these are also required if you want to watch videos in the hotel room that are stored on your device. The most common standard is HDMI.  Many compact laptop and tablets have mini, micro or proprietary video-out connectors, so an adapter may be required to convert the signal to HDMI. Be sure to include a long HDMI cable (3 or 6M). Business: Test the adapter and HDMI cable prior to leaving so that you know how to connect it – and change your device settings to make it display properly on a large screen. I recently witnessed one presentation fail miserably because it wasn’t tested beforehand; we were treated to pictures of the presenter’s most recent vacation instead.
  • Other Accessories:Wireless (Bluetooth) mouse – I like to use a standard mouse when traveling as it reduces the frustration of using the laptop touch-pad. Powered noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds – can greatly reduce noise in airplanes and buses which reduces fatigue. Portable Alarm Clock – although most Smartphones have this option. Batteries – many of these small accessories take AA or AAA batteries, so take some spares. Some savvy travelers take spare laptop batteries. Business: Network connectors and cable. In some instances, you may be required to connect to a client’s wired corporate network. Many compact laptops or tablets do not have standard Ethernet jacks for a network connection, so an (USB) adapter may be needed. Take a 5M Ethernet cable.
  • The Invisibles: Be sure to take a copy of your important files.  I copy mine to my local laptop desktop AND a USB stick (that I carry separately). I encrypt these files in a password-protected ZIP file archive to protect them if they fall into the wrong hands. I carry entertainment (video) files on SD or Micro SD memory cards that plug into my tablet. Equally important is some method of carrying your passwords.  I have over 100 passwords and account credentials to manage, so I use a password manager called KeePass, which allows me to store all my user account credentials in a single secure encrypted file.  I even store this in One-Drive (Microsoft’s cloud storage system) as it allows me to keep up-to-date local copies of the file on multiple devices.  There is even a version for my Smartphone.
Of course, you need a protective bag to carry all of this. It should be well-padded to protect your laptop or tablet – and I always take this bag onto the plane. Mine has wheels so I don’t have to carry it through the airports. All of this makes me the guy your don’t want to be behind in the airport security lineup – it’s going to take a while.Finally, we take a portable luggage scale with us to weigh heavy luggage prior to getting to the airport.  It’s saved us hundreds of dollars in extra baggage fees by allowing us to repack overweight bags.  Some stingy airlines are even starting to limit the weight of carry-ons, so check their website for restrictions.

I used to chastise my wife for packing too many shoes and purses for our vacations. I have since learned to keep quiet as I pack the purses for her.  The way I look at it, a power cube weighs about the same as a purse.


Dave White