A Passion for Travel, Part 5: Travel Technology

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, 2007

The Bund at Night, Shanghai, 2007


As mentioned in my prior post about packing for a trip, I may be iPod-less, but Clive and I take a lot of technology with us when we travel.

Despite our best efforts starting out, we always seem to end up with a pile of cables, connectors, and chargers that become intertwined.

Clive says it resembles an explosion in a spaghetti factory.

We try to keep everything organised by using twist ties, Ziploc bags, and zippered pouches.

Sharing Lives but Not Laptops

Huangpu River Promenade, Shanghai, 2007

Huangpu River Promenade, Shanghai, 2007

Until last year, we thought it would be crazy to carry two laptops on our trips.

But sharing a laptop didn’t always work.

Partly it’s because we’re away for so long.  We use our travel laptop offline for storing trip photographs, writing drafts of e-mails (or blog posts), recording expenses, playing music, and watching TV in Paris.

In addition, we do the vast majority of our personal business on the Internet.

We found there were too many times when using the laptop sequentially meant we lost time we could have used better, for walking or seeing new sights together.

Having talked for some months about netbooks as a possible travel solution, we decided to make a move and recently purchased one, as I wrote about in ‘My New Netbook’.

Portable Wireless Internet

Wireless Internet Devices

Wireless Internet Devices

On our last trip, we invested in three wireless Internet devices, one for France, one for England, and one for the U.S.

Unfortunately, there’s no cost-effective global device yet.  I call them our ‘Internet sticks’ and these we do share.

In the past, we’ve used libraries and Internet cafés for quick e-mail checks.  But from a security standpoint, neither of us is comfortable using public terminals for personal business, especially banking.

Getting the wireless Internet devices for our laptops was a huge leap forward.  We can now easily stay in touch with overseas family, attach documents and photographs, and keep up with personal business.  I wrote more about this in ‘Family Globalisation:  A New Way to Stay Connected’.

We have eight major travel technology items.  The devil is always in the details, so here’s a summary list followed by other essentials we take for each one.

Travel Technology – Main Items

1.      Laptops

2.      Mobile phones

3.      Digital cameras (we used to share one, but that didn’t work, either)

4.      GPS

5.      Music – Clive’s mp3 player

6.      My favourite tip:  a power strip

7.      Plug adapters for each country

8.      Specialised cables & security devices

Travel Technology – Essentials for Each Item


1.  Laptops plus:

·        A mouse for each computer

·        3 wireless USB Internet devices, as described above

·        Ethernet cable – used only if hotels offers free Internet

·        Memory sticks, now known as flash drives – used for file backups and ease of trading/transferring files between us when necessary

·        Power cords and power packs (the heaviest items apart from the laptops themselves)

·        Security cables & keys

·        USB extension cable – used as an aerial to increase wireless reception in Paris

2.  Mobile Phones plus:

·        Phone chargers – we each take one, since we often charge both phones overnight

·        Car phone charger – for backup in case we need it during the day

3.  Digital Cameras plus:

·        Camera charger (for mine)

·        Battery charger (Clive’s uses rechargeable AA batteries)

·        USB camera cable

·        Mini-tripod

·        We used to take our camera booklets, but found them online and now have softcopies on our laptops

4.  GPS plus:

·        Car power cable

·        Computer connector cable – enables map updates (and can also use for charging)

We’re printing fewer maps and driving directions since we got the GPS, but both of us really like maps and I don’t think we’ll ever completely stop using paper versions, along with the GPS.  I love reading them, looking at the big picture view of the area we’re driving through, and saying wonderful English village names like Barking Tye and Great Wigborough out loud to Clive.  I can’t wait to try to pronounce place names on the map of Wales.

 5.  mp3 Player plus:

·        Headphones

Clive uses his mp3 player when he walks by himself in Sydney (which is rare since we usually walk together), and once in a while when we have long waits in airports.

Mostly we take this because it can be plugged directly into many rental cars’ audio systems, and saves carrying our own CD’s.  That is, of course, when we’re not listening to Ken Bruce on BBC Radio 2 in the UK, which Clive introduced me to and must be the best radio program in the world.

6.  My favourite tip:  a power strip (or two)

Clive thought of this several years ago, when we were carrying multiple plug adapters for every country we visited.  I can now say, with heartfelt enthusiasm, that taking a power strip is a brilliant solution to multiple problems.

First, power strips are lightweight, and only one adapter is needed for each one, saving the space and weight multiple adapters take up in your luggage.

Second, most hotel rooms and B&B’s don’t have enough outlets as it is (especially if you want to keep the lights on).  It’s incredibly helpful and wonderful to have multiple outlets easily available.

You can take a 4-outlet or even a 6-outlet power strip.  Many travellers today take mobile phone, digital camera, and laptop.  It’s such a luxury to be able to plug in all three, and have one left over (for electric rollers, in my case, when I use them).

I can’t recommend this strongly enough.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

7.  Plug adapters for each country – you can reduce the need for multiple adapters by using power strips, which only need one each.

As my fellow travellers know, there’s no global standard for plugs.  As luck would have it, the four countries in which we spend the most time — Australia, France, England, and the U.S. – all have completely different pin layouts.

Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai

Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai

8.  Specialised Cables & Security Devices

·        USB TV tuner – used mainly in Paris, where we don’t have a television

·        USB cable device to connect an external video recorder to a laptop – Clive’s father in England has old family videos, which Clive copies to his laptop, then converts to DVD’s for the family when we get home to Sydney

·        Australia bank security token – needed for online banking.  In a future post in this series, I’ll write about how we handle personal business while we’re away.

Clive and I sometimes say that when we consider the books I carry and the technology, much of which he carries, we really won’t have room for clothes.

Or, he says, “I’ll have to wear some of this technology.”

Extremely Intrigued by Kindle

On my previous post, Mary’s comment about her Kindle being a travel ‘must have’ reminded me I want to explore this device myself.

Clive and I are both avid readers, and have been intrigued by Kindle, or now Kindle 2, not only for travel but especially for its potential as a lightweight source of multiple books and magazines.

A February article in the Economist stated, ‘The Kindle is an unusual gadget in that it does not obviously target young people, or early-adopting technophiles.  Instead it appeals to passionate readers.’

We’ve read many positive reviews.  Now we’re keen to learn for ourselves exactly what Kindle offers in physical look and feel as well as availability and cost of our preferred reading material.

We don’t know anyone in Australia who has a Kindle, but hope to have a look at one in the U.S. on our upcoming trip.

Moving towards Departure

As we work through our planning checklist and make sure all our technology is in order, our thoughts turn towards departure day and actually starting the trip.

In my next post I’ll write about our departure checklist.


Son's 22nd Birthday, Shanghai, 2007

More to come.

Related posts
  A Passion for Travel, Part 1:  Introducing the Series
  A Passion for Travel, Part 2:  The Master Trip Calendar
  A Passion for Travel, Part 3:  Travel Planning Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 4:  Packing without Panic
  A Passion for Travel, Part 6:  Departure Checklist
  A Passion for Travel, Part 7:  Airport Survival Strategies
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8:  Top Ten In-Flight Insights
  A Passion for Travel, Part 8a:  Eleventh In-Flight Insight
  A Passion for Travel, Part 9:  Jet Lag Jambalaya

11 Responses

  1. Wow Carolyn,

    You are a wealth of knowledge and information!! You should consider being a travel consultant!! It’s very interesting to read about all of this!
    Take good care,

  2. Hi Carolyn,

    Leesa is right…so much knowledge. All very interesting and now I am lost!!! I have been following since Passion for Travel Part 1..I am soo pleased you know what you are doing, I would be in a state of panic and frustration..!!

    Take care and look forward to reading more..Anne

  3. To echo Leesa…Wow is right!

    This is a ton of amazing information…I need to be sure John clicks over to this post. The power strip is a a great idea. We bought one in Paris and it made our stay much better.

    I’m going to go back and read through this post again and again. Even though I travel a good deal, I’m always forgetting something and your packing segment is wonderful.

  4. Oh…I forgot to say that I love the Bund at Night photograph… it’s gorgeous.

  5. The power strip idea is GENIUS! I can think of just the ones, lightweight, at BHV.

    Can you explain a little more about how the wireless USB-drive-looking sticks work and how you acquire them? I presume you don’t have to sign up for a contract, but how do you get them to work?

    I can imagine that you all finally found that you needed two laptops. Hoping your new netbook will work like a dream for all your needs.

  6. oops, sorry, I see that your referred post explains in DETAIL how the sticks work. Thanks!

    (clang me on the head)

  7. I also do not have an ipod, nor do I have a digital camera. I am probably one of the last 5 people on the planet using film, and I am still quite happy with it. My parents have a Kindle, and I have been examining it this week. I have enjoyed the reviews of books that are available. I haven’t downloaded a book myself because I am going home on Sunday, although I suppose I could read fast! It is very easy to turn the pages and once you have a book downloaded, you can change the size of the font, if you would find it necessary to use a larger size font, for example. I have mixed feelings about not having that book in my hand. The sensation of a book in my hand and my fingers turning real pages has always been such a part of my whole reading experience. Moreover, I love going to bookstores as a part of any trip I have ever made. New bookstores or second hand bookstores are always such happy memories. I also love to see the real book on my bookshelf, and think about my experience with reading it. Nonetheless, I was intrigued with the Kindle, and the very large number of books that can be downloaded. Most of them appear to cost $9.99 to download. Were I to buy one, I just don’t know if I would use it that much.

    Reading about all your systematic packing and preparation really intimidated me. I felt like I should go take an ativan and then get back to throwing everything in the suitcase the night before while wishing I had never conceived of any travel. As you can see I am not an experienced traveler, and perhaps would be happy just to stay home!

  8. Eleanor, thanks for the laugh about taking an ativan and throwing everything into a suitcase! Believe me, we sometimes do just that (well, at least the throwing into a suitcase part) for weekend/short trips in Australia. Great comments re the Kindle, too.

    Leesa, thanks for your ‘vote of confidence’ and Anne, don’t worry – I don’t think you’d really panic since having the lists helps prevent just that 🙂

    Elizabeth, hope this is helpful (and great you got a power strip in Paris 🙂 ) Glad you liked the Shanghai photo – thanks – it’s a fabulous city.

    Kim, the USB Internet sticks are well worth it … at least if you’ll be away for any length of time.

    Cheers all.

  9. You are a wealth of knowledge and information!! You should consider being a travel consultant!! It’s very interesting to read about all of this!

  10. This is an awesome list, and one I aspire to. 🙂

    Thanks for coming by and leaving that terrific comment on my recent post. I left a couple of replies to you there (just finished the second one in which I said I would come by and read up on the links you shared. 🙂 )

    Thank you, too, for supporting Paul’s writing/blogs. While it is a PITA to share a computer these days, I am just so happy that we are competing for time at this point. I’m really happy that he is writing, and writing about Paris again. 🙂

  11. Karin, hi and thanks for your comment! I really meant it that I admire you and Paul for sharing — not only an Internet connection but also the computer on which you both write — that’s so awesome! I fully enjoy both your blogs and reading of your experiences and insights into the city I adore …

    Cheers to you both and keep writing! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: