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Electrical Appliances

The Austin House® Guide to Electrical Adapters & Converters

The Travelite FAQ proudly presents the Austin House® Guide to Electrical Adapters & Converters! Veteran travelers may recognize Austin House as America's manufacturer of Travel Essentials® products. Austin House also publishes a very popular adapter and converter guide, a brochure available in travel stores for many years. This detailed guide is finally available on the web through the Travelite FAQ.

Get Unplugged!

Electrical appliances, in this case, refers to those items that you normally use as part of your get-dressed-and-look-nice routine, such as hair dryers. You have two choices: Leave them at home, or find miniature versions that don't take up too much space in your travelpack. This section covers the more commonly used products in detail, and discusses your alternatives. The added concern of dealing with different electrical plugs and outlets are discussed as well.

What To Do About Electrical Appliances

Hair dryer

Visit your hair stylist or barber a week or two before your trip. Tell your stylist that you would like a style that is easy to style without a hair dryer. It might mean a light body perm, or a simple wash-and-go cut. This should work for most people. If you MUST take a hair dryer with you, consider getting the smallest model you can find. That for me was a Sharper Image/Brookstone hair dryer that fit on the palm of my hand.

Curling Iron

As with the hair dryer, try to get your hair styled so that you don't have to have it curled. There are some new models that are very tiny and are easy to pack, such as the butane-fueled models from Braun. However, butane is an inflammable fuel that should not be taken onto the flight. You could take an empty curling iron with you and purchase a butane cell at your destination, although I would simply advise not taking one at all.


This gets to be pretty tricky for most people, who can't seem to get away from ironing their clothes. Those who must take clothes with them that wrinkle, they should take canisters of things like "Wrinkle Away" that help soften the wrinkles in your clothing. The best thing to do is to purchase clothing labeled "hard to wrinkle." Many have a polyester blend--and are easy to find in the TravelSmith catalog.

If you DO take clothing with you that wrinkles, hang it in your bathroom and give it a full steaming by drawing a hot shower for five minutes. This should relax the wrinkles.


Travel-sized steamers still take up too much space for the traveliter. Again, best to try to steam out your clothes in the bathroom.

Remember that by avoiding taking any appliances with you, you don't have to worry about adapters. You also have less chance for being held up at security gate for having electric gadgets in your carry-on.

If you must take electrical appliances with you on an overseas trip, you will need to pick up some electrical adapters. Most travel stores carry them. Want a diagram of the different types, and which countries use which adapters? Get a free catalog from Magellan's, as they list them in there (they sell the adapters too, if you want).

Personal Stereo

I have received email from people who swear by their Walkmans (Walkmen? Walkpeople?). Whether to avoid having to listen to local music, avoid boredom, or avoid being bothered, personal headphones are a wonderful way to isolate and insulate yourself from your surroundings. Is that good? You decide (my preference would be to take a short-wave radio with me. There are quite a few models by Sony, Grundig and others, that are both affordable, and small).

Techno Geeks Like Me!

So you can forego most modern conveniences except your computer and 'net access?! ("Please sir, anything but my PowerBook!") Go visit Patrick Jennings' "Outfitting the Multimedia Guerrilla" web site to start. He has a comprehensive packing list he used for his own travels. It's one thing to wanna take your laptop with you--it's another to worry about adapters and cables and all that stuff. If you have the foresight to shop for a laptop with travel in mind, I would recommend that you get something small and lightweight. So what if you can't get an SVGA screen?

Instead of carrying a separate computer case, I recommend the neoprene "WetSuit" from Silicon Graphics (available from MacZone at 800-555-1212, APS Technologies at 800-874-3197, or Mac Wholesale at 800-531-4622). They come in various colors and run about $40 each. Unlike standard carrying cases, Wetsuits "hug" your computer even when it's open. It serves to provide padding for your notebook, and can be stuffed into your carry-on bag.

Two other options may now be favorable for the traveliter who wants to stay in touch, but does not want to lug a laptop. The first is to choose a palmtop instead. Models like the Psion Series 5 are both incredible powerful and portable. This model, unlike most other palmtops, has a keyboard that slides forward when the clamshell is opened, giving you more typing room. The keys are almost large enough to allow touch-typing by nimble fingers.

The second option is to forego any sort of techno-gear altogether, and instead check your email periodically at Internet cafes. Many ISPs provide options for travelers (telnet-only, roving-access, etc.) if you wish to read your regular account. You might also consider getting free web-based email accounts from places such as Yahoo Mail (which purportedly even allows you to log in and still check your own ISP account), or other sites such as Hotmail. For more information on free email accounts, check the Free Email Address Directory.

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