6 Tech Must-Haves for International Business Trips
BY John Brandon
Everything you need to keep pace with business while you're overseas.
Business travel can go wrong in any number of ways. You could, say, spill coffee on the dress shirt you were planning to wear to an important meeting. Or you could wind up with a hotel room that faces an absurdly noisy intersection.
Those are things that can be difficult to prevent. But there's one thing you can and should always prepare for in advance: how you're going to get work done, especially on an overseas trip. Below is my list for tech essentials to pack.
1. Bring a tiny laptop. This tip applies to domestic travel but it's even more important on an overseas flight. You might not always know your seat or the type of plane you'll be on. A smaller laptop works best in tight confines. On one recent flight, I used an Acer Aspire V5-122P-0643 that has a fast quadcore processor and 4GB of RAM. Because it's a 11.6-inch netbook, it worked fine even when the guy in front of me tipped his seat back. The battery lasted a good five hours, which was about right for overseas flights to places like the U.K. And the price is right--$450 for a second laptop is perfect.
2. Get an international SIM card. The most obvious choice here is to go on a carrier site like ATT.com and order a SIM card that works with your phone for international use. With a Samsung Galaxy Note II, I had no trouble using an AT&T SIM card that provided both phone and data service. Rates vary depending on the country and your plan. Another option is to use something like the OneSimCard, which I tried in an HTC One smartphone that was already unlocked (since it's the Google version). Setup is a bit tricky--you have to use a SIM card app to adjust some settings. OneSimCard provides an app that lets you make Internet calls. Rates vary by country and incoming calls are often free but outgoing calls run between 25 cents and 69 cents per minute. (Some U.S. carriers charge up to $4 per minute overseas.) I usually bring two smartphones on every trip, one as a back-up. For foreign travel, this is also handy in case one of the phones can't connect to the local carrier signal for some reason.
3. Bring a universal power adapter. You can find these online at Amazon.com and other shops. There's usually a switch to select your power outlet type, such as the two-prong European style. You insert the adapter into the outlet, then plug one gadget into the adapter. With the Acer Aspire I used, there is also a two-prong converter that snaps onto the main power cord for use in Europe. But there's another option. I brought a couple of back-up battery chargers for my gadgets like the MyCharge Hub 9000. Once fully charged, you can usually keep your phones and tablets running for an entire trip--up to about two full recharges. Plus, you can charge up to three gadgets at the same time.
4. Get some cable savers. Cables are the bane of domestic travel, but they cause extra headaches on an international trip-they get in the way of your gear. I use Recoil Winders, which come in three sizes and cost about $10 each. You fold the cable in half and slip over a hook, then recoil to wrap around the spindle. I also use thicker cords like those from Eastern Collective that seem to last much longer than the thin micro USB cables you get in the box with your phone or tablet.
5. Bring a backpack. For domestic travel, I usually prefer a messenger bag that provides quick access to my phone and laptop at a coffee shop or during a meeting. They are super slim and light. On long flights or in remote locales where I know I'll be walking longer distances, I'm prone to use a backpack like the Bare Lido. At times, it's better to cinch the backpack over both shoulders and go light. The canvas material is strong and the design looks ideal for Euro travel. For something beefier, I've used the Airbac business bags that have extra padding for a laptop--they use a unique air support system to ease the burden.
6. Use a portable router. Lately, I have not packed a mini router along on domestic trips because Wi-Fi and 4G are so readily available. For overseas travel, I'll usually bring something like the TP-Link TL-WR710N-US router along. This compact model plugs directly into a wall outlet and allows me to re-share the hotel Ethernet connection in my room. (Don't forget to bring your own Ethernet cable.) In some places, Wi-Fi can be expensive and a 3G or 4G data signal might not work with your international SIM card.
So which gear do you bring overseas? Post in comments!