Travel Chargers, Blow Dryers, and all things Electrical

If you travel outside the USA, Canada, Mexico, Japan or the Caribbean Islands, you will need to deal with power adapters. There is a great reference online, here.

NOTE: Don’t buy a block type electrical adapter if it uses the same setup for Northern Europe and Southern Europe. Most of the ones I have seen do this. Northern European plugs have larger pins. Southern European plugs will fit into these sockets but the fit is often loose and problematic. I prefer to take separate plug adapters for each of the countries I am traveling to.

When you travel outside these areas, you face two problems:

  1. Your electrical plug won’t fit into the electrical socket.
  2. Your device may require a different voltage. In the USA, a typical household power outlet provides approximately 110V of power. In most of the rest of the world, they outlets provide 220V. Some 110V devices will spark, melt, smoke, and possibly catch fire when plugged into a 220V outlet.

This all sounds complicated and dangerous but it does not have to be. You can solve all of these problems with a little advance planning.

You can purchase international power adapters at most big box or travel stores. These devices will adapt your power cords to the local electrical outlets. You may also need to convert the 220V power to 110V by using a Voltage Converter.

Voltage Converters:

I never use voltage converters. I don’t need them and I don’t like them. They are heavy, complicated and prone to failure.

The only time you need a voltage converter is when you need to run devices with old fashioned transformer power supplies or devices with motors and/or heating elements like blow dryers and curling irons.

If you must use a voltage converter, make sure you read the instructions carefully and know the watts required to run your device.

Switching Power Supplies:

Many modern computer, tablet, phone and other power supplies use Switching Power Supplies. This technology allows them to run on either 110V or 220V power. The only thing you need for these devices is a physical plug adapter. You can verify your device has a switching power supply and is 220V compatible by reading the fine print on the side of the charging block. If the INPUT specification shows a voltage range from around 110V to a around 220V, you are already good to go.

Dual Voltage Devices:

For everything else like blow dryers and curling irons, look for items that run on dual voltage. You can purchase these at the big box stores and they are not expensive.

My wife carries several of these in her suitcase. Some have a physical switch that you MUST remember to move when you travel internationally and some, like her tiny curling iron are able to auto-sense the power and adjust accordingly.

You only need ONE physical plug adapter!

I always carry a small power strip so I can plug several devices into one outlet. Note: Most of the outlets in other countries don’t use a ground wire. I have modified some of my plugs to eliminate the ground prong. YOU SHOULD NOT DO THIS. I am not responsible for any harm that comes to you or your belongings from modified electrical connectors.

Cheap, lightweight power strip that runs 3 USA devices on a single power adapter.
If all of your devices are 2-prong, this is a great option.
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