An international travel adapter for US plugs.

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Powering up your devices with adapters and converters while traveling abroad

So you’re headed to the Sunshine State for some much-needed unplugging. The sea, sunshine, seafood, and stellar sights are all ready to help you recharge. Now, if only recharging your electronic devices were as easy.

Enter the trusty adapter and converter. But are they different? Which is which? How do you know which one to use? Get the 4-1-1 on electronics below, and find out exactly what you’ll need to plug in for a brilliant Florida vacation.

Know Your Voltages   

Simply put, voltage is the intensity of the electricity. This is important to note because the world runs on two main voltages, or voltage ranges: 100-120 volts, and 220-240 volts. Different countries, different electrical intensities. While North and Central America and a few other countries run on 100-120v, Europe and most parts of the world fall into the 220-240v range. Check out a detailed map here.

Check Your Electronics’ Voltage Rating

Most electronic devices display their voltage capacity directly on them. Flip your curling iron, phone charger, electric toothbrush, or hairdryer over and check for specs. You might notice that some electronics have a wider voltage range, ex. 110-240v. When you see this, it means your device is dual-voltage, or that it’s usable in both voltage ranges. But if your European device’s plug won’t fit into a US socket (or vice versa), how will it work? This is a job for adapters.

International Power Adapters   

The main role of adapters, as their name suggests, is adapting the shape of your plugs so they can fit into the sockets of foreign outlets. You can buy individual adapters to cater to the country you’re visiting, or universal adapters that come equipped with every plug, or prong, style. Unless you’re planning to travel through multiple countries, individual adapters are ideal since they’re lightweight, compact, and inexpensive. Adapters are perfect for dual-voltage phone and laptop chargers, compact shavers, electric toothbrushes, and most small gadgets. But what about the bigger, more powerful guys? That’s where converters step in.

Power Converters

If adapters are subtitles, converters are translators. When bigger appliances operate on different voltages, converters translate the energy so outlet and device can speak the same language. Power converters bring the power up or down so your devices don’t fry. (Because blowing out the power of an entire hotel floor is never fun.)

If your devices are dual voltage, an adapter should suffice. If they’re not, or if your device’s voltage is out of your location’s range, reach for a converter. Devices that are usually the culprit for conversion mishaps are hair dryers, curling irons, and steamers. If you’re planning on packing one of these, double-check the specs to determine if it’s worth buying a converter. If you want to play it safe, or plan to visit the country frequently, it’s not a bad idea to invest in appliances with the local voltage. Plan B? Call your hotel or rental ahead, and ask to borrow them.

When you’re jet-setting to sunny Florida, dealing with voltage conversions, confusing gadgets, and intimidating plug shapes doesn’t exactly help you slip into vacay mode. But these tips and tricks have the basics you need to go forth and beach confidently. And, you’ll need a fully charged phone for all those Florida photo ops.

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