This post details what is in my Tech Travel Kit. As a frequent presenter, I want to be prepared for any situation and I want it to be easy to execute. It’s a long post, so take your time. Links are provided for convenience to reference and identify items I actually have.
This month we start a new column on the blog: Liz’s Tech Corner. I’m starting it because, at STC Summit this year I was comparing notes with a couple of people about what was in their Tech Travel Kit.
I present fairly frequently and I started carrying around a bunch of equipment that meant I would never have a problem wherever I was presenting. We’ve all had those moments, right? Where you get ready to present and find out that the internet isn’t working. Or you forgot the Mac adapter. Or the projector is old and only displays part of your screen. You make due, but it’s frustrating, as a presenter to have problems presenting.
A few years ago, my company donated a new projector to the East Bay STC because I actually had that projector problem. I was trying out a new Android tablet, as a travel-presentation device — I thought, “Why cart a laptop around just for a presentation?” — and even though I had the right adapter with me, the projector was so old that it couldn’t handle the tablet’s resolution.
The point is that you never know what’s going to happen. After that presentation disaster I decided I wasn’t going to get caught in that situation again. I created a Tech Travel Kit. We all have a Travel Kit, but I also wanted a Tech Travel Kit that I could pick up and take with me anywhere. I wanted to always be ready.
Since that day, I haven’t had another presentation disaster. In fact, I’ve saved the day for several other presenters over the last few years because my Tech Travel Kit has the adapter that they forgot to bring.
Until I started packing my kit, I didn’t know the names of all the displays and would constantly call the Micro-HDMI a Mini-HDMI (same for USB). That’s part of why I packed my kit in the first place. I didn’t want to have people or techs out searching for what I needed at the last minute only to have them come back with the wrong thing.
Now I have a kit that matches all my devices and everything is configured for plug-and-play. There is literally almost no work and no trepidation (at least from a technology stand point) when it comes to presenting anywhere any time.
Here it is, a full description of everything in my kit and why it’s there. I’ve included links to the various products on Amazon, so you know which one I have, if you’re looking for something similar or if you just need a starting point from which to find the thing you need for your situation. Search is great, but sometimes it helps to have a starting point. Things can get pretty complicated until you’ve got it all worked out to meet your personal needs.
At any given time, I might travel with one or more of the following:
- Windows laptop (I have the 2012 version that has been upgraded to run Windows 10)
- MacBook Pro
- iPhone 5S
- Android tablets: an Asus MemoPad (10″) and a Nexus 7 (7″)
Windows laptops traditionally have a VGA port. I notice that the new laptops also have an HDMI port, which is very nice, as that’s becoming a projector standard. Still, most venues have industrial projectors and those typically have VGA ports on them. You need to know this to connect your device to the projector (typically).
This is a VGA port:
Most MacBooks have a Thunderbolt (“Mini Display”) port. Some of the new ones also have an HDMI port. Older ones have a DVI port, but these are rare enough now that I don’t even carry DVI adapters anymore. My particularly MacBook only has the Thunderbolt port.
This is a Thunderbolt port:
The ChromeBook, on the other hand, only has an HDMI port. Luckily, having both the HDMI and Thunderbolt adapters means that I have both the ChromeBook and the MacBook Pro (old and new) covered in my kit.
This is an HDMI port:
I have an iPhone 5s. The iPhone has a Lightning port. For the iPhone, Lightning provides power to the device, but it also will serve video output. Current iPads also have Lightning port. It can support audio in some if connecting to an input device that supports audio over that channel — VGA is not one of those channels (no audio over VGA).
This is a Lightning port:
The 10″ Android tablet has a Micro HDMI port. This is a Micro HDMI port (A great picture by hansleman.com that shows the differences between HDMI, Mini HDMI and Micro HDMI):
The 7″ Android tablet only has an audio output jack (for headphones), so no video output from it. That’s ok because it mainly serves as my eBook Reader.
So that’s 5 devices, 4 capable of connecting to a projector, and all four have different output requirements. But I’ve got it covered.
Most modern projectors support VGA and HDMI in. However, most venues only provide for VGA. This is especially true if you’re presenting in a meeting room at a convention center or hotel. I suspect we will start seeing more HDMI than VGA but right now, support for HDMI to projector display is pretty rare to find in conference settings.
You need to be able to connect to VGA for sure, HDMI in a pinch.
My Configuration Needs:
- VGA to VGA
- Thunderbolt to VGA/HDMI
- Lightning to VGA/HDMI
- HDMI to VGA/HDMI
- Micro HDMI to VGA/HDMI
Seems pretty straightforward, but I’ve discovered that there are some hitches buried in there. Trust me
Over the last several years, I migrated to using Google Slides for presenting. First, it displays beautifully on every device I have. Using Google Slides means I have a choice of devices to carry with me. The one that always gets picked last for travel is the heavy windows laptop.
To get to them, you do need internet, but my phone has a data plan and is always connected, if I need it. Google Slides + mobile device with data plan is the perfect backup situation. If all else fails, technologically speaking, you can still present off your phone. I have been in this position and you can’t imagine the relief at being able to come through with ease and professionalism in the face of technological adversity.
My Tech Travel Kit
In my kit, I carry a variety of adapters, cables, power converters, and other miscellaneous things to make my travel as comfortable and easy as possible, and a user experience that meets my needs wherever I go.
I have adapters for each device that I own in my kit. When choosing an adapter make sure you buy the right one for the situation you’ll be in. Usually you want Male-to-Male cables and Male-to-Female adapters.
- VGA – VGA: I don’t carry anything for this as it’s the standard configuration provided by most venues. Plus, I rarely carry the Windows laptop anyway.
- HDMI – HDMI – No adapter needed. Instead, I carry a short 3′ HDMI cable I can use if the projector supports it and I’m having problems with the VGA output on the projector. (Nice to have a backup option, but this also has a secondary benefit that I’ll get to at the end.)
- HDMI – VGA Adapter
- Micro HDMI – HDMI – Here, too, I carry a cable instead of an adapter. I do have an HDMI-Micro HDMI adapter that I can fit onto the end of the HDMI cable, but have found that it doesn’t always work. I’m not sure if it’s the adapter or the demands of video or the power in the tablet, but either way, I don’t want to depend on a questionable adapter. Instead I carry a very short Micro-DMI to HDMI cable.
- Micro-HDMI – VGA Adapter – The adapter I have requires power to the adapter. I use a short USB to Micro-USB cable to supply power to the adapter. I have these cables in my kit anyway because Micro-USB is necessary to charge the tablets
I carry several other types of cables for varying situations. I carry specific USB cables for power to Android and Apple mobile devices, Micro-USB and Lightning respectively. I carry a USB power hub to plug those cables into.
- USB to Micro-USB – for charging and power
- USB to Lightning for charging the iPhone
- Micro-USB to audio jack
- USB Power “Plugs” – power, power, power
Other Useful Tools
USB-Extension/wall power adapter
My favorite USB-Wall power adapter is this one. Whenever I leave this at home I regret it. Hotel rooms don’t always have enough outlets (or enough outlets in convenient locations). This handy accessory has saved my sanity more than once.
It plugs directly into the wall and has multiple USB ports so I can charge everything at once while I’m sleeping. It’s small enough to fit in my kit. It’s also a friendly device: If you’re in a public location and taking up one of the few plugs available, it provides slots for other people to join in the charging!
Multi-Device USB Cable
This one lives in my kit but comes out fairly frequently for other uses.
It has 1 USB connector, 2 Micro-USB connectors, 1 Mini-USB connector, 1-Lightning connector, and one old-style iPod connector.
You can usually get these as a giveaway at an event. I got this one from a friend. If you want one right now, I found this colorful one on Amazon.
USB-Car Cigarette lighter
You’re traveling right? Sometimes you need to charge in the car or just keep the charge up if you’re using Waze because that app can drain your mobile battery pretty quickly.
Again, you can almost always get these for free from an event or nearly any store these days. Here’s one with two outlets and rated for iPhone/iPad.
About the same time I donated a projector to the East Bay STC, I bought a mini one for my travel kit. Prices had gotten so reasonable for projectors, it seemed like a great idea. If I had my own projector in my kit, I would never be in a weird situation again.
I have an old Brookstone Pocket Projector and I love it. It projects nicely and quite brightly and has two different plug-styles included (US & UK) that attach to the plug base (this is a big plus for me).
The new ones have better lumens and are about the same price as the one I bought originally.
When you’re looking for a projector, there are three things to care about:
- The available input ports
- Standard Camera Mount
For the Brookstone, it’s standard HDMI in. Perfect. Already covered. This is the same as the Chromebook.
It does have a standard camera mount on the base. Why is this important? So you can put it on a tripod and give it the lift you need when projecting on a screen. Industrial projectors have little feet that you can use to raise/lower the projector, something the pocket projector doesn’t have. With the camera mount, you can get any tripod and you can project anywhere, in any direction. That’s a lot more convenient, if you ask me.
And A Stand For it…
I have the Joby GorilliaPod.
I have a love-hate relationship with this tripod. I love that it’s small enough to fit in my kit. I love that it has magnets in its feet, so I can hang it off a lamp in a hotel room, for example. The legs are flexible so I can adjust the angle any way I want. Want to project to the ceiling so you can lay back in bed and watch a video? Just mangle the legs until you get what you want. It’s kind of nice. At the same time, it’s small, so not really a good tripod for a lot of other purposes.
Once you’ve got a mini-projector in your kit, you find a million things you can do with it. I’m already trying to figure out how to run projections at my booth at a future conference or maybe on the floor in front of my booth or maybe something else. I’m still in the testing phase for these ideas, but I’ve got the tools ready for whatever I want to do.
I didn’t go out to put one of these in my kit but got one as a gift. My husband got sick of the big speakers I had all over the counter in the bathroom. He picked up this tiny thing that has surprisingly good sound output:
I listen to books and music when I’m doing other things like cleaning, packing, cooking, sorting through mail, etc. The Anker Portable USB speaker plugs right into the headphone jack of the Nexus 7, amplifying the sound just enough that I can wander out of the room and still hear the audio.
Additionally, it will plug into the audio out on the mini-projector. So, if I’m in a hotel room and want to turn the sound down and point it more directly at me, so as not to annoy my neighbors, I can. It’s a handy addition to the travel kit that I can’t imagine being without anymore.
This is the newest addition that is maybe the best thing I’ve gotten in a very long time.
I travel with a lot of devices. Usually I have both tablets and my iPhone. If Paul travels with me, he’s got his phone. Sometimes one or both of us has a laptop.
Some hotels limit the number of devices that can connect to their network for free. Each one must authorize separately, usually through a browser authentication method.
When I went to STC Summit, I had 5 devices plus a Chromecast and the hotel had a 6 device limit. They also required you to reauthorize every day. What a lot of work that is for me!
The first day I did it their way. I wanted to compare against using my newest toy: Meet the HooToo Wireless Travel Router.
The HooToo is a wireless router. You configure it at home, prior to travel. You configure all of your devices to connect to it when they encounter it’s network. When you get to your destination, simply plug the HooToo into the network – using the ethernet cable in the room (more in a second) – and then connect to the HooToo with one of your devices. Authorize the HooToo and now all your devices have internet access. One step authorization for all of your devices. It really doesn’t get much easier.
Now, why plug the HooToo into the ethernet cable rather than the hotel wireless? Why not take advantage of the high-speed connection? You’re wireless to the HooToo and then wired from there. Super speed at your fingertips. It almost can’t be beat.
I started carrying a small ethernet cable too that I got free at a conference a long, long time ago again after having removed it from my kit. I hear that sometimes it’s a useful thing to have at your fingertips in some situations.
I picked this HooToo rather than the TripMate version for a couple of reasons. 1) It’s red, and 2) it has a mini usb drive built-in. Now I can get rid of the USB memory stick I was carrying around. Like Alton Brown says, multi-tools beat one-hit-wonders (I’m paraphrasing).
If you need another reason to get the HooToo, having onealso opens up the possibility for this…
VIDEO streaming on a Stick
Three years ago, we cut the Cable TV cord. We opted for Hulu, Netflix, and HBO Now. You get used to this world pretty quickly, and when you travel, you remember why you did it in the first place.
Want your favorite streaming services in your hotel room? Well, Chromecast to the rescue! These are super tiny devices … I mean, look at these things:
These devices will plug into any HDMI device. Isn’t that handy? Most hotel rooms have TVs with HDMI ports. I have run into one or two where they’ve disabled that port in favor of their pay-for programming. That’s ok. We have a mini-projector in our kit and it has an HDMI input. Problem solved!
You might think that this is great all by itself, but there is one potential hiccup.
Most hotels have free Wifi but require you to authorize each device on the network through a browser. The Chromecast device doesn’t have a browser, so you can’t authenticate it on the network the usual way. The Amazon Fire Stick is the same way.
This is where the HooToo comes in. You can set up the HooToo and configure the Chromecast to connect to it first. Once the HooToo is authorized on the hotel network, the Chromecast will automatically start working. Now you can stream video on the wall in your hotel room rather than have to watch on your tiny laptop screen or mobile device.
I’ve tested all three. I like the Chromecast for it’s simplicity, but you have your choice here.
I recently added a wireless headset to my kit because I finally found a good one. Just because I’m traveling, doesn’t mean I don’t also have to work. I’m a heavy conference call and GoToMeeting user. I can spend hours on the phone. I pace when I talk and get distracted when I can’t get up and move around.
The Logitech G930 Wireless Gaming Headset is my official headset for traveling on business. (It’s not the same one that I use in the office.)
It’s sturdy, the sound is great, and it’s comfortable. I’ve had no problems with it on the road. It fits in my go-bag, but the ear pieces twist so it can lay fairly flat, too.
It all fits into my Tech Travel kit GoBag:
Everything lives in here and I can just grab the bag and go. The bag is actually a cosmetic bag or toiletry bag, but it’s my bag and I can do what I want with it. I am totally in love with this one because of the double side pockets. Toiletry bag or not, it’s far more useful as my Tech Travel Kit Go-Bag.
Want to See it in Action?
At Summit, I watched Game of Thrones and something on Hulu during the week on the wall of my hotel room with the Chromecast attached to the Mini-projector. Commercial free.
How to watch #GameOfThrones in bed in your hotel room. 1) HBO now 2) a mini projector http://amzn.to/1rNc4GZ 3) a chromecast device and a HooToo to assure speedy Internet connection not hindered by pesky hotel access gateways (pop up login screens that the chromecast can't negotiate on its own) http://amzn.to/1TDDHsE. (Optionally) a mini speaker too http://amzn.to/1TDEdXF
What’s in Your Travel Kit?
A friend has me nearly convinced to drop my grandfathered unlimited data plan for a small plan. I’ll be looking into that option since I’m mostly on various wireless networks anyway. My travel kit may change in the future, too.
Tell me in the comments what your favorite travel kit items are. I’m always looking better solutions and more options and I’d love to hear from you.