Over the past four years, I’ve had numerous opportunities through the programming competition team (and one with Axe Radio) to go abroad for a night or two in attendance of competitions or conferences or what have you. Beyond the event proper, these sorts of things are as good an excuse as any for a bit of fun on nights after the scheduled activities for the day are finished. In order to facilitate such shenanigans, I’ve taken to dragging a collection of odds and ends along with me to whatever hotel I end up in.
A Spare Laptop
This isn’t about a backup plan in case something happens to the good one. This isn’t to lend to someone needing a quick Internet fix (although it’s handy for such purposes). This is some old beater you can connect to the TV as you’re unpacking and leave there until you leave. It’s nice to just leave it playing music as you’re booting around the room, and it’s a far superior option to passing a phone around the room when someone wants to show a YouTube video. And, by using a spare, not your daily driver, you don’t ever have to move it or unplug it until you’re ready to check out. It should be something you don’t mind losing if something gets spilled on it or it takes flight; old netbooks make great candidates. It ought to have a decent Wi-Fi adapter because hotel Wi-Fi is notoriously flaky, and both VGA and HDMI outputs because you never know what will be available on the TV in the room.
All of them. VGA and HDMI for reasons as noted above. Ethernet because you might need it at the conference. MicroUSB (with AC adapters!) because everything needs to be charged. Don’t forget laptop adapters. Don’t forget a male-to-male 3.5mm audio cable for the auxiliary input on the rental car for the drive down and to run laptop audio into the TV if you do have to use the VGA input.
If you’re there for more than one night (say, two nights), you’re almost bound to be bored on one of them, and with hotel Wi-Fi being what it is, video streaming is out (although music is usually OK). Make sure you stuff at least a couple fairly polar-opposite options onto the laptop before heading out the door.
So that’s about it. None of it that inobvious, but easy enough to forget as you’re haphazardly throwing things into a bag the night before.