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9 Device Management Tips for Family Travel

By: Tech Savvy Mama

We rely on our smartphones, tablets, eReaders, laptops, digital cameras, Bluetooth headphones, and smart watches to keep us connected, productive, and entertained—but it can take just as long to prep and pack essential devices for travel as it does to assemble other items for travel. Planning ahead and taking a little bit of time to get organized helps develop a system for managing your devices. This ensures that your devices are charged, organized, and have plenty of content on them for your next adventure.

Download Before You Go

A couple of days before you leave, take stock of the devices you have to figure out what might be best to keep little ones entertained during your trip. Update familiar apps and get some recommendations from friends of children with the same age to ensure that there is new and novel content. Also make sure there is plenty of age-appropriate content for your child to view on your device since you can never count on in-flight entertainment having things that are just right for them...

Purchase Child-Safe Headphones

Not all headphones are created equally, and because our children have smaller heads and young and sensitive ears, it’s important to protect their ears with headphones that fit them just right and feature volume control. Child-friendly headphones are available online or through electronics big box stores in a variety of different styles and price points. The most popular styles are over-the-ear, although earbud models are available, they might not be as comfortable for younger ages.

Leave with Devices Fully Charged

Before you begin assembling clothes, toiletries, and other essentials for your trip, round up your devices and plug them in. Elementary ages and older can take responsibility for their devices by helping to charge them before departure, so the entire family will have fully charged laptops, tablets, eReaders, digital cameras, and smartphones before you leave for the airport, train station, or road trip. Having fully charged devices helps keeps kids entertained during travel delays, enables you to communicate your whereabouts to friends and loved ones who are eagerly anticipating your arrival, and can aid you in rescheduling cancelled flights from wherever you may be.

Corral Cords

You could wind cords around your hand and stuff them in a pocket of your bag but taking an organized approach to cord management is a good habit to get into. After you’ve made sure that you’ve packed every type of cord needed for your digital devices, corral them so they don’t get tangled, caught, or lost at the bottom of your bag.

Cord keepers come in many different forms and keep charging cables and earbuds nicely wound to prevent tangles. There is also an array of cord organizers ranging from the very simple strap that might already come attached to your laptop cable to pouches with designated places for each type of cord. Zip top plastic bags also serve as a cheap and efficient way of organizing cables since you can easily find what you’re looking for at a glance; if you’re looking for something a bit more permanent, any of the leather, fabric, or elasticized organizer systems would work well. Older kids who are in charge of their own devices can be given their own bag or cord organizer to corral their chargers and cords.

Pack Power Cords in Your Carry On

Now that devices have been charged and your cords have been corralled, pack one of each type of essential cord in your carry on. Travel delays are always inevitable and you never want to be without necessary power cords or chargers since replacement ones are far more pricey when purchased at airport specialty shops that sell them alongside expensive headphones and snacks. Some airlines also feature outlets between seats so it’s great to have cords handy for constant charging in flight.

Conserve Power

If you’re en route and notice that your device is quickly being depleted of power, turn down the screen brightness to conserve battery power. Today’s bright screens require power that tend to use up remaining battery life. Turning off wifi and Bluetooth when they’re not needed also preserves existing power.

Bring Along Power to Share

Since charging stations in the airport can be few and far between with just a couple of outlets or USB ports to power the masses, tuck a mini power supply in your carry on to ensure that you can always plug in at the airport. With multiple USB ports and outlets, those huddled around the charging station would be happy to swap out their single plug for yours that features multiple ones. It’s a great way to ensure that you can charge your devices during a flight delay and share the power with others who desperately need it.

Power is more accessible when in the car or on a train but because you may need to charge multiple devices at a time, having a dual USB charger is helpful. Look for adapters that fit into car cigarette lighters or power plug with dual USBs for the train that are also helpful for creating additional places to charge when you arrive at your destination.

Speaking of destinations, these days hotel renovations are taking into account our need for power and have incorporated outlets and USB ports in conveniently located places around the room but this isn’t standard in all accommodations. Packing a power strip can help alleviate the problem of too few or poorly placed outlets, especially for a family with an arsenal of gadgets that need constant charging.

Lighten the Load

It may be tempting to throw your entire bag of charging cables and cords in your carry on bag but if you’re checking luggage, take stock of what you need while you’re traveling to your destination and stow the rest in checked luggage or in the trunk of your car. Families with many devices and multiples of the same kind of cord can lighten the load in carry on bags by packing them in checked bags along with USB hubs and extension cords.

Know the TSA Rules for Electronic Devices

Going through airport security checkpoints is easier when you know that laptops must come out of your bags and be put in a bin to screened separately while tablets and eReaders stay inside carry on bags. Since smart watches can trigger additional screening, it’s wise to remove them before passing through the metal detector. Some manufacturers make travel friendly carry on luggage with special compartments that are designed to open up and lay flat so laptops can be screened separately but TSA agents in some cities will still insist that your laptop be removed and put in a plastic bin.

Packing smart, being prepared, and knowing the ins and outs of airport security will not only help you manage your devices but make your family look like travel pros.

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About the author:
Leticia Barr, Tech Savvy Mama

Leticia is the founder of, an award-winning site where she incorporates her experience as a parent and background as an educator to provide useful advice for families about the technology tools that have become a part of their lives. She also shares her expertise as a educational consultant, columnist, freelance writer, media personality, and speaker. Leticia lives in the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, two children, enthusiastic Yellow Labrador, and three mostly free-range hens. Follow Leticia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat @TechSavvyMama.