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Tim Leffel

Professional Travel Expert

Best Travel Adapter & Best Universal Travel Adapter

Traveling abroad with electronic gadgets?

Just a couple of decades ago, most travelers didn’t set off with anything electronic beyond a hair dryer or a short-wave radio. Now it’s not uncommon for a tourist or business traveler to be packing a miniature Radio Shack selection in their carry-on: cell phone, digital camera, portable DVD player, MP3 player, digicam, laptop, portable speakers… and the list goes on.

That’s all fine if you’re staying on home turf, but what about when you travel to another country? In some spots, you’ll need something to adjust the voltage or your precious electronics will go up in smoke. In other destinations, the current is fine but your plug won’t go into their wall socket. Making matters worse, a twenty-mile trip across an international border may present you with two vastly different kinds of plugs.

Thankfully, there are plenty of travel adapters available to solve these problems and prevent a citywide search for an electronics store. Many of them are built to be used in 150 countries or more, yet are designed in a way that the plugs fold or fit together tightly to enable the device to easily fit into a suitcase. Note that most don’t include adapters for the odd three-prong plugs used in India and South Africa though. Upscale hotels in both countries generally have a 110v plug in the bathroom, but otherwise you’ll need an additional plug for those countries.

The following travel adapters are the best available and are both convenient and lightweight.

The best travel adapter is essential when traveling around the world. Choose the best universal travel adapter to ensure all your electronics are charged, including cell phone, digital camera, portable DVD player, MP3 player and on and on.

Best Travel Electrical Adapters by Tim Leffel

The Best You Can Get

  • Kensington Travel Plug Adapter with USB Charger

    Tim says: This is the most attractive and compact travel adapter available that covers 150 or more countries. The plugs are all encased in the unit itself (except for the snap-on USB adapter), but by pressing the release button you push out the plug you need, attach it to the socket, then power your device with a plug or a USB connection. It has a built-in fuse to protect your gadgets from surges and comes with a spare. If space is at a premium and you tend to lose stray pieces easily, this is the best option for items that don’t require voltage conversion as well.

  • Travelon Universal 3-in-1 Converter, Adapter, and USB Hub

    Tim says: For Americans traveling abroad, this device takes the guesswork out of operating electrical devices. It automatically steps the voltage down to 110 and reduces the wattage. Besides allowing you to plug in regular items with a plug, the USB port allows you to charge portable gadgets as well without booting up a computer. If you’ll only be using a laptop or other device with a built-in voltage regulator, Travelon makes a slightly thinner model without the voltage adjuster.

  • 150 Country Travel Adapter

    Tim says: There are a lot of basic one-piece travel adapters out there similar to this one, but few are as compact, well-designed, and comprehensive. This adapter covers the usual 150 countries, has a USB hub, and contains a built-in surge protector for when the third-world electricity supply goes haywire. It weighs less than 3.5 ounces and at only 3" high by 2" wide and 2 1/2" deep, there’s no packing sacrifice involved in taking this adapter along.

    • From Hammacher Schlemmer
  • Callpod Chargepod Bundle Pack

    Tim says: Let’s say you’re taking a family vacation to Mexico, a country where the electrical outlets and current are the same as ours. Do you really want to carry six different chargers along? The Callpod Chargepod offers a solution that will let you pack lighter, with all the charging equipment fitting into a small pouch. It allows you to replace a whole bundle of unruly cords and plugs that don’t work with each other to a small device the size of a hockey puck and just one plug for the wall.

    Each electrical gadget has its own plug connecting it to the central hub, so with just one outlet you can charge up to six devices from Apple/iPod, Motorola, Blackberry, Nokia, Palm, Sony PSP, and anything else that uses a USB connector. It even comes with a car adapter and you can also buy additional connector plugs for other devices not covered by the bundle pack.

  • Sima SIP-3 Portable Plug Set

    Tim says: This model from Sima goes for an integrated set of three pieces rather than the solid-state approach. The three plug pieces fit together in a small tube shape about the circumference of a tennis racket handle, but allows you the option to leave the pieces you don’t need stowed away in your baggage. It’s an elegant, efficient design that will cover you for some 150 countries, from Australia to China to the UK. This one is adapter only though, better for a laptop with its own voltage regulator than a 110v-only device.

You will be happy with any of these

  • EuroSurge Surge Protector

    Tim says: This four-inch-high item is a bit bulky because it has two outlets and it really only does one thing. But it does that one thing well: protecting your American devices from Europe’s double voltage. If you’re a reporter maintaining a dial-up account in areas where all you’ve got is a phone line, this unit also includes a modem line pulse protection feature. It only plugs into the most common European plug configuration though and is decidedly old school, with no double-duty USB hub and a clunky design that screams “Transistor Age.”

  • Naztech n300 3-in-1 Car Charger

    Tim says: If you have the option of charging your device three ways, then you don’t have to worry as much about outlet shapes. This Naztech 3-in-1 charger has an AC adapter for wall outlets, a DC adapter for car receptacles, and a USB cable to charge through your laptop or an Internet café’s computer. Unfortunately, you are limited in what devices you can charge: you have to buy the specific model that matches your specific phone or device, with models available for most mobile phone brands, Palm, and Blackberry.

  • Lewis N. Clark Dual Converter Kit

    Tim says: This dual voltage and dual wattage kit from Lewis N. Clark won’t win any prizes for eye-pleasing design or packing ease. It’s basically a big black box that wouldn’t look out of place in Home Depot’s electrical parts aisle, along with five separate plugs that don’t attach to the device. So why carry it? Because this will handle your heavy-wattage items as well as ones that don’t require so much juice. You set the switch to “Hi” if you’re using a hair dryer, for instance, but switch it to “Lo” for your shaver. It also has an internal circuit breaker and comes with a zippered travel case to keep those plugs from getting lost.

  • Kensington All-in-One Travel Adapter

    Tim says: At only about two inches wide, deep, or high, this little travel adapter covers the basics with the smallest possible package. It does not include a USB hub, but it does plug in to the same number of outlets worldwide as the other ones covered here. It employs an innovative design with slide-out power plugs encased in a compact, self-contained unit. A safety fuse protects against surges. When all that matters is being able to use your laptop or charge up your portable game player in a foreign land, this nifty device will do the trick at a size that would fit into your pocket.

  • 50-2000-Watt Auto-Switch Voltage Converter Kit

    Tim says: If you’re a globetrotter who needs something rugged for the long haul, this kit in a case from Travelsmith will withstand knocks and bumps better than the lighter all-in-one items. Encased in their designated spots are a voltage converter and four plugs to handle most of the world’s outlets. A handy chart on the inside of the lid even tells you which plugs work where. An auto-switch changes voltages automatically so you don’t have to wonder and the wide range of wattage covers everything from a digital camera recharge to a hair dryer set on “high.”

    • from Travelsmith

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Search no further for the best travel adapter. These best universal travel adapter recommendations feature a must-have travel companion at the best price. These travel converter and plug adapters will ensure your electronics - from cell phones to portable DVD players - are always charged no matter where you travel.