As a snowstorm hits the NYC area, we are wishing for spring and thinking about planning a summer getaway. But of course we never go anywhere without having all our tech gear with us! Here’s a shortlist of cool and useful items for traveling with your Mac, whether for business or pleasure.
Probably the most important decision is which bag to get, to carry your MacBook and power cables and assorted supplies. Ivan loves his InCase backpack, it has lots of room for the laptop plus all the other necessary items for a day of tech work, and it’s held up beautifully over the years.
We haven’t used Brenthaven but have heard only raves about quality. Plus they have shoulder bags, backpacks, and other options. And these bags are sturdy enough to withstand all the rigors of airport security.
Booq allows you to select your bag based on MacBook size, and they carry shoulder bags, briefcase-style bags, and backpacks. They definitely have a cool New York sensibility.
If you’re like us, you like to have all your various cables in one little bag, so they don’t get tangled and jumbled among your notebooks and pens and magazines. These micro-mesh pouches are perfect and inexpensive, get a few and use them to store all kinds of mini items in your laptop bag, $3 each.
Air travel has its miseries these days, but let’s not forget that there are a few positive changes. Many planes are now offering onboard wi-fi service! And watching a movie on the laptop is always preferable to the bland “in-flight entertainment” the airlines present.
Buy yourself a cable for in-flight power so you never run out of juice while aboard. Here’s Apple’s cable for all MacBooks (including Air and Pro): Apple MagSafe Airline Adapter, $50
But the airline power cable doesn’t do any good if your seat has no power supply nearby! Go to Seat Guru to get info on each seat, each plane, each airline. It tells you which seats have power outlets, which seats don’t recline, which ones are near the bathroom, and lots of other tips. We check this site religiously before choosing airline seats.
Noise-cancelling headphones aren’t necessarily a must-have in the air, but they do make for a more peaceful trip, especially when listening to music on the flight. We like Sennheiser for quality of sound.
At the hotel (or in your friend’s spare bedroom)
We don’t know why hotel rooms never have enough power outlets for you to charge all your electronics. Usually there’s one outlet tucked away in the corner and that’s it. So now we travel with our own extension cords. We’re really excited to buy this Belkin mini-surge protector with 3 outlets plus 2 USB charger slots, so we can plug in everything at once. Yes, the USB slots mean you can charge up your iPhone, iPod, and other items directly, no need to plug them into the laptop or bringing along the separate wall charger. $25.
And if you’re overseas, you’ll need a prong converter too. Remember most tech can charge fine on 110-220, so you don’t need a voltage converter (but check to make sure you don’t fry your gadgets). Our favorite is this one from Kikkerland, we’ve used it for years. It’s designed in Japan, it’s the tiniest one on the market and works in every country, costs only $14. Kensington makes an a nice adapter too, slightly larger, at $20.
Playing your own music in the hotel room always makes it feel like home. Mini speakers can plug into your MacBook or your iPod or iPhone, or connect via Bluetooth. They won’t give you the bass that larger speakers do, but many are powered by a rechargeable battery that charges over USB. Check Amazon or Apple or Best Buy.
Another item that can come in handy is a USB hub, if you want to plug multiple items into your computer at once. Here’s a basic Belkin travel model for $15. Or if you want something more charming, here’s a USB hub that looks like a little person, and plugs into the wall for extra power, $28.
For typing in bed while watching TV (always a favorite pastime in hotel rooms), consider a USB light that plugs into your keyboard so you can see all the keys as you type. This one has an LED and a flexible neck so it can point anywhere, $10.
If you bring your camera on all your trips, like we do, you’ll want to bring a little USB card reader, so you can easily upload all your photos to your Mac. There are lots out there, at low prices–here’s one that is small and reads every possible memory card: IOGear 12-in-1 USB memory card reader, $10
For the road warrior
If you’re away from home a lot of the time, and need a constant wi-fi internet connection, a new device called a MiFi is a great investment. It’s the size of a large credit card, and it provides broadband service to up to 5 computers within a 5-foot range (so you and your co-workers can all use it at once). Charge it up for 4 hours of continuous usage.
Sprint MiFi, regularly $300, now free with a 2-year contract for broadband (about $60/month)
Verizon MiFi, $50 plus 2-year contract for broadband (about $40-$60/month)
Or you can purchase it outright from Verizon for $270, and pay a daily rate of $15 only on the days you use it.
In case of emergency
In case you need to back up a file, or give a document to somebody on the spot, or your MacBook can’t hook up to the projector for your important presentation, it’s a good idea to carry around a USB “thumb” or “flash” drive. You can find these at Amazon or Best Buy for $10 and up, depending on storage capability.
Or go fancy with Mimobot drives that look like Darth Vader, Princess Leia, or C3PO, 4GB for $35.