8 tips for traveling by plane with electronics

Not too many years ago, I traveled with no electronic devices at all except a cell-phone, and I can even remember a time when I didn't have one of those. These days, it's a different story: my Kindle, my laptop, my cell-phone, and on our upcoming trip the kids' tablets all have to make it on the plane.
Here are some of my tips for flying with your electronics while also keeping your devices safe and in good working order while you travel. These tips apply to things like:
  • laptops
  • tablets
  • cell-phones
  • e-readers
  • cameras
and anything else you would consider a "small-ish electronic device".

1. Pack electronic devices in your hand-luggage if possible
If you've ever seen how your suitcases are handled as they're loaded into an airplane, you will probably want to keep your electronic devices in your carry-on. Another thing to consider is that occasionally, thefts do occur from checked luggage. Personally, I would not put any of my electronics in the checked luggage: the risk of things getting broken or lost is just too great.

2. Get protective covers
As a parent traveling with kids, you will probably be putting your devices into your hand-luggage with a bunch of other items, which may include more or less messy things like toys, snacks, diapers, changes of clothes, and so on. It's a very good idea to buy some kind of protective cover for your electronics to keep them safe in that muddle - those screens can get damaged easily otherwise.

For our trips, I've purchased a zip-up neoprene cover for my laptop, and some practical and protective leather covers for the kids' Samsung tablets. My cell-phone has a protective cover on it anyway, so it's reasonably safe. 

3. Charge all devices fully before you leave
This is really important to remember, so I'll repeat it: charge everything up before you leave. Many airports now have electrical outlets where you can charge your devices, but it's not always easy to find them or take the time to use them (or find one that's not already taken!). And a device that is taking up space in your carry-on, but won't start when you want to use it is really, really annoying.

4. Bring all needed chargers and cables
When you're busy trying to remember everything you need to bring for your trip, this can easily slip your mind. Make sure you bring any battery chargers and cables you need for your devices along on your trip, or they won't be very useful at all! I usually put all these items into a small bag or pouch and pack it into the checked luggage so they're easy to find.

5. For international travel: bring adapters and converters
This is another thing that might slip your mind in the heat of packing for a trip: electrical outlets are not the same the world over. That charger or cable you brought, might not plug into the wall-outlet in a foreign country. Make sure you bring an adapter or converter, as needed, to simplify your life.

6. Bring some headphones
If you or your children are using devices that make noise, to play games or watch movies or listen to audio-books for example, it's a very good idea to bring along some headphones on your flight. That way, you won't be disturbing other travelers, and you will also be able to hear your devices better: the background noise on airplanes can drown out many sounds.

Get child-sized headphones for your kids so they're comfortable: these can often be used for the on-board entertainments system as well.

7. Pack your devices so they can be easily accessed at security
When you go through airport security, small devices like cell-phones and smaller cameras can usually just be left in your hand-luggage. However, security personnel will probably ask you to take out larger devices like laptops and sometimes (not always) tablets and e-readers before putting them through the x-ray machine.

Some backpacks and carry-ons are designed with a special compartment for things like laptops that you can zip open, and easily show your laptop or tablet. But at some security checkpoints you will still have to remove the device from your carry-on. Just make sure your electronics are easy to access to make this process easier.

8. Think about data charges before you go
If you're traveling outside your own country and want to use devices like smart-phones, tablets, laptops and so on that require you to access and use the internet, you should think about what that is going to cost you. Talk to your cell-phone provider about special plans for data-usage when you're abroad, and check how this will affect your other devices as well.

More cell-phone travel-tips can be found in my post: Cell-phone tips & apps when you're traveling with kids (or without!).

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