Business Travel

The Road Warrior's Weapon of Choice: The Tablet Computer

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

The laptop’s reign as the de facto business tool of mobile workers is at an end. Both the Microsoft Surface and iPad Air are portable devices that provide ample computing power to keep workers productive whether they’re flying over the Atlantic or beside a road in Idaho. They are exponentially less expensive than the typical laptop.

As great as they are and as much as Microsoft’s latest advertising would like you to believe, tablets are not battle ready right out of the box. The following are a few gadgets you may need on business trips to make a full-time switch from a bulky laptop:

Related: 5 Reasons BYOD for Travel Is Here to Stay

1. Keyboard.

On-screen typing is fine for banging out text messages but not conducive to long-form business writing. Unless you’re using a Surface, which has its own keyboard, you’ll probably want to purchase keyboard to maximize your words per minute in transit.

2. Battery charger.

On the road, productivity lives and dies by a device’s battery. Plugging away all day on a tablet will drain the battery, so routine and opportunistic charging should be done as much as possible.

There will be times when an outlet is nowhere in sight or you simply don't want to be a wall hugger. In these moments, a reliable backup device charger is worth its weight in gold. I can remember a time when most batteries on the market couldn't charge faster than my iPhone would drain the battery. Advances in mobile charging technology have come a long way in the past five years.

Battery choices now include options for huge capabilities, slimmer profiles and lightweight devices. I suggest finding a 5,000 milliampere hour to 10,000 milliampere hour battery (it should give you three to four charges) in a lightweight slim profile to keep your bags lighter and so you never get caught in the field without a charge.

3. Mobile hot spot.

Without the storage capabilities of a laptop, mobile workers are forced to rely on Internet connectivity to power the apps they need to conduct business. Resist the urge to use public Wi-Fi available at cafes and restaurants. They’re hacker heaven. Instead, provide your own safe passage to the Internet with a secure mobile hot spot.

Those that rarely travel have it easy. They can tether their 3G- or 4G-enabled phone to facilitate that connection. For the frequent flier, this isn’t a long-term solution. I like the Karma Hotspot because it fits easily into my pocket, supports as many as eight devices and comes with an affordable pay-as-you-go pricing structure.

Related: Tips for Keeping Your Travels Identity Theft Free

4. Privacy case.

When doing business on the road, you want fellow travelers to mind their own business. While it's highly unlikely that someone from a major competitor will be sidled up next to you on a plane or train, remember that you may be working with sensitive information in a public space. This is why it's terrific to have a case with the ability to hide this information when needed but not relegating the tablet to always be in privacy mode. (My company, Esselte, makes one such case under its Leitz brand.)

Tablets are great for consuming media while away from home, but when reading company financials or anything of that ilk, it’s best to play it safe than sorry. A solid privacy case will block your screen from prying eyes while retaining touchscreen functionality.

5. Apps.

One of the primary benefits of tablet computers is how customizable they are, thanks to the millions of apps in the Apple, Google and Microsoft marketplaces. The vast majority of businesses leverage apps or cloud-based productivity tools to keep their global employees plugged in. Here are a few I recommend you explore:

DropBox is the easiest way to store critical documents. Don’t carry around printouts or huge binders. Just hook up the tablet to the hotel’s business center and print items as needed.

OneTask is a cool new app that is part to-do list and part drill instructor. Working out of the office can make it difficult to maintain focus and keep on top of high-priority items. OneTask runs on a concept called “singletasking,” which calls for the worker to focus on one thing at a time rather than constantly shifting priorities and projects. OneTask streamlines your work flow to help you realize success.

Isn’t it terrible to come home after a long business trip to dirty laundry and dishes? Alfred Club can help remove that stress. This service lets travelers find a local ambassador in the neighborhood to take care of their place. It can arrange for picking up dry cleaning, having laundry done, buying groceries, house cleaning and other valuable services. 

Are there other gadgets or apps I missed that help make a tablet an indispensable tool? 

Related: 10 Apps to Save You Time, Money and Energy on Your Next Business Trip