Friday, September 13, 2013

Electricity, Outlets, and Travel...Oh My

Let’s say you are packing for your next trip overseas. One thing you need to make sure you have is the right equipment so you can use your chargers, tablet computers, etc.

Did you know that not all electrical sockets are created equal? If you want to plug in your laptop, phone charger, or hair dryer, you need to know what type of voltage is used in the country you're traveling to and what type of adapter or plug is needed for the outlet. Otherwise, prepare for whatever you plugged in to become overheated.

The first thing to consider is which electrical appliances you really need to bring. I check with hotels to see if they offer hair dryers. But, I take my chargers for my phone, tablet computer, and camera batteries.

We pack a travel-size dual-voltage appliance that can run on both 110-volt and 220-volt currents. Make sure the switch is on the proper voltage for the country you are in before using the appliance. You will also need to carry adapter plugs with you to fit the outlets in the countries you're visiting.

Most American-made electrical appliances work at 110 volts. Japan, most of North America, parts of South America, and the Caribbean use voltage between 100 and 125. The rest of the world uses 220 - 240 volts. Check before you start packing.

Also, check the label on your appliance before buying a converter, as it might be designed to work at both 110/120 and 220/240 volts. Many of the newer items do, especially those designed for travel.  If so, you'll probably only need a plug adapter. If your appliance only operates at 110 volts, you'll need to buy a voltage converter.

Adapter Plugs
Even if two countries operate on the same voltage, their outlets might not take the same shape of plug…which is why you need an adapter. An adapter will allow you only to plug your appliance into another type of outlet, but not change the electrical voltage.

Travel stores often sell convenient and inexpensive kits with five different-sized adapters that will work with nearly any outlet in the world. Note that these often won't work for appliances that need to be grounded, which will require a more expensive grounding adapter.

Research where you are going and what you will need before you buy anything.

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