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

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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

7 Tips to make the most of your carry-on

With stringent luggage rules, you aren’t left with much room to pack clothing and other goods in your carry-on.  Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that space.

  1. Wear layers of clothing on the flight.  A great way to get some extra outfits in for your trip is to wear layers of clothing.  Throw an extra plastic bag or reusable shopping bag in your suitcase to put the extra clothes in later.  Always wear your bulkiest shoes and fluffiest sweater or jacket since they won’t condense well.
  2. Pack small objects such as socks and underwear in your shoes. If it is small enough to fit in something, put it there.
  3. Pack your biggest and least moldable objects first, then squeeze softer objects around those items. Pack shoes, bags of toiletries, and anything else that cannot be forced into an odd shape first, then bend your t-shirts and pajamas around them.
  4. If you don’t need it, leave it.  Europeans are known for wearing the same outfit for days in a row, no one is going to notice if you are wearing the same pair of jeans.  Trust me.
  5. Pack dark clothes and plain clothing. If you pack dark jeans and plain clothing, your friends are much less likely to notice you wearing the same shirt in all 300 photos you upload.
  6. Pack accessories. A great way to trick people in to thinking you are wearing a different outfit is by changing something simple like a scarf.  Especially in winter months, focus on packing more of what people will actually see than shirts that will end up hidden under your coat.
  7. Spacebags are a lie, and piss all fellow travelers off. One girl I have traveled with a few times carries the travel version of spacebags with her for short trips.  I guarantee I fit 3x more clothing in my backpack than she did, the hard plastic bags do not optimize space in any way.  Plus they are loud and take way longer to pack in than just rolling your clothing. The only thing spacebags are truly useful for is pillows or other incredibly fluffy items with tons of excess air in them.

Travel smarter, not harder friends.