Travelling with electronics

Travelling with electronics

Gone are the days when the only electronics you’d likely be travelling with was a Walkman and perhaps a portable battery charger. The modern traveller is often more akin to a mobile electronics store than a barefoot layabout.

Planning categories

Open the backpack of your typical dorm room traveller and you’ll probably find a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, cabling and chargers for all, plus perhaps a portable keyboard or mouse. Then there may be a digital camera or two with their cables and chargers, memory card(s), portable back-up drive, a couple of lenses and at least one pair of earphones. Oh, and there must be a drone in there as well right?

You get the idea.

Here's how we suggest compartmentalising all this gear in a sensible and accessible fashion. First, be sure to pack yourself some cable ties to keep your cables under control. These come in a few sizes; some are handy for small camera charging cables, while larger ones are better for the heavier laptop power cables. You can get them with velcro fasteners, but this is overkill in our opinion, as simple ones work just fine.

If you have a lot of gear, get some zip-lock plastic bags to both protect your cables should your bag get wet but also to keep them separate (just write with a magic marker on each what it contains). This is useful as otherwise you’ll be plunging your arm into your pack and invariably pulling out the wrong cable and end up unpacking your bag when all you wanted to do was charge your phone.

On the topic of charging, make sure you have the correct power plug adapter for where you are travelling. If you don’t have an adapter, it can be smart to sort them out before you leave, as they can be a challenge to find at quick notice, especially if you’re flying into a secondary port. We forgot to pack one when we went to Japan and it took us more than a day to find one in Tokyo (eventually in a tiny hardware store).

Use protective sleeves for any laptops and tablets. Your camera and lenses should ideally have their own carry cases. If you’re carrying a lot of electronics, we strongly advise that you do not check or stow them in your main pack because of the risks of theft and damage. This means you’ll need to have a daypack large enough to transfer them into for when your main luggage is stowed. Do also check with your airline regarding their policies for battery packing and stowage.

Just to be clear, never stow valuable electronic equipment in a bag out of sight.

When flying, be sure to get up to date on your airline’s requirements when it comes to what can and can’t be carried into the aircraft cabin. Keeping your gear well ordered and easy to access can also ease the pain when it comes to multiple security checks and x-rays when boarding and deplaning.

One last point regarding travelling with electronics: Ask yourself whether you really need all the stuff. Do you really need a laptop, tablet and smartphone? Leaving even one at home will make a big difference to what you’re carrying—aside from the weight, it's one more thing you have to keep track of.

Further reading

Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.

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