iPhone Life magazine

UK Travel Tips Day 2: Flying, Wi-Fi, and Power

We arrived in Norwich after nearly 12 hours in a plane seat, first a flight from Seattle to Amsterdam, and then from Amsterdam to Norwich. We then wandered the Schiphol Airport for several hours, including a long period of time in Lounge 41. Eventually we settled in at the Holiday Inn, Norwich City Center.

Tip 1: check on in-flight entertainment before you spend hours loading devices with content you won’t use. Save room for pictures. Although I loaded up multiple tablets for family members, including enough movies to last me across the Atlantic and beyond, the in-flight entertainment on the Delta flight was so good, and so current, there was no need to turn on anything we brought, except to browse a book for a few minutes before sleep.

Tip 2: Bring more plugs. Many rooms have a very limited number of wall plugs. I highly recommend bringing an international extension cord. I found the following to be a great combo: a Lenmar World Travel Adapter with Dual USB Ports ($29.99) combined with a Simran SM-80 power strip (inexpensive international power strip I purchases from Amazon), both widely available. I plugged the power strip into the main, outward facing plug on the Lenmar Travel Adapter, turning one outlet into 3, while leaving the top US plug available, along with the two USB ports. I then used a combination of Tylt USB Travel Charger ($29.99) with two 2.1 Amp ports and other chargers, like the Cannon camera battery charger. Everything had a charging home in a pretty compact area.

Tip 3: Some universal plugs aren’t so universal. When sitting in lounge 41 at Schiphol Airport I thought it would be worth topping off my iPad now that I had Wi-Fi again, just in case I wanted to use it during the brief flight later that day from Amsterdam to Norwich, UK. Unfortunately, none of my “universal” adapters were usable in the club’s recessed outlets. The adapters simply wouldn’t fit far enough into the ports to make electrical contact. I had to switch to my Tylt Energi 5K+ ($89.99) and its Lighting plug (on one end, the other sports a micro-USB. More in a future post.)

Tip 4: Make sure everything is 110/240 Volts. Rather than worrying about power conversion, I made sure everything, from hair care items like a flat iron to the USB chargers, everything was dual voltage. Voltage converters are heavy and they can introduce unstable power elements that may not work, or may fry the electronics they are trying to power. By checking all power supplies before the trip, it makes it easy to just plug into adapters and get going, rather than sharing one big converter among several devices. Of course, as more and more devices migrate to some form of USB or USB-optional, charging issues will get easier and easier.  

Tip 5: Be Prepared to be Offline. At ₤4 an hour for BT Wi-Fi service in many places, be prepared to go off-line by downloading guidebooks and maps to the iPad or iPhone before you leave home. Many brochures also live as PDFs these days, so load those into a file system like Dropbox and mark them to be available as offline, so they can be opened at any time. Another option is to load PDFs into Apples iBooks (Free). If you do need to get online and don’t want to pay for it, get FastConnect (free) app, which will search for Wi-Fi through the free The Cloud service. Wander outside the coverage area, however, and you’re offline again. The Cloud installs wireless profiles on the iOS device so credentials won’t be required when revisiting a hotspot.

Special thank you to the Holiday Inn City Center in Norwich for their hospitality and acting as a great sightseeing hub our first three days in the UK. One extra lesson with Holiday Inn that also applies to other hotels: your status or room reservation can seriously affect your Wi-Fi speed or access. In many hotels, booking an executive or other high-end room comes with better Wi-Fi and/or wired Internet access. Our executive room had good coverage, though turning off a device often required relogging in with a passcode, as well as a name and address. I would rather see them map a room to a database, to not only expedite data entry, but to keep items like home address less available to service providers or others.

We are now off to London for another 7seven days where I will report on batteries, solar power chargers, and several apps designed to get use around the city.

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Daniel Rasmus's picture

Daniel W. Rasmus, the author of Listening to the Future and Management by Design, is a strategist, industry analyst, and business correspondent for iPhone Life magazine. Prior to starting his own consulting practice, Rasmus was the Director of Business Insights at Microsoft Corporation, where he helped the company envision how people will work in the future.

Before joining Microsoft, Rasmus was Research Vice President at the Giga Information Group and Forrester Research Inc. Rasmus also is an internationally recognized speaker. He blogs regularly for Fast Company and on his own blog, Your Future in Context. His education-related work can be found at Learning Reimagined.