Tips and tools for smooth business travel with a Mac, iPad or iPhone


Business travel, especially during a pandemic, can be quite stressful. Here are a few tips — and time-saving tools and accessories — to make it easier to travel with a Mac, iPad or iPhone.

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Image: Shutterstock/r.classen

I’m traveling 541 miles-per-hour at 35,500 feet, staring at one of those rotating in-flight map displays embedded within the seat back in front of me, while writing this dispatch. I’m two hours into a total of 12, somewhere over Colorado. And what’s my first question? It’s not how many hours to the destination. No. What’s worrying me is my iPhone’s battery level, as the iPhone is necessary for proving compliance with Hawaii’s Safe Travels program. The smartphone also holds images of my vaccination card, boarding pass and the QR code issued by the state that’s my ticket to leaving the Honolulu airport and being permitted to check in to the hotel.

The Apple Watch battery is on my mind, too. The accessory holds my boarding pass and provided a helpful alert that the airline was changing the departure gate. Still, its charge is depleting, as was my iPad Pro’s, until I plugged it into an AC outlet on this Boeing 777.

My luggage, including sensitive screens, keyboards and displays, had to be safely transported through TSA checkpoints, and protected from drops, bumps and the jostling common to traveling. Earlier, this past summer, I completed a similar trip, that one to Manhattan. I’ve learned a few things from these experiences that I hope will help when you next embark on a trip, particularly for business when you need to stay connected and in touch.

  1. Get organized

The days of storing all your chargers, AirPods, adapters and cables in a single pocket are over. Apple hasn’t helped the cause by going back and forth between MagSafe chargers and USB-C cables, sometimes necessitating that you double up on chargers and cables. I’m carrying four devices on this trip, and those four devices use three different connectivity standards: Lightning, USB-C and the Apple Watch’s magnetic inductive charging disc. That means I need three different power cables and a variety of power blocks. Plus, I have two pairs of AirPods.

Thankfully, I discovered InCase’s $49.95 Nylon Accessory Organizer in August when I visited New York.  Pick one up, or a similar such case, to simplify collecting and organizing all your chargers, cables and accessories. The InCase model even sports a handy space along its spine that I found stores Apple’s $129 iPad Pencil, which I pack inside Decode’s $29.95 Magnetic Pencil Sleeve. With all the flight disruptions, health worries and generally longer lines associated with travel during the pandemic, your electronics accessories aren’t something you need to worry about, and these cases organize and coordinate the device accessories that help power your mission.

SEE: Top 10 iPad tips (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

2. Travel with a backpack

Of course, you need a sturdy bag to hold a Mac, iPad and iPhone, as well as a wallet, your electronics accessories case, a bottle and other necessities. I loved messenger bags when commuting by bike, but air, rail and road travel call for a backpack. Timbuk2’s $52.24 Parkside backpack (now replaced by the similar $139 Authority model) and Chrome Inustries’ $140 Volcan both fit the bill. Featuring lifetime warranties, these bags are manufactured by folks passionate about their products. These are tough bags that stand up well to even punishing business travel by including a padded pocket that fits a MacBook Pro or iPad and makes accessing electronic devices, a spare face mask and reading material easy, even when the bag is crammed below the seat in front of you and you’re already juggling a jacket or fleece. Though engineered for rugged sustainability, these bags are always “in,” so you need not worry about looking stylish when entering conference rooms or visiting partners and clients. Plus, these backpacks are reliably strong and prove a great value that makes travel less stressful, which is something we can all use right now.

3. Consider a portable dock

If you plan on working from a hotel room, conference center or sky lounge desk, a number of third-party docks are available that ease the process. Twelve South’s $99.99 StayGo USB-C Hub is a compact dock measuring only about five inches by two-and-a-half inches that permits charging other devices from your Mac, reading or writing data to an SD or micro SD card and even networking via a cabled gigabit Ethernet connection, should that prove necessary. And if you’re working with a portable display, such as the $189 Vissles-M portable touchscreen, the dock’s HDMI port can drive that monitor. You did remember to pack the corresponding cable in your electronics accessory bag, right?

4. Choose the iPad Smartkeyboard

In case you’re not sure, the iPad Pro’s Magic Keyboard is well worth what, initially, might seem a steep price ($349 for the 12.9-inch model and $299 for the 11-inch model). But the backlit keyboard also serves as a cover and carries its own battery, which provides pass-through charging. If you’re traveling with an iPad Pro, be sure to also pick up the corresponding Magic Keyboard. With a built-in trackpad, Apple has transformed working with the iPad, which was already a pretty elegant experience. I can’t imagine working on the road, using the iPad Pro, without its corresponding sidekick.

SEE: IT hardware procurement policy (TechRepublic Premium)

5. Don’t forget the Apple Watch

It should go without saying, but I’ll officially confirm the Apple Watch’s utility as a standalone tip. Especially if you’re traveling for work with an iPhone, the Apple Watch is a natural accompaniment. Receiving gate-change alerts without having to dig my iPhone out of its snug, secure pocket in my backpack saved me time and trouble. Boarding planes by adding the ticket to the wearable, again, saves time and adds convenience. Receiving email alerts, having maps quickly at hand, and even receiving step-by-step walking directions when navigating a new city and trying to locate an unfamiliar address are all features and advantages I could live without, but why? If there’s one thing the pandemic’s taught, it’s that thoughtful, time-saving products that simplify everyday life should be at the top of your list. You need a watch, anyway, and Apple’s delivered an innovative device that simplifies business travel at a fair price.

6. Simplify device charging with two-in-one

When packing chargers, consider reducing the number of OEM Apple power blocks you carry, For example, I didn’t need to pack my Mac’s charging block and those for the iPad and iPhone. Instead, I brought one charging block — Anker’s $39.99 PowerPort Atom III — that offers both a traditional USB-A and a USB-C port. With the corresponding cables, I can charge both devices at once. I’ve used multiple Anker power blocks, and cables for that matter, for years and given them as gifts. I’ve never had a complaint.

7. Don’t go without a sleeve

We’ve taken personality tests at my day job. I’m a process-oriented individual who appreciates planning and preparation. So it should come as no surprise I can’t just toss my MacBook Pro — the device with which I manage business operations, coordinate travel, make reservations, send and receive communications, collaborate and otherwise maintain my life — into my travel bag’s laptop pocket. I mean, that’s where I’ve placed my iPad. But even when traveling without the iPad, I just rest easier and travel with less anxiety knowing the Mac is safely packed inside a padded sleeve. I still use the $39.99 Herschel Anchor Sleeve, which does a great job protecting the Mac when moving between offices or hotel rooms or even when stowing the laptop when receiving an in-flight meal. Numerous other similarly protective options are available, of course, including from Chrome Industries and Timbuk2. So why not protect your Mac from the travel’s well-documented rigors? Ease your mind so you can focus on other travel-related worries, like whether you’re actually going to make your connecting flight.

SEE: Why I am buying Apple’s new MacBook Pro (TechRepublic)

8. Choose more power

Despite the seeming ubiquity of airport charging stations and options onboard planes, I’ve been discouraged, including at La Guardia, where the outlets I noticed required a credit card and payment to use. Further, many commuter jets I’ve flown commonly offer no power outlets at all. I no longer take chances. Anker’s $159.99 PowerCore+ 26800 PD 45W, while a bit heavy, delivers assurance my devices are unlikely to run out of electricity. With a 26800mAh cell capacity, the portable charging brick can fully recharge my Mac once or my iPhone five times. Even if I don’t have to use it, I know it’s there, and when traveling through the pandemic, I’ll take all the assurances I can get.

A necessary task

I won’t lie. Business travel used to be more fun. The pandemic has, understandably, heightened everyone’s sensitivity and added pressure to an often already vexing experience. In many cases it’s just easier to stay closer to home. But the world, if even in fits and starts, is trying to reopen. Help take the edge off, where you can, when work requires you hit the road. Traveling with these accessories doesn’t have to break the bank, and the convenience and utility they provide more than justify the expense.

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