At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: travel

How to Keep Track of your Tech while Traveling

If you sometimes worry about losing your gear on the road, you’re not alone. Here are five ways to help lower those odds.

My family and I have happily returned to vacation travel across this past year. We started in February with a little skiing at Bousquet Mountain in Massachusetts, then visited New Orleans over spring break, relaxed in Maine in June and of course, we just got back from our great trip to the Southwest and Grand Canyon.

And while it’s not too complicated to throw some clothes in a bag and board a plane, it is important to remember that bringing your tech along requires more attention if you want it all to come back with you.

If you misplace a shirt, that’s probably not deal breaker. A missing piece of gear can really ruin your day.

What are the Odds Some of Your Tech Won’t Make It Back?
Let’s face it. Losing your gear on the road is surprisingly easy to do. There are plenty of ways to inadvertently part with your expensive gadgets and their accessories.

  • Chargers and Power Cables
    How many times have you left behind your smartphone charger or laptop power cable plugged into 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
Much like over packing clothing for a trip, we also have a tendency to travel with too many gadgets. (I surely do.) So, one solution is simply to leave the tech behind that you can do without.

  • 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.

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. 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 right place.

2. 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 up your smartphone next.

More importantly, that also means you don’t need to spontaneously set up a portable charging station at the nearest outlet. And you don’t need to pull out unnecessary gear while looking for your charging plugs. Exposing all of your items in public is never a good idea.

These days you can store a power stick that’s not much larger than a pack of gum.

It’s worth it.

3. 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.

I always feel a sense of dread as all of my pocketed gear disappears down the conveyor belt in bins to be scanned. Yes, I’ve always gotten it all back, but you never know about the next time.

Reposition as much digital paraphernalia as you can into your carry-on bag.

4. 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 a work trip years ago, 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 walked past your own X-ray body scan experience. That way you’ll be close by to rescue your laptop if a bin jam becomes imminent.

5. 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 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?

Pay Attention!
It all comes down to spending the time to pack your gear properly, keeping it with you as much as possible and having a plan when the unexpected happens.

Alternately, just don’t take it. Sometimes, less is more.

Good luck!

Pro Packing Tips for your Vacation Tech

Joining this Colgate University reunion torchlight ceremony with hundreds of other alumni after a two-year delay was especially meaningful. Packing my tech for this weekend trip took a bit longer than I expected. If it’s been a while since your last vacation, you might also need a refresher on packing your gear. Here are my top tips…

Going on vacation again with my family after more than two years into this pandemic has been amazing. Our recent New Orleans trip and drive to our college reunion weekend both felt like the good old days.

But my packing powers were a bit rusty. Sure, I brought the right clothes (mostly), but when it came to certain peripheral supports for my tech, I didn’t score 100%.

If you feel you could also benefit from a few reminders, here are my pro packing tips for your tech.

Remember to Take a Small Power Strip
It’s rare to find enough plugs in your room to charge your tech when you’re on vacation. I find it especially helpful to set up a charging station using a small power strip with a short extension cord. (Plus, it’s so easy to pack.)

The mini power strip also keeps all of your charging cables in one place and reduces the chance that you’ll leave anything behind.

Carry a Peak Design Backpack as a Personal Item on your Flight
If you’re planning on flying with your camera and travel tripod, and you want to pack it into a bag that will fit under the plane seat in front of you (as a personal item), you’d better pull out a tape measure and start measuring dimensions. No matter what, it’s going to be tight!

For our New Orleans vacation, I bought a Peak Design V2 30L Everyday Backpack. It just barely squeezed in on board both flights, but it did! (phew)

And then this knapsack was the perfect travel companion on my back as we walked about New Orleans.

Pack a Thermos with Tomorrow Morning’s Coffee
I’m an early riser and always like to have my first cup of coffee as soon as I get up. If you’ve driven somewhere where breakfast doesn’t start for another hour or two, you might be out of luck finding an immediate cup of Joe. But not if you already have your coffee with you!

I brewed a pot of Peet’s Major Dickenson’s coffee right before we drove to our Colgate reunion, poured it into my hi-tech Yeti thermos and then packed it in the car. Early, the next morning, I unscrewed the top of the thermos, lifted it to my face and was delighted to still sense faint warmth. No, my coffee wasn’t at all hot anymore, but it was absolutely fine for this need.

Use your Apple Watch as a Silent Wake-Up Alarm
If you’re thinking of ditching your Apple Watch on your next family trip, don’t!

Whenever my family is sleeping in the same room on vacation, I don’t want to wake everyone up with my early alarm on my iPhone. That’s when I continue to wear my Apple Watch during the overnight hours. Its silent, vibration-only morning alarm is perfect for this purpose. A little haptic action on my wrist is all I need to start my day.

One thing… I normally charge up my Apple Watch at night. So if that doesn’t happen, I have to remember to immediately do it before breakfast.

Bring your Apple TV
If you want your hotel room TV to mirror the streaming options on your home TV, packing your little Apple TV puck just might do the trick. Just connect your Apple TV to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and the TV’s HDMI cable.

I’ve found this kind of MacGyver maneuver works best with less advanced hotel Wi-Fi systems that don’t require signing in with anything more than a password. If you’ve got to first navigate through a hotel web portal to sign in, the Apple TV will get stuck.

Write Down your Streaming Apps’ Passwords
If you don’t end up taking your streaming puck on vacation, you might be surprised to find one already connected to your hotel room TV. (That’s what we found in our New Orleans B&B.) If that’s the case, all you have to do is sign into your streaming accounts. Of course, you’ll need your passwords for that!

And when you’re packing up to leave, don’t forget to sign out of your streaming apps!

Travel Back to the Future
Going on vacation again can be a big step towards returning to the normal patterns of life. And if playing with your tech is part of your vacation fun, then I say bring it and enjoy!

Kid-Friendly Vacation Activities in New Orleans

Traveling to New Orleans doesn’t have to be all about Bourbon Street. I’ve got a few tips from our family trip.

New Orleans is actually a great place to take your family on a little vacation. We traveled there over spring break and really enjoyed exploring the city, learning about its history, listening to jazz, and of course eating all of that great food. It didn’t hurt that the French Quarter Festival happened to be going on during our last couple of days.

A key ingredient to our vacation’s success was doing a lot of our exploration on foot. That’s the way to really get a good sense of a city. As my sixth grader, wife and I all enjoy a good hike, it wasn’t a problem racking up some serious city-walking mileage.

If you’re considering a similar adventure and one that specifically avoids Bourbon Street, here are a few of our own highlights. A big shout out goes to my wife for doing the research to identify these peak experiences.

Spooky Family Ghost Tour by Unique NOLA Tours
We learned about the many ghosts haunting houses in the French Quarter. And along the way, we also got a nice New Orleans history lesson. It’s important to have a great storyteller as a guide, and we got really lucky with Dane Rhodes. He’s a local actor who’s been in a variety of movies in small roles. He told our tour group that his claim to fame was we’ve probably seen a movie on TV with his face exploding. Enough said.

Crescent Bike Tour by Buzz Nola
The only limitation to a good walking tour is you can only travel so far. The solution is to expand your reach on a bicycle. This three-hour bike tour took us to the amazing City Park and its live oak trees, the beautiful riverfront as well as Cemetery #3, where we learned about the complex process of managing generations of family members in above-ground tombs.

Audubon Park in the Garden District
To expand your view even further, you can jump on the St. Charles Streetcar and head out to the beautiful Garden District and Audubon Park near Tulane and Loyola universities. (The Audubon Zoo is also in the park, though we didn’t take the time to go there.)

A super lunch spot a few blocks outside the park is Tartine at 7217 Perrier Street.

Cajun Encounters Swamp Tour
If you really want to get out of town, then a swamp tour 45 minutes outside of the city is a worthwhile half-day excursion. (A bus picks you up in the French Quarter.) If you’re looking to see some alligators and other cool wildlife up close, this is the perfect boat tour.

HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast
There are plenty of hotel options in New Orleans, but staying at a bed and breakfast really enhanced our experience. We loved our time at the HH Whitney House Bed and Breakfast just northwest of the French Quarter. (We had a two bedroom suite with a private bath.)

It’s located at 1923 Esplanade Avenue (about a 25 minute walk to the center of the French Quarter) and run by Glen Miller.

Beyond enjoying a fantastic home-cooked breakfast each morning, we really appreciated Glen’s hospitality and recommendations for where to go and what to do. Not that you can’t do your own research, but it was so great having a home base with someone looking out for you. By the end of our five days in New Orleans, it felt like we were staying with a close friend. Glen is simply fabulous.

Bring your Camera!
Finally, no vacation is complete without the opportunity to spend some time taking photos. And of course, New Orleans offered plenty of visuals for me to capture.





Time to Dust off your Luggage

After two years of relative isolation during the pandemic and really three years since our last family trip by plane, it felt so energizing jetting to Louisiana and exploring a different part of our country with my family.

Two final recommendations:
Praline Beignets from Loretta’s
Café au Lait from Café Du Monde

Yum.

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