One other great features of mobile PCs is that they are a mobile. You can take your PC pretty much anywhere you care to go, and work while you are travelling there and when you arrive.
There is however an art to travelling well with your gadget bag. This is especially true when you are travelling on airplanes. In this article I will explorer several tricks I have learned over time that have made easier for me to travel with my mobile PCs.
In short, my tips could be summed up as follows:
- Pack your bags tidily.
- Know the rules
- Spread your load
- Standardise to lighten your load.
- Think about power!
- Look for smart accessories.
Let’s explore those in more detail.
When you pack for your next trip, make sure you think carefully about how you pack your gear bag. When pack my geek bag that I am taking onto a plane I work on the “A place for everything and everything in its place” principle. A tidy bag has a couple of key benefits.
Firstly it is easier to find what you need when you need it. However, the second benefit is even better – I have found it is much easier to transition the security check points when everything is squared away nicely.
One accessory that is excellent to help this is a net cable bag. This zip sealed pouch is used to keep all your loose cables, small adaptors, rechargeable batteries and the like together.
Mine came with one of my many laptop bags, but you can buy them at good computer stores.
Some accessories can be hard to store tidily – like bulky headphones. I look for ones that come with a case to keep everything together, like my Jabra c820 noise cancelling headphones. My Zune fits right in the middle.
Know The Rules
Another thing that is very important is to know what you can and cannot take onto a plane. For instance, at the time of writing if you are flying in or through the U.S. you can’t put a spare laptop battery in your checked luggage. If you have a spare battery then make sure you put it in your carry on bag.
Make sure you check the rules for the country you are starting in, your destination and any stop-over points in between.
Spread Your Load
As you pack your bags, ask yourself… Do I need this while I travel or when I get there. With the exception of valuable devices and things that can’t go in checked luggage unless you think there is a good chance you will need it during the trip, check it.
The Joy Of Standardisation
Most of my accessories either charge off USB via a mini-USB plug or use AAA batteries. This is something that I have done quite deliberately and it make my my life so much easier. Firstly, you don’t need to take power adaptors for USB charging devices. At most all you need is a USB hub if your mobile PC does not have enough ports to charge every thing. For the things that don’t charge off USB standardising on a single battery size (in my case AAA) lets you invest in rechargeable batteries. Most of my AAA powered devices take one or two batteries. I have enough AAA rechargeable to fill them all and leave three in my bag.
You need to think about Power
Particularly if you are heading overseas you need to spend some time finding out about your destination. What sort of power do they use? The voltage that comes out of the plugs in the wall varies from country to country. It ranges from 100V-240V and plugging a device into a power source that is different to what it was designed for can damage it. The World Electric Guide has a good reference of the voltages used in various countries.
The good news is that most Mobile PCs and accessories have what are called universal power supplies, which means that they can be plugged in to any voltage in a given range. Check your power supply – it should say something like:
INPUT: AC 100V- 240V~ 1.0A 50 / 60 Hz
This would mean that it is safe to plug in most places as it covers the whole 100V-240V range at both the 50Hz and 60Hz frequencies.
That is – if you can figure out how to plug it in! The plugs vary from country to country as well. Again – the World Electric Guide has images of may them. A compact, multi-function adaptor can be configured to plug into most alternatives.
Just be aware, though that a plug adaptor does not change the voltage, so if your device does not support the voltage of the local power source – don’t plug it in! The adaptor above at least has an indicator that shows what the local voltage is, which might save you some grief. This is another advantage of standardising on USB charged devices.
A couple of useful cheats – laptop power supplies are pretty much the same the world over – and connect to the wall with a cord that connects to the power brick with either a C5 or C7 connector:
If you go to the same country frequently – stop into a local electronics store and pick up a spare with the local plug. This saves you carrying your adaptor while you are in country.
Another good tip – if you are going to have multiple devices to plug in take along a four plug power strip from your country. When you get to your hotel you can plug the adaptor into the wall, the power strip into the adaptor and then plug in four devices using their native plugs. This prevents having to carry multiple adaptors or hunt for extra power points because your adaptor too fat and is crowding out the adjacent plug on the hotel room desk. (I’ve had to move beds and unplug TVs in the past to get power!)
I’m always on the look out neat little gadgets that make my life easier. Some I have tried (with varying degrees of success) include.
- A USB rechargeable shaver – not as good as a blade, but saves me having to take a razor and check luggage when I am only gone for a day or two.
- A roll up keyboard – too hard to type on.
- Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard – Great! Just don’t use it during the flight.
- MoGo PCMCIA mouse.
- PCMCIA VoIP Speakerphone
Last tip – what ever you do don’t do what I did last time I was heading overseas. I spent hours getting my geek bag and checked luggage just so – then forgot to put my passport in it! Luckily I realised this before I got too far away and after a phone call to my lovely wife she saved the day!