Don’t Leave Home Without …

In a few weeks I will be leaving for an exciting trip to Germany to perform a series of solo trumpet concerts. Amidst all the diligent practice and preparation, I have discovered some useful packing tips that I wanted to share regarding new technology that will be coming along for the ride. So buckle up. Here we go!

  1. MacBook Pro – Did you know that the AC charger (MagSafe Power Adapter) automatically converts voltage? Apple also sells a World Travel Adapter Kit. If you need Windows-only software, get Parallels and run Windows XP (a new copy) on your Mac, however the free multimedia software on the Mac (iPhoto, iMovie, etc.) can’t be beat. Sure, cute little netbooks are much smaller and less expensive, but their reduced power, storage, and display are prohibitive, in my opinion. Windows users can rejoice than many powerful, full-size laptops are really inexpensive now, if you’re not ready to jump to the Mac.
  2. Mini Power Strip – All the major travel sites recommend this now. Outlets in airports and hotels are scarce and you need to charge your laptop, right? My favorite one is the Monster Outlets To Go 4 (available on Amazon). It has four grounded plugs efficiently designed with lots of space between the ports. But be warned: it only has a reset button (like a hair dryer); it’s not a surge suppressor.
  3. World Adapter Plugs – These are widely available everywhere. The Apple Store sells one by Kensington that also includes a USB port for charging. Make sure that whatever you get fits your needs (some don’t accept polarized plugs or grounded 3-prong plugs) and only pack the adapter(s) for your destination. Magellan’s ( sells a 220-240 volt surge protector (EuroSurge SP2) that I would recommend for use with your mini power strip (it accepts US grounded plugs).
  4. USB Charging Options  – Charging devices via USB rather than AC adapters lightens your load tremendously, if you’re bringing a laptop with you. Leave the bulky AC adapters at home. The charging time is admittedly not as fast, but just plug everything in overnight and forget about it. You might want to pack a small 4-USB hub, but make sure your laptop is running on AC power when charging. Rayovac ( even makes USB chargers for rechargeable AA and AAA batteries. Check your devices and see if they can all share the same USB cable so you only need to bring one.
  5. Digital Camcorder and Camera – I prefer Canon, but there are certainly many fine products out there. Camcorders that record to a hard disk drive and/or SD cards are great. If you plan to download video from a hard drive camcorder to your laptop, make sure that you bring along the AC adapter. Bringing along extra SD cards and batteries is essential. Canon’s external battery chargers are dual voltage, charge faster than AC adapters, and the plugs fold flat for easy storage. It is also a good idea to pack the cameras in small, individual cases (I like CaseLogic and Lowepro) and put the chargers and accessories in a separate pouch. This modular approach makes it easy to transfer gear from your carry-on bag to your daypack. Finally, get a Joby Gorillapod tripod ( I like the SLR model with the bubble level clip; it works for both my camcorder and camera, and it attaches to practically anything (poles, chairs, railings, etc.) to get the right height and angle.
  6. Cable Locks – PacSafe ( makes a good 35″ cable lock with a resettable 4-number combination. This is great for securing bags together at the airport (wrap the cable through metal rings on the bags) and on public transportation (secure bags to railings in overhead compartments). There are also some new miniature cable locks (TSA approved) with resettable combinations that are perfect for locking zippers too small for regular luggage locks. I like the ones by MasterLock (Model 4688D) that you can buy at Target and WalMart. They come in a nice variety of colors (blue, red, black, gray) and are only about $7 USD. Follow manufacturer descriptions with the utmost paranoia when setting combinations (it’s easy to screw up) and be sure to write your combinations down in several different places. Leave the combinations at home with a family member, just in case. One final suggestion: don’t chose combinations like part of your phone number or house number that might be visible on your luggage tags.
  7. PDF Manuals for Devices – Most manufacturers have manuals in PDF format that you can download from their web sites. Put the manuals for your cameras, smartphone, and anything else on your laptop and leave the bulky paper at home. It’s also a good idea to scan instructions for other devices (cable locks, adapter plugs, etc.) and save them on your laptop, too. Create a folder called “Manuals” and put everything in there.
  8. A WordPress Blog – Blogs on are free and can be updated from any computer around the world over the internet. Photo and video uploads are possible, and it’s a great way to document your trip and keep in touch with the folks back home. The software is powerful and easy to learn (I love the auto-save feature), and video tutorials are available online at the wonderful subscription service

This certainly is not the last word on traveling with technology, but I spent a lot of time figuring out these solutions and wanted to offer them to you in case they might be of service. Safe travels and happy holidays!

3 thoughts on “Don’t Leave Home Without …

  1. Hey Elisa-
    You should work for the travel channel! This is fantastic and helped remind me of a few things as I’m packing for my upcoming jaunt. Take care and keep writing!!

  2. I was just re-reading this post and realized that I forgot to mention my Garmin GPS (a regular car model that can be used as a handheld device, too). The model I have (c. 2008) has a feature where you can set the navigation for “Pedestrian” rather than “Automobile” which is really handy for sightseeing on foot. It calculates the time for walking (approx 3 mph), too, which is great for fitting in trips on days with limited time.

    For example, I used the GPS to help me find the super cool Nixdorf Computer Museum in Paderborn on an afternoon when I only had a few hours. The museum was several blocks from my hotel, so I entered the address into my GPS, and walked there in 20 minutes. Then, I knew exactly how much time it would take to walk back to the hotel so I could plan how long I could enjoy the museum. Not bad, eh?

    One final tip: bring along the wall charger for the GPS. The USB charging option did not perform well at all (it would only charge the 4-hour battery for 30 minutes). And, of course, bring a paper map as backup!

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