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Tips for Travelers: Packing Tech for a Long Trip

Rocket Yard Contributor Steve Sande is heading out of the country soon for a great adventure, so he’ll be providing readers with a lot of helpful tips over the next month that can help them use their tech gear confidently and safely anywhere. 

In this first installment of Tips for Travelers, I’ll be describing how I personally pack my gear for a long trip, along with more general tips on what’s important to have with you.

The Bag or Backpack
To begin with, it’s a really good idea to have one bag or backpack for all of your gear, as it makes it simple to find everything without having to open multiple suitcases or bags. For years, I’ve used a backpack as my go-to tech travel bag as it gives me a hands-free option for lugging my stuff. That’s very useful for those times where you might have a lot of other luggage to move around.

The TYLT Energi+ Backpack has a full page of great bags and backpacks that are perfect for your gear. One that I find particularly intriguing is the TYLT Energi+ Backpack (pictured right), which features a built-in 10,400 mAh battery pack and has plenty of space for everything from up to a 17-inch MacBook Pro (which Apple sadly doesn’t make anymore) to cameras, compact tripods, microphones and other accessories you may wish to take on the road.

For my needs, I’ve used a backpack that’s similar to the Targus Gravity Laptop Backpack for years. It has a separate padded area for a laptop (or at this time, a couple of iPads and DSLRs plus extra lenses), a second compartment for cables, power adapters and so on, and then a small third pocket on the outside for those items that are easily misplace (SIM and SD cards, for example).

Targus also makes a 16-inch Compact Rolling Backpack that switches between being a backpack and a roller case. For those one-day business trips, this might be all you need as it can even carry a change of clothes.

Whatever you decide, make sure that your expensive tech can travel with you on an airplane as carry-on luggage. That way, you’ll handle it with care and always know where it is, rather than needing to worry about whether or not it makes it to your destination or is broken in transit.

Zippered bags, photo printer paper, a tripod, and more...
Zippered bags, photo printer paper, a tripod, and more…

What to Pack
My upcoming trip is going to be 26 days long (22 days of which I’ll be on a ship), and I plan to do some limited work while I’m on it. I am an avid photographer, so part of my equipment list is oriented towards accessories to assist with that avocation. So what’s in my bag?

  • 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Apple Pencil (my “laptop”)
  • iPad Air 2 (my wife’s machine)
  • An iPhone 7 Plus (mine) and an iPhone 6s Plus (my wife’s)
  • A 6-port USB rapid charger (similar to the Sabrent 6-port charger)
  • International plug adapters for the countries I’m visiting
  • A travel charging station for my Apple Watch
  • Six MFi USB to Lightning cables
  • Two USB to micro-USB cables
  • An external battery pack
  • A VR camera (Ricoh Theta S)
  • Two zippered bags containing extra SD cards, camera batteries, battery rechargers, and Lightning SD card readers (for backing up camera SD cards to iPads) — see image above this section
  • Two Canon DSLR cameras with zoom lenses and an extra telephoto lens
  • A small tripod and a tripod adapter for an iPhone
  • An international SIM card and SIM removal tool (a bent paper clip)
  • An HP Sprocket Pocket Printer and extra Zink paper (for printing photos as gifts)
  • iPhone EarPods (for podcast recording and listening to music)
  • Two Nikon compact binoculars (for birdwatching on the Amazon River…)

Your personal list will of course vary from this custom list. Perhaps you prefer to do your work on a MacBook or MacBook Pro, or you don’t take photos with a DSLR or VR camera. In that case, a smaller bag with space for your laptop, iPhone, charging adapters, some Lightning cables and earphones might do the trick.

Packing Guidelines
With over 35 years of international travel under my belt, I have learned how to balance what I need to have with me against carrying too much. Trust me; it’s too easy to just throw everything into a bag, then regret the extra weight you’re lugging around. Here are some guidelines that I’ve come up with:

  • Pack what you absolutely must have, not what you think you’ll need
  • Plan for the contingency of not having access to power
  • Consider using your iPhone as your sole camera/video recorder
  • Always have at least one spare charging cable, as you’ll always lose at least one…
  • Use small zippered bags (or even ZipLoc-type bags) to keep small items from getting lost
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to pack, or you’re bound to forget something
  • Write a list (the Notes app is perfect for this), then go through it and delete those items you really don’t need
  • If you’re traveling to big cities in developed countries, you will be able to purchase items that you forgot. Going to really out-of-the-way places, you won’t be able to buy those items, so be sure to pack them.

Coming Up
Over the next four weeks I’ll cover a number of other travel-related topics, including:

  • Data plans, roaming, SIMs and alternatives
  • Staying safe on questionable Wi-Fi networks
  • Physical security for your devices
  • Portable power
  • Backups on the road
  • Apps to install before you travel
  • Using an iPad Pro as a MacBook replacement

If you have any questions regarding any of these topics, please be sure to leave them in the comments section below so I can respond to your question at the appropriate time. I also welcome any suggestions or tips you may have.

Steve Sande
the authorSteve Sande
Contributing Author
Steve has been writing about Apple products since 1986, starting on a bulletin board system, creating the first of his many Apple-related websites in 1994, joining the staff of The Unofficial Apple Weblog in 2008, and founding Apple World Today in 2015. He’s semi-retired, loves to camp and take photos, and is an FAA-licensed drone pilot.
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  • I’d add another tip I learned when I almost walked away from an airport counter, leaving my underseat/laptop bag behind. If you’re traveling with two bags, carry a strap to join them, so you don’t forget one. You can also use that strap to prevent grab-and-run thieves, particularly when eating in street cafes. You don’t have to make theft impossible—just difficult enough they pick on someone else. A nylon cord with clips on each end should be sufficient.