Whenever I travel, I never bring a laptop unless I absolutely have to. Most of the time I can get by with just a handheld or smartphone.
In the last month, I’ve done a great deal of traveling, some for work, some for pleasure. But no matter the reason why I’ve been on the road, I’ve taken my latest mobile device along, and there have been some accessories that have made the trip much, much easier.
In hopes of making other people’s future travels less of a trial, I’m going to share the benefits of my hard-won experience.
As much as possible, I’m going to make this platform agnostic. There will be a thing there at the end that’s only available for Windows Mobile, but most of what I’m going to talk about can be used by anyone.
A Case That Meets Your Needs
I wish I could give you an easy recommendation of a single case that would guarantee that everyone’s handheld and smartphone would never break while they are on a trip, but I can’t. All I can say is don’t burden yourself with anything too extreme unless you’re going on a polar expedition or are particularly clumsy.
I’ve used my mobile devices on three continents now and I only ever broke one… and that was in my own living room. I’ve carried whatever my current model was in only a simple flip-case to the top of the Eiffel Tower and on a trek through a tropical rainforest without a problem.
But, at the same time, I’ve read some amazing stories from people who have had cases save their bacon time and again.
What I’m trying to say here is, just pick the case that you feel comfortable with and that meets your specific needs. Not your co-worker’s needs or the needs of your brother-in-law or some guy on the Web… your needs.
Just don’t get one that’s too inconvenient to use. After a short time you’ll find yourself constantly taking it out of the case, where it offers no protection at all. If you can’t use it easily in the case, then I’d suggest you find something else.
Socket Mobile Power Pack
Whether you’re going by plane or donkey cart, an inevitable part of traveling is trying to get access to a power socket. The fortunate few get to travel in ways that give easy access to these, but for the rest of us there’s the Socket Mobile Power Pack.
This gizmo can recharge any device that’s capable of taking in power through its USB port. That covers most handhelds and smartphones currently on the market, though not all of them. Still, the list includes everything from a Treo to a Playstation Portable.
And I’m not talking about one recharge. I’ve used the Power Pack to charge up some of the most demanding devices multiple times. It can keep your favorite PDA or phone going for a long flight or a seemingly endless conference.
Surprisingly, despite the fact that the Power Pack is as heavy as lead and twice the size of a pack of cards, I’ve never had a single problem taking it through airport security, and it’s been through the scanners more than a dozen times.
Socket Communications, $109.
Proporta Complete Data Power Pack
Even when you are next to a power socket, if you travel far enough there will be times when you’re going to need to use an adapter. As nice as it would be for all countries to use the same electrical standards, that just isn’t the way the World works.
That’s why you’re going to need something like Proporta’s Complete Data Power Pack. This will let you charge most devices from a very wide variety of electrical plugs, including the ones in cars.
The Right Keyboard
I’m going generic here again because there are a very wide variety of mobile keyboards on the market, and these are designed to meet a very wide variety of needs.
On one end is Brando’s Bluetooth keyboard. This is smaller than most of the smallest devices on the market, and is good for those who occasionally need to write long emails or other text. Because it uses Bluetooth it can be used with a wide variety of handhelds and smartphones.
On the other end of the spectrum the Think Outside Sierra. This gives the user a keyboard that is as good as most people are used to on their desktop, and something most would be willing to write even the longest emails or documents on, but is still portable. But not wonderfully portable. This accessory is larger than most handhelds, and definitely larger than most smartphones, even when it’s been folded up.
Think Outside, $129.99
Sadly that’s the trade-off. Maximum size brings maximum functionality, while minimum size equals minimum functionality. You’ll just have to decide where in the spectrum you fit.
Sling Media Slingbox
I was in a foreign city not too long ago on a Sunday afternoon. Despite my best efforts, there simply was no way to watch an Atlanta Falcons game where I was, no matter how many channels my hotel’s TV offered. Fortunately, I had another option. I fired up my Pocket PC, connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi network, and launched SlingPlayer Mobile. Within minutes I was connected to the Slingbox at my house and watching the game in real time.
Sadly, this is the application I mentioned that’s not available for everyone. The only mobile versions you can get now are for the different variations of Windows Mobile. But there’s been some strong evidence that this is about to change.
Sling Media, Slingbox: $200, Sling Player Mobile: $30
Take Only What You Need
I wish I could easily give everyone all the advice they need when they are taking a handheld or smartphone on a long trip, but obviously that’s impossible.
All I can do is recommend that you plan out what you’re going to need to do and bring only the equipment you’ll need to do it. Leave behind the rest, especially on a long trip. Trust me, there was a point not too long ago where I seriously considered throwing a wireless access point in the trash rather than lug the thing through my third airport in 8 hours. Especially as I was on my way home and hadn’t used it at all.