Monster Power Outlets To Go

I had never seen these before so I had to try one. It’s the Monster Outlets To Go mini-power strip with a very short extension cord. It’s got 3-prong outlets on the the front and back (spaced far enough apart for power adaptors) with a resettable circuit breaker. Very nice and compact!

They also make 3, 4 and 6 outlet versions. Colors vary by white, silver and black. I’ve spotted prices from $11-23 on the various sizes on-line (I think retail is $15-$30). The power cord wraps perfectly around it and plus into itself, not messy at all. Seemed very well built and durable.I had to decide between the 3 or the 4 outlets and decided on the 3 outlet version, I’m sure the 4 outlets wouldn’t have been much bigger. That’s the 3 outlet version in the photo, the third outlet is on the back!

My only concern is forgetting it behind a desk in a hotel room.

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Read the Newspaper Before You Go

If you can read this, then you probably have access to the Internet. Before you travel you might consider getting on-line and reading the local newspaper of your destination to find out more about the area. This may also let you find out about any local events that you might miss out on once you get there.

Some newspapers may require a subscription fee to view on-line, some may let you download a PDF of the newspaper and some may actually let you subscribe to a paper edition mailed to your home.

Many non-English speaking countries have newspapers in a non-native language. These may only be weekly papers and may cover news / events or may be just focused on entertainment.

If you don’t have have access to the Internet check out your local bookstore, many carry newspapers from around the country and around the world and you can read what’s happening there the old fashioned way…

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Sharing Power Outlets

When you’re traveling you never know where there might or might not be enough power outlets. Things to have with you:

  • A small extension cord because if you’re going to want to plug in, it might be in an inconvenient spot.
  • If your plug for your equipment has 3 prongs (like in the US), be sure to bring an adaptor to convert to two prongs.
  • If you’re going to bring the above items (and you should) bring a splitter/adaptor (like a mini power strip) to plug in more than one item at a time. If the outlet you need is being used by other people, you’re out of luck, but they’ll probably let you plug in an splitter since you have a way to share. These days, many electronics chargers work in the a range of 110-220 volts, so generally if you are in a foreign country all you need is the little plug adaptor. So you might not need to carry those heavy transformers when traveling, just the tiny little adaptor may be enough (I don’t even own one of those heavy 220/110 converters). Be sure to check your electronics charger to make sure, it should saw right on the adaptor (in really small print).If you’ve got a splitter/adaptor/power-strip, then you may only need one foreign power plug adaptor to plug in to the splitter and then plug the items into the splitter. This way you can plug in multiple items from you.r country with only one foreign adaptor (this may or may not be recommended, be sure to check your user’s manual)If you can get a USB charging cable for your device and you have your laptop, you can leave the charger at home. Just charge your device while the computer is plugged in and it’s a lot less for you to carry.
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    Skype for Phoning Home to a Phone

    So I’ve always liked Skype it’s a great backup for my cell phone and it’s great for calling home when I’m on vacation but you’ve got to have a computer of some sort to use it. At 2.3 cents per minute, it’s hard to beat the price to call the US (as long as you’ve got a semi-decent internet connection). Although, some internet cafes have it all set up already, one internet cafe in Egypt had it installed with a microphone, I just stopped to check my mail but I got on Skype, made a call or two (for 2.3 cents a minute) and I was done!

    Skype - call the world at rock bottom pricesIt’s always confusing to use the pay phones, and they really get you when you use a hotel room for long distance (sometimes even if you use a calling card or calling local). Not that I always talk a lot when I travel (I do when I travel alone) but I always feel like I’m being initiated when trying to figure out long distance calling when in a foreign country. They only charge 2.3 cents to US phones (plus a 4.9 cents per call fee), other countries have different rates. Note that the charges are just to phones, if you call someone else’s computer/smartphone/tablet who is using Skype it’s free, but that’s not always a convenience.

    Now if you’re paying for the internet it’s costing you a little more, but it’s still probably cheaper than using a phone. If you’ve got free internet in your room or somewhere, you’re all set. If you’ve got to haul your laptop down to a cafe or something it gets inconvenient, you’ll probably want a headset with microphone for some privacy. Keep in mind some places might not like you using up their bandwidth for a phone call, so be discrete.The goofy* thing is that it’s 2.3 cents to call the US wherever I am, from next door, Egypt or Costa Rica it’s all 2.3 cents! For 6.4 cents I can call Costa Rica, that’s if I’m here in Michigan or down there.

    Skype also has unlimited rates (for personal use) for some countries: for the United States it’s about $27 a year for unlimited calling to the U.S., although if you don’t use it enough (you need well over 1,00 minutes a year to break even, you might be better with $10 of time and have about 450 minutes of time (or that same credit can be used for other countries at it’s rate).

    FYI, I’ve ditched my landline phone at home and have just my cellular phone. So I programmed Skype with my local police/fire number so if I ever have a crisis I can at least use my computer for an emergency phone call (if needed). I just called up and said, I’ve just got a cell phone what’s the best non-911 number to call when I have an emergency.Here’s how it normally works, they lease a bunch of phone lines around the world, it’s your job (using the Internet) to place the call using the Internet. Depending on the location they set the price, Egypt for example is 18.5 cents a minute, they don’t care where you are calling from (the USA, Egypt or from the same house you are calling to) since you’re paying for the internet it still costs 18.5 cents for them to make that call to Egypt.

    I’ve gotten internation data on my phone and used Skype to call phones at home over cellular data (and it appears to use very little data).

    * – It’s not really goofy, it’s what they pay for phone calls at the destination, the Internet probably doesn’t cost Skype any more regardless of where I’m calling from.

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    Finding Electrical Outlets

    Where can you find electrical outlets to power your gadgets? First of all, make sure they are fully charged before you leave and if you have spare battery, make sure it’s charged too.

    Trains: Many train cars have electrical outlets by all of the seats, but many do not. While they may try to get you to sit in a particular car, sometimes if you just ask (nicely and politely) they’ll put you in a different car with better power. If not, look around the car they must plug in the vacuum somewhere. My experience is that near the center of the car under the seat (you just need to look, it’s relatively in the open) is an outlet with two plugs. You just need to get there fast since there might not be any more in the car (or have a splitter so you can share). In a pinch there is sometimes an outlet in the bathroom if you need a quick charge or want to have your laptop plugged in (so you don’t lose everything that is open) while you change the battery.

    Planes: I’ve never seen an any kind outlet in the open on an airplane, even while walking through first class. I think I’ve seen some for shavers in the bathroom, but you can’t stay very long in there.

    Airports: They’re all over the place but not always in convenient spots. Sometimes on the wall but not always by seats. Lots of times by the building support pillars but seats aren’t always near there. Many times where the staff and/or agents work but there might not be a good place to sit nearby. Look hard enough and you’ll find one in a good spot (in my experience), there is almost always one if you’re willing to sit on the floor.

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    Internet Access in Hotels (and other lodgings)

    My experience is the more expensive the hotel then the more expensive the Internet which also generally means the cheaper the hotel the more likely the internet is free. And generally the hotels that charge you will charge you a fortune!

    You also need to consider what a hotel means when they say Internet Access:

  • It may be only in the lobby.
  • It might just be some WebTV-like device in the room.
  • You may have to use a particular computer they have set up (this may even be the computer they use at the front desk).
  • It might be a network plug in your room (RJ-45).
  • It might be wireless all over the hotel. (When it’s everywhere you may want to check it as soon as you get in the room to verify that it works in that room before you unpack).
  • The charges might be outrageous (or not).
  • Some places might have computers in the business centers but don’t have a mechanism to hook up your laptop/device (and might freak out when you unplug the ethernet cable from the back of a computer).
  • Some just issue you an access number to use the AT&T or T-mobile type service that they have in the hotel (these cards appear to be good at most access points for the same 24 hour period).
  • If you have wireless in your room and a wired connection, the wired connection is probably much faster.

    My experience is the hotel staff knows very little about the internet and likely cannot help you at all, you’re better off asking another person that you might see accessing the network. So if you’re not used to using your laptop on the go, don’t count on much help; get some practice at the local coffee house before you go.

    Speed at hotels will vary in my experience, but it’s generally fast enough, especially if it’s free. If it’s free and in my room I can generally live with just about any speed since I can just leave my laptop connected and it’ll eventually pull it down even if it is slow.

    Something I’ve seen at some access points is they block some of the ports related to sending e-mail from to your computer. They do this so people don’t send spam (I guess) but sometimes you can get around this by changing to some secure (or other obscure) ports; you’ll need to check with you’re e-mail provider in advance. Occasionally, I’ve had some problems getting mail but that’s a little rarer. I can always access my e-mail provider via the web to get my mail.

    In the United States, Hampton Inns have given me the best results in having free Internet in the rooms and in the lobby (and where you get your free breakfast).

    In Egypt, while internet cafes are everywhere, it’s always more convenient in the hotel. One hotel (although I think it was more the town) offered free dial-in access to the internet. This was at the (inexpensive) rate of a local phone call. Yes it was slow but since much of my work can be done off line due to software clients that I use (for mail, blogging, photos) I could write my mail on the computer before connecting, the same for blog posts and sorting photos. Once I was on-line I could click send receive for my mail, click ‘post’ for a few blog entries and hit upload for my photos and it would take care of it. It took an hour, but I didn’t sit there, it took care of it while I was gone. When I came back, all was uploaded and new mail was on the computer, it was slow but it didn’t take any time out of my day and I didn’t have to drag my laptop anywhere.

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    Internet Access at the Airport

    Access at airports can vary. It seems to me that in the US they want to charge you but many airports offer ways to connect if you are already a customer of A&T, T-mobile or some other similar service. When out of the US I’ve found free access, at least it was when I was in Costa Rica and Egypt (both in the last 18 months).

    My Thought:
    Give me free Internet access at the airport and I’ll be early for my flight! I just hate being too early and having nothing productive to do.

    Some of the airport privileged frequent flyers may get free access so if you can find a location near one of those areas you might me able to get leech some access from there for free. I’ve seen this in some hotels too, if there is free access in area, it leaks out to the other areas too.

    I know from recent experience Detroit and Atlanta do require a charge (or membership with one of the WiFi companies) for the Internet, but one of the Las Vegas airports (McCarran Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA) do not. But remember, airports are big and access may vary depending on where you are (McCarran only has it in certain terminals). And finding power isn’t always very easy…

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    Getting Through Airport Security

    I travel with so much junk in my carry on luggage I’m always surprised that I don’t get stopped more. I’ve got wires, cables, cameras, chargers, batteries, cell phones, a laptop, wires and who knows what else but the fact that they don’t freak out when I go through security always surprises (and worries) me.

    Security_screening.jpgGenerally, security still wants you to put your laptop in the x-ray machine separate from the rest of your carry on luggage but they don’t ask me to turn it on for them anymore, they used to. So be prepared for this, since you’re probably removing your belt, shoes, change and cell phone from your pockets at the same time some times it’s tricky to handle it all at the same time.

    They may ask you to turn items on so make sure they are all charged (or that you can plug them in if needed).

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    What Not to do at the Airport

    When you’re waiting at customs or immigration, do not talk on the phone! They’ll warn you of this over and over and yet people still get yelled at for this.

    You shouldn’t take pictures in the secure areas either. This may or may not be announced but even if not against the rules, why draw attention to yourself.

    I’ve been yelled at for using my computer in the baggage claim area before (in the US). No one could explain to me why not, but they’ve told me not to. Once again, why cause trouble for yourself when you might be in a foreign country. The last thing you want is to be detained when you need to be somewhere else.

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    Internet Access While Traveling

    Everyone has access to the Internet while they travel, it just not might be as convenient as it is where they are used to.

    These days Internet cafes are everywhere you just don’t know what they might be offering. You’re not really sure how fast they’ll be (either the computers or the internet speed). They might have wireless, they might not. Never assume…

    Costa Rica: I just got back from Costa Rica (December 2007) and in one of the (very) small towns the Internet cafes were just a phone line (or two) for a cafe with a 1/2 dozen computers (or more). The Internet crawled so much I thought something in my brain was going to burst. Other towns in Costa Rica were fine, some kind of cable or satellite wherever you go. I think just about every in Costa Rica was a little less than $2.50 a hour.

    Egypt: High speed everywhere I went, most places didn’t have wireless but were willing to let you plug in your laptop. If you went where the locals went I think it was pretty cheap, but in a hotel or a tourist area they’d usually charge you quite a bit.

    England: It seems to me it’s always expensive at most places that I looked. I rarely saw free places to access the internet (other than open access points).

    United States: These days I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to a place that has internet, but doesn’t have wireless. Many coffee shops are free, some are not, you just have to ask.

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    Using the ATM Machine While Traveling

    AtmiconsWhen you travel to foreign countries you almost always have to have cash converted to local. I’ve always had great results with using ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines). My experience with ATMs anywhere world wide (England, Costa Rica and Prague) has always been that the ATM has been perfect for a good exchange rate. and payed minimal fees (on the exchange rate and the regular ATM fee).

    The only fee I used to get for using an ATM card was $-1.00 (this is at my Credit Union) but recently I’ve been getting an additional fee about 0.8% (but the bank told me it’d be more). Either way, it’s cheaper than any of the exchange places.
    Make sure you know what networks your ATM card uses, many times the networks they used when you got the card have changed, they should be able to tell you on the phone on on their web site.

    Recommendation: Tell the bank before you go that you’ll be traveling internationally! This way they don’t freak out on all the above average withdrawals from a foreign country and cut it off. My bank lets me input it on a special form on-line but previously I just called them or sent an on-line message.

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    The Security Backpack – DaySafe 100 by PacSafe – Review

    Here was my mission: I was looking for something so I could go hiking or walking along the beach. But I want to have my camera with me, but when I go swimming (or something where I need to put my back down) I don’t want to leave my stuff unattended.

    Daysafe Seethrough PoleSo what I had in mind was a smaller version of a military duffle bag (that really thick/tough canvas material) that you could somehow clasp at the top and lock it to a tree. Yeah, someone could cut through it, but they couldn’t just grab it and run (and they’d have to work at it).

    What I found was the PacSafe DaySafe 100 Security Backpack, it’s way better than what I was looking for, it’s two (2) things in one.

    The first is a backpack made for security, the zippers can be latched so someone can’t easily open it while you’re just walking down the street (the latches are hidden and hard to get to) and like a lot of luggage and you can (optionally) lock the zippers. It’s really comfortable too! Part of the main bag is slash-proof, it’s got a metal screen in the material, so someone can’t cut it to get stuff out while you’re wearing it. Plus, one of the straps is detachable and latchable so while you’re sitting there someone can’t just grab your bag if you’ve attached it to the table you’re eating at (this doesn’t work if you leave it unattended). It’s also got a few other options that they have to make it harder for someone to casually grab things from it. It pretty much looks like a regular backpack, it’s supposed to, they don’t want people to know you’ve got good stuff in it.

    The second thing (and this is the important part) is that it is a DaySafe (they sell this as a separate product), the DaySafe is pretty much a small tote bag (17 liters) made completely out of the material with the steel built into it (eXomesh®). The drawstring is a metal cable that latches and locks (included with 3 keys) and is pretty secure. If you take the cable and wrap it around a tree (or a stationary object in your hotel room or rental car) before you lock it, it becomes pretty hard for someone to just grab your stuff and run.

    The Daysafe is large enough to fit my 12 inch Powerbook laptop (with spare battery and charger), video camera, SLR camera, sound canceling headphones, iPod, small digital camera and other accessories and still seal up with room to spare.The safe fits inside the backpack perfectly and there is a special hole for the cable to secure the backpack too (the stuff in outer pockets would be at risk). I wouldn’t leave my stuff locked to a tree all day but for the bit that I want to go in the water at the beach (I stay mostly in sight of my stuff) it’s perfect..

    ExomeshinsertOr if I hike up into the hills to a waterfall, I can both take pictures and video and then go for a swim and not be too paranoid about my stuff. This would also be great if you need to leave your bag at the hotel because you’re too early to check in or need to leave your stuff because you have to check out but your flight isn’t for hours and you’re leaving luggage at the hotel for a while. You could just seal the bag up inside or even attach it to your bigger bag.

    I also use it to just lock my stuff in my hotel room when I’m out and about (or lock stuff in the car). I attach it to the bed or a big chair so it’d be hard for someone to walk off with it and impossible to get in it unless they were prepared. Be sure not to have the bag locked while going through airport security, it’s pretty quick to use when you get used to it, but trying to juggle that and your shoes and belt might be a little tricky.

    At their site you can see more of the PacSafe DaySafe 100 security features.

    UPDATE: The’ve updated and renamed these backpacks to “UltimateSafe” and they sell the inserts separately which are called “TravelSafe” both are by Pacsafe.

    Posted in Reviews, Security | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

    Welcome to!

    Welcome! We’ll be talking about traveling with technology. The pros and cons plus what not to forget when you travel around the world with technology.

    We’ll probably have some non-tech tips too…

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