What’s in My Laptop Bag?

When readers shared their own travel tips and several really stood out as worth highlighting.

Erndog said,

Invest in a ‘power brick’, something to keep your phone and/or tablet charged,while traveling. For an iPad, be sure it has at least 2 amp output

Fortunately most of the planes I’m on have seat power, and even standard outlet plugs — my Empower adapter died after many years and it’s an outdated enough technology I didn’t want to replace it.

Flying American’s older planes without power isn’t the only time I need extra juice. I do get a solid four hours of battery even watching movies and while online with inflight internet. There will be plenty of MacBook Air fans in the comments probably singing that machine’s praises for battery life, but it’s not a viable solution for me.

I was in a day of meetings recently where plugging in wasn’t a good option, and where I had to be on my computer for about 8 hours. My Android phone drains battery too.

I don’t carry an iPad or similar tablet, my laptop is light and I prefer one device at work, home, and on the road. You can charge a phone off a cheap external battery but I want a single device that’s reasonably light which will charge my laptop and my phone and do both at the same time with plenty of juice.

A couple of months ago I my external battery. I wound up buying an Energizer XP18000AB Universal Power Adapter with External Battery for a pricey $165.

These are lots of cords and tips, I only carry the connectors for my laptop and my phone (which also works on my mobile internet hotspot) and I can slip the battery either in my laptop bag or in my rollaboard. I don’t carry the power cord to recharge the battery except on longer trips and that always goes in my carry on.

The device fits into a side pocket of my shoulder bag. The biggest selling point was their ‘guarantee’ that it would work with any laptop. The device comes with several tips and several different cords for a variety of devices, but it doesn’t actually come with one for my laptop. They have a website where you can order tips and they promise two per year, every year for free when you register your device.

Here are the other things i carry in my laptop bag:

Verizon MiFi. I create my own wireless hotspot, and the speeds are pretty good. When I looked into FoxFi it wasn’t available for my Samsung S3 but perhaps it or something similar now is and I should re-evaluate. But carrying an internet connection wherever I go is crucial for my productivity.

Denon AH-NC800 noise cancelling headphones. All the cool kids use Bose QC15s, and I’ve only compared my Denons head-to-head with the Bose QC2s. I like the Denons better for music and movies, the Bose better for keeping out the sound of screaming children in the cabin.

Monster Outlets-to-Go power strip. Hotels never have enough outlets and I need to power up several devices at a time, I like a power strip that lets me do that, and it’s best when that strip is compact. I reviewed one of these back in 2009.

Cell phone and charger I have a Samsung Galaxy S3. I miss my old Blackberry’s tactile keyboard, I don’t type pages long emails any longer but the phone is fantastic. With two Microsoft Exchange email accounts plus Gmail and a Yahoo account loaded the battery drains and so I frequently carry an external charger. On international trips I bring along an unlocked phone with an Estonian SIM from OneSimCard.com. I dial the number I need, it calls me back and connects me, getting low incoming rates in a ton of countries worldwide.

International power adapters. I carry a generic all-purpose one pretty much all the time, but when I’m headed on a long international trip I also bring along of bunch of region-specific power adapters since they’re smaller. Most folks are best off just with the generic ones, but I have a collection of European, Asian, U.K, South Pacific that I throw into the bag before heading to those regions, where I’ll want to be plugging in several items at once.

Canon S110 Camera. Based on reader advice I got the s95, though after a year and a half I dropped it lens down onto the floor in a hotel room and destroyed it. It was cheaper to replace it with a newer model which was sad because I loved the s95.

Tumi travel wallet. This has all of my travel program cards, my coupons (lounge passes, free rental days, hotel BOGO certs, etc.) And it has a place for passports and I zipper pocket I keep foreign currency in.

Also in my laptop bag: the current issue of The Atlantic for when we’re below 10,000 feet, my laptop power cord and laptop – almost two year old Lenovo u300s with i7 processor — and my freedom baggie (containing purell, chapstick, travel-sized toothpaste, travel-sized deodorant, and Tide stick).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Hi Gary, for your Verizon Mifi, how much do you pay for it per month? Do they limit your data usage and such?

  2. Why carry all your award program cards? Can’t you just enter them in your smart phone so you have the numbers?

  3. You can use the SQLite method to enable tethering (and not extra pay for it). Then you can use your phone’s normal hot spot, and don’t need FoxFi (although I prefer FoxFi over the phone’s hotspot). Since I’m grandfathered in on an unlimited VZW data plan, I use this Internet at home as well. 4G is plenty fast to stream an HD movie.

  4. For the phone, consider the application JuiceDefender which “manages” the radios in the phone to preserve battery power. In my experience this doubles or triples the non-active-use time your phone will last between charges.

  5. I purchased one of the “Monster Outlets-to-Go power strip” on your recommendation and boy, what a mistake. The thing is bulky and heavy, and now I am pretty much stuck with it (it’ll cost quite a lot to return it to Amazon).

    The best solution is still my T-shaped 3 way outlet wall plug adapter: the thing is truly tiny and weighs 90 grams or so, not the monstrous 270 grams of the gigantic Monster outlet.

    Sure, it doesn’t have a USB plug, but I always travel with one in my carry-on as I need juice in case of misconnects, and those are super-light.

    Shopper beware!

  6. Verizon MiFi??? Are you kidding??

    Any good unlocked phone (like Google’s Nexus line) will allow you to tether (via USB, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, even all at the same time) for free using your existing data plan (assuming you didn’t read the thousands of words of the carrier contract).

    And since you’re already bringing a phone and its charger with you, you save a ton of weight in addition to money.

  7. P.S. you can use a phone-based tethering solution globally very inexpensively with a local SIM; I’ve often paid for data on a weekly trip the same amount that a hotel would have charged me for an hour, and had full internet access at the hotel on all my devices and when mobile, all for the same low cost.

    Verizon’s thing becomes a brick on 90+% of the earth.

  8. Not sure how heavy your MiFi usage is, but check out “Karma”. I just ordered one and I’m thrilled. I only need it a couple of times a year when I’m in the country, so the fact that there is no monthly fee and the data never expires is just perfect. Plus, it’s a really cool concept.

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