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.

Five ways to make long flights more productive

Every business traveler has said or heard: “I’ll get to it on the plane.” By the time your bags are stowed safely overhead, however, it occurs to you that the flight won’t be long enough for everything on your list. The problem I’ve seen is that most business travelers don’t use this distraction-free environment as effectively as they could. If you could get more out of your flights, you’ll have more elbow room in your schedule when you touch down. So, here are five ways to help you get the biggest bang for your time on board.

1. The flight starts at the gate
While you’re waiting to board, find a power outlet, and plug in. pick up a wireless connection, and take care of e-mails. This seems obvious, but distractions can encroach. When you’re going through your inbox, focus on anything that seems most likely to matter when you’re on the plane: reassess your priorities. The unimportant can wait (or be addressed via Blackberry when you’re waiting for the door to close).

2. Get an extra battery
I’m still amazed at how many times I’ve seen business travelers shut down because the juice is gone. Ask your employer for an extra battery – you’ll have a few more hours of high-octane work time.

3. Print what doesn’t have to be electronic
This is especially true if you can’t score that extra battery. Do on paper what can be done on paper, and save the battery life for work that must be done on your laptop. You’re effectively increasing the value of your battery.

4. Set goals
Don’t try to deal with everything. Determine what you want to accomplish on the flight, and zero in on it. If you have time left over, you can work on other things (or, better, sleep). Be realistic when you define your objectives. If you aren’t, you’ll be perpetually frustrated.

5. Know when to stop
If you’re close to exhaustion or just can’t get your mind to work, take the hint. A plane isn’t the ideal office environment). Close your laptop. Put down your pen. Ask for some pill water, and let someone else suffer at your expense for a change!

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.

Kensington 3-in-1 review – power it, charge it, lock it

In this product review, I’m going to give you a brief look at three new products from Kensington. Each of these three products has been designed with travelers in mind, and will certainly benefit you on the road.

The three products are:

  • Portable power outlet
  • MicroSaver keyed retractable lock
  • Travel plug adapter with USB charger

Portable power outlet

The Kensington portable power outlet is as the name implies, a portable power outlet.

The device is about 4″x3″ and has a 17″ grounded power cord designed to wrap around the unit itself for storage.

The device splits into 3 separate grounded outlets (one on the front, 2 on the rear) as well as two USB charger ports.

The power outlet even features an integrated surge protector with auto power shutdown and a fault indicator light.

The portable power outlet costs $24.99.

MicroSaver keyed retractable lock

The MicroSaver keyed retractable lock is a tiny notebook lock with a 4 foot retracting steel cable.

To lock your laptop, you simply extend the cable, loop it around something sturdy and use the Kensington lock port on your computer to lock things in place.

Of course, locks like this won’t provide you with 100% protection, but they certainly can delay thieves from removing your laptop. The lock comes with 2 keys and when you are not using it, the lock portion fits snugly inside the unit.

The MicroSaver keyed retractable lock costs $34.99

Travel plug adapter with USB charger

The Kensington travel plug adapter with USB charger is an ingenious little device.

The main unit features 4 different sets of retractable prongs, for various countries around the world. In total, these 4 sets of prongs allow the device to work in over 150 different countries.

Inside the device is a fuse, which should help protect you from overloading the circuits and plunging an entire floor of hotel rooms into total darkness.

The prongs lock in place when extended, and can retracted by pushing a button on the side.

What makes the travel plug adapter special though, is its ability to turn into an international USB charger. By removing the top portion of the adapter and replacing it with the included USB charger, you suddenly have a charger capable of working almost anywhere in the world. Unlike other international USB chargers, this one does not require you to carry a bag full of plug adapters along with you.

The travel plug adapter with USB charger costs $29.99.