For the Want of an Adaptor, the Kingdom Was Lost

As I was leaving Elche, Spain a few days ago, I packed up all my things as I’ve done hundreds of times and headed out the door. When I arrived in Granada later in the day I realized I had committed a grievous error.

I had left my European electrical adaptor in the hotel.

In the rush to leave the room, when I pulled my power strip out of the wall, I left the adaptor sitting in place.

It didn’t hit me right away just how crippling this mistake was. This tiny, cheap hunk of metal and plastic was critical everything I do. Without it I had no way of charging my laptop, my iPad/iPhone and my camera battery. I couldn’t backup my photos. The lack of this tiny widget had left digitally stranded in Spain. It forced me to realize just how important an electrical adaptor is to everything I do blogging during international travel.

This wasn’t the first time I have been without an adaptor while on the road. Back in 2007 I was without one in the Cook Islands because I wasn’t aware of what sort of plugs they had (answer: Australian). I also found myself in the UK last year without my British adaptor, but managed to quickly find one once stores opened in the morning.

Find an adaptor on the road can be a bit tricky. When I’ve needed them, I’ve ended up finding them in radically different places:

  • Airports. This is always your best place to find adaptors. The merchants in airports know they have international travelers who use electronics, so you can almost always find an adaptor. The bigger the airport the better. This is especially true if you are going somewhere with uncommon electrical plugs like South Africa.
  • Hotels. I’m not the first person to have left their adaptor in a hotel room. Most hotels have a box of the adaptors which have been left behind by previous guests. Go to the front desk and ask if they have any. Sometimes they might have complementary adaptors you can use during your stay.
  • Souvenir Stands. Head to the most touristy part of any town and start looking in the souvenir stores. They will often (but not always or even usually) have adaptors for sale along side the disposable cameras and batteries they have in stock. I picked up a British adaptor this way and I have seen North American adaptors available from vendors in Time Square in New York.
  • Internet Cafes. This week in Granada I didn’t find any adaptors at my hotel or at any souvenir stand in town. I ended up finding them at an internet cafe I stopped into. I was at the counter ready to pay for my 15 minute session when I saw a basket of adaptors sitting in the window!

The best time to get an adaptor of course, is when you don’t need it. The above examples were when I had either lost or forgotten my adaptor. I almost always carry at least 3 adaptors with me at all times: Europe, British and Australian. That covers the majority of the world.

Lesson Learned You can have all the technology in the world, but it is as fragile as your weakest link. When traveling internationally, that link might very well be the cheap hunk of metal and plastic that lets you plug into a wall. Don’t forget your adaptor!