Packing Electronics

Sometimes it is difficult to choose what to pack and what to leave home. Electronic devices can add tremendously to the enjoyment of your trip. Unfortunately, they can also add a lot to the weight you have to carry around. Here’s a look at what devices are available and  how to decide which ones deserve a place in your bag.

Electronic Devices

When it comes to electronic devices, there are many options to choose from.  The most important advice here is to not duplicate, or at least don’t triplicate or quadruplicate (is that even a word?)  Think about what job each device will do.  Some do several jobs, but you may not want to use them for every job they can do.  Here are some of the most common devices:

  • Smart Phone

Your smart phone can be used for many purposes.  You can use a map app to find your way around.  There are itinerary and planning apps available, too.  With Wi-Fi or a data plan, you can browse the internet to find information about attractions, hotels and restaurants.

You can listen to audio tours as they guide you through an exhibit.  You can download books or audio books to help entertain you as you travel.  The newer phones have great built-in cameras.  You can play games and listen to music.  And, of course, you can make phone calls if you have an appropriate calling plan.  With a smart phone, you can stay connected to people at home.

  • Tablet
Kindle and iPad
Kindle and iPad

A tablet can do most of what a phone can do.  With the right software, it can even make phone calls.  Taking pictures with a large tablet can look awkward, but many people do it anyway.

It is easier to read books or watch movies on the large screen of a tablet.  You can take a whole library of books, including guidebooks for each area you are visiting, on one device.  With the addition of a portable keyboard, the tablet can almost function as a computer.

  • Computer

There are still things that only a computer can do, though, and many travelers don’t think they can travel without this device.  A computer is usually best for someone that is traveling for business, because special programs can be installed and important data can be accessed.  Professional writers, bloggers and even photographers have more options using a laptop computer.

  • Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) or Other Camera
DSLR Camera, Lenses, Tripod and Other Accessories
DSLR Camera, Lenses, Tripod,
and Other Accessories

A smart phone or tablet can take pictures, but professionals and many amateurs alike appreciate what a good camera can do.  DSLRs have come down in price to the point where many travelers are taking up photography as a serious hobby.  DSLRs add weight and bulk,especially with added lenses and tripods, so this needs to be considered when deciding what to pack.

Smaller digital point-and-shoot cameras have greatly improved in quality over the last ten years or more.  Be sure, though, that your point-and-shoot is not shooting the same pictures you could get with your smart phone.  It usually doesn’t make sense to carry two pieces of equipment that accomplish the same task.

  • Storing Digital Records

Electronic devices – phones, tablets or computers – can be used for storing digital records.  Medical information, your travel insurance policy, and your itinerary can be stored digitally.  You can copy confirmation numbers and emails along with electronic ticket vouchers.  You might even want to use a digital boarding pass.  Photocopy your passport and both sides of your credit cards and store them in a protected area on your device.  This way, if you lose them, they are much easier to replace.

Making the Choice

There are many things to think about when deciding what pieces to pack.  I have not yet met someone who needs a smart phone, tablet, computer and camera.  At least one of these items can be left home.

  • Cost of Acquisition or Maintenance

Acquiring all of the devices mentioned, can be expensive and eat into your travel budget.  When purchasing a new device, consider accessories and maintenance as part of the cost.  Choosing a new device should be done without the pressure of taking it on a trip.

Just before a trip is the worst time to buy a new device.  You need time to become familiar with how the equipment works.  If you are into photography and want a new camera, buy it long before your trip so you know exactly how it works.  It is difficult to learn a complicated device and try to rely on it at the same time.

You might be concerned about losing a new device or having it stolen in an unfamiliar place.  Using an older device takes some of the pressure off, although using common sense and being aware of your surroundings is usually all that is needed.  If you decide to purchase insurance to cover losses, consider the cost of all your devices together.

  • Weight/Space Considerations
An Assortment of Electronic Devices
An Assortment of Electronic Devices

How much room in your luggage do you want to devote to electronic devices?  How much weight do you want to carry around?  These are questions to answer as you decide what to bring.  Again, do not duplicate items if possible.  Don’t bring your old camera if you’ve switched to using your smart phone for all your pictures.

Remember to bring necessary cables, memory cards, batteries or chargers, headphones, converter/adapter plugs, etc.  Plan room to pack these items in your luggage.

  • Personal Preferences

I usually suggest starting out by choosing between your tablet and your computer.  If you have a small lightweight computer or use it for special purposes, leave your tablet at home.  You can use the computer or your smart phone to do what the tablet would have done.  Think about whether you need your computer or if you can get by with a tablet. You could even pass on both the computer and tablet, especially if you have a phone with a larger screen. You will be happy carrying less weight.

Even if you check luggage, your electronic devices should all be packed in your carry-on luggage or taken with you on the plane.  Make sure your carry-on bag has appropriate padding to protect your devices or buy a special case for each one.

A Final Note

If you are like me, you will want to bring electronic devices on your trip. Don’t bring everything, but instead choose carefully by thinking about how you will use each item.  Protect your devices from damage by using padding or individual cases.  Protect your items from loss by being alert and aware of your surroundings.

Most importantly, use your devices to enhance your trip.  Use them to bring helpful information to your destination; use them to bring photos and memories home.


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