Traveling this summer? Here are some tips for taking along your tech stuff
By Jim Bray
Ah, summertime, when global warming makes the days long and lazy and many people's minds turn to hitting the road. It's a great time to be alive!
If you're like me (a thought that scares my wife!), you'll want to take some of your tech stuff along. But you don't want to lose it, either, or have it become useless.
Fortunately, Kim Puckett of BLASTmedia, sent along a few helpful hints for making your tech vacation as hassle free as possible. And it's pretty good stuff to know, too. Common sense, really, but you'd be surprised how many times my own common sense seems to go off somewhere into the ozone hole.
Keep it close – According to Puckett, smart thieves are always looking to nab pricey devices. And while that might make you go "well, duh!", it's also very true. So make sure to keep your iPad, smartphone, laptop or whatever you're dragging along with you stowed properly in your bag, with nothing exposed for pickpockets to either see or grab easily.
And if you want to avoid as much angst as possible at the airport security line, it might help to know that – at least at all the airports I've graced since I got my iPad about a year and a half ago – tablets don't have to be taken out of your carry-on luggage. That's a small bit of relief when you're being groped, but it's better than nothing – at least until some terrorist figures out how to put explosives into a tablet…
Charge up – Puckett reminds you to make sure you have charging solutions for all of your stuff. An iPhone case/universal charger system (she points to the Third Rail System, which I haven't tried) can be great for keeping all your devices charged.
You might look at this as another "well, duh," moment, but I can attest to what a pain it is to discover you've forgotten your charger. And it can be an unnecessary expense picking one up on the road. If I lived more by this tenet I'd have fewer cables and chargers lying around the house!
Pack digitally – I agree with Puckett's suggestion here completely. "Lugging magazines and hardback books can weigh you down, so keep it 21st century with e-books and e-mags," she says. It's very true, too. I always make sure I have at least a season of TV shows on my iPad as well as a couple of e-books (and, in a shameless plug, you can now get my sci-fi novel "Ransom for the Stars" for e-books, for less than five bucks!).
Last time I flew I stuck a downloaded (legally, of course) copy of LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring and, video snob that I am, expected it to suck on the iPad's small, 4x3 screen. But I was amazed at just how much I enjoyed it on the iPad, with my Bose noise cancelling headphones! Of course it didn't hurt that the plane trip got really bumpy during one of the big chase scenes…
Go mobile – "Use airline apps to check-in for your flight," Puckett says, noting that "this quick, paperless route will keep you organized without a paper trail." I haven't actually tried this yet, and I don't really care about leaving a paper trail in this age in which we have no privacy anyway, but I'm a big believer in checking in the day before if your airline allows such a thing.
Of course, to do this you need Internet access and you may not be able to print out your boarding pass in advance if there's no printer around, but if nothing else it can help speed up check-in at the airport. And you may be able to choose a better seat.
Safety first – "Thievery isn't only for physical devices," Puckett says, because hackers can access your data easily, on public Wi-Fi networks in airports and coffee shops. Puckett's suggestion is to consider using a VPN (virtual private network) such as proXPN (which I haven't tried) to protect your personal data.
This is probably a bigger issue than I give it credit for, what with all the stories we hear about identity theft, so such a tactic might give you some peace of mind.
Identify yourself – Puckett advises you to keep PDF (Acrobat) copies of your important documents in an encrypted file on your laptop or tablet so if you get mugged (or are just forgetful) you can always show copies of your identification when catching your return flight.
I hadn't thought of this, but it makes a lot of sense and I'm going to try it on my next trip. Of course, if someone rips off your device, your ID goes with it…
Watertight seal (no relation to Christmas seals or baby seals) – If your trip involves water-related activities, Puckett suggests you protect your electronics from the possibility of water damage (Well, duh, again?). Therefore, make sure you put any of your valuable devices into sealable plastic bags, or maybe a watertight plastic bin or custom waterproof housing. Or leave it in the hotel…
Back, back, back it up – This should be rule number one for anyone who has data regardless of whether or not you're travelling. If you haven't lost data yet, it just means you're that much closer to the day it happens. As for travelling, Puckett says "Don't leave for a big trip without backing up all your important data. Whether you're using a cloud-based client like Crashplan (another product I haven't tried) or an external hard drive, make sure your important data is archived.
Good advice any time! I'm not really into the "Cloud," however, 'cause I'm a technological curmudgeon and I don't trust anyone to keep my stuff secure. Therefore, I have a portable one terabyte hard drive onto which I back up my stuff, then put it in our fire proof safe. I'm also planning to get another so I can keep a second backup off site, perhaps our safety deposit box.
I generally keep my stuff close at hand at all times when I'm on the road – though I do leave it in hotel rooms and haven't had any problems so far (which sounds suspiciously like famous last words!). But if I'm out and/or about, my stuff never strays far from my side. Paranoid? Maybe – even though I don't generally have anything with me that can't be replaced – but why poke at fate with a pointy stick?
By doing this common sense stuff – and anything else you may have thought of on your own (emails, anyone?) – your travels are less likely to become travails!
Copyright 2012 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
We welcome your comments!