Wednesday, October 21, 2015

7 tips for flying with kids & electronics

When I first started traveling (sometime in the pterodactyl-era), I didn't even own a cell-phone: no one I knew did. These days, things are very different: when I step on a plane these days, I usually bring not only my cell-phone, but my Kindle and probably my laptop, and my kids bring their tablets, too. Which is a good thing: technology helps us all stay in touch with friends and family, and can definitely help keep kids (and adults) entertained on long flights.

If you're flying with electronic devices, and especially if you're traveling abroad, there are some things to think about: here are 7 of my tips.

1. Check your data plan before you leave
Most people know about this these days, but it is still good to think about ahead of time. Check with your provider how much it will cost you to use mobile data when you're traveling, just so you don't end up with an astronomical bill when you return home. Use wifi when possible (it's available for free in so many places these days, including many hotels, airports and restaurants), and also make sure you've turned off any automatic updates on your device that might cost you.

2. Fully charge all devices before you leave
Seems obvious, but in the stressed-out mayhem that can reign before you go on a trip with your kids, it can be easy to forget charging your devices. Plug them in, and pack them fully-charged. You might still run out of battery power along the way, but at least you're as prepared as you can be. I know from experience that kids can really use up a lot of battery power if you experience a flight delay, or if you're on a long-haul flight.

3. Bring your cables with you - in your hand luggage
While it's usually pretty easy to remember our actual devices, is can be easy to forget the cables that go with those devices: bring them all, and keep them close. You might need them to recharge your phone or tablet during your trip, for example, if you get stuck at an airport because of a flight delay. There are some very nifty cable- and electronics organizers for travel - some hold hard drives and USB memory-sticks, as well as cables.

4. Bring converters and adapters
If you're traveling abroad, you might need to bring power converters or adapters in order to plug in all your various devices. I travel with several, and two of them allow for USB-charging as well. North American travelers: if your device (usually it's the laptop) has a three-pronged plug, make sure that you bring an adapter that allows for three prongs. Some converters and adapters only allow for a two-pronged plug.

5. Bring a power strip
This is something I hadn't really considered bringing until recently, but it makes sense and I will be bringing one on our next trip. Bring a power strip so that you can recharge several devices at once, using just one outlet. This can even be useful at airports: I've noticed people congregating around any and all power outlets at airports. At Keflavik Airport in Iceland, this meant a person sitting on the floor in the bathroom (of all places) to recharge her phone. If you bring a power strip, you might even make some new friends by offering others a chance to recharge their devices (if you have some extra space, that is).

6. Get a good cover for your device
It's an unfortunate reality that things you pack in your hand luggage might get squashed on a flight. Whether your bag goes in the overhead compartment, or under the seat in front of you, that bag might very well get flattened, crushed, and otherwise mauled. A good cover will protect your phone, tablet, laptop, or e-reader from damage. I have some nice and cheap travel covers for the kids' tablets, a neoprene sleeve for my laptop, and a little "cell-phone wallet" that protects my phone, and also holds a couple of credit cards.

7. Be ready to unpack your devices at security
When you go through security at the airport, you will usually be asked to remove any "large" electronic devices from your bag. In my experience, this always includes laptops, usually includes tablets, and sometimes includes cell-phones as well. The devices are then sent through the x-ray machine separately from the rest of your hand-luggage. Just be ready to remove them all, and keep them readily accessible in your bag. A backpack or bag with a separate compartment for your laptop or tablet can really help speed up the process at security. It also helps keep your device safe, so it's a win-win.

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