Keeping Your Electronics Charged at the Airport

I am a relatively frequent traveller, I find myself in the airport several times a year for business or pleasure. I’m also really cheap so I end up spending a whole day at the airport due to layovers. As a techie working in IT I need to stay connected and that means keeping things charged. I’ve come up with a small kit and a few strategies for doing this at an airport where electrical outlets might be far and few in between.

Feel free to skip to the bottom if you just want links to stuff you need for your devices to make this all work.

Strategy

Here are a few things to keep in mind when packing your electronics.

1. Minimize Your Stuff

Decide what you actually need before you throw anything into your luggage. I decided to whittle down my electronics when I figured out I was carrying enough that the TSA would comment at the airport. So keep to the least you can get away with. For me that is the following:

Tablet – An Asus Windows RT Tablet

Cell Phone – Galaxy S2

Camera – Sometimes a small point and shoot, sometimes my DSLR.

GPS – A Garmin GPS, charges with a mini-USB cable.

I occasionally take a laptop or a Gameboy with me.

If at all possible you want all these to be using the same USB cable for power, but that rarely happens. Most Android devices all use the same cable, and Apple has been until recently fairly consistent. Point is though, they all typically use standard USB to charge and you just need the right cables. So you just need a charger with a USB slot on it.

2. Get Rid of Wall Wart Chargers

Practically all small electronics short of laptops use USB power to charge these days. Tablets, cell phones, cameras, portable gaming devices, and just about everything else all are capable of charging with a USB cable plugged into a computer. If you’ve got a phone that doesn’t have a USB cable option, get a new phone.

You’ll drastically reduce the amount of weight that you have to carry just by getting rid of the wall wart chargers.

 

Wall Wart with Micro USB End
This is a “wall wart”. These are bad. They only have one end, and you have to take one for every device you want to charge simultaneously.

3. Charge More Than One Device At a Time

This is pretty important. There are a few options in the “Kit” that will help you do this. The idea here is that you might get one outlet jack and you want to maximize how much you can get out of it. Ideally you want to be able to plug in all your devices at the same time from a single outlet jack.

If you carry a laptop, check how many USB ports it has, and how many of them can power something when it is plugged in. New ones usually have more than two and all of them can be used to charge when the laptop is on AC power. One of those will almost always be able to power things when the laptop is on battery.

Check out the kit at the bottom for the non-laptop carrying way to deal with this. If you carry a laptop you can skip the chargers and just carry cables and use it to charge everything in your hotel room at night if you like to live dangerously.

 

This is a good example of a two port USB Charger. It only takes up one outlet.

 

Put Together an Airport Kit

After you’ve figured out what you need and don’t need, this part is easy. I’ve put together some items for a kit for you to pick from that will solve 90% of your travel power needs.  This is all based on the idea that you just need one singular USB charger and a few cable to do the job. This minimizes the amount of stuff you have in your carry-on bag (which is typically all you’ll have with you in the airport).

Here’s my kit:

Small Two Port USB Wall Charger – For the airport/hotel/wherever I’m staying.

Small Two port USB Car Charger – For the rental car. Can charge phone and power GPS this way.

USB Cables/Multi End Cable – One common one for each same type device. If they all use the same tip then 2. I carry four cables, each about a meter long.

Some Kind of Pouch or Container I’ve got a little drawstring cotton pouch I use for this. Keeps everything together and make it easier to swap backpacks.

The Links

Personally I prefer Amazon because a lot of third party retailers sell through them and you can buy this stuff cheap. If you tried to get this same stuff at a store it would be marked up 500%.

Chargers

Small Two Port USB Wall Charger

Small Two Port USB Car Charger

Please note that these chargers are for North America only. You might need adapters or totally different chargers for international travel!

General Cables:

Micro USB Cables (Type B) – Charges most Android devices. Blackberries, Amazon Kindles, Nooks, some bluetooth headsets and a lot of other devices use this type of cable as well. If you look at the end, it has black plastic in it. The type A which is less common will have white.

Mini USB Cables – Garmin GPS units use these. A lot of bigger devices like cameras tend to use these.

USB 3.0 Cables – The ASUS Windows RT tablet uses this type. I’m sure there will be other devices that use it soon enough.

iOS 30 Pin Cables – These are the old style Apple device cables that the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch used to use. If you’ve got an iPhone 3/3G/3GS/4/4S, iPod Touch up to 4th generation (maybe 5th) and iPads up to the “iPad 3”, they use this cable. You need to find the one that is for your specific device as while they should all charge, they might not all sync. This one should work for all though.

iOS Lightning Cable – These are for newer Apple devices. The iPhone 5, “iPad 4”, iPad Mini, and the 6th gen iPods and higher (I think) use this cable.

Camera Cables

Some camera companies use proprietary cables for their cables. You need to see if the camera can charge the battery internally. Most can, some don’t. Here’s some Amazon search links to get you started. You can add your model number after the search and get better results. Some of these cables are less than a dollar!

Nikon Cables – Nikon seems to use Micro USB for most of their cameras.

Olympus Cables – Olympus uses a proprietary cable. If it’s a standard cable type I haven’t found it. Every Olympus camera I’ve seen or owned uses this type though.

Canon Cables – Canon seems to use Mini USB cables.

Kodak Cables – These look like they might be MIcro USB but I can’t tell from the pictures.

Sony Cables – This is another proprietary cable type. It might be a standard, some cell phone use this kind of cable. Sony is all over the map in terms of cable usage so make sure it works with your model.

Polaroid Cables – Polaroid seems to use mostly Mini-USB cables as well.

 

 

 

 

 

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