Geek Travel Tips

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #350

I was on vacation last week with my family in and around Glacier National Park in Montana. Being “off the grid,” without Internet access or electricity led me to write this epistle on the handful of little things you might want to consider before your next trip on or off the grid.

But first, let me just say that if I had my druthers, I’d have left behind all of it—my iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, chargers, cables, and everything else. But, since I’m not quite finished updating iPhone For Dummies and macOS Mojave/Catalina For Dummies, I had no choice.

And so, here are a few tips for traveling with your gadgets, on or off the grid:

The Cloud is Not Always Available…

If you have music, podcasts, audiobooks, movies, TV shows, or books you want to enjoy while you’re away, download them to your device if you want to enjoy them in a plane, train, car, or hotel room. We’ve become so used to having our media available on-demand that we forget you often can’t stream it in those places.

So, before your trip, make sure any media you want access to while you’re away has been downloaded to your device and is not stored in the cloud (or on a Mac that’s elsewhere).

It’s often faster and easier to sync your iDevices with your computer before you depart. Otherwise, look for those little cloud-with-arrow icons on songs, albums, and playlists in the Music app on your iDevices and tap them to download items to your iPhone or iPad.

Your Cellular Coverage May Vary…

Another consideration is cellular service at your destination. For example, while I love T-Mobile, its coverage is spotty in East Glacier Park and most of the other places I’ve been in Montana. My son uses AT&T, which has much better coverage here than T-Mobile, so it hasn’t been an issue for us. But if your destination is off the beaten path, it would behoove you to ask the locals if you’ll be able to rely upon cellular service from your provider and then plan accordingly.

No cellular or Wi-Fi here (and I didn't mind a bit).
No cellular or Wi-Fi here (and I didn’t mind a bit).

For what it’s worth, not having cellular service hasn’t been a problem. Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous, and even our tiny cabin with no indoor plumbing in Babb had free Wi-Fi.

Bring Everything You Might Need…

Don’t forget to bring cables and charging blocks for every device you might want to recharge. They could be hard to find wherever you’re going. And, since travel accommodations are often short of available electrical outlets, consider packing a multi-outlet power strip or multi-port powered USB hub.

I’m partial to my 6-port powered Anker USB hub ($25.99 at, which is smaller than a deck of cards but charges up to six devices at once.

I use this handy 6-device charger at home and on the road...
I use this handy 6-device charger at home and on the road…

Finally, I never travel without at least one big, rechargeable USB battery with at least two USB ports, so we can recharge stuff even when AC power isn’t available.

We never worry about whether the next airport, restaurant, campground, hotel room, or whatever is going to have power outlets (or enough of them); with such a battery in my backpack, I can recharge most of our devices anywhere.

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