“Oh! What a tangled web we weave…”
Sir Walter Scott, Marmion
When our family first began traveling, organizing our gear was not much of a concern. One camera, one video camera, extra film and an 8mm cassette tape – and we were good to go. But as technology inched its way onto the travel scene, everything changed. It was a gradual metamorphosis, yet it seemed as if suddenly overnight, we found ourselves packing two digital cameras, two cell phones, two laptops, two tablets and an accoutrement of chargers, batteries and cords necessary to keep such technological wonders up and running.
To prevent my mind from feeling as tangled as the never-ending electronic cords packed inside my carry-on, I’ve discovered various systems for organizing all of this travel gear. The methods and ideas have evolved over the years, just as our suitcases and packing strategies have changed, but the goal has always remained the same: Easy access in the most streamlined, simplest way possible.
Here are my Eight Favorite Ideas for Organizing Travel Gear:
1. Pack a power strip
This is an easy fix for making sure you have enough outlets when charging your gear at the end of the day. We’ve used a power strip in practically every hotel room and cruise ship cabin we’ve stayed in and are always glad we’ve packed it. Ours is a basic linear strip with a surge protector, but there are also a variety of newer designs – some that include USB ports – that are worth a look.
2. Organize accessories for each item in separate see-through bags.
I discovered these pouches at The Container Store several years ago and have used them on every trip since. The clear mesh-embedded vinyl makes it easy to see what’s inside, and the zippered top insures that what I’ve packed won’t fall out. I fill the larger 11 x 14-inch pouch with printed materials – airline, hotel and tour reservation confirmations – along with maps, notebooks, extra pens, my 5×8 itinerary cards and a couple of envelopes for travel receipts. The smaller 10 x 7-inch pouches are perfect for camera and computer accessories. The different colored tops are also great for keeping family member’s items from getting mixed up.
3. Don’t forget to pack an adapter when traveling outside your home country.
A number of years ago, I bought an international power converter that came in a little case with a set of adapters for various regions around the world. The converter was heavy and thankfully is no longer necessary, but the adapters continue to serve me well. I pack the ones we’ll need for a trip in the pouch with my laptop accessories. I also bring along the appropriate regional adapters from our Apple World Travel Adapter Kit, which slide onto all of our Apple devices.
4. Keep your cords tangle-free in their own case.
If you’re traveling with multiple devices that have multiple cords, a separate tech case is a great option. Some designs focus solely on cord and cable storage, folding sleekly and taking up minimal space. Others feature slots for individual devices as well as their accessories. The largest cases offer storage for multiple devices and accessories. The key – as with any organizational system – is figuring out what will work well for you.
5. Consider switching to an RFID-blocking travel wallet.
I recently replaced my travel wallet with one that contains RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) blocking, a technology that prevents chip-embedded credit cards from being scanned while stored inside a wallet. By blocking the electromagnetic fields between a chip card and someone nearby who might be attempting to “scan” the numbers, this technology protects against information being stolen from an unsuspecting traveler.
I purchased my RFID-blocking wallet at our local luggage store. Made by ili New York, it has three slots for credit and bank cards plus a windowed space for an ID or driver’s license as well as sections for bills and coins. And it comes in a variety of colors with different shades inside and out…so pretty! Herb also bought an RFID-blocking wallet which works well for him at home and when traveling.
6. Keep camera gear as simplified as possible.
Unless you’re traveling with a variety of lenses and delicate camera accessories, a camera bag really isn’t necessary. We protect our cameras with neoprene cases and pack them securely in our carry-ons. These cases from MegaGear, designed to fit specific camera models, have worked really well for us. With chargers, extra batteries and memory cards stored in a separate pouch, we avoid the need for another travel bag.
7. Downsize and minimize whatever you’re carrying when you’re touring.
I’ve had a couple of incarnations of this Tumi nylon cross-body purse over the years, and I find it to be the perfect handbag for touring. The cross-body option insures that I can keep it as close as possible whenever I need to and also offers arm-free ease for taking photos. It’s small, lightweight and durable and incredibly well-organized, with outside pockets for maps and quick-grab items and a zippered inside section for my wallet and sunglasses. I pack it flat in my carry-on and fill it as soon as we arrive at our first destination.
Herb carries a small backpack that holds our water bottles and folded jackets and serves as a place for storing our cameras if it starts raining. He has also transitioned through several backpack versions and now swears by this model from pacsafe, a lightweight, comfortable bag designed with multiple anti-theft features.
8. Let the destination dictate your needs.
Traveling to places with extreme weather conditions can be challenging for keeping tech gear safe and dry. Before our trip to Antarctica, I had read stories about cameras and batteries getting damaged from condensation, sudden changes in temperatures and water spraying into the zodiacs.
Seabourn provided us with lightweight waterproof backpacks that worked wonderfully for our daily expeditions. Even now we often pack one in a suitcase if we’re traveling where a waterproof pack might be welcome. I also bought a set of waterproof bags for storing accessories inside our waterproof backpacks, insuring that everything would stay dry and easy to find. Having the right items for protecting our gear took away any concerns of possible problems, freeing us to immerse ourselves in the incredible world we had landed in.
And that, of course, is what really great travel is all about.