Travel Tech 2014

WP_20141201_11_22_50_ProPacking my technology whenever I travel is always a pain in the ass.

I write when I travel. I have tried using a tablet with portable keyboard, a 2-in-1 (MS Surface), but a real laptop always works the best for me. I also seem to attract drinks into my keyboard, so I’m hesitant to drop a lot of money on a travel computer. (On our trip to France I had a neat little Toshiba slim laptop, and a kid knocked my entire glass of wine into my keyboard. It was never the same)

I also like to have some kind of book, maybe a media tablet, and my phone and the bits that go with that. Then I need cables, connectors and chargers. And a bag to hold all this crap.

I have settled on a regular carry-on bag for travel, a Tommy Bahama canvas and leather duffel (I found it on sale at Ross). It isn’t a roller bag, but a true duffel bag. I’m actually a bit too tall to pull a normal roller bag, and the soft bag lets me squish it into an overhead bin that wouldn’t fit an extra roller bag. That can make a big difference on a crowded plane. I also have a regular dopp kit set up. I keep all the bath and shaving bits, a first aid kit, brush and razor packed all the time. I never have to hunt around to find stuff when I pack.

But I think I change my computer bag each time we go. I’ve saved several over the years, and nothing is really “just right.” I’m using a really nice Ogio computer travel bag on this trip, it has just the right amount of pockets, everything is organized well, I really like it. But seat dimensions have changed on the newer planes. This is great actually (at least if you fly Alaska Air, which we do almost exclusively) as the seats are slimmer and more supportive, meaning more knee and leg room. But the space under the seat is just an inch or so shorter than it used to be. So this bag won’t stand up under the seat in front of me. Nuts.  The seats now do have a power charger, both 110v and USB, so that’s really nice. I have to figure the bag situation out.

I tend to grab my Kindle, and I have an 8″ Dell Tablet. They are both slim, and charge from USB. My phone is a Windows Phone Lumia 1020, and it has a camera attachment that acts as an extra battery. It also charges from USB. So all those can share a set of cables and chargers, or now use the seat charger. Neat.

My current laptop is an older Lenovo X301. I got it used (they are really cheap). This was a top-end executive laptop when new, and is slim, light, has a 13″ screen, and an SSD drive. Since it isn’t an Ultrabook design, it actually has a full compliment of real ports, this helps a lot when you are traveling about, no need for a bunch of adapters. (Having Ethernet, VGA, 3 USB, is nice) You can get one for around $250 or so online. If it gets broken I’m not out much. I don’t really need much of a computer when I travel so speed isn’t really an issue.

My blog is on WordPress. You can edit and write online, but I can’t always count on having a solid connection when I have time to write. MS Word is good. On the PC it actually has connectors for most blogs, and is pretty good for blog work. I use Scrivener for longer writing, but I haven’t done much of that type of writing on the road. My favorite tool for blogging is Windows Live Writer. It was last updated in 2011, and only has a few features (Blog connections, formatting, picture uploading, etc. But it is fast, syncs correctly each time, and I love it. I was using a MacBook for a while, and used MarsEdit as blogging software, but it is really geared towards HTML editing as opposed to writing. I was glad to move back to a PC to use Writer again.

I have a nice set of Skullcandy folding headphones as well. I These aren’t as nice as Bose headphones, but these fold flat so they slip into the bag better.  They do have a bit of trouble overcoming the rumble of the plane, but they are pretty good. I’d like to use a set of earbuds, but my ears are just the wrong shape for those to work. I don’t really listen to music, but I like to pull down a few podcasts to listen to.

I have a mini Mobile hotspot (from FreedomPop) if I needed a connection and none was available. It uses the Sprint Network, so it isn’t any good for International travel. I didn’t need it on this trip either, but it’s there just in case.

Two travel apps that I use regularly: Tripit: the app reads the service from the Tripit website, and works as a central tracking resource for all our flight numbers, hotel, car, tours, etc. Everything is organized and I have it all in one place. We also use the Alaska Airlines app on our phones, so we can in check in advance (and try to score a First Class upgrade) and use the Eticket for security and boarding. Since I use windows phone, Cortana automatically does flight time tracking, and warns us if there is traffic on the way to the airport.

Most people don’t need as much stuff as I carry. I keep trying to strike a balance between stuff and space, and stuff seems to win. I need to check the dimensions of the seat and some of my bags at home, and will readjust my gear to match for our next trip.