I travel frequently for business and have perfected my pre-packed kits to make travel simple. Family travel is different. These items keep people happy, make travel easy, and, when packed into a single kit, it's something that you can just pick it up and zip out the door.
Last month my family and I went on two trips that resulted in us being gone 5 out of 7 days in 2 different places. I travel fairly frequently for business, and have my travel routines down. I have a couple of pre-packed kits—one for toiletries, one for technology—that have everything I could possibly need for the presentations and workshops I give on the road.
Traveling with family is different. Everyone needs wifi access which, in some cases, can be $$ per day per device. Everyone needs chargers for all their (inevitably) different devices. Someone will always leave that one connector they really, really need back at home. Even if you remember everything, carting around all that gear can really weigh you down.
When I got home from our last trip, I decided that I really needed a travel kit that was geared toward family travel, covered all the bases, worked for everyone, yet didn't take up too much packing space or weigh down my carry-on.
My Family Travel Kit is based on my professional travel kit, but scaled down to cover only those things I find immensely useful and facilitate leisure travel needs for the entire family. These items keep people happy, make travel easy, and, when packed into a single kit, you can just pick it up and zip out the door.
These are three things I find necessary for traveling with technology:
- Charging paraphernalia
- Travel Router
- Streaming Stick
Ah, charging. This is where your world can entirely break down if you're not prepared, and where someone's device dies (or you make a trip to the store to spend money you shouldn't have had to spend because you forgot to bring it with you).
First, make sure you have the plugs covered:
- USB wall charger
- Cigarette Lighter charger for the car
I know that most rental cars come with USB ports now, but every now and then this little adapter can come in handy: it can provide a second USB port so you can charge more than one device in the car. When you're traveling with family, I can almost guarantee that more than one person will need to charge at the same time. Having one of these around can give you the edge you need and it doesn't add that much to your kit.
Second, not all USB wall chargers are equal. Some have very low power output. Some have more than one USB port, but the ports aren't equal in power output. If you're traveling with other tech, be sure to check the power output for the wall chargers you travel with. I typically travel with two wall chargers: an official Apple one and one that's more powerful. They're small, light, and give me options.
Next, you need the right connectors. Luckily, you can get multi-port cords that, when connected to a strong power outlet can give you what you need for many devices all at the same time.
For us, we have two iPhones and one Android device (at a minimum). I ended up with this four-port connector although I looked hard at a couple of others. I don't have anything that needs the USB-C port (yet) but the 6-port and 8-port connectors (like the one I keep in my professional tech travel kit) had far more unnecessary connectors than I need when traveling with family. (You might want to consider one of the multi-port connectors if you have a different configuration of devices.)
The only other cord I carry is one that I got from my travel headset. This is a USB-to-MicroUSB that includes a secondary hub. I plug this directly into the wall charger (the more powerful one), and then plug the four-port connector into its hub. This cord with hub came from my wireless headset that is geared towards gamers who get together in different locations. I don't need it for my headset, but I know how to spot something useful and repurpose it to my needs. And this is one of my best finds.
Besides, the other end of this cord is what I use to power the Travel Router...
The Travel Router
If there is one piece of tech that I find the most useful, it's the HooToo Wireless Travel Router
At about $40, the HooToo is without question the best travel tech I carry. This HooToo has an ethernet port, two USB ports, a built-in USB drive, and a battery. It can power your devices while it provides their internet access.
The HooToo is not a hotspot, but it acts like a portable WIFI access point.
You configure the HooToo at home, prior to travel, and configure all of your devices to connect to it when they encounter its network. When you get to your destination, plug the HooToo into the hotel's network using the ethernet cable in the room (or connect it to your hotel's WIFI). Authorize the HooToo on the hotel's network and all your devices have internet access automatically. PLUS, only one device (the HooToo) pays the network authorization fee.
HooToo Wireless Travel Router is my traveling secret weapon. Plus, it gives me one more thing that keeps family members happy on the road:
A Streaming Stick
Configure a streaming stick to work with your HooToo. In your hotel room, plug it into the hotel room TV's HDMI port. Change the input source on the TV to the HDMI and Voila! You have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or other subscription service on your hotel TV.
Many hotels now have a way for you to log into your Netflix on their TV, but who wants to accidentally leave their credentials behind or leave them in the hands of a hotel?
Your best option, then, is the Roku Streaming Stick. It won't drain the power of your mobile device while streaming and, in a pinch, it can authenticate on a hotel network without the HooToo.
The reason you need these with the HooToo is that they can't authorize themselves on a hotel network. Most networks require a browser to authenticate and the streaming sticks don't have one. If you want to use one, you need the HooToo. Once the HooToo is authorized on the hotel network, the streaming stick will automatically start working.
There are a couple of other things I carry to make all these work together:
- 2 AA batteries (for the Roku remote)
- a retractable Cat5e Gigabit ethernet cable (for the HooToo)
- A portable USB battery bank
- An HDMI extender (for those TVs that have oddly placed HDMI ports)
- An audio AUX cable (for those times when I want to plug my iPod into the rental car radio)
And I have it all packed into a nice little organizer.
Now, when I'm ready to go, I can grab this bag and go. And, wherever I am, I can grab this bag and everything I need is right at my fingertips.
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