Essential road-warrior travel technology for geeks
I have spent a lot of time travelling for work during the first half of 2019, and am starting to perfect the perfect grab bag of technology to make my work and leisure time out of the office more useful, productive and fun.
You need to judge what you’ll be doing, where you are going, and how much spare time you’ll have. Don’t bring a 3DS and a Switch if you are going for three days and know you’ll be out every night. Consider wether you really need your laptop AND your iPad - the iPad always loses. Every gram counts when you’re on the move, so make it count and consolidate as much as you can.
USB C Multi Charger (Macbook Pro Compatible) + Another USB Charger
To cut down on the number of cables, and adapters you need; you should look at buying a USB C charger for your laptop (if your laptop charges via USB-C) that also has USB A ports. I bought an ‘Engergea’ adapter at Duty Free in Singpore earlier this year, and it works great for my 2017 Macbook Pro. It also supports QC3 so can fast charge my phone. This product isn’t available in the UK, but there is a product which is identical except for the brand available here.
I also have an Anker 5 port USB charger that I carry, so that I can leave one permantanly in the hotel room whilst the other can come to the office with me.
International Power Adapters / Leads
Travel Adapters suck. If you can, get a figure 8 cable for the above charger that has the local plug for your destination as well as one or two relevant travel adapters. This will save you pain later when one inevitably fails on you.
Double check the voltage of your equipment against your destination so you don’t accidentally fry anything. Generally most usb chargers will be 110/230V compatible, and this site can help you.
Travel Router - Gl iNet Mobile Router
This tiny USB powered travel router runs OpenWRT and lets you create your own secure Wifi hotspot. Simply connect it to the wifi at your remote office, or hotel and then your devices connect to it. No more spending ages reconfiguring wifi every time you move.
It can also create an openVPN tunnel that works great with Private Internet Access, but I would recommend buying a faster router with more resources if you plan on using the tunnel a lot whilst streaming or gaming.
It worked fantastic on hotel wifi when combined with a Chromecast on my last trip.
Chromecast is normally a bad idea when travelling and using public wifi. By design, anyone on your network can control your stream and fuck with you by pausing your stream and changing the volume.
Chromecast plus a portable travel router is a much better idea. Easily stream Netflix, Youtube etc with minimal fuss. I need to test Netflix using a non-public VPN to see if that works; but all the major VPN providers are blocked by netflix now.
Nintendo Switch + Portable Dock
No better way of wasting some down time than video games, and there is no better way to play games when your travelling than the Nintendo Switch. The switch has a nice variety of ‘proper’ console quality games + niche indie games. Combined with a portable travel dock (using the electrical guts from a spare dock) it makes a great addition to your trip. Portable mode for playing in the pub, docked mode back at your room or in the meeting room. Maybe…
Watch out for third party docks, and chargers as they can cause problems with charging the switch leading to potential bricks. I 3D printed a case for a spare dock from my wife’s switch that she never uses and bring along an official switch power adapter so it is effectively using a ‘real switch dock’ without any of the bulk.
Bose Soundtouch Micro
I bought a Bose Soundtouch Micro recently on a trip to the Middle East as I wanted better sound than my macbook or phone could give. I don’t have it too loud (because I am not an arsehole) but it gives very nice sound at reasonable volume for any hotel room or aparthotel sized space. It also sounds great for podcasts. Be warned that whilst it has a microphone, I can’t get this to work for Skype or Whatsapp calls on Android Pie (Samsung Galaxy Note 8) which is annoying. Also, bear in mind this speaker is bluetooth only and has no auxillary input.
Video Adapters + Cables
Once you embrace the USB C life (see above point about laptop chargers), you will never have enough dongles. I have two USB-C to HDMI cables, plus a HDMI coupler (a few quid on eBay) in case you need to connect to a HDMI lead trailing from the projector or TV.
Make sure you have a USB-C to VGA adapter too in case you end up in meeting rooms from the past. It happens. A lot. Or buy a laptop with actually useful connections. Everyone will laugh at you every time you need to use a dongle to connect to something. They’re just jealous.
Plus you’ll need a standard HDMI cable for your Switch dock too!
You’ll be taking a ton of chargers, video leads, dongles and more with you. Invest in some oversized pencil cases to keep your crap tidy. I use one for my laptop charging gear, and another for everything else. Mostly this means I do not end up with a giant spaghetti mess of cables at my destination!