Mobile clients. Globe trotters. Road warriors. Envy them or admire them, traveling Mac users face unique challenges. Plan ahead for the best experience.
The best protection is awareness. Owners should keep their Mac within reach, secured against high-risk situations like security checkpoints.
Disguise is another effective technique. Since a Mac’s appeal to thieves is obvious, hide its value with an understated travel bag such as a computer-friendly backpack. Plastic shells can also mask a Mac's true nature.
For times when a Mac must be unguarded, anti-theft alarms make a piercing noise when triggered.
Should it ever go missing, Find My Mac is included in Apple iCloud. More robust solutions, such as MyMacTracker and Undercover, are also available. Get help from the proper authorities when recovering a lost Mac.
Often, information is worth more than the Mac itself. When data such as health information must remain private, encrypt it. Fortunately, OS X includes File Vault for this purpose. Enable it under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. Encryption takes time, depending on the data size and disk speed. Keep the recovery key in a safe place to avoid losing the data forever.
Since Time Machine can’t guard against risks on the road, employ an internet backup such as Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan, iDrive, Mozy, or SOS. Cloud-based central management makes it easy to support multiple travelers.
To shield against prying eyes, LCD polarizers render screens invisible except to the user. To protect against more subtle snooping when the owner is away:
Well-padded travel cases protect a Mac from drops. For when the Mac is in use, shells are available from Speck, Sunrise Hi Tek, Hard Candy Cases, and more. Local Apple Stores also have a selection.
For travel in areas with lots of lightning, static electricity, or other power spikes, use a portable surge protector.
No Mac can operate without power. For foreign travel, buy appropriate adapters for the destination. For long stretches of driving, own a good car adapter. Both are available from Apple and other sources.
Since Macs don’t feature user-swappable batteries, the Chugplug supplies extra power to Mac portables through their AC adapter. Companies like GoalZero and Powerenz sell solar chargers for those who need them.
Everyone can benefit from power conservation. Though Mac OS X is smarter than ever about saving power, here are ways to improve power usage on a Mac:
Over the long-term, fully discharging a Mac's internal battery once a month can prolong its useful life. Some claim this is unnecessary, but I have seen many batteries die before their time from lack of use.
Most mobile users need Internet access. Fortunately, the ubiquity of smart phones makes tethering (personal WiFi hotspots via cellphone) simple if the owner’s phone plan supports it. If not, review good mobile broadband solutions at <http://mobile-broadband-services-review.toptenreviews.com>.
To connect to a regular network while away, remotely accessing a workstation may suffice, using free software like BackToMyMac (part of Apple’s iCloud), TeamViewer, or Chrome Remote Desktop. Paid options include LogMeIn and Join.Me.
In other cases, such as secure networks or direct file access, a VPN connection may be necessary.
Either way, test the connection before the road trip. Make sure the owner knows how to use it and can access everything.
Travelers giving presentations should carry A/V adapters for the connections their host supports: VGA, DVI, or HDMI. Apple and third parties sell these adapters for about $30 each. For destinations with AppleTV, Mac users can usually present wirelessly.
Mac users should know how to connect without assistance. Many IT departments cannot support Macs if travelers run into trouble.
For access to DVDs or CDs on the road, include an Apple SuperDrive or other optical disc reader (unless the Mac contains one). Supply external disk space, if necessary, for any foreseeable needs.
Should a Keynote, PowerPoint, or video file need replacing on the road, chances are email won’t get the job done. Mac users should know several ways to transfer large files between local devices, such as AirDrop, file sharing, and USB thumb drives. A Windows-formatted thumb drive can transfer files between Macs and PCs in emergencies. Use DropBox or another cloud-based solution for sharing between sites.
Plan ahead for technical support to remotely control a traveling Mac by loading and configuring the necessary software. For times when remote access won’t help, such as a hardware problem, know the location of the nearest Apple Store or third-party Mac support resource.
Being ready for the worst will minimize risks to the business and improve recovery from adversity. Don't let a technical disaster erase the opportunity travel provides.