Laptop Travel Survival Tips

Your laptop is in danger when you’re traveling, but here are some ways to make sure it arrives safely

Flying can be exasperating enough as is, which you know if you ever had a stop in Atlanta in the summer, or Chicago in the winter. But if you’re taking a laptop, there are some special considerations involving laptop care that you need to consider before calling Lyft to take you to the airport.

  • When going through the airport security line, put the laptop itself on the x-ray belt last — after any other carry-on bags, shoes, etc., and especially, after the person in front of you has cleared security. This way, your other items will be examined while you’re being sprayed with radition from the millimeter wave scanner. If the laptop comes off the belt first, it may be stolen while you’re going through the metal detector, or being “wanded.”
  • If you’re not in a hurry and want maximum protection against theft in a crowded airport, ask security for a manual search. It’s more time-consuming, but you’ll always know where your laptop is.
  • If you can’t find an AC outlet at an airport, ask the custodial staff about AC outlet locations, as they’re mostly for plugging in vacuum cleaners. Other guidelines: Look on posts, under hinged covers in floors near walls, and near ledges located next to windows. Don’t assume the outlet is live; check your computer to make sure it really is charging.
  • Pack a compact barrier strip or cube tap in your laptop bag, specially if you want to be very popular: you can plug into the terminal’s one working outlet, and supply power for multiple desperate and stressed-out holiday travelers. They’ll love you!
  • Place your computer bag under the seat in front of you, rather than the overhead bin. Heavy objects in a bin can damage your computer if they slam into it. If you’re sitting in a bulkhead row and don’t have a choice, place the bag at the front of the overhead bin before takeoff, and at the rear of the bin prior to landing.
  • Some airline passengers have found that they can plug a laptop computer AC adapter into 110V/400 Hz airframe sockets, usually located under covers near the floor next to an exit door. Don’t do this. Aside from the issue of running your adapter on 400 Hz, these outlets are intended for medical devices during flight. If there’s something wrong with your adapter and it trips the circuit breaker, someone could literally die before the problem is corrected — the breaker is difficult to access because it’s usually located below the main passenger deck. If you see someone using any outlets on a plane other than the approved laptop charging outlets, alert a flight attendant.
  • Most airplane power outlets offer only 75W of power—not enough to power some computers, and often not enough to both power a computer and charge the battery. Remove the battery before plugging in for best results.​
  • Some hotels have in-room safes although they often aren’t big enough to accommodate a laptop. However, angling the laptop (place the end on some socks, coffee cup, or whatever) may allow it to fit. If you must leave the laptop in your room, place it somewhere inconvenient and not readily visible (like on top of a free-standing clothes closet, where you would need to step on a chair to see it). I know one road warrior who places his laptop on the bottom of his suitcase, with dirty underwear on top. No one has yet had the courage to venture past the Great Underwear Barrier.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina