Duty free rules, know before you go

duty free rulesDuty Free. It sounds like such a good idea. Duty Free shops and zones in airports and other places common to travelers beckon us to save money . Quick and convenient, we find savings of up to 50 percent just after passing through security on the way to our plane, train or ship. But buyer beware, you may not make it to your final destination with that great deal.

Duty free shop personnel often lack import knowledge for destinations other than their own. They can get you going from where you are, but often laws of other lands will prevent bringing your duty-free items in.

Australian Customs, for example, has a section on duty-free in its ”Know Before You Go” guide for travelers that states: ”If you are aged 18 years or over, you can bring 2.25 litres of alcohol duty-free into Australia with you” – without mentioning that it is subject to regulations about liquids and must be purchased or carried according to strict rules reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Travelers commonly find out the hard way that security rules concerning liquids vary from country to country. Some require bottles to be in tamper-proof packaging, others don’t. If where you buy and your final destination include a stop in a third country, even a short layover, your duty free purchase could be confiscated.

It’s a good idea to know before you go and online source dutyfree.com tells us “Duty-free rules vary by country, with policies ranging from simple and flexible to complex and rigid. To learn about a country’s duty-free laws, try contacting its customs or border patrol agency. Or, call a travel agency, duty-free shop or airline located in that country.”

Catalyst Creative: Duty Free Stores from Catalyst Creative on Vimeo.

Daily deal – Monster OTG400 travel power outlet for $13

My daily deal for today is for the Monster Power OTG400 “outlet to go”.

This 4 outlet device has a wraparound cord that plugs into one of the outlets when you are not using it. Built into the device is also a circuit breaker, which should prevent you from plunging an entire floor of hotel rooms into darkness if you overload something.

Even though we now carry more gadgets than ever, hotels still seem to think one outlet is enough for everyone, so I have been carrying one of these Monster travel outlets for several years.

The product usually sells for about $20, but Amazon has it on sale for $13.26. Shipping is free for Prime members, anyone else will have to pay shipping or buy enough to reach the $25 threshold for super saver shipping.

Product review – Travelon 3-in-1 power converter/adapter

In today’s product review, I’ll show you an international power converter with three features in one.

The Travelon 3-in-1 power converter/adapter combines a regular international plug adapter with a power step down transformer and a USB charger.

With these three features in one charger, you can plug your regular US appliance into almost any outlet in the world. This includes Western Europe, the UK, Japan, China and Australia.

To accomplish this, the prongs on the rear of the device rotate to the V-shape required for Australia. For Western Europe you can attach the included round 2-prong adapter, and for the UK and Singapore you attach a 3-prong adapter onto the back of the device. I’ve included photos of each plug in the gallery at the bottom of this post.

The entire adapter fits together nicely. When you are not using it, you simply slide the European adapter into the top of the UK adapter, and connect them all together. The total weight of the unit, with all the plug adapters is just 5 ounces.

The build quality of the 3-in-1 converter/adapter is quite good, the adapters lock in place tightly, my only minor complaint is that the 2 locking clips on the top of the unit, (which hold the UK plug adapter) do not always stay in place, but this does not hinder the functionality of the device as the plug itself has a separate set of clips with a “release” button.

If you use the 3-in-1 adapter in a country with voltages higher than the 110 Volts used in the US, the device simply reduces the mains voltage. This “step-down” conversion can power up to 1875 watts. Unlike many step-down adapters, the Travelon 3-in-1 also features a built in overheat protection circuit which should prevent damage to your products, plus it should prevent tripping a breaker and plunging an entire floor of hotel rooms into darkness.

The third feature in the 3-in-1 adapter, is a USB power charger. This single USB port on the top of the device works on 100-240 Volts, and combined with the international plug adapter, you should be able to charge your USB devices (like the iPod or Blackberry) anywhere in the world.

The adapter even has a built in surge protector, which in my opinion is a “must have” if you plan to power any high-tech gadgets in a country with less than stellar public utilities.

The Travelon 3-in-1 power converter/adapter has a suggested retail price of $69.99, but a quick search shows several retailers selling the product for around $45.

The Travelon 3-in-1 converter/adapter is a great addition to your gadget arsenal, and as always, I am impressed with any gadget that can turn 3 products into one. The price is a little steep, but there really isn’t anything like it on the market. I’ve reviewed adapters with a built in USB charger before, but this is the first one I have seen that is compatible with all the various voltages and plugs in the world.


Product review – Belkin mini surge protector with USB charger

In today’s product review, I’m going to give you a closer look at the Belkin mini surge protector with USB charger. This device is a portable 3-outlet surge protector, with a built in 2-port USB charger.

The Belkin mini surge protector with USB charger weighs just under 7 ounces and is about 5 inches long. The prongs on the back are protected by a plastic cover, which means you won’t stab yourself or bend them if you stash them in your laptop bag right before leaving on a trip.

The plug on the rear rotates a full 360 degrees, which means you’ll be able to rotate it to the best angle for the outlet you connect it to. The plastic protection cap can even be stored in a little slot on the bottom, so you won’t lose it.

As the name implies, the Belkin surge protector with USB charger has 3 regular (grounded) outlets and dual USB charging ports on the top. This means you’ll be able to connect 3 AC powered devices to it (like a laptop and a printer), as well as charge 2 devices using the USB ports (like a mobile phone and an iPod). Naturally, you will need to carry the item specific USB cables with you.

The surge protection is rated at 918 Joules with spike currents of up to 36,000 Amps. What this means to you and me, is that it’ll protect you from most of the harmful stuff that could come out of an outlet.

In the event that the device fails during a surge and you do end up killing some expensive equipment, Belkin provides a $75,000 equipment warranty. The device itself is even covered by a lifetime warranty. The maximum load is 1850 Watts, which means if you accidentally plug in too many devices, you won’t instantly fry the outlet.

Included in the package is the surge protector itself, a Mini-USB charging cable, the manual and the protective cap for the prongs. If you don’t already carry a surge protector, then you really should consider it. When you look at the price of your devices then it’s a small investment to keep them safe.

The Belkin mini surge protector with USB charger will only work with 110 volt outlets, so it’s only going to be useful for trips within North America.

All in all, a great product. It has lightened my gadget bag by combining my old 3 outlet tap and a USB charger into just one compact device, plus I’ve got the added security of a surge protector to protect my gadgetry. The lack of support for voltages outside North America is a bit of a disappointment.

You can find the Belkin surge protector at Amazon.com ($19.99) or the Belkin online web store ($24.99).