10 Nightmares When Traveling With Tech--and How to Prevent Them

As a business traveler, you typically can’t do your job without functional smartphones, laptops, power adapters and charging accessories. Add to this the stress of getting materials ready for meetings and deadlines and you can find yourself disconnected, offline, and frustrated. If you have to travel for work this holiday season, you can relate to these following issues with tech and travel.

1. Potential Loss of Your Laptop or Mobile Device

Never bring a laptop along that you aren’t willing to lose, or have damaged or confiscated. While customs and TSA officials do not randomly confiscate laptops, the hard truth is that if they see something about your laptop they don’t like, they can prevent you from taking it onto the plane. This is more of a danger on international flights than on domestic ones, but even so you should pack a tablet or a laptop that you won’t be sorry to let go of if the situation demands it.

There is a very minute chance that this will even happen according to both the TSA and customs. The TSA is primarily interested in scanning your laptop for explosive devices, and won’t even turn it on. Customs only refers a very small percentage of travelers to secondary inspection of electronics, and of those only a very few are subject to laptop searches. Even so, in the course of traveling, anything could happen to your devices, and bringing your prize MacBook Pro along for the ride may not be advisable unless you can readily afford to replace it.

[Related: How to travel like tech royalty]

An iPad or other tablet with a Bluetooth or USB keyboard is a great option for casual traveling, while a lower-end laptop is good for a more business-oriented trip. The iPad has a number of productivity apps that you can use, as do some Android tablets.

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Storing important documents and files in the cloud while you are traveling is advisable just in case your devices are damaged or stolen. While it would be a disaster to lose your prized tech, it would be worse to lose the presentation that you’ve traveled at great expense to deliver. Microsoft has some great tips to help you prevent theft of your laptop, and how to use Microsoft Office to protect valuable data.

2. Not Having the Right Bag for the Checkpoint

Make sure your laptop bag is “checkpoint-friendly” according to the TSA guidelines. A company called Aerovation manufactures bags specifically to these guidelines that you may want to consider if you are a frequent traveler.

If you don’t want to spring for a custom bag, make sure you are buying a bag that has a laptop-only section, keep extra items like cables out of that laptop-only area, and don’t allow any metal or pockets there to make it easier to screen the laptop with an X-ray scanner. The TSA doesn’t endorse any particular bags or manufacturers, so double-check any bags marketed as “checkpoint friendly” against the TSA guidelines to make sure they stack up.

3. Expensive or Nonexistent Airport Wi-Fi

PCWorld recently did extensive, months-long work to rank the top 20 airports for tech-savvy travelers. You can find out up-to-the-minute information on your airport’s Wi-Fi system anywhere in the world through this interactive map at Jaunted.com. The catch: you need to be online to view the map.

If you have an Android phone, this is where setting up a hotspot comes in handy. Just make sure your hotspot is password-protected with a robust password and that you are on a plan with your carrier that allows it. If you find yourself zooming through airports with expensive Wi-Fi on a regular basis, the extra charge from your carrier for hotspot use may just pay for itself.

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4. Expensive In-Flight Wi-Fi

You can avoid overpaying for Wi-Fi this holiday season with bundles from Gogo that range from $14.95 to $19.95, depending on how many day passes you want to purchase. Gogo covers a number of airlines, including American Airlines and United. But if you just purchase a one-shot pass from your airline, it can cost up to $12 a flight.

If you are looking for free in-flight Wi-Fi access, call your airline or rental car company in advance to see what promotions are available. You may qualify for a free in-flight Wi-Fi pass based on your travel purchases, including parking at the airport.

5. Having to Turn off Your Laptop or Notebook for Takeoff and Landing

There’s not much that we can say that this blog post from the New York Times hasn’t already said about the fact that regulations that require that you turn off your mobile devices are based on virtually no actual scientific data. Even so, we still dutifully turn off our devices when told to for both takeoff and landing.

There is the fact that you only have to power down for takeoff and landing, which gives you a break from work and puts those flying the plane at ease. There is also a 2006 study that shows there's not enough evidence on either side of the equation to justify getting rid of the rule; they can’t prove that a cell phone will take down airplane avionics just as they can’t prove that it won’t. It’s time for a more current study that can prove conclusively if mobile devices can interfere with avionics. If they can, more stringent measures should be taken to isolate avionics from the ill effects of a device accidentally left on--and if they do not interfere, the regulations should be scrapped.

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