YourABA: November 2013
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10 tech tips for better, safer travel

By Joshua Poje
ABA Legal Technology Resource Center

Open the carry-on bag of your average traveler these days and you’ll probably find a treasure trove of technology — laptops, portable hard drives, cameras, smartphones, tablets, game systems, e-readers and more. These gadgets keep us entertained and help us get our work done away from the office, but they also present real financial and privacy risks.

What can you do to protect yourself and your technology on the road? We’ve put together 10 simple tips for the tech-enabled traveler:

  1. Back up before you pack up.
    Travel presents a lot of risks to your devices and, therefore, your data. Bags can be lost or stolen, devices can be mishandled, incorrect power adapters can lead to fried internals — the list goes on. Make sure you have a thorough backup of your data before you leave the office so that you can get up and running again in short order if the worst should happen. If you’re going to be creating a lot of new data on the trip, consider bringing a spare hard drive or find a secure cloud solution to back up new data you create as you travel.

  2. Get organized.
    Whether you’re traveling for fun or for work, there’s a lot of information to juggle — flight info, reservations for hotels, rental cars and restaurants, meeting agendas or special outings, just to name a few. Consider using a travel app like TripIt to organize all of your travel information in one convenient location.

  3. Bring extra power.
    Keeping all of your devices charged as you travel can be a headache. A phone going dead at the wrong moment can be a major inconvenience no matter the reason you’re traveling. Consider investing in a portable USB charging device like the ones made by Mophie, Duracell or IoGear. Just plug your mobile devices in using a USB cord and you’ll add a few hours of extra power.

  4. Track your luggage.
    Afraid your bag may go missing if you check it? A Trakdot won’t guarantee that your bag ends up at the right destination, but it will at least help you figure out where the bag did end up. Just leave the device in your checked luggage and track it online.

  5. Look for a tech-friendly bag.
    Throwing all of your tech gear in the same bag you’ve used for the last 15 or 20 years isn’t necessarily a great idea. The bag may not provide the best protection to the often-fragile gadgets, and it may cause you headaches with the TSA. Consider picking up a TSA "checkpoint friendly" laptop bag to protect your tech investment and to shave a few minutes off your security check.

  6. Bring your own Wi-Fi.
    You can’t count on Wi-Fi being readily available, secure or cost-effective when you’re traveling. Rather than risk it, consider bringing your own portable Wi-Fi hotspot. Available through most cellular carriers, the devices are reasonably priced and can often be purchased without a long-term contract. Just pay for data in the months when you know you’ll be travelling.

  7. Know your data plan.
    If you’re going to be traveling outside of the country, make sure you check out your data plan and your device’s settings so you don’t accidentally run up a five-figure international roaming bill.

  8. Scout ahead with Google Street View.
    Going someplace new and you’re a little bit worried about finding the right location? Type it into Google Maps and then click over to the Street View to get a ground-level view of your destination.

  9. Avoid the common-area computers.
    Some hotels offer free guest access to computers placed in common areas, like the lobby or a dedicated business center. Be incredibly careful when using these computers, as they may harbor malware that can monitor your activity and capture your login credentials when you log into services like email or your bank. If you know you’ll need to make use of common computers on a trip, consider setting up a throwaway email address and asking colleagues, friends and family to temporarily use that rather than your more important personal or professional email.

  10. Secure your mobile devices.
    Hopefully you’ve already set a password on your mobile devices, and you’ve made sure you know how to use the applicable remote location/remote wiping features. If not, this is the time to do it. These features will help keep unauthorized users from accessing your devices, and they’ll help you track them down in the event you simply lose them.

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