Getting ready for an upcoming trip is exciting. But when you make your packing list, stick to the essentials. There’s no need to blow money on heavy, bulky gear you’ll never use. Paring down your packing can also save you the expense and inconvenience of an overweight bag. Here are 10 necessities I’ve never regretted bringing on a trip.
Sleeping poorly can wreck your mood and put a serious damper on your travel fun or the business meetings you have to get to. I always make sure I have several pairs of earplugs to help me get the shut-eye I need, whether I’m on a plane, a bus, or in an unexpectedly loud hotel room. When it comes to sleeping well, you’re always better off being prepared, especially if you’re a light sleeper. (See also: Packing Light? Don’t Forget These 5 Must-Haves)
2. Passport photocopy
You don’t even have to purchase this item. All it takes is a little preparation before you leave and you can save yourself from a potential major hassle while you’re away. Make a couple of photocopies of your passport’s main page (the one with your picture on it), and any other pages that might be relevant — for example, if you’ve had to get a visa in advance, make a copy of that page, too.
Leave one copy with a friend or relative — whoever is most likely to not lose it. You’ll want to have a copy for yourself, too. Some hotels require you to leave a passport at the front desk during your stay, but if they’ll allow it, leave a photocopy instead so that you don’t ever lose possession of your original document. As a backup, upload a digital copy of the passport to a secure cloud storage app such as Google Drive. For extra security, you can password protect any file on Google Drive. Upload a photo of your passport on your smartphone, too, in case you need to access it offline. Just be sure to lock your phone.
Consider also making a photocopy of your driver’s license, credit, and debit cards. For security reasons you may not want to upload all of the information to the internet, but you can keep a paper copy in a secure place away from your wallet. Lock it in your room safe if one is available. At the very least, note the international and local bank customer service numbers for your card accounts, so that you can easily call them if a card gets blocked, lost, or stolen. (See also: What to Do if You Don’t Have Your ID at the Airport)
3. Plug adapters
Most countries outside North America use electrical outlets featuring different kinds of plug inputs. If you’re traveling often to different countries, it’s worth investing in one or two universal plug adapters that can be used in multiple countries. That way, you’ll never…
You’ve been taking photos and videos, downloading documents, and installing apps like there’s no tomorrow. All of a sudden you realize you’re running out of room on your phone. What do you do?
Sure, you could use cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive to store files, but those require an internet connection to access your files. If you want to actually take files with you, there is a better solution.
Just like you’ve been using USB flash drives with your PC or Mac all these years, there are also flash drive-esque devices that connect to phones and tablets. After testing a few, here are some that we recommend:
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is the most versatile, being able to connect to iOS devices, Android devices, and computers (either wirelessly or over its USB connection like a traditional flash drive). Put any files on it from your PC, and you’ll be able to read them using an app on your phone. The SanDisk software can also back up your photos and contacts, and secure any sensitive files you have on the drive with the SecureAccess software (which can only be protected and unprotected on your PC or Mac). And, of course, wireless drives don’t have to be physically connected, which is nice—though you will have to charge it.
The SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive is more like a traditional flash drive, but built for the iPhone and iPad. It plugs into the Lightning port on the bottom of your device so you can directly access files stored on it. Like the SanDisk Connect, it can back up photos and contacts, though it can also back up your calendar and social media. The iXpand drive can also protect individual files in the SanDiskSecureAccess vault directly on the drive using the iXpand Drive app.
The Leef iBridge 3 Mobile Memory Drive is similar to the iXpand drive, connecting directly to the Lightning port on your device. However, it has one unique feature: allows you to transfer files between the drive and a few of the more popular cloud services without having to copy the files on your mobile device first. The Leef iBridge 3 also allows you to protect your files, like the iXpand drive, but it protects the whole drive, not individual files.
The iXpand and Leef iBridge 3 drives should both fit over most cases. We tested them on an iPhone 7 Plus with a Speck Presidio Grip case and it fit just fine. They may not fit as well with some of the thicker cases, such as OtterBox cases. The iXpand drive is a bit more flexible than the Leef iBridge 3 drive.
NOTE: We’re mostly focusing on iOS in this guide, since Android phones are much more versatile. If your Android device supports USB on-the-go (OTG), you can use any old flash drive just by plugging it in using a USB OTG cable. You can read more about that process in this article. You can also use a USB-A-plus-USB-C flash drive like this one. If your Android phone does not support physical USB connections, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick should work well with Android too.
In this guide, we’ll walk through the process of using all three of these devices to store and read files on your iPhone or iPad, as well as back up photos or other files if you want to free up space. There is more you can do with these drives than we discuss here, and we’ll provide links to help pages so you can learn all about using your new drive.
How to Use the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick is a flash drive that works not only with your computer, but with your phone and tablet as well. It runs its own wireless network, so you can connect to it wirelessly. That means it can be in your pocket, purse, backpack, or anywhere within about 150 feet with a clear line of sight while it’s connected to your device.
The SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick provides up to 256GB of extra storage, and the prices range from about $25 for 16GB to about $200 for 256GB, as of this writing.
Charging the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick and Connecting It to Your PC
Before we get started with the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick, plug the drive into your computer or a USB adapter and let it fully charge. This might take up to two hours.
While the drive is charging, download and install the appropriate app for your device: Connect Drive for iOS or for Connect Drive for Android. We’re going to show you how to use the drive and the app on iOS, but the process is the very similar on both. If you’re charging the drive in a USB port on your computer, you can also use the charging time to copy any photos, videos, or other files you want to access on your phone to the drive. Copy files just like you would any other flash drive.
Once the drive is fully charged, turn it on by pressing the power button on the side of the drive.
The LED on the top of the drive blinks white to indicate the drive is on.
Connecting the SanDisk Connect to Your Phone or Tablet
To connect to the drive on Android, open the Connect Drive app and select the Wi-Fi network that your drive creates.
If you’re connecting the drive wirelessly to a PC or Mac, connect to the drive’s Wi-Fi network just like you would connect to any other Wi-Fi network. Then, open a browser and go to http://172.25.63.1/myconnect/. You should see the files on your drive in the browser window and you can manage the files right in the browser.
iOS is a bit different. To connect to the drive, you have to go through the Wi-Fi settings for your iPhone or iPad, not in the Connect Drive app. To do so, tap “Settings” on the Home screen.
On the Settings screen, tap the “Wi-Fi” option.
Under Choose a Network, you should see the SanDisk Connect drive listed with unique code of six numbers and letters after it, identifying your specific wireless stick. Tap on “SanDisk Connect” in the list.
The SanDisk Connect drive moves up to the top of the screen with a checkmark beside it.
You are now connected to your drive. Open the Connect Drive app and swipe left to go through the introductory screens. On the last screen, tap the “Get Started” button at the bottom.
The initial screen of the Connect Drive app displays with some helpful hints to get you started.
Accessing Files on the Wireless Stick
Files on the wireless stick can be accessed directly on the drive. Open the Connect Drive app and you’ll see all the files and folders on the drive. To open or view a file, simply tap on the file. If the file is in a folder on the drive, tap the folder to open it and then tap on the file. For example, to view a photo on our drive, we tap the Photos folder to open it…
…then we tap on a photo in the folder.
The photo displays directly in the app. You can also tap the right arrow icon at the bottom of the screen to start a slideshow using all the photos at the same level (the root of the drive or in the same folder). The Connect Drive app supports viewing .bmp, .tif, .tiff, .jpg, .png, .xbm, .ico, and .tga images.
You can stream videos to up to three devices from the drive the same way. Simply tap on a video file to play it directly in the Connect Drive app. The Connect Drive app can play .wmv, .avi, .mkv, .mp4, .mov, .flv, .mpg, .rmvb, .m4v, and .ts video files. (Note that some DRM-protected content cannot be played, however.)
You can also play music files in the form of .mp3, .wav, .m4a, .aac, and .ogg, as well as view Microsoft Office documents (.doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx) and PDF files.
Backing Up Photos and Videos from Your Device to the Wireless Stick
To save room on your device, you may want to transfer some of your photos and videos from your camera roll to the wireless stick and access them directly on the drive.
NOTE: Photos and videos are the only types of files you can officially transfer from your device to the drive. However, the Connect Drive app is added to the iOS share sheet, so you might be able to transfer files from other apps to the drive using the share sheet if those apps support it. For example, we selected a video in VLC and then used the share sheet to copy the file to the Connect Drive app, which automatically copies the file to the wireless stick. You can also transfer photos and videos (up to 10 files at a time) in the camera roll using the share sheet instead of the Connect Drive app. Select them in the camera roll, tap the Share icon, and then tap the Connect Drive icon on the share sheet. Then, choose where on the drive you want to paste the files.
To use the Connect Drive app to back up photos and videos to the drive, open the app and tap the plus icon at the bottom of screen showing the contents of the drive.
The first time you copy files, the Connect Drive app will ask permission to access your photos. Tap “OK” on the dialog box that displays. You’ll then see the photos in your camera roll. You can also click the Albums button to access other albums.
Once you’ve located the photos you want to back up to the wireless stick, tap on those photos. Then, tap the “Select Destination” button at the bottom of the screen.
Now, you’re prompted to select a destination on the drive. You can select any existing folder by tapping on it, or you can tap “New Folder” to create a new folder to contain the copied photos. Once you have selected your destination, tap the “Copy Here” button at the bottom of the screen.
The app displays the status of the copy process. You can pause the copying of a photo, cancel the process, or hide the progress screen.
When the photos have been copied, the following dialog box displays. Click the “OK” button to close the dialog box.
If you’d rather back up your entire camera roll, you can tap the menu button in the upper-left corner of the main screen and head to “Camera Roll Backup”. You can set it to back up manually or automatically.
Connecting to the Internet and Use the Wireless Stick at the Same Time
When you connect your device to the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick, you give up your normal Wi-Fi connection, so you won’t be able to access the internet. You can get it back, though—you just have to re-connect to your normal Wi-Fi network through the Connect Drive app.
Tap the hamburger menu button in the upper-left corner of the screen.
Tap “Internet Connection” on the slide-out menu.
Click the “Next” button on the introductory screen.