When packing for a flight over the holidays, don't become a slave to your electronics gear. Wherever you're headed and whomever you're seeing, you're really not paying those holiday high season premiums to stare at the same old screen that's a fixture of daily life at home. Here are several tips for staying connected while traveling this winter.
Pack appropriately for domestic flights
Place your essential gear in your carry-on bag. While some recommend using your suitcase, or even the zipper compartment of your checked bag, it might be risky. Theft, damage, and lost luggage are real enough risks. Remember that laptops must be removed from your carry-on at security, so put it in a protective sleeve and pack it last, at the top of the bag for easy access.
Don't forget the chargers
Most everyone puts a laptop on their must-have checklist. The charger is an absolutely essential accessory, for which you want to have a last minute double-check. You cannot go wrong with an extra charger to replace the one you may leave at Aunt Betty's.
Choose one: tablet or eReader
Discipline yourself; choose just one: the laptop, tablet or eReader. Otherwise, you may have to leave gifts for the family behind. Airlines' weight restrictions and checked baggage fees will be strictly enforced over the holidays, lines will be long, and extra stress at check-in is just no fun.
Bring a smartphone with camera
Leave the digital camera behind and rely on your phone camera. You can upload straight onto Facebook or deal with sharing photos later. Don't overlook the phone charger and don't pack it in your checked suitcase. Again, a spare never hurts.
Find the WiFi
If staying in a hotel, have an extra USB cable which can also be used for charging external devices. Many hotels have free WiFi throughout the premises, others have paid access only. Either way, the network is not secure, so make sure you have a firewall installed as well as updated antivirus software. If staying at a private home, ask for the WiFi network key so you can log into from any room in the house.
Don't forget about roaming charges overseas
Contact your provider, tell them you're going abroad, and ask how to avoid roaming charges. Depending on your plan, provider, and destination, it can be cheaper to buy a pre-loaded SIM card at your destination.
Remember that talking to fellow travelers once you touch down will result in high fees; install Skype on one or more of your devices. If you're into tweets, a direct message on Twitter is a no-cost alternative, as is LinkedIn for business-related talk.
Stock up on travel planning apps
Tripit, WorldMate, Currency Converter, Google Translate are among the free apps that will prove helpful while abroad. WorldMate syncs all reservations, reminds about flights, terminals, rental cars, hotel reservations and even prompts deals in cities on your itinerary.