Episode 33: June 14, 2012
By Eric Escobar
Summer is upon us and I’m sure many of you are headed on some great summer getaways. And I’m also sure that many of you will be using an airplane to get from point A to point B.
In this episode I’m going to tell you the best way to pack, store, and transport your electronics so that you can breeze past security and make your travels as stress-free as possible.
Tip #1: Pack Smart
It all comes down to easy accessibility. When you’re going through security, TSA officials will make you remove your laptop from your carry-on luggage so that they can check it as it goes through the scanner. If you have other electronics such as a camera, phone, or portable gaming system, they will ask you to take those out as well. This may seem a tad ridiculous, but just keep in mind that it is ultimately for your own safety. You should have all of your electronics packed neatly in the top of your carry-on where they’re easily accessible so that when you’re in the security line you can easily unpack and repack your bag taking up as little time as possible—for which I’m sure everyone in the line behind you will be thankful. Don’t be the person who has to unpack their entire suitcase to reach the tablet hiding underneath their underwear. You won’t make too many friends on the long line that way.
Tip #2: Only Bring Legitimate Electronics
Be sure to have only mainstream, obvious electronics with you, such as cameras, smartphones, laptops, tablets, and portable games. Anything out of the ordinary may send up some red flags. A few years ago I was attending a technology conference in Georgia and had a large Yagi WiFi antenna in my backpack. Two hours of questioning later let’s just say I’ll never make that mistake again. If you want to see what my antenna looked like go check out the Tech Talker Facebook page. A little common sense goes a long way here. Even though it’s perfectly legal to have an antenna or some other unusual electronic device on a plane, it would probably make everyone less nervous and save you from having a pleasant chat with TSA officials if you left it at home.
Tip #3: Don’t Use Free Public WiFi
So you’ve packed intelligently and zipped through airport security quickly. *Phew* the main hurdle of your travels is over! Now you’re waiting in the airport for your flight to start boarding and decide to hop on your laptop to get some work done, or maybe just check your email to pass the time. When you review the available wireless networks, you see several options. Most major airports will have WiFi available to use, but this option may not be free. Who wants to pay for WiFi? You’ll likely also see a few other connections labeled something like “free public WiFi.” You’ll be tempted to connect to the internet via one of those.
Bad idea! Never connect to any network that is not officially recommended for use by the airport. You’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal if I connect to this public network? I just need to use the internet to send this one email or check one more thing before my flight leaves. What harm could there be in that?”
Unfortunately, many crooks out there bank on exactly this sort of thinking. They see a huge opportunity to exploit people who are bored and desperate for free internet. If you connect to one of these free networks, there is a pretty good chance you will get access to the internet. However, you can almost bet that this network is controlled by someone who is after your login information. I will go into why you shouldn’t use a public network in my next episode, but essentially it comes down to how a hacker can capture your information as it goes from your laptop to the router.
They will intercept the information from that one last thing you had to do before you boarded your flight. And if that meant paying a bill, logging into your email, or any other secure action, well now that hacker has your information and can do anything they want with it. Another bonus for the hacker: You will be out of touch for the next few hours while they have the keys to your digital home.
Luckily there are easy ways to protect against this. Connect to an official airport network, use a mobile device that uses cell towers, or just wait until you get to your destination.
Tip #4: Airplane Mode is Your Friend
Okay now you’re on the plane and you’re enjoying that game of Angry Birds, Temple Run, Words With Friends, or my personal favorite, Plants vs. Zombies, and the flight attendant says you need to turn off your phone. I don’t want to sound like a prude, but endangering the safety of hundreds of people all because of a not so happy bird probably isn’t the way to go. There’s a very small chance that your electronics might interfere with the communication on the airplane during takeoff. And although I’m a bit skeptical on this myself, I always err on the side of caution. Plus as a benefit, your battery will last much longer if you turn your device’s airplane mode on.
So here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips for safe and easy traveling with your electronics:
Make all your electronics easily accessible in your carry-on
Don’t bring electronics that are out of the ordinary
Don’t connect to any unofficial or public WiFi network
Put your device on airplane mode to conserve power and not crash your flight!
Hopefully these tips will ensure that you have safe and easy travels this summer. Check out more tips and post your questions on the Tech Talker Facebook page.
Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!
Woman with Luggage and Man on Laptop image from Shutterstock