Saturday, May 13, 2017

Still Life with Robin: Not Enough Outlets

by Peggy Robin

Time to tackle one of the REALLY vexing problems of our age. Not enough outlets for travelers! You know the situation: You are staying at an older hotel, a lovely inn, or a quaint bed and breakfast, and you need to recharge your phone, your laptop, and maybe a few other devices. (OK, I admit it, I am traveling with my full-sized electric toothbrush and its charging stand, but hey -- it wasn’t my idea -- my dentist told me to!) All these things need power, and some of them need to connect to a USB port as well. You may find an outlet or two in the room, but once you plug in one of those big, clunky “brick” plugs, you can’t plug anything else into the same outlet.

Even when you are staying in a modern hotel meant for business travelers, you can run into trouble. You may think you’re OK when you first see that desk lamp with the outlets and ports right on the base. But if you’re sharing a room with someone who travels with the same or greater number of gadgets as you, good luck fighting over who gets to use them first. Maybe you will end up fishing behind the headboard of the bed, looking for some extra plug-in space. You can try unplugging the clock-radio, and take over that outlet. Or rummage behind the draperies, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find a free outlet there. (Of course, when you check out, you will forget all about it, leaving your expensive power cord behind, still plugged in and hidden behind the curtains.) 

I know these problems have been covered by travel and tech columnists before -- and that’s actually what’s led me to take up the question now. On Monday, May 8th the Washington Post’s tech columnist Hayley Tsukiyama gave her readers some advice – exactly the wrong advice, to my way of thinking.  She proposed that we gadget-heavy packers switch over to “analog” items when we’re on the road. Don’t bring wireless headphones that need to be charged, she says -- bring wired ones. Take a low tech toothbrush. Ditch the smart watch for one that simply tells time.

There’s actually a much more satisfying solution, one that lets you continue to pack whatever you like, without substitutions. And it will end the need for future outlet-hunting. You just need to pack one more thing: a power strip/extension cord. You can get a fairly lightweight version that will add just 1.5 lbs to your luggage. Not bad. You know it’s easier to add a pound and a half than to try to cut out things you like to have on hand. If you’re a heavy packer, be yourself, and go with it! Here’s a 5-outlet/2 USB port power strip on a 5-foot extension for for just 18 bucks:’ve. Here’s another without the USB ports, but it will take up to six “brick” plugs, and it’s still just 1.5 pounds: Bonus: It comes in bright teal, hot pink or lime green, so you’re not going to overlook it when you’re packing up to check out.

Stay connected, everyone!

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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