When I take a vacation I schedule three or four extra days at home before going back to work. I’m usually so exhausted and frazzled by my vacation that I need time to recover.
The hassle of air travel is often one reason. Anyone who has been through airport security with much more than a laptop knows the pain. Gadget freaks, er, lovers, can face delays. At worst, they could soon be undressing for strangers.
Let’s approach this problem from two directions. First, for those who really need to travel with a bunch of high-tech devices, we’ll talk about some things that will help. Veteran road warriors already know most of this but it may help those who only travel for vacations.
Get charged up
Every device that you carry should be capable of working when you go through security. Computers should compute, radios and MP3 players should play and digital cameras should be capable of taking and displaying photos.
If you have accessories such as ethernet cables, battery chargers, extra memory cards and other items with wires or batteries, put them in a single clear plastic bag. Otherwise, the security folks may need to paw through your luggage to find all the little wires and gizmos that show up on the scanner.
Obviously you should answer questions if you are asked. But don’t start explaining unless you are asked. It often sounds defensive or even suspicious. Believe me, the security person has seen plenty of electronic devices before the ones in your baggage. So don’t assume he’s going to be puzzled by your MP3 player. This should be obvious, but I’ve personally seen it in security lines. People poke gadgets in hidden pouches of luggage. That, of course, gets the security person even more interested.
Take only what you must
The other angle we’ll look at—and my favourite—is whether you can leave some of your technology at home. By taking all your gizmos, you have more stuff to carry around. And if you carry high-tech devices, you feel obliged to use them. Simple solution: Take a break from email, texting and instant messaging if you can.
There are other reasons, too. Expensive high-tech devices are magnets for thieves, for instance, and they can get left behind or lost on a trip.
Try multifunctional devices
Still, I realize the world has changed and many of us—me included—end up carrying some gadgets. So, here’s a compromise: multifunctional devices, say an iPhone or other small device with the same features, make enormous sense for travellers. A single device can handle the functions of email, phone, GPS and even camera.
If you’re really eager to travel light, even cellphones—throwaway or rental—can be obtained in remote locations.
Checking email is usually easy at computers in hotel business centres or Internet cafes. Even cruise ships offer Internet centres (although the cost is often so high I just keep walking until I am near a friendly beverage dispenser).
Some disposable digital cameras do a decent job and almost all of them do a better job than the camera built into a cellphone. Once you’ve taken your pictures, email them home and toss the camera.
I don’t always follow my own advice, but this is one time I really do. In the old days I vacationed like a pack mule—I can even remember taking a ham radio transceiver along on one vacation.
These days? I go on vacation.
©2008/The New York Times