The Gadling guide to finding power outlets at the airport

The airport is a terrible place for getting work done – lack of seating, poor (often paid) Wi-Fi and usually, being stuck at the airport means you are either waiting on a delayed flight, or waiting for a nasty connection time.

Worst of all – current technology has not kept up with our lifestyles, and battery makers don’t seem to understand how important it is for us to keep people updated on Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare.

So – here are the top tips from Gadling on how to find power at the airport.
Find an outlet

This is a tricky one – because it involves finding power ports that are not really intended for passengers. Some airports don’t mind their customers (you paid an airport usage fee, so you are a customer) using an open outlet, while others play nasty tricks by installing weird non-standard outlets (Yeah Las Vegas, I’m talking to you with your damn three prong locking outlets).

Power outlets are usually installed in pillars, behind boarding gate desks or hidden away in dark corners. One handy resource for locating power is the community built Airport Power Locator. On the iPhone, you can also try your luck with GateGuru, as it tends to list every amenity for your specific airport, including charging stations.

If none of the online tools help you out, ask around – some airport workers may be able to let you in on a secret outlet. If all else fails, you could always pay the $50 entry fee for the “luxury” airline lounge.

Find paid power

The concept of paying for a little bit of power pisses me off – but some airports at least offer this as a last resort option. Usually, these are the airports that went to great lengths to hide their open (free) power outlets. The power is provided in workstations, and you’ll need to swipe your credit card for a little juice. Some airports also offer cellphone chargers kiosks – these offer a variety of power connectors, so you don’t even need your own charger. Expect to pay between $3 and $5 for a short charge.

Be creative when you search for power

If you are really desperate, head on over to a food vendor and ask whether they have power behind the counter. Check for outlets behind the check-in desk, check for hidden outlets in the restrooms. Remember, a smile goes a long way, but in the case of food vendors, a couple of bucks may go even further.

When you do find power – think safety

I hate to pretend like I’m your mother – but when you do plug your laptop in, do us all a favor, and don’t drape your cords between rows of seats. You may end up injuring your laptop, or a fellow passenger. Also, if you can’t be sitting next to your computer or gadget when you charge it, do everything you can to keep an eye on it. Finding a laptop thief at the airport is a bad way to spend your time.

Bring your own portable power

You have a 50/50 chance of running out of options at the airport – no outlets, and no paid-power. In those cases, you are going to need your own power source. For smaller gadgets, we’ve reviewed a variety of them – from the compact Kensington movie friendly battery dock, to the massive Zagg Sparq, with enough power for six full iPhone charges.

Of course, none of those low power devices will charge a laptop, so for those high-power devices, you’ll need something like the Tekkeon myPower ALL. In its basic version, it’ll provide one full laptop charge, but a secondary pack can double that capacity. Expect to spend around $50 for a low power gadget charger, or up to $250 for a laptop version.

Whatever you do – carry a power splitter

So – you found the one spare outlet in the entire airport, and some punk is using it to charge his iPod? Don’t people realize how important it is for you to catch up with the latest on Facebook?

Prevent battles over power, and bring your own power splitter. This could be a $3 one from the local Home Depot, or a neat travel friendly outlet from Belkin, Kensington or Monster.

You’ll thank yourself later – and your fellow passengers will be grateful too (though don’t expect any tips). One quick word of advice: print a label with your name on the power splitter – it would be a shame to see that go missing.

One final tip – if you are abroad, remember that your US power splitters and power cords won’t work – so invest in a cheap international power adapter, and always check the local voltages before plugging your device in. Your power brick will tell you what it is compatible with. The last thing you want is to blow the one open outlet in the airport into little pieces with your gadgets.