If you’re considering adopting a location-independent lifestyle, or you’re already a digital nomad, your electronic devices are critical to you being able to work while you travel. Making sure you’ve got a strong internet connection and plenty of power can be challenging on the road. Without those, your productivity will suffer, which could cost you big bucks. Here are four tech add-ons to stock up on before your next trip that can save you both time and money.
Wi-Fi range extender
If you’re working while traveling, you probably spend a significant amount of time holed up in your hotel room, hunched over your laptop. Or if you’re taking a well-earned vacation, you might choose to relax by streaming a movie or listening to some music. The problem comes when you find yourself confined to a room that’s far from the router with a patchy signal. The speed can slow so much that it feels like you’ve gone back to the days of dial up.
Luckily, there are devices that allow you to seamlessly connect as if the router was right next to you. Wi-Fi range extenders increase the coverage areas and boost the strength of slow connections in areas farther from the router. All you need is the network’s password, and to be at least on the edge of the signal to set it up. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi to their guests (or for a small fee), so you should have no problem getting their network password. Vacation rentals will most likely include this for you to use, as well.
There are two main kinds of Wi-Fi range extenders available. One plugs into a wall socket and picks up the signal from the router by amplifying it and then transmitting it again. This allows anyone with the password to access the extended network, so it’s the preferred kind to use if you have multiple devices, or if there is more than one person who needs to use the Wi-Fi connection. However, it does mean that you need access to a wall socket, which may be difficult depending on where you are.
The second type is a mini antenna that plugs directly into the USB port of your laptop. It will pick up a weak signal and turn it into a strong, consistent connection. The benefit of this model of Wi-Fi extender is that you don’t need a wall socket to use it — making it more convenient when there isn’t one available. However, it will only work for the device it’s plugged into, and many models only connect to laptops, meaning your phone or tablet will still be out of commission. (See also: 6 Ways to Slash the Cost of Wi-Fi When You Travel)
When you’re in a foreign country, you tend to rely on your gadgets even more heavily than when you’re at home. Smartphones have become indispensable traveling tools that enable you to do anything from booking accommodation and searching for directions, to downloading your boarding pass or ordering an Uber.
But, virtually all of your entertainment devices require a charged battery to function. Whether it’s an e-reader, a tablet, a camera, or a Bluetooth speaker, they all need to be juiced up to be of use while you’re on the go.
A portable charger, also known as a power bank, can help you avoid a dead battery while you’re out and about. You can charge your devices on the go, instead of needing to be chained to a wall socket while waiting for your devices to charge.
Power banks come in all shapes and sizes, and hold varying amounts of power. Tiny, lipstick-sized power banks will fit in your pocket, while the highest capacity models are understandably more bulky, but can power anything up to the size of a laptop. You can even get solar powered power banks, which will convert the sun’s rays into battery juice.
Portable Wi-Fi router
If you’re a frequent traveler who is constantly connected to the internet, then a portable Wi-Fi router may be a good investment. Essentially, it’s a router that works like any other, allowing you to wirelessly connect multiple devices at the same time. The difference is that a travel router accesses the internet through a tethered cellphone, using a sim card and USB cord. You can create your very own private Wi-Fi network anywhere there’s cellular coverage, whether you’re on the beach or lounging by the pool.
The best portable Wi-Fi routers are unlocked, so you can pick up a cheap local sim card in whichever country you’re in. Or, you can purchase a global sim that gives you coverage across several countries, but these are often more pricey than a local sim. If you’re going to a country where you’re able to use your regular data package, like Mexico, you can even use your existing sim card.
Beware, though: Not all portable Wi-Fi devices are created equal. This is particularly true in regards to speed, as some are capable of providing standard 3G, right up to 4G+ connectivity to allow super quick downloads. They also come in different sizes, the most practical of which can easily fit in your pocket. (See also: 8 Ways to Save on Smartphone Costs While Traveling)
Travel surge protector
Power surges can have catastrophic consequences for your electrical devices. They’re usually over in milliseconds and occur multiple times per day in electrical circuits all over the world.
There are two main types of power surges that occur, with multiple potential causes. First, there are surges sparked by outside events, like storms, lightning strikes, or compromised power lines. Unfortunately, these are usually very strong and there’s not much you can do about them.
Then there are surges that arise inside, usually caused by faulty electronics or when high-powered electrical devices are in use. The demand that elevators, refrigerators, or even hairdryers momentarily put on an electrical circuit can result in a potentially devastating power fluctuation.
There are many countries across the globe where the power supply simply isn’t as advanced or reliable as it is in the U.S. If you want to prevent having your precious electrical devices fried by an unexpected power surge then you need to add a travel surge protector to your packing list.
It plugs into the wall socket like a standard travel adapter, and you plug your devices into it. The surge protector acts as a barrier to stop any electrical spikes from cooking your electrical gadgets, saving you the potential inconvenience and cost of replacing them.