Packing for a work trip? There's only one thing worse than hitting the road without the right equipment: hitting the road overburdened with junk you'll never use. Here's our checklist of gadget essentials that are worth the space.
Picture by Matty Candy/Getty Images
This list is based on personal experience, and your requirements might vary a little. But there's not anything here that I'd count as an indulgence. For any job that requires a phone and a computer some of the time, these are essential inclusions.
To make packing really simply, keep this gear in your standard carry-on bag. That way, you may not need to do anything more when a trip comes up than work out your clothing needs and add your phone, PC and tablet (as needed).
Hotel rooms don't always have enough power outlets; conference centres never do. Their location also often makes working difficult, and some chargers won't plug in at all if the outlet is close to the floor or a wall. Pack a powerboard and you'll have plenty of charging options. (Bulkier powerboards don't always make sense in hand luggage, but are definitely worth packing in your suitcase. Smaller four-outlet boards shouldn't be a problem.)
2. The right device(s)
I've argued at some length before how the right device varies trip-by-trip depending on your needs. If you have to do a lot of keyboard work, or you're on a lengthy trip, a notebook PC (or netbook or ultrabook) will be worthwhile. For shorter trips, a tablet (possibly supplemented with a Bluetooth keyboard) could be enough. On longer trips, both might be useful. The key is to identify your goals for the trip and pack your gadgets accordingly — the decision will also influence other items on the list.
3. The appropriate chargers
Worth listing separately because so many people remember their machines but forget the cords (I won't shame my colleagues by mentioning specific names). If this happens regularly to you, buy spares to keep in your travel bag.
4. Universal USB cord
If you've packed a computer, a universal USB cord will let you connect virtually any device to it, which is useful for both syncing and as an emergency charger. I still favour packing "proper" chargers for the devices you travel with, as the process is faster and you won't run out of USB ports. The cord provides a tangle-free backup in case that goes wrong or you leave a charger behind.
5. Wi-Fi hotspot
Hotel internet services are overpriced and often slow. For domestic travel, using a 3G service will save money in less than one night of travel compared to hotel rates, and you'll be able to use the service throughout the trip. Using a Wi-Fi hotspot eliminates the need for buggy driver software, and also allows you to connect more than one device at once.
6. International power adaptor
For international trips, an adaptor that works in any country is a no-brainer; combine it with your powerboard and you'll be able to charge up wherever you go. (It's obviously not needed for domestic trips, but if you keep a pre-packed workbag, it may as well stay in there.)
7. Bootable USB stick with key documents
Grab a 4GB (or greater) USB stick and load it up with the following:
- A bootable Linux environment you can use if your machine (or that of a colleague) won't boot for some reason. Don't know how to set one up? See our full guide. Another option is to set up a drive filled with portable apps.
- Scans of essential documents such as your passport and travel insurance certificates, along with listings of essential contact numbers. (If you're worried about losing the stick, get an encryptable model.) It also makes sense to store those securely online, but having a no-connection version can be helpful
That won't fill the whole stick, meaning you can also use it to grab copies of documents from others if necessary.
You can go several ways here: compact Bluetooth headphones that work for both listening to music and making calls, or larger headphones to provide better sound when you're relaxing. (In the latter case, pack a flight adaptor if needed so you can deal with two-pronged connectors on planes.)
9. Screen wipes
In your own office, it doesn't matter how filthy your laptop gets. But when you're presenting or using your machine on a plane, people will notice. Even if you're relaxing and watching a movie on your tablet, it's better to have a clean screen.
10. Portable phone battery
Regularly find your phone running out of juice during the day on work trips? An add-on battery solution such as the Mophie can get you out of trouble. You won't always use it, but in the case of a lengthy flight delay or other drama you'll be glad to have it.
Got your own gadget travel essentials? Share your ideas in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman packs for speed, comfort and convenience — why compromise? His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.