Being an organized traveller involves packing just the right stuff—and for most end users, that involves electronics. After deciding which devices to take (laptop, tablet, smartphone, etc.) the end-user also needs to decide how to keep them charged.
If the travel is international, that often means packing one or more adapters. For those who are traveling to multiple countries and want an all-in-one adapter rather than individual ones, there's this universal travel adapter from Kikkerland, which works in more than 150 countries. At 8 × 5 × 0.6 inches, it's flatter than any other such converter. And at 2.4 ounces, it's very lightweight. The two downsides: The two parts both have projections that could snag something else in the luggage. And while the converter comes with instructions showing you how to make it work in each country, they may be too complex for some end-users. But some end users have noted with delight that using this adapter felt like playing with a Transformer toy.
The 4-in-1 adapter from Flight 001 is notable for its use of color-coding; the colors of the adapters match to a list of 150+ countries, and to a map. This will be less attractive to colorblind end users—but the parts are also labeled (EU, UK, etc.), and the color-coded list also allows for matching by shape. The adapter is small, measuring just 2.25 x 2 x 1.5 inches, and it weighs just 4 ounces.
When we first wrote about Twelve South's PlugBug back in 2011, a commenter said, "Great product but does me no good when I travel to Europe." Well, that's been fixed with the new PlugBug World. As with the older version, the PlugBug World attaches to a MacBook power adapter, converting it to a dual-charger for both the MacBook and an iPad or iPhone—and it will charge that iPad faster than the factory-supplied charger. But the PlugBug World also has five attachments which allow it to work around the world. It measures 2.44 x 2.57 x 1.14 inches, and weighs 3.5 ounces. One minor quibble: An end user noted that the U.S. adapter plug isn't retractable like the Apple adapter plug is.
The Digipower World Power Adapter isn't all that special to look at, but it attempts to do many things at once with its USB outlet and its built-in surge protection. The USB charger, at 1 amp/5 watts, will be fine for smartphones, but not so fine for tablets. And there is no indication of how much surge protection is provided, and no mention of any warranty if the surge protection fails—so end users who are serious about surge protection will likely look elsewhere.
The Belkin SurgePlus is designed for those end users who do want good surge protection while traveling within the U.S., but naturally want something compact and lightweight. The 918 joule energy rating, combined with the $75,000 connected equipment warranty and the surge protection indicator light, should put an end user's mind at rest. The plug rotates, so the SurgePlus can be horizontal or vertical, helping it fit into whatever space is available. The two USB ports, with 2.1A combined power, will charge a tablet—or two smartphones, iPods, etc. At 2.2 × 5.2 × 7.2 inches, it won't take up too much space in the end user's bag. The one problem: If the end user has items with large transformers, it might be impossible to use all three outlets.
The Accell Home or Away surge protector ensures the end user can use all three outlets by placing one on the front, and one each on both sides. As with the Belkin, there are also two USB ports with 2.1A of shared power. The Home or Away provides 612 joules of surge protection, a 5-year $100,000 connected equipment limited warranty, and a surge protection status light. Another nice feature: The plug folds flush, saving space and ensuring the plug doesn't snag anything. And it's only 5 ounces, and 2.3 × 4.3 × 1.4 inches. This surge protector doesn't have the sleek look of the Belkin, but the features and specs show a lot of understanding of what travelers need.
Both the Belkin and the Accell surge protectors are designed for 110V outlets; they are not rated for use with 220V outlets. While there may be equally compact ones for 220V outlets, I haven't yet found them. When I last carried my laptop to Europe, I just bought a surge protector there, and left it behind with friends.
For end-users who don't travel with a laptop, and need only a USB charger, the PortaPow Crystal USB Mains Charger might work well. The charger provides 4.2A (21W) of total power, which can be shared among its four sockets. There's an "iPad fast" socket, designed to handle 12W. This charger can be used internationally, as it comes with four travel plugs. And look how small it is: 6 × 4.3 × 3.3 cm, excluding plugs, and 135g. (That's 2.4 × 1.7 × 1.3 inches, and 4.8 ounces.)
While it's no longer available, Restoration Hardware had an interesting roll-up design for a USB travel charger. It included two Apple 30-pin cords and two micro USB cords —so if those were the cords the end-user needed, they rolled up nicely inside the mat. One limitation: Unlike the PortaPow charger, there are no individual lights to indicate when each item is charged.
Sometimes the tools an end-user wants aren't physical objects. For example, there's the Airport Wi-Fi Access Chart provided by airfarewatchdog. The layout is easy to read, and the chart provides the information a traveler would want. However, this was created sometime in 2013, and apparently never updated since. For information tools such as this, where the content is likely to change often, there needs to be a plan to maintain the data, and the date of the last update should be clearly indicated. Without that, the time invested in creating the tool is just wasted—and end users who don't notice the date problem may be misled.