Every spring for the last three years I have taken a trip around Lake Michigan to visit family and friends. The trip includes plenty of down time between visits, so I usually pack up a good amount of gear. At one time I literally packed a big plastic box loaded with cables and power strips, but now I am able to travel with just three bags.
What I Packed
A few different factors play in to what I decide to pack on these trips. The most important factor is connectivity, my travels take me through areas that have very slow mobile Internet access making WiFi connectivity essential. I also prefer to have at least one backup connectivity option, just in case the hotel WiFi connection is not available.
Another factor in what I pack is who I am visiting. Most of my friends know that I am a geek and some look forward to seeing what new gear I am using, and therefore some of what I pack is simply to show off. So, here is a summery of what I am carrying in the Red Terrain as I travel the highways and bi-ways of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.
As I have written previously, I don’t normally take my iPad out of the house, but ironically I always take it on my trips around Lake Michigan for one reason: I can use it as a WiFi hot spot. My third generation iPad connects to Verizon, who in my experience provides the fastest mobile Internet access in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
The last time I visited my mom I was surprised to discover that the iPad had LTE connectivity. I am not sure why it was working then because on this trip I appear to only get a 3G connection, which is still faster than AT&T’s Edge connection that I can only get on my HTC One.
Another reason that I include the iPad is watch baseball using the MLB At Bat app if during some down time I have WiFi access and there is a game on that I am interested in watching.
ASUS VivaTab RT
I debated bringing the VivaTab because I don’t really need it on this trip as I have the Macbook Air, however it ended up in my bag to show off two things to my friends. One, the Windows 8 modern UI, in case I am asked about Windows 8, and second the VivaTab’s hybrid design that makes it a tablet and netbook computer.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
The Galaxy Note 8 is my daily driver tablet, so there was not doubt that it would come with me on this trip. It doesn’t hurt that it is also my newest device so none of my friends have seen it yet. I really like this tablet, although its price needs to get a little lower in order for me to enthusiastically recommend it to my friends.
As the focus of this blog has been pretty much about tablet and smartphone personal computers, you may be surprised that I include the Macbook Air. If I had not packed the VivaTab, the Air would be the only computer with me that has a keyboard, which is essential for writing.
Because I have the VivaTab I could have left the Macbook Air at home, but there are two reasons why I did not. One is that the Macbook Air has a much better keyboard than the VivaTab, the second is that I prefer to be prepared for any computing need and if I needed I could connect to my company’s network using the Macbook Air.
I purchased my Powerbag Tablet Messenger bag a little more than a year ago, and I am still using it as my main bag for carrying my tablets and most important accessories. Unfortunately, during a recent visit to the Powerbag web site I discovered that the Tablet Messenger bag is no longer being sold.
What makes the Powerbag special is the 9000 mAh battery that plugs into the bag and provides power to mini-USB, micro-USB, and iPhone/iPod cables. The compartment the battery plugs in to also has a full USB port in which you can plug in another iPod/iPad cable.
Ironically, I have noticed that I am actually using the battery less and less as it appears the tablets and phones I use have good battery life. The best use for this bag is when I need a mobile WiFi hotspot because after enabling mobile hotspot on my phone I then plug the phone into the bag and set it to charge, which helps increase the battery life in the phone.
Waterfield Laptop sleeve case
After I bought the Macbook Air I sought a slim case to carry it in, putting the slender Air in a bulky case just didn’t seem right. The Waterfield Laptop sleeve is the case I settled on and I have been really happy with it. The sleeve is actually large enough for me to carry the Macbook Air and an iPad or other slim tablet.
Skooba Design cable stable
Of the cases and bags that I am taking on this trip, I have had the Skooba cable stable the longest. It has several bands and pouches for carrying cables, power adapters, chargers, and more. It zips up nice and fits in a backpack or suitcase. After years of just throwing adapters in a bag I’ve learned that keeping them organized makes everything much more efficient.
Monster Power Outlets To Go
Back when I first started traveling for business I would carry a full size power strip in my suitecase because the hotel rooms I stayed in never seem to have enough power outlets, or they were hidden behind furniture.
Today hotel rooms are much more friendly to travelers with electronics and tend to have plenty of outlets, but the problem is the outlets are often right next to each other and large power adapter bricks tend to cover up some of the outlets. The Monster Power Outlets To-Go fixes the problem by providing four outlets spaced far enough apart to accommodate power adapters.
The one nit I have with the Outlets To-Go is that its has a short power cord because it is designed for use on a table or desk. Don’t buy this if you are looking for an extension cord with a power strip.
I’ve bought the Monster Outlets To-Go several years ago, before just about every device could be charged with a USB cable. Today I might only buy the Moshi Rewind, which looks like a standard power adapter, but has two USB ports and provides 10W of power, which means you can use it to charge two tablets at the same time. If you and your wife both carry a smartphone, rather than packing two power adapters, just pack the Rewind and two USB cables and charge up both phones from one outlet.
HTC Media Link HD
When I orded my HTC One online from AT&T, I was able to take advantage of the offer for a free HTC Media Link HD. The Media Link link provides a wireless HDMI connection between my HTC One and a television that has an HDMI port.
Ironically, while I usually have the latest portable computers, I don’t have the latest television sets and none of my sets in my home have an HDMI port. I am going to take advantage of the hotels I am staying in to check out the Media Link for the first time.
Today I use my smartphone for the majority of the pictures that I take, but I also own a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7. I bought the DMC-FZ7 before we went on our trip to Alaska seven years ago, and while it’s not a DLSR I’ve been happy with it’s 12X optical zoom and picture quality.
The amount of traveling I do for business has decreased significantly over the last ten years, so most of my trips today are for leisure. Back ten years ago when I traveled by car to visit my family it could easily take me three or four trips to carry all my gear from the car to the hotel room, today at most I make two trips and often I can carry everything in one trip.
A big reason why I make fewer trips is that the computers I carry today are much smaller and have much smaller power adapters. Wireless Internet access, either by WiFi or mobile Internet is pretty pervasive, so I no longer have to carry Ethernet cables and switches. I used to pack a full size Linksys WiFi access point to connect to the hotel Ethernet and provide wireless access for my wife and myself.
I am pretty confident that on this trip I’ll have all the computing power, connectivity, and entertainment that I could want.