The Frugal Traveler: Navigating hotel power outages

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceApril 29, 2012 

On a recent business trip, an early-morning power outage kicked my wakeup call to the curb. With a looming flight departure and several colleagues in the same boat, prompt problem solving was a must. While showering in the dark proved challenging, to say the least, other hurdles proved equally interesting. After navigating to the front desk sans hall lights or elevator, and tracking down my coworkers’ rooms with a miniature flashlight provided by the hotel staff, my reward was an elaborate candlelight breakfast before making the mad dash to the airport. Here are a handful of tips to consider if the same thing happens to you.

Strategy: With no interior window for shower support, combining shampoo and conditioning supplies into a single hair treatment seemed the safest bet. Determining which travel-sized bottle contained nail polish remover and which held skin freshener on the other hand, needed the natural light of my room’s balcony. An electronic room key and phone system, both of which were out of commission, required having my act together before I made my way to the lobby with all of my belongings.

Routine: My obsessive need to always pack my hanging toiletry bag the same way for every trip served me well. Having my comb, deodorant and lip balm in the same places they always were made finding them in the dark a breeze. Additional travel habits such as plugging in electronic devices to charge each evening and packing as much as possible the night before departure left time and energy to iron out this major wrinkle in the morning’s itinerary.

Gear: A reminder of the fallibility of electrical systems taught me that items typically packed only for adventure travel can more than earn their luggage space on business trips as well. My manual alarm clock, miniature head lamp and travel-sized LED flashlight would have been extremely handy if I had managed to bring them along for the ride. Alternate power supplies such as backup laptop and cell phone batteries are also a good idea, provided you have room for them. Powerbag has a line of luggage items, each available with their own chargeable electricity supply and connectors for a variety of mobile devices such as GPS devices and tablets. Extended batteries are also available for necessities such as laptops and smart phones, eliminating the need to find space in your messenger bag for extra cords.


Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget,” and founder of, a website for independent travelers. She also founded, a website for teachers.


© 2012, McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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