It’s easy to go overboard when buying up travel gadgets, plugs and adapters for your pending trip. Having come from a background working in IT I know better than others just how addictive it is to have the latest and greatest. In the last three years of travel and living abroad however I’ve found the best gadgets for the job are often the most simple ones.
It’s a fact proved time and time again that you are going to lose at least one of the travel plugs or gadgets you take with you abroad, so why spend a fortune on them?
To help plan your packing list I’ve outlined a few of my tried and tested bits of travel tech to make your planning that bit easier. Some of the items below are daily fixtures in my life so I hope you find them as useful as I do.
When I first decided to take a trip to Sri Lanka I started looking for power adapters or plugs to convert my Australian electronics to sockets. Once I’d played around with a few of them however I found they always felt rather fragile. Add on the fact many cost upwards of $20, $30 or even $40 I just couldn’t justify the cost. I’ve since spoken to many other travellers with fancy all in one adapters who all have stories of broken plastic bits and lost adapters. I ended up going to Sri Lanka and buying a power adapter from www.3000store.lk, which also had a lot of other travel gadgets which I needed for my trip.
Instead of spending all that money on something that you might lose, I opted for cheap individual plugs for each part of the world. They do take up slightly more room but knowing I was only going to be in Europe and the UK meant only needing two power adapters and they cost me less than $5 for the pair. Apart from saving money with these plugs I’ve found they are far more sturdy and never feel like breaking.
Power Board/Power Strip
Whatever you call them they would have to have been one of my favourite adapters to travel with. If like me you travel with a computer, camera, iPhone/iPod that all needs charging and the room you are staying in only has one wall socket it’s a life saver. It means you’ll only need to carry a single power adapter for each part of the world you visit and you’ll always have at least 4 sockets to connect your electronics.
Airline Headphone Adapter
I’ve talked about these little headphone adapters before in my how to deal with long flights post but felt the need to mention them again. Airline headphones are absolutely TERRIBLE at being headphones. They don’t cut out any plane noise and are just the cheapest nasty little things.
By getting a $2 adapter (the cheapest travel gadget you’ll ever buy) you can convert your beloved headphones/earbuds from your smart phone or iPod to work on just about any plane in the world. For anybody that’s flown the 24 hours from Australia to Europe or other long distance flights you’ll know being able to drown out the plane noise and crying babies while watching a movie is very welcome.
This one is a bit of a given these days but worth a mention anyway. There are times when you just want to chill out while travelling. Maybe watch a movie on your computer or listen to some music while on a long train ride to your next destination. Having a pair of noise cancelling headphones or earbuds can be make or break (especially when on a noisy plane) the experience in my opinion.
Oh and if you can, find yourself a neat little cable tidy. It makes packing your bag so much easier and you never have to worry about tangled cables ever again.
External Hard Drive
If you travel with a computer it’s always good to backup photos and other important documents while travelling. Computers are a prime target for thieves and while I’ve not seen it happen a lot, hostels are often a prime location for them to work out of. Keeping backups not only protects you from them it also saves you if that trusty computer of yours decides to break while you’re abroad.
As someone who’s worked in the IT industry for some time there is nothing worse than losing all of your beloved photos from the your past two months travelling Europe. It might be an inconvenience carrying it and having to backup but trust me if your computer dies or gets lost/stolen you’ll thank me for it.
And there you have it. These aren’t ground breaking items, just everyday run of the mill things that can make travelling easier and not break the bank at the same time. So far I’ve been lucky and have only lost one power adapter, but I know its only a matter of time before something else gets misplaced.
What would you suggest to someone looking to travel for the first time. Do you have a unique travel gadget or adapter that you can’t live without that others should add to their travel packing list?
I always feel bad for people who bring oceans of technology with them. What’s weird is that laptops are getting lighter, but since that means that more people are carrying them, the average weight of a person’s laptop is higher, since the weight used to be zero. I’ve been toying with the idea of going tablet + smartphone and nothing else, just because I’m too lazy to carry everything around.
OCDemon I don’t see why its bad for people to carry computers when they travel. Many people want to keep in touch with family and friends at home and most already own a computer so bringing it with them seems very natural.
Some carry big fancy cameras while I just make do with my smartphone. It’s all relative to peoples goals and what they want to get out of it. Considering most new backpackers to Europe arrive with HUGE backpacks anyway I’m sure they don’t worry about the 2-3kg of a computer.
It was more the fact that it can be a hassle. If they plan on using it, I don’t see it being a bad decision, but laptops are heavy, valuable, prone to water damage, and all that.
Thanks for a good article which I definitely agree with all except one part! I am currently sitting in my hotel room in the USA (jetlag strikes again) with a USA power adaptor, power board, and i bought noise cancelling headphones (which included an airplane adaptor) for my flight from Australia, which worked out really well. I happily watched two movies during my 15 hour flight and also listened to music.
I think if you re travelling to places which have Wifi that an online storage option like Dropbox is better than carrying a hard drive.
Anne I like the idea of online storage but in practice I’ve found far too many bad internet connections compared to good ones that would allow the upload of say 1-2gb of photos every couple of days. Europe is full of free wifi but I’d say I’ve found a handful of places that could offer me the sort of speeds I’d need regularly.
The small size of an external hard drive for this paranoid IT guy is worth the effort to know I’m not going to lose anything.
Have you considered bringing [multiple] USB’s? I know they come in massive storage spaces these days, and are still tiny. I’ve been thinking of my packing list, and considering a HD but it seems like unnecessary weight considering I’m a petite female and carrying electronics… though the whole having my laptop stolen scenario would be beyond devastating.
I’ve thought about multiple hard drives and at present am carrying two out of a need to run a couple of backups on my macbook but they are a pain. As its more cables, more weight and honestly I got the second one as I’m not travelling as much right now so its easier to handle. If i was moving quicker I’d be back down to one drive.
Great tips! I fine electronics essential on my travels and it’s great when you have the “right stuff” with you.
I’m there with you on the power adapter strip and individual adapters. Those all in one adapters really suck and they do feel flimsy. I usually have a few of them (I occasionally lose them). I have been moving away from my power strip, though. Been finding that I’m getting better with timing the battery life of my equipment and I always carry one external charger. The external charger has helped tremendously.
Christine I’ve found the power strip is great for some places and a little redundant in others. But still glad I’ve got it when I forget to charge my phone/camera/computer and need them all to be powered up the next day.
Power bank for the handphone that can’t last a whole day and for charging ipad (I have kids). Also, usb car charger if driving and road trips as I’m using phone for GPS.
I love the tip about bringing a powerboard – it means I can charge my phone, camera and laptop at the same time 🙂 I found a site recently that helped me determine which adapter I needed for travelling to India. Turned out I needed more than one because they have three different socket types in common use over there! Thought it was worth mentioning so other travellers know this (not all sites seem to mention that multiple adapters might be needed in some places). The site was http://www.whichplug.com/ . Hope that helps!
Angela, thats a really useful site for travellers, especially since some countries have strangle plugins. I got caught out in Israel as their plug was just strange and the adapter I bought wouldn’t fit my aussie plugs either.