David J. Danto
Principal Consultant, Collaboration/ AV / Multimedia / Video / UC
Director of Emerging Technology
Interactive Multimedia & Collaborative Communications Alliance
The Traveler’s Toolbox
“What do you have in this thing?” is what colleagues often ask me when they attempt to lift up my flight carry-on bag (my “personal item” as it were.) That’s a really good question. I’m the kind of person that has learned from years on the road that a person’s “back-up” plan or device and “emergency” plan or device need to be two completely different things – so I tend to carry with me the kind of items that I might use once every ten trips. But, when I do use it, it is an absolute life-saver. So, after three decades of business travel, here are some of the secret items and handy doo-dads I have learned are either frequently or occasionally indispensable. (I’ll provide links to each product.)
“I can’t get no power captain…” Is there a power-port or plug on your flight? Is there even a standard for in-flight power anymore? Was there ever? It’s so darned ridiculous how poorly airlines have provided support for in-flight power. (It’s on par with how reliable they are in other areas I guess.) So on every trip I carry one (and usually two) Power-Bank type batteries. Each has three USB ports – two for phones, one for a tablet/ iPad. One can get multiple phone charges out of it – or about two iPad charge cycles. I keep one in my “personal item” briefcase, and the second in the bottom compartment of my four-wheel roll-aboard (the bottom weight helps keep it upright.) You can find them very inexpensively from an on-line reseller I often use called Meritline (a lot of the products I’ll mention come from there.)
Then, once you have the power, do you have the right plug? Here’s a handy little multi-cable that connects USB power to Apple’s Lightning, Apple’s 30 pin and a standard Micro USB plug. I use this to connect my iPhone to the battery, to sync to my PC, anything I need. If you don’t need Lightning but do need Mini-USB, this nested adaptor set is perhaps a better choice. Either of these costs under ten bucks. At that price I carry both.
Once you get to your hotel, what do you use to power your devices there? Do you carry separate chargers for each item? I don’t. I use a combination of four-port or five port USB power supplies. Each has the power to charge multiple low-drain devices (headset, phone, spare battery) overnight. When I use it for my iPads overnight charge I only add one other device (like my phone) as each device you add lowers the power going to all. Not only do these save the space and complexity of carrying multiple device chargers, but they have cool blue LEDs that serve as great night lighting in a room I’ve never been in before. In addition, you can easily remove the standard Edison wall outlet plug and replace it with a standard two prong power cord – so, for example, in hotels with a power outlet on the nightstand lamp you can just plug it in, but in hotels without them you can plug the cord into the wall and bring the device right up onto the nightstand.
Leaving the issue of power and moving on to connectivity – have you noticed that the inexpensive hotel chains will let you connect up to three devices to their wireless internet for the same (little or no) cost, but the high-end or older properties want to charge you per-device? Have you noticed that these high-end and older properties usually have wired internet access available in rooms? I have. To take advantage of that correlation and minimize cost and difficulties I carry a very compact, portable router in my bag. I connect it to a hotel’s wired internet, connect my PC or iPad to this router, authorize it with the hotel’s system for the charges, and the hotel’s internet provider authorizes the MAC address of the router. That means I can connect one or a dozen devices to it at the same price. I also don’t have to authorize each one – all my devices know the SSID of my router and just start using it when powered-up.
When I’m on the road, that easy internet connection helps me stay fully productive. I schedule audio conference calls and videoconferences without having to think about needed access to any specialty rooms and systems. I couldn’t do that without a super-powerful headset that works with my mobile phone, works with my PC, works with my iPad and stays available all the time. I get that using my Plantronics Voyager Legend UC. It is an absolutely awesome, top of the line device that can connect to two devices simultaneously (and store many more off-line connections), has easy to use intelligently located control buttons, feels great over my ear, has a case that charges it when stored, and – on top of all that – can work with physical buttons or voice controls. Do you carry your headset’s “pairing” instructions with you when you travel? Of course you don’t – and should you have to pair it to a new device it can drive anyone crazy - but not with the Voyager Legend. With this unit you just turn it on, press the voice command button and say “pair me.” It couldn’t be easier to use or give a better experience.
Finally, as a road warrior, I need to have a reliable GPS with me in my rental car to get to client locations I may never have been to before. Amazingly, I’ve stopped packing my Tom-Tom. My iPhone’s free Google Maps program is an amazing GPS that lets me look up sites not only by address but by name (as it’s connected to the internet via my phone.) After playing with a lot of mounts that turned out to be awkward, useless or often both, I settled on an amazingly simple and inexpensive solution. This floppy piece of silicon sits steadily on the dash of any car and holds my iPhone snugly (even when connected to the car’s power and aux ports, and even when I use this fantastic battery case for it that makes it a bit thicker.) The mount folds over to a tiny, almost flat profile in my bag, and re-takes its shape when removed. I don’t travel without it anymore.
I’m eight paragraphs in and have only scratched the surface – not even mentioning the eyeglass repair kit, multi-outlet taps, compact bathroom night-lights or anything else. Let me know if you find these tips useful and/or if you have any of your own. I’ll put the rest together for a second run at the topic in the future.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions. David has over three decades of experience providing problem solving leadership and innovation in media and unified communications technologies for various firms in the corporate, broadcasting and academic worlds including AT&T, Bloomberg LP, FNN, Morgan Stanley, NYU, Lehman Brothers and JP Morgan Chase. He now works with Dimension Data as their Principal Consultant for the collaboration, multimedia, video and AV disciplines. He is also the IMCCA’s Director of Emerging Technology. David can be reached at David.Danto@Dimensiondata.com or DDanto@imcca.org and his full bio and other blogs and articles can be seen at Danto.info. Please reach-out to David if you would like to discuss how he can help your organization solve problems or develop a future-proof collaboration strategy.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.