Five Tips to Not Lose Your Tech While Traveling
I was in Buffalo last week on a work-related video project.
(Yes, it was snowing in Buffalo.)
On the last day, we drove to Niagara Falls to get some beauty shots.
I must say the American Falls looked especially beautiful half frozen.
(The Horseshoe Falls was mostly obscured in fog.)
We also spent some time in town doing some additional videotaping.
The frozen urban environment didn’t feel quite as quaint with steady snowfall and a stiff wind confronting us.
So between shots, we ducked inside a building to warm up while we planned our next move.
And we broke a cardinal video production rule.
We left a piece of our gear outside unattended.
No, it wasn’t anything really expensive, like the camera.
It was a lowly wooden Apple Box.
No, not an apple fruit box… though it does look like one.
(And no, it’s not some Apple computer packaging either!)
It’s simply a sturdy wooden box.
More like a little platform, it’s used to position someone or something up a few inches.
(A couple inches can make all the difference when you’re looking to tweak a shot!)
Our inside huddle lasted only four minutes.
But when we emerged, the Apple Box was gone.
We looked at each other uneasily, as we were also guilty of breaking a really basic rule our mothers had taught us decades earlier.
Then, an innocent bystander walked up and said he had seen the perp pick up the clipped item.
And he pointed in the direction the thief was walking.
He also mentioned it looked like the guy was part of group of five or so.
By this point, they were a few blocks away, just out of my visual range.
We each considered the situation.
To me, it was clear running after our bandit wasn’t the right move.
It seemed risky. We could run into a confrontation with a superior force.
The look on other faces suggested a similar conclusion.
But our consensus was not unanimous.
One bold soul jumped to action.
Declaring the rest of us wimps, our hero launched a rescue mission.
Our fasted vehicle powered up, and it roared off in hot pursuit.
The rest of us stared for a moment, flecks of snow falling on our gaping jaws.
I eventually jumped in my car and brought up the rear.
By the time I arrived, the incursion was over.
The Apple Box had been rescued.
The opposition had not been five muscular men.
It was just one older gentleman, who had fallen on hard times and innocently picked up an item he thought had been abandoned.
It was just a matter of confronting the truth of the moment.
The retrieval ended up being an easy one.
Boy, did I have egg on my face.
And I didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the trip!
Odds Are Some of Your Tech Won’t Make It Back
Let’s face it. Losing your gear on the road is surprisingly easy to do.
You may not be dumb enough to leave it on the street while you talk about where to go for lunch.
But there are plenty of ways to inadvertently part with your expensive gadgets and their accessories.
- Secondary Smartphone
Many of us are forced to juggle more than one smartphone for work and home.
If that’s the case, you may not be paying as much attention to the secondary unit while on a trip.
(Like if you’re on vacation and not looking at your work BlackBerry very often)
That scenario can easily lead you to miss the unfortunate fact your smartphone has suddenly gone MIA.
- Chargers and Power Cables
How many times have you left behind your smartphone charger or laptop power cable plugged into the outlet under the desk in your hotel room?
- Lens Cap
And if your DSLR’s lens cap is not tethered to your camera’s lens, it’s constantly pulling a Houdini, right?
You Won’t Lose It If You Don’t Have It
My simple advice is just don’t take any tech you can do without.
Much like over packing clothing for a trip, we also have a tendency to travel with too many gadgets.
Don’t take that laptop if a tablet will do.
Don’t take the tablet if your smartphone can handle the job.
Sure, many hotel rooms are now equipped with mini safes.
And laptops are small enough these days to jam into these tiny vaults.
But then you’ve got to remember to clear out the safe before you leave.
(And no matter what, isn’t it always a rush?)
Maybe you won’t forget the laptop, but what’s hidden behind it might get missed with a hurried exit plan.
Five Ways to Hold onto Your Tech on the Road
But if you absolutely must bring it, here are five tips to help you increase the odds you’ll come home with all your precious tech gear and accessories-
1. Protect Your Smartphone like ‘Renegade’ or ‘Trailblazer’
The Secret Service has code names for its presidents.
(Renegade for Obama and Trailblazer for George W)
Yes, you can lockdown your smartphone with a code.
Yes, you can track it.
(Up to a point)
Yes, you can remotely wipe the memory.
(The Secret Service can’t do that yet. Right?)
Yes, you can even change all your passwords just to be totally safe.
But you really shouldn’t need to act like a Secret Service agent to protect your smartphone.
I know this is obvious, but I say treat your smartphone like your wallet.
People do lose their wallets, but usually you can devote enough brainpower to maintaining track of it, right?
Bad things happen, but a little vigilance can go a long way to keep your smartphone at your side.
2. Use the Right Carry-On Bag
Keep your tech with you at all times.
Assume an 800-pound gorilla will be jumping on your stowed luggage.
So bring a carry-on bag with distinct compartments and keep each piece of tech in its designated position. Then take a moment to memorize where everything belongs.
That way, you’ll be able to quickly scan if all your digital tools are in their rightful place.
3. Have Power in a Pinch
It’s always nice to bring a little backup power in your bag, while you’re going about your day. That way, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll be juicing your smartphone next.
More importantly, that also means you’re not putting any of your kit and kaboodle at risk of being left behind, while your charging up behind enemy lines.
These days you can store a power stick that’s not much larger than a pack of gum.
4. Keep Your Pockets Light at Security
When going through airport security, it’s always such a fire drill to get everything back on your body before rushing to the gate.
Reposition as much digital paraphernalia as you can into your carry-on bag.
5. Watch Your Laptop Like a Hawk After the X-ray Machine
I’m not talking so much about someone stealing your laptop from its bin while you’re putting your shoes back on. I’m referring to simply protecting it from being harmed.
During my Buffalo trip, I watched in horror as a bin holding a laptop rolled out of the X-ray machine conveyer belt. It got squeezed by a bin jam ahead of it, and then it veered off the rollers, dumping the laptop onto the cold, unforgiving cement surface below.
No, the poor laptop didn’t bust into multiple pieces,
but I’m not so sure how solid its guts were after that kind of spill.
Try to position your laptop bin so it comes out of the X-ray machine soon after you’ve crossed passed through your own X-ray body scan experience.
That way you’ll be close by to rescue your laptop if a bin jam becomes imminent.
Bonus Tip: ID Your Gear
Sometimes, no matter what you do, fate still intervenes.
So when you end up losing a gadget like your tablet or eBook-reader on a plane, in your hotel room, or after a solo lunch at a restaurant… what do you do then?
Well, you’d better leave a trail for someone to find you.
(Like simply taping a business card inside your new iPad case)
If your gear is in lockdown mode, there’s no way for anyone to know it’s yours.
Sure they can do some sleuthing based on your reserved plane seat or hotel room record, but would you want to leave your gadget’s future in the hands of an Inspector Clouseau?
Get That Tech Back Yourself!
And if all else fails, and you’ve accidentally just left some tech behind, make sure you can sprint four hundred yards or have access to some really fast wheels.
It’s been known to work!
Regarding gear that sometimes walks off – back when I worked for Autotote (horse-racing) in 1995 – we went down to Louisville Kentucky to get some interviews & b-roll a few days before the Kentucky Derby.. A big group of us are surrounding a hot-shot trainer and his horse – lots and lots of cameras, press, video and still photogs, etc – a real media circus. After our interview, I turn to the stringer we hired in Louisville – and ask him where the sticks are so that I can carry them for him. He looks around, can’t find them. He points to a Japanese camera crew running as fast as they can a few hundred feet away, running to set up another shot – they mistakenly grabbed our sticks instead of theirs – I run up to them – and with lots of pointing, communicate that they have our sticks, and I have theirs. With much bowing and waving of hands in a international ‘we are very sorry!’ sign language – we exchange sticks – and all is good. (plus ours were a much better brand of sticks that you don’t want to lose!) You never know what can happen on a shoot!
Great story, Gary!
I lost an expensive Anton/Bauer camera battery to a VH1 crew on a location shoot years ago. They took it, thinking it was theirs.
I eventually tracked down the producer, who was named Spock.
She mailed back the battery. It was the logical thing to do.