No matter what airline you’re flying on or where you’re going I can guarantee you one thing: power will be at a premium.
No matter how early you arrive at the gate for your flight, all of the power outlets will inevitably be full already with people charging their phones, tablets, and laptops before the flight. That also means your phone and tablet will likely both be on their last few minutes of power.
After running into the same situation over and over again I discovered a genius solution to the issue a few years ago: carrying along a small power strip.
The idea comes from a man who asked me if he could use a power outlet I was currently using at an airport during a layover. As he asked, he produced a small three-outlet plug from his bag. Three outlets that meant I could keep charging my phone, and he could charge his laptop at the same time.
It’s brilliant, cheap, and I’m angry I hadn’t thought of it sooner.
I ordered a small power strip on Amazon literally while I was still plugged into his that has stayed in the front pocket of my travel backpack since. It’s dazzled pretty much every person I’ve shown it to in an airport, most of which have also ordered their own (or at least have told me they were going to). I have this one, although I’m jealous of this one with USB ports on top of it.
To date, I’ve used it to talk my way into dozens of power outlets I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to use. It’s also helped me out in those situations where I wanted to charge my phone, tablet, and a backup battery simultaneously at the airport or in my hotel room and didn’t have access to enough outlets to get the job done.
Yes, you could roll with a regular power strip. I like the 3-outlet model because it’s small enough it doesn’t take up a ton of space in my bag. This thing literally lives in my travel bookbag whenever it’s not being used. And yes, you may one day run into a cranky person that refuses to let you join in on their power, but chances are good there is someone next to them that will give you an enthusiastic thumbs up.
Over the years I’ve expanded my arsenal to also include a multi-USB hub as well as a multi-charger cable, so I always have the right cable.
The multi-USB hub gives you that same flexibility to charge multiple devices simultaneously but takes multiple power bricks out of the equation. I don’t use it very often at the gate, but it comes out on almost every flight I’m on that has in-seat power.
Due to airline power, I recommend snagging one of these where the power brick goes directly into the outlet rather than one with a cable. Cables are great for the ground, but in the air can create a gnarly tripping hazard.
USB hubs are easier to handle on-board than a small extension cord, but still offer the ability to charge a phone and tablet at the same time (albeit slowly, because in-seat power is kind of garbage).
On a recent flight where my in-seat outlet was broken and the one next to me was not, it was also the bargaining chip I needed to convince my seatmate to let me charge my phone at his seat instead.
Pretty much every solution to turning one outlet into many is inexpensive, and having one on you can ensure you’re never without power while you’re traveling, which can be kind of priceless.