Adaptors vs. Converters: Which do you need?

If you are planning a trip to a country that uses different plugs than your own, you must be sure to pack an adaptor or converter if you want to use your own appliances or chargers.  The task of choosing which one is necessary is a little more complicated.

-Adapters are plug extensions that literally only change the shape of the prongs that go into the outlet.  In other words, adaptors do not change anything about the way your device functions, but just change the plug of your device to fit another outlet. For the adaptor pictured below, you plug a U.S. device into the plug adaptor effectively making it fit into European plugs.

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A typical adaptor

 

– Converters: Converters are also almost always adaptors, but instead of just changing the type of prongs on your plug, they adjust the amount of electricity that goes through your device. If your device is not a dual voltage appliance (see below for more details about this), then you will need a converter.

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Converter box in the center with multiple adaptors to connect to the box

 

How to determine if your device is dual voltage: Most devices will have a sticker on the plug specifying the details of that appliance (see photo below).  Look under the “input” section on this sticker, if your device states a range of voltage (such as 100-240v in the photo below) then your appliance is dual voltage.  If there is only one number stated here you will need a converter; if there is a range then you will only need an adaptor.

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Electricity sticker specifying voltage information

 

Some devices, including most hairdryers, will have some form of knob or switch which you must change from the lower voltage setting (typically 100 or 120v) to the higher voltage setting (usually 240v).

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the black circle at the bottom of the dryer changes the voltage input

 

If your device is not dual voltage and you do not use a converter, one of two things is likely to happen.  First, your device may just heat up more than usual but may still work.  This is common with straighteners (even dual voltage ones).  Since the voltage is higher, the device gets hotter than usual.  Be very cautious when using a device with a different voltage, multiple girls I know have singed their hair using their curling irons and straighteners because they did not move them quickly enough through their hair with the excess heat.  The second thing that may happen, is the extra voltage will fry your device and it will cease to work completely.  Even if you use a converter this may happen since they are not the most reliable devices, despite the cost and quality of the converter.

It is best to buy dual voltage devices before you leave, or just pick up a cheaper version of your hair dryer or iron once you get to your destination country.  Avoid taking expensive appliances as the change in voltage can cause them to break very easily.

Here is a list of each country’s plug type and standard voltage:  http://www.starkelectronic.com/fzfv.htm

Best of: Marrakech, Morocco! MBA User-Submitted photos.

Hey MBA users!  Every now and then we’re going to post user-submitted photos of your coolest trips, pics, and places!  Be sure to send them in; you can Tweet us your pics at @MyBuddyAbroad , post it on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Buddy-Abroad/114357055324849?fref=ts or send it via e-mail to tyler@ newmediafluent.com

Our next Best of Series will be London, England! Be sure to submit your best photo!

“I never knew there would be so much to do in Marrakech.” Aubrey A.

“The Souk of Marrakech! Anything and everything you could want to buy is all here.” – Riley G.

“Beautiful pillars right by the Medina!” – Lacey B.

“A traditional Moroccan meal (maybe except for the French fries and Diet coke).” – Ally T.

“One of the cities greatest landmarks, the Koutoubia Mosque!” – Andrew J.

“Out sand duning around the Atlas mountains!” – Sarah B.

“Having tea in a rural Moroccan home outside of Marrakesh – amazing experience!” -Emilie S.

“Local school children watching us tourists. I wonder what they think of us?!” – Nick C.

“The beautiful medina from a rooftop restaurant, can’t wait to return!” Shaun B.

8 Things You Probably Are Not Packing For Your Trip

While everyone knows to pack clothing and toiletries, here are some items you may not think of and some that you may not pack because you don’t think you will need them.

1. Pillowcase:  I have stayed in a lot of hotels, many of which I did not want to touch the bed covers let alone rest my head on their pillow.  Packing a pillowcase lets you keep your peace of mind while you sleep in a strange place whether you’re staying in a sketchy hostel or the Four Seasons.

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1. Pillowcase (pillow not included)

2. Food you can’t get where you are going.  One of my travel companions dips everything in ranch dressing before she eats it.  She freaked when she realized ranch is almost impossible to find in Europe and what you can get is nothing like what she was used to.  If you don’t go a week without it at home, assume you won’t be able to find it in your destination and take some.

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2. Condiments and items you intake daily

3. Adaptors. If you are going to a country where the outlets are different, do not forget to pack an adaptor.  While hotels provide most appliances (such as blow dryers) you are still likely to need an adaptor for something.  It is almost impossible to find adaptors once you reach your destination since all those sold in local stores are to adapt the local plug to a foreign one instead of the other way around.

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3. Adaptors

4. Space bags.  In a previous post, I mentioned that I could not stand travel Space Bags, and that I do not believe they work.  While this opinion stands, there is one excellent alternative use for them that everyone should consider.  Space Bags are a great option to store smelly, wet, or dirty clothes in when traveling, because they are created to seal in everything and store larger amounts of clothing than a Ziploc bag.  Whether your clothing smells like cigarette smoke or is covered in mud from a hike, storing them in a Space Bag keeps them from rubbing off on your other clothing.

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4. Space Bags for storing dirty clothing

5. GPS Tracker. For less than $100, you can buy a GPS tracking unit to store in your checked bag.  If your bag gets stolen or never makes it on the plane, you can check where the GPS system is and find your bag once again. For example, the Mini Real Time Tracker, shown below, uses a SIM card to send its current coordinates to your phone.

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5. GPS Tracker

6. Spare credit card, medicine, and ID. Often travelers are told to keep these items safely in their carry-ons during trips.  While this is sound advice, you should keep a spare of everything you can’t live without in your suitcase. This way if your wallet, purse, or bag get stolen on your trip you can have a backup.

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6. Spare necessities

7.  Spare outfit for the opposite climate you are traveling to.  If you are traveling to Sweden, it is safe to bet you will not be needing shorts and a tank top.  However, the place you are staying may over-compensate for the cold by turning the heat much higher than comfortable.  The same can be said for very warm climates.  Pack just one outfit in-case you are stuck in the opposite temperatures you prepared for.

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7. Spare outfit opposite of destination climate

8. Pharmaceutical needs. On a trip to Europe, I had a cold and did not take any medicie with me.  I tried to find some Sudafed but could not find anything similar to this common medicine even with the pharmacist’s help.  Drug products vary greatly from country to country and even region to region, so bring anything you may need with you.

Though rarely mentioned in travel blogs (probably due to the taboo nature of the topic) the same can be said about products such as tampons and condoms.  The U.S. has very different health standards than many other countries, so stick with what you know to be safe and pack safe and reliable drugstore products from home.

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8. Drugstore products of all kinds

Travel Accessories We Can’t Go Without

Here are a few travel accessories we couldn’t get by without on trips.

1) Packing Cubes

I can’t remember how I packed before I found these packing bags.  Instead of trying to cram your bag full and then having to re-stuff all your items in every time you open it, just stuff these packing cubes.  Great way to stay organized and find items you need much faster.

Packing Cubes

See on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/eBags-Packing-Cubes-3pc-Set/dp/B004C0XZM4/ref=zg_bs_15743971_1

2) Neck Money Holder

When traveling (especially internationally), it is wise to keep valuables such as your ID, credit cards, and passport tucked away instead of in a purse or wallet.  Valuables holders that can be worn over the neck instead of around your waist tend to be more comfortable and provide easier access.

Lewis and Clark Deluxe Neck Stash

http://www.amazon.com/Lewis-N-Clark-Deluxe-Stash/dp/B00004SR8Z

3) Blanket/Pillow Combo

Definitely one of my better travel investments, this pillow becomes a case for the blanket so it hardly takes up any space in your carry-on.  They are easy to make as well, so if you know a crafty person let them know this would be a great gift.

Lug Nap Sac Blanket + Pillow

http://www.safeskieslocks.com/store/luggage-straps-c-13.html

4) Luggage Locks

I love luggage strap locks because not only can you safely lock you luggage through the airport, but you can extend the strap and lock your luggage to something if you are staying in a hostel or leaving your luggage temporarily in a shared space.

Safe Skies TSA Luggage Strap

http://www.luggagepros.com/lug-nap-sac-blanket-plus-pillow.shtml

5) Sleep Phones

Perfect for long-haul flights, you can listen to music to drown out the engines but still be comfortable enough to sleep.

SleepPhones

http://www.sleepphones.com/store/sleepphones-store/sleepphones-4

6) Solar Charger

There have been multiple times when my phone has died while I was using the GPS function and needed it desperately.  Pack a solar charger so you can give your phone some extra power when needed.

XTG Premium Solar Charger

http://www.amazon.com/Lewis-N-Clark-Deluxe-Stash/dp/B00004SR8Z

BONUS: Jaktogo

For the especially courageous traveler, the Jaktogo is an unconventional travel tool.  Avoid overweight baggage fees or the intense size restrictions of European budget airlines by wearing your luggage. Jaktogo offers the wearable bag in a jacket, dress, or poncho.  As a bonus, it conveniently folds into a tote bag after you pass through security.

Jaktogo: Probably not for the fashionista.

http://www.jaktogo.com/shop.php

5 South American Locations Perfect for Escaping the Cold of Winter

This Winter you may be longing for the warm days of Summer to come back.  Luckily, our neighbor south of the Equator offers the temperatures of Summer this time of year.  Here are 5 locations perfect to swap the cold and snow for some warm summer nights. 

 

1) Punta del Esta, Uruguay.

Uruguay is commonly referred to as the “Switzerland of South America” for it high class and European feel.  CNN named Uruguay one of the “World’s Top Destinations for 2012”.  If Uruguay was New York City, Punta del Esta would be the Hamptons.  For locals, keeping a summer house in Punta del Esta is ideal for its resort feel and rich atmosphere. 

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Punta del Esta, Uruguay

2) San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

Situated between the Andes mountains and Nahuel Huapi Lake, Bariloche is a nature lover’s dream.  The city itself is styled after German and Swiss architecture, and is known for its jaw-dropping scenery and top-notch cuisine.  A huge ski town in the Winter (Summer for the Northern hemisphere), the region is perfect for boating, hiking, scuba diving, and similar activities in the Summer months. 

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San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

3) Manaus, Brazil

Manaus is literally surrounded by the Amazon Rainforest and is one of the cities with the easiest access to the jungle.  Your best bet for a trip to the Amazon would be December of early January, if you go too late you will be arriving in the wet season.  Manaus offers a city feel in the middle of the jungle.

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Port of Manaus, Brazil  

4) Santiago, Chile

A large modern metropolis, Santiago can offer a tourist just about everything.  With a Mediterranean climate similar to California, Chile has perfect Winter weather.  You can hike in the mountains in the morning and be on the beach by the afternoon. 

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Santiago, Chile

5) Belize

Okay, so technically speaking Belize is not in South America, but it was too good to leave off our list.  Just off the coast of Belize you can find the cleverly named, Great Blue Hole; A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  With Caribbean culture and temperatures; Belize City is a calm, fun-loving city perfect for relaxing, snorkeling  or scuba diving on the coast.

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The Great Blue Hole, Belize

Best Free iPhone Apps for Travel

We pay a lot for our iPhone’s so why should we pay for expensive travel apps? These five apps have helped My Buddy Abroad members abroad and saved them tons of money.  Get your iPhone handy and download away!

1. U Packing List

1. uPackingListFree – Figure out what you need beforehand 

There’s no way you can forget anything with this app- it covers all your grounds.  Download this before you leave and you won’t be spending money on pricey necessities while you’re trying to enjoy your trip.

2. HearPlanet

2.Hearplanet – Learn about where you are

Sometimes finding time for a tour that also fits your budget can be hard, so use HearPlanet on any of your major landmarks and learn everything you need to know.

3. Tripit

3. Tripit – Organize your trip

Between flights and other travel plans things can get muddled up quickly.  Tripit centralizes  and makes the travel experience that much smoother by doing things such as sending flight confirmations and syncing up with your calendar.  A must have!

4. Road Trip Lite

4.  Road Trip LT – Calculate gas, MPG, and more.

When driving it can get pricey and frustrating.  RoadTrip is awesome tool to calculate how much you’re paying for gas and the mileage.  We learned that our car got us 39 MPG on a 1000 mile trip to Los Angeles.

5. Yelp

5. Yelp – Find the best locations 

Finally, you’ve got to find the best foods and fun and Yelp knows it all.  Whether you want it to use your location or find what you like by search, reading reviews and looking at photos will help pick the best places during your trip.

Travel smart, my friends.

Travel Fitness

Staying in Shape while Traveling:

For anyone who exercises regularly and is cautious of what they eat, it is a constant struggle to maintain this routine while traveling.  Obviously, you want to indulge in the local specialties which I encourage you to try, but you also don’t want to pack on the pounds either.  So, here are three short workouts of varying difficulty that can be completed anywhere, anytime, in very little space.  Repeat each set  2-3 times and mix and match any of the moves below.

Beginner:

  • 30 Jumping Jacks
  • 8 Lunges on each leg
  • 15 Push-ups against the wall
  • 30 Crunches
  • 20 Second wall sit
  • 30 Butt kicks
  • 30 Seconds of arm circles
  • 30 Jumping jacks

Intermediate:

  • 40 High knees
  • 15 Forward lunges
  • 15 Backward lunges
  • 20 Push-ups
  • 20 Squats
  • 15 Wide leg squats
  • 30 Toe touch crunches
  • 12 Tricep dips (off a coffee table height object)

Advanced:

  • Alternating squats (Start at 7: First do 7 full squats then go into the squat position and pulse 7 times*. Next do 6 full squats then pulse 6 times. Continue all the way down to 1)
  • 15 Jump Squats
  • 10 clock Lunges (left leg forward, squat to the left side, left leg back squat, right leg forward, to the right side, right leg back, start again at left leg forward)
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Declined push-ups (put your feet on a chair or other raised surface)
  • 15 Tricep dips
  • 30 Reverse crunches
  • 45 Second plank

*[a pulse is only coming out of a squat position a tiny bit instead of coming all the way back to standing]

Here are some additional links for more ideas:

Hotel Room Workout: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJDnjxb9qmk

Hotel Room Crossfit: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/crossfit-workout

Moves to do anywhere: http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=629