A Techy Hitchhikers Guide To Charging Electronics Abroad

Traveling This Summer? Don't forget to charge those electronics!

Summer’s here and that means students are prepping for summer trips abroad or maybe a fall class abroad. One thing you don’t want to forget is a power adapter for the ever present iPod, computer, and hairdryer, you name it. For those who frequent the International skies, power usually isn’t the issue. But for many who are new to international travel, the question becomes: what do you need to charge and use your electronic devices.

Converter vs. an Adapter
Many portable electronics (notebook computers, iPods, and iPhones) are already geared to be used in different countries. An easy way to know is to look at the description on the power adapter for your gear. If it says that it can handle 100-240 volts then all you need is a plug “adapter” so that you can plug it in the wall of the country you’re going to.
However if your power adapter has a max input of 120 volts, then your device is designed to work only in the US and in order to use it in another country that has 240 volt electrical service, a power converter that can regulate the 240 volts down to 120 volts will be needed. There are also 3rd party adapters available at iGo that are compatible with most devices.

For your Mac, iPod or iPhone
If you’re the proud owner of an Apple device, you’re in luck! Apple device adapters come from the factory designed for operation in other countries. All you need is Apples International Travel Kit. This kit has everything you need to charge your Macbook, Powerbook, iPod, and iPhone, and includes a USB power adapter and sync cable. With this kit you’ll be prepared for adventures in the US, UK, Australia, Korea, etc.  You can get the Apple kit here.

  Apple’s Airline Adapter
Apple also has a Airline adapter available for most Apple devices. Though it may be nice to have, the likelihood of needing to use it is minimal, only a handful of commercial aircraft in service currently require use of the special airline adapter, and in most cases this adapter only applies to first class fliers.

 For your other 100-240 volt devices
Think of it as the “Transformer” of power adapters. It can be used in most countries and has an onboard USB power port as well. So it can run two things at once like your notebook and your iPod as well as other USB powered gear too. You can get the Transformer at Amazon starting at $17. Traveler beware, the USB port on this device is not powerful enough to charge an iPhone 3G/3GS so you will get the warning “this accessory won’t charge your iPhone”. However, you can plug your iPhone’s USB charger right into the regular socket, without a problem. 

Power Converters
Most power converters available at electronic stores will work well, but are only for 100-120 volt devices and if used incorrectly or in conjunction with the wrong device could potentially harm the device beyond repair. It is always recommended that you check the owner’s manual of your device before purchasing an adapter.

Happy Traveling!


David Little, Senior at UW - Architectural Engineering From Omaha, NE


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