At Home with Tech

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Tag: travel tips

5 Packing Tips for Your Tech When Traveling Overseas

When you’re packing your carry-on bag, here are a few tips to help you focus on the tech you really need to bring along. (Or you can ask your cat.)

My family and I just got back from a fun holiday in London. In preparing for our trip overseas, I asked myself two questions to help decide what technology to pack.

  • How much tech do I really have to bring along?
  • How am I going to protect it?

Of course, you really don’t want to pack anything more than you need. That said, if you want to play with some of your gear while on vacation…well, isn’t that what vacations are for?!

So, it’s a balancing act of sorts.

If you find yourself confronting similar questions, here’s one traveler’s tech packing list to consider…

Portable Power Strip and Surge Protector
It’s likely you won’t have access to as many power outlets in your room as you’d like. Bringing along a portable power strip will certainly help you get all of your tech powered and charged up overnight. And electrical surge protection is a really good idea when you’re staying in a strange place. Finally, make sure the unit can handle different voltage standards.

Compact Portable Charger to Throw into Your Day Pack for On-the-Go Power Back Up
You certainly don’t want your smartphone to choke when you’re traveling through a long day in an unfamiliar land!

New SDXC Memory Card for Your Camera
Yes, standalone compact cameras can still get certain shots that a smartphone will have trouble with… especially in low light.

  • SanDisk Extreme Pro SDXC UHS-1 Card, 64GB
    $20.49 on Amazon Prime
    (Sure, you can manually delete videos and photos from your existing SD card to free up space for your trip. But for only twenty bucks, you can start with a fresh card that’s instantly ready to store as many media files as you can possibly create on your trip!)

Portable, Battery-Operated Carbon Monoxide Detector
You never know, right? If you’re not sure if your room has one of these, it makes sense to pack this.

RFID-Blocking Passport Wallet to Prevent Data Skimming
There’s some controversy as to whether you really need this level of protection, but I say better safe than sorry.

Additional Packing Prep to Consider…

Do You Need a Voltage Converter?
Of course, you’ll need to bring adapters to fit electrical outlets when you’re traveling overseas. England uses Type G electrical plugs, and the voltage in the sockets is 230v.

Since the voltage in U.S. power outlets is 120v, consider the need to take a voltage converter in addition to your plug adapters.

The battery chargers for all of the mobile tech I pack happen to all work in dual voltage modes… 100 – 240 volts.
(Listed on the battery charger in really small print.)

So, I didn’t need to bring a voltage converter to England.
(But the power strip I brought still required plug adapters.)

Add International Service to Your Wireless Plan
My iPhone has AT&T Wireless service. The easiest way to adjust my AT&T plan while overseas is to go with the $10/day “International Day Pass.”

For the ten bucks, you’re essentially mimicking the same plan as you use when you’re home in the United States. You don’t have to worry about data limits or the threat of any additional usage costs. It may not be the cheapest way to use your phone internationally, but I still think it’s a great deal to give your smartphone full functionality.

Bring All of Your Gear Home
It may be an obvious point, but don’t leave any of your expensive tech behind! Stay organized and keep track of all of the little support pieces like battery chargers and cables.

And when you get home, make sure you quickly get to work organizing and sharing the photos and videos you shot on your trip. Family and friends want to see them!

Happy travels!

One Los Angeles Trip in Photos Through My Child’s Eyes

This wasn’t exactly a traditional vacation, but when my son and I flew to Los Angeles to meet up with my wife, I took notes on which family activities my boy found especially appealing. Here are my findings…

I recently took my 8-year-old son to California to hang out in Los Angeles for a few days. And while there are a countless number of ways to enjoy the City of Angels, we hit a few of the more obvious landmarks and experiences. But when you’re traveling with children, you may be surprised which moments resonate and which ones fall flat.

Of course, I snapped a bunch of photos. I think the eight below capture our winning moments (some unintended) and those which unexpectedly underperformed.
(Disclaimer: Individual experiences will absolutely vary!)

Window Washer ‘Wake Up-Call’

We woke up one morning to a window washer outside our 43rd story hotel window at 6AM. My son’s response: Curiosity and delight

A Movie Theater in the Hotel Elevator

There were short, ‘experimental’ movies showing on vertical LED screens in the elevators. (They weren’t ads.) My son’s response: Intrigued with this unusual opportunity to experience micro ‘screen time.’ No popcorn, though…

Summer Solstice Sunset

We went to the Griffith Observatory to watch the summer solstice sunset along with dozens of excited people from around the world. It was incredible!

My son’s response: It’s just another sunset. (Let’s give him time.)

Kidspace Children’s Museum

It’s a great ‘play center’ that should capture the imaginations of most kids with both indoor and outdoor activities. My son’s response: Great climbing opportunities!

King Tut Exhibit

We visited the “King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” exhibit at the California Science Center. My son’s response: Awesome! (His interest was especially piqued because he’s been reading Rick Riordon’s “The Kane Chronicles” series.)

Space Shuttle Endeavor

This retired orbiter is also at the California Science Center. I have to admit that when we arrived, I could barely contain myself at the prospect of seeing an actual Space Shuttle. So, I made a beeline to the Endeavor first. My son’s response: “It’s okay, but when are we going to see King Tut?!”

Swimming in the Pacific Ocean

We had the opportunity to hang out with friends at the beach near the Santa Monica Pier and take a dip in the Pacific Ocean. My son’s response: Home run!

Enjoy La-La Land
If you’re looking for battle-tested ideas on what do in L.A. as a tourist with your family, this is certainly not the definitive ‘list.’ It’s just one family’s experience. That said, if you found any of this helpful… I’m happy to have been of assistance!

How to Prep Your Tech for a Vacation to Europe

The last thing you want when you’re on vacation is frustration with your tech. Either you leave it all at home and go off the grid or do some easy prep…

Bon Dia! My family and I are back from our little trip to Barcelona, and as you might expect, I ran across a few learnings that might be useful for your next holiday overseas…

Eight Tech Tips to Make Your Tech Work For You in Spain

Before You Leave, Download Media for Local Viewing on Your iPad
I discovered that certain streaming video services didn’t work overseas. Amazon Prime Video failed the test. But Netflix worked like a champ! Before we left and without knowing which apps would work for sure, I downloaded a few episodes of my son’s current favorite video series… Amazon’s “Gortimer Gibbons Life on Normal Street.”
(My hedge paid off.)

Not All Streaming Music Apps will Work Either
Pretty much the same story as video apps. Pandora choked in Barcelona, but Amazon Music worked just fine.
(I brought along my portable Logitech Bluetooth speaker to stream some local tunes during my morning coffee.)

Avoid 3% Currency Conversion Fee When You Use Your Credit Card
The way to do that is pay in ‘Dollars’ instead of ‘Euros.’ I found that many of my MasterCard transactions in Barcelona offered the choice. You just have to tap the ‘Dollars’ option on the mobile terminal when it’s offered. (And sometimes for some reason, it wasn’t.)
Thank you, Mastercard for the suggestion.
(I had called customer service before I left to let Mastercard know I would be using the card in Barcelona.)

Don’t Forget to Bring Your Earphones Onboard for Airplane Screen Time
I think by now… most planes that offer seatback monitor viewing are outfitted to use standard mini audio jacks. So your EarPods will work just fine. In fact, they’re a far superior option than using the free earbuds the airlines hand out with your free drink and snack.
(Actually, Delta fed us very nicely… and the stewardess also gave our son his very own Delta wings!)

Clear Up Space on Your Smartphone for Vacation Photos and Videos
One quick way to find large files to remove is to delete a movie or two you’ve previously downloaded from the cloud.
(You can always reload them later.)
You really don’t want to run out of room on your smartphone when you’re snapping that amazing photo of la Sagrada Familia.








Take an Extra Memory Card for Your Camera
If you also carry a separate camera beyond the one in your smartphone, (good for you!) the same rules apply as above. You don’t want your camera to run out of space either! Better yet… treat yourself and start with a brand new memory card! You’ve spent how much on your plane tickets? I say add an extra twenty bucks into your budget for a fresh flash card!

Bring Portable Power to Keep Your Mobile Gear Going
Why risk it? Power stick for your smartphone. Extra battery for your camera. It’s a practical move but also designed to relieve stress. You’re on vacation… right?!

Don’t Forget to Get Your Smartphone an International Plan Before You Leave
If you don’t, your next mobile bill is going to shock you. Alternatively, I don’t recommend hobbling your smartphone and only using the occasional free Wi-Fi hotspot to check in with your world. Again… you’re on vacation! Enjoy your smartphone if you want. Give it full access and stay connected.
(I signed up for the International Day Pass plan for $10/day from @AT&T.)

Release Your Photos!
And when you get back from your big trip, I’ve got one more suggestion for you…

Start sharing your pictures!
(People don’t care about last year’s vacation!)

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