My Trip To The UK: Part 1 – Leaving Toronto

I travel on business on a frequent basis, but I’ve been asked a couple of times by readers of this blog to document what I go through from a technology standpoint when I travel. In other words, what challenges do I face and what tips do I have? So, I’ll give you the inside view of what my business trips are like. This week, I am in the West Midlands in the United Kingdom. I’ll be leaving tonight and landing at London Heathrow in time for breakfast in the UK. I’ll be there until Friday morning UK time when I will fly back to Toronto and be home in time for dinner.

Now, I take a fair amount of stuff with me from a technology standpoint. I listed what’s in my laptop bag here, and while it does seem like it’s a lot, it has all been useful at one time or another. Thus I never leave home without this stuff. Now I live very close to the airport, so I take public transit to get there as there is an express bus that goes to Pearson Airport from Kipling Subway Station which is close to my home. To see what time that bus arrives, I use an app called Transit which interfaces with the Toronto Transit Commission to show me accurate route and schedule info. It will also plot a route for me as well. It’s very handy and it saves me money as I don’t have to pay for a taxi or drive and park the car at the airport. In any case, I left for the airport 4 hours ahead of my flight as I wanted to ensure that I would arrive at the airport with three hours to spare. Here’s a tip. Pearson Airport suggests that you arrive at the airport 3 hours before your flight. That’s great advice and applicable to any airport that I have travelled to in the US or overseas. It gives you plenty of time to clear security and check in without being stressed out.

Once I got to the airport, I check in and go through security. A couple of hiccups here. First, Air Canada which is what I fly has self check-in kiosks. It’s a 50/50 chance of letting me check in by myself. About 50% of the time, I have to line up and go to the counter. I should note that Air Canada isn’t the only airline with this issue. But I one thing I wish is that they would all make it easier to self check-in. Next is security. Now this isn’t the first time that I’ve been through security, but this time they did a hand search of my laptop bag as they thought that my Swiss Tech multi-tools were weapons. I thought that was weird as I’ve never had an issue with then before at airport security. Still, I may put these in the bags that I checked in to avoid problems in the future. I did write some other tips about clearing security with a laptop here that’s very much worth reading regardless of which country you’re traveling to.

Now, once I was through security, I had a couple of hours to kill. So I decided to use the free WiFi that Pearson Airport offers. It was pretty spotty in Terminal 1. It took two reboots of my MacBook Pro to get it to connect and allow me to surf the Internet. Others around me had the same issue so I knew it wasn’t just me. Once I was able to connect, it was decent. Though I will note that it had a tendency to disconnect and reconnect occasionally. Now there is a risk to using public WiFi. For example, there is this story that executives were targets of hackers who hacked hotel WiFi, thus you should be running a firewall and make sure your security software is up to date.

While waiting to board my plane, I took the opportunity to charge my devices:

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In Terminal 1, there were these power outlets that have AC power as well as USB ports. That way I could make sure my laptop and iPhone 5S are fully charged when I board the plane. After all, it’s a 6 to 7 hour flight to the UK. There was also this:

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There are these iPads provided by a company called OTG. Here’s what they do according to the company:

For travelers, this means a new level of comfort at the airport. The experience starts when a customer sits down in front of a new iPad at one of OTG’s chef-driven restaurants or newly renovated seating areas at the gates. From there, they can slect their language and order meals through an intuitive visual menu, where OTG wait staff is on hand to assist throughout the entire process. Orders are then prepared fresh, and delivered to their seat in 15 minutes or less.

Ordering food through an iPad is just the beginning. With OTG’s custom browser, travelers can easily log in to their Facebook, Twitter and personal email accounts, and be confident that their personal information is securely removed from the iPad the moment the home button is pressed. Travelers can also check their flight status, play games and watch the news through pre-loaded apps such as Bloomberg News on the iPads.

I experimented with these tablets and found them to be easy to use, but slow. For example, when I browsed the menu, it took multiple tries to get anything to display. Clearly, someone needs to get better WiFi in this terminal given this and my experience getting my MacBook Pro onto WiFi.

My next stop is London Heathrow Airport and when I get to my hotel, I’ll document my flight as well as getting my hands on a SIM card so that I can use my iPhone 5S  in the UK without getting taken to the cleaners in terms of roaming charges from the big three Canadian carriers. Watch for that in part two. Another thing to watch for later this week is a review of the Nokia Lumia 635 which is my traveling companion on this trip and it comes with a T-Mobile US SIM card that has unlimited international roaming. One wonders why Canadian carriers can’t offer the same deal. Clearly it’s not hurting T-Mobile.

See you in the UK!

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