Best Tech To Use On The Plane

Best Tech To Use On The Plane

You’ve reached cruising altitude and you want to get working. Here are the crucial gadgets to have in your carry-on bag when you hit the plane.

Picture by mroach

What you do in the air is up to you. If you want to sleep or read a paper or eat airline food, that’s entirely your choice. But on a ten hour flight, the chances are you might decide to get a little work done on the side. Even if you prefer to relax, technology can help to pass the time, especially on older carriers that don’t have decent in-house entertainment. Here’s what I always want to be carrying when I hit a flight.

The odds are good that any gadgets you have with you will be in your carry-on regardless of whether you actively plan to use them. You arguably don’t want your SLR camera at your seat unless you’re a flight fetishist, but you will want some of the others. If you’ve got a large bag and you’re stowing it overhead, make sure you’ve also got a smaller bag you can place your gadgets in under your seat. (That’s especially important if you don’t have the aisle seat).

WORK: A compact noteboook computer, or a tablet with a keyboard. To get real practical work done, you need a keyboard. My preference when travelling is to use a netbook, since that will fit easily on the tray table even in a cramped economy seat. You can even fit a cup of coffee next to it. But a tablet and a keyboard can be just as good a choice.

MEDIA #1: A tablet or a separate music player. You might have music on your phone, but if you listen on board for several hours, you’ll be short on power when you hit the ground. I travel with a separate iPod for this purpose. If you use your tablet as a media player, that’s also a fine option.

MEDIA #2: Headphones (and adaptors) At the top end of the market, you might have a fancy pair of noise-cancelling cans. At the bottom end, you might find your existing buds more comfortable than those supplied on the plane. Either way, make sure you’ve got an adaptor if your carriers uses a double-pronged plug rather than a standard 3.5mm socket.

READING: An eBook reader. The brand doesn’t matter: go with whatever you like. Personally, I’m a Kindle fan. The tablet could serve triple-duty here, though dedicated readers have longer battery life and weigh less. The only downside? You can’t use them during landing or take-off.

POWER #1: Your power cord. If you’re on a plane which has power outlets at the seat (more commonly found in business class, but also an economy option on many A380 models), then being able to plug in and charge is a handy bonus.

POWER #2: USB cables that connect to your gadgets. An increasing number of planes now have USB connections in the seat regardless of class — useful for being able to charge up your phone/player/tablet while on the go.

PHONE: Your phone and any overseas SIMs. No, you can’t use your phone in flight — but you can pop in a SIM for your destination if you already have a SIM for that country, or a general purpose travel SIM.

What are your business gadget travel essentials? Tell us in the comments.


  • Agree with Anon – Those little rechargers have saved me many times. Also take extra batteries for the noise-cancelling headphones.

    If you’re going to use a real laptop for real work, be aware that there are some very low (110W?) power limits on the AC power points, and these can trip and only be reset on the ground. For workstation laptops your best bet is to switch to a low-power scheme and disable all the networking cards and startup programs before you get on the plane.

  • Take the opportunity on the plane trip to be gadget/tech free… read a real life book … one that you smell and feel the paper… tech minimalism is the new tech chic.

  • My Playstation Vita… What? I scored a power point under my seat on a flight from Sydney to LA and the thing was a godsend. Battery concerns aside, the thing did an amazing job of distracting and engrossing me with Uncharted… My iPhone4S for movies, the screen is small but I can fit plenty of full length movies on the 64GB phone. I agree on the Netbook, they are fantastic size Vs weight devices.

  • A magazine for those annoying tech blackouts during takeoff and landing – Altho I’m *sure* my Kindle isn’t going to crash the plane.

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