Getting ready to start off vacation season, are we? Depending on your method of transportation, length of stay, and luggage capacity, you may need to enforce various packaging strategies in order to get your electronics, gadgets, and other basic necessities to travel with you safely. Follow our guide on the most efficient way to get your gears ready to go and you’re on your way to a hassle-free vacation… at least in the situations you can control.
Determine your method of transportation
If you are traveling by public transportation, which includes bus, train, or plane, you’ll need to check with the official transportation provider’s rules for what you can and cannot bring on board. Most baggage requirements will ban hazardous materials such as ammunition, firearms, and explosives, to name a few. But even popular providers may have a restriction on larger electronics. Greyhound, for example, prohibits laptops and other electronics as checked baggage, so you will need to take the items with you on board. The Transportation Security Administration will allow full size electronics, but they’ll have to be screened separately. We will cover packing these items later in the article.
Of course, if you are driving, you are exempt from these rules as long as whatever you’re bringing fits in the car, is legal to carry, and doesn’t need to be temperature-controlled. Just remember when you’re loading the back that you should make some room for the rear view mirror to see through the back.
Pick your most essential gears
The number one travel rule to always keep in mind is to pack lightly. Do you really need your Xbox 360 with you on this trip? Why bother going on a vacation if you’re gonna spend it inside playing games? Is that portable stove top necessary, or will your hotel provide a kitchenette for your cooking needs?
Select the essentials and leave it at that: Cellphone, camera, laptop, and their respective chargers. We’ll let the Nintendo DS pass if you promise your luggage has room for it.
Double check international voltage and plug information
Different parts of the world use different voltage and plug types. I’ve personally gone on a trip to Thailand and plugged in my American-bought battery charger without looking at the voltage information and ultimately shocked the charger into oblivion. Seriously, that thing smoked — there was no hope of revival. Don’t let this kind of carelessness happen to you.
Voltage information can be found in the fine imprint or label under most battery packs or power supply packs. American appliances run on 110 volts while Europe and Asia supply 220 to 240 volts of electricity. However, if your gear is labeled “110-240 V,” consider yourself good to go; newer appliances are made to be dual-voltage so you won’t need an adapter. If this isn’t the case, get yourself one of those silly adapters to make your items capable of charge. Many of them also come with surge protection as well.
Once you have voltage information down, you should also get yourself an adapter for different plug types. American gadgets run on either the two flat prongs or three prongs (two flat, one circular), but they only get more exotic once you go abroad. Bulky universal plug adapters are fairly inexpensive but they are quite small so don’t forget to pack or leave them behind after use.
If you’re in a big group with a lot of gadgets that all need juicing nightly, consider bringing a portable outlet as well. You don’t want everyone fighting for the one outlet in the wall to charge their iPhones. If everyone own iPhones, supply an extra set of USB wire or a portable dock.
Pack neatly and efficiently!
The airport is the only place where your bags will get screened before being allowed to board. To avoid the surprise of your bag being torn open because it looks like something weird is in there, remember to pack in layers. Instead of tossing everything into your luggage, layer the items neatly so the TSA officials can clearly see what each item is supposed to be.
To keep wires neat, roll the cords into ovals and use the ends to tie in the middle. Rubber bands, velcro, and wire twist ties will also work. Alternatively, recycle empty toilet paper rolls by wrapping the cords around the cardboard tube. Secure the roll by looping the final strand across perpendicularly; the handle of the plug should keep the cord in place. You can also separate small cords, chargers, and battery packs with clear plastic zipper bags and label the front so you know exactly where and what everything is.
As mentioned earlier, larger electronic items will need to be screened separately. If you’re traveling with one checked baggage, it may be wise to pack your clothes at the bottom and leave the gears up top so you can quickly remove them for their individual X-rays. You also don’t want the gadgets to shift in the bag, so be sure to pack tightly. You can separate each electronic with rolled up shirts, or make use of bubble wraps and foam inserts.
Most large luggage bags have a front zipper compartment where you can put additional items. This is a great place to stuff shirts, sweaters, socks, and other soft items to add extra cushion to the gears that are sitting right under the front surface of the bag. When you’re done packing, weigh it to make sure it doesn’t go above the restriction.
For carry-on items, remember that laptops need to come out of the bag, so have yours separated and ready to go instead of jumbled with all the other stuff in your backpack. Use laptop sleeves or bags with a separate laptop compartment for easy access and added protection.
If you have sensitive film, don’t be afraid to tell the officers so you won’t get your items destroyed by the X-rays. Just get to the check point early to leave time for hand inspection.
At the airport
If you are traveling by air, you may consider locking your bag in case the item gets misplaced. However, stuff happens and the TSA may want to see what’s inside your luggage anyway. Travel Sentry and Safe Skies offer combination-type locks that are compatible with the TSA’s equipments. Locks with keys are fine, too, but they may experience damage should the TSA need to break it to get through. Make sure to tag your baggage with your name, address, and contact information as well.
Lastly, don’t forget that you will also be going through the scanning process before boarding. Remember to remove jewelry, belts, keys, and handheld gadgets from your pockets before stepping through and you’ll save everyone a lot of time. Happy travels!
Top Image Credit: Flickr / Richard Moross