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Finding the Right Fit: Travel Adapters and Converters

Chances are, if you're traveling abroad you'll want to bring along some electronics, such as your cellphone, camera, laptop or tablet, or razor.

But imagine arriving at your destination and realizing you don't have the proper accessories to charge—or us—anything requiring electricity.

Throughout the world there are about 15 different types of plugs and outlets, making even simple tasks like blow-drying your hair require more thought. We've broken down everything you need to know about adapters and converters, so you'll never be left in the dark on the road.

Adapters serve as a sort of middleman between your electronic device and the socket, ensuring the appropriate prong style is inserted into the socket while your familiar cord plugs into the external side of the adapter.

But wait!

It's not that simple.

Electrical voltage plays a huge part here, as anyone who has blown a fuse or fried their favorite straightening iron abroad will agree. In the United States, electrical devices are generally designed for 110/120V, versus other countries, which sit at a much higher 220/240V. Even if you have the correct adapter, it won't be compatible.

Enter the converter.

Converters essentially step down a high voltage to be compatible with lower-voltage devices. Investing in a combination adapter/converter is your best bet to protect your (probably not inexpensive) electronic items.

Keep in mind that many devices are now made to be "dual voltage," making them safe to use at either voltage. To know whether or not your device is made this way, check out the item itself, as the voltage is sometimes printed or stamped on it. Still having trouble knowing for sure? Check out the product's description online—you should be able to find it there.

Do your research before your trip and check out this handy list from the International Electrotechnical Commission to see the plug type, electric potential and frequency of the destination you'll be visiting.

Now that you have everything you need to stay plugged in and connected while abroad—Ben Franklin would be proud—just remember to grab your phone off the kitchen table before heading out the door.

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Groups Today.


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