Photo by richardmasoner, feature photo by Lars Ploughmann

Whether you’re traveling or enjoying the holidays at home, learn how to protect all of your toys both old and new.

For some reason, I always used to hesitate before saying “yes” to the protection plan when I purchased a new gadget. Rather than thinking of it as part of the deal, I saw it as a gamble, an extra cost that, for all I knew, I might not even need.

Since becoming a freelance writer, I’ve started to see things differently. My laptop, my phone, my camera – they aren’t entertainment items, they’re necessary work tools. And keeping them safe is just as important an investment as the gadgets themselves.

Consolidation

Laptops, netbooks, iPods, eReaders and cell phones and gaming consoles…there are gadgets galore to help keep travelers entertained. Before you pack ’em all, ask yourself – what’s the purpose of your trip?

I’ve never traveled gadget-free (although I’d love to one day), but I’ve never taken every single gadget I own on a trip, either. It just hasn’t been necessary. In fact, leaving a few toys at home can not only decrease your chances of having something stolen or damaged; it may also positively impact the way you interact with others while traveling.

Gadget Protection

So there’s a few things you absolutely must bring. Four quick tips on protection:

1. Splurge on a good case or covering. When I finally broke down and bought my first iPhone, I didn’t think twice about getting the Otterbox. It’s not the cheapest case out there, but my phone has been soaked, dropped, and thrown, with nary a scratch or blip.

Photo by wiggletiggy

2. Create an email address for emergency purposes only and stick it as label on your gadgets. Good Samaritans do exist, after all. If you lose something and a kind-hearted person finds it, make it easy for them to get it back to you.

(Of course, if you’d rather label them with your name and/or phone number, that would work as well. But an anonymous email address seems like the safest option.)

3. Prepare for the conditions you’ll be facing. Heading to the beach? No A/C, humidity, sand and salty air can do some serious damage if your gadgets are exposed for too long.

Keep the toys inside, and use the protective caps that came with your wireless modem, memory sticks and cables if you’ve got them.

4. Whether it’s a hot tub, a blizzard or a pint of beer, your smaller gadgets are susceptible to liquid damage. Bring along either a small Ziploc bag of uncooked rice or a handful of silica gel packets (the kind that come with new shoes, which you can purchase at sporting goods stores).

If your gadget gets soaked, power it off, wipe it with a towel, then use a hair dryer on a low setting (the less heat, the better) to blow on all the crevices and inputs. Place it in a Tupperware container with the rice or gel packets for 24 hours before attempting to power it on.

Back It Up

Despite your best efforts, sometimes a gadget is just damaged beyond repair. In these cases, you may be out some cash, but you don’t have to lose all your data too.

There are plenty of great data storage options for travelers out there. Another option is just not to take your external hard drives and flash drives, and learn how to access your home data while traveling instead.

Data Protection

As Digital Trends points out, it’s not the idea of a stolen laptop that freaks most people out – it’s the stolen data. Even if that stuff’s backed up, it might not be anything you want in the hands of a stranger.

Check out these tracking options:

1. Absolute Software’s Computrace lets you set rules that, when broken, trigger an alert system so you know right away. If needed, you can even remotely command freezing of a device or deletion of data.

2. LoJack for Laptops works similarly, also allowing you to delete or block data. If your laptop is stolen, the company’s “Theft Recovery Team” uses the software’s technology to track and recover the device.

3. MyLaptopGPS is another option. This software can encrypt data, track your laptop worldwide, recover data, and destroy any data you wish on the laptop by accessing it online.

Community Connection

Looking for a few gadget gift ideas for the travelers in your life? Check out our Ultimate Guide: 100 Gift Ideas for Travelers.

Have a few other tips or words of wisdom on gadget safety? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!