One of the things that we have found to be extremely valuable is our external hard drives. We have 2 of them: 1 (750 gig) for pictures and music, and another one (1 terrabyte) for movies and games. Some people rely on cloud storage for these files. We back some things up online as well, but while traveling it's much more convenient to have direct access to these programs and files without the need for internet.
Having our entertainment libraries on external hard drives allows us to stay at some pretty inexpensive hotels that are clean and quaint, but that don't have TVs or a solid internet connection. Besides entertainment, they serve many other useful purposes on the road.
I also need to back up my pictures in various places due to an incident a few years ago when several pictures were lost. The online sites are great but often times I find it time consuming to upload and retrieve photos, especially if my Internet connection is shoddy. My camera and PC get full with pictures fairly quickly and there is always the worry of either breaking it or having it stolen -- so having external hard drives is 100% necessary if you're a picture freak like me.
So before we left I knew photos would be coming in at a rapid pace (somewhere around 1000 pics a month so far) and I would need something larger than a flash drive to store them all. After a lot of research I went with the Passport brand and chose a 750 gig for the photos. It's been working GREAT so far.
When traveling you really need to streamline everything in the interest of carrying less and saving your back. We no longer own any CDs or stereos of any kind, just iPhones, an iPad, and our computers. But these devices don't have storage space for all the music we carry (our whole library). iTunes is a great cloud storage site, but if you have a lot of music that originally came from CDs, or if you download music not on iTunes, iTunes storage capability is cumbersome and limited. There is also the additional challenge of retrieving them if internet is inconsistent on the road.
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So along with the pictures I find there is plenty of room for my music back up, as well as some video games that are used for the DS that also need to be stored. Rather than take up space on the computer these also go into the Passport for easy retrieval.
We've lived the last 3 years with no TV signal, so we've acquired a good amount of movies. With the boys' age differences being so large (4 yrs to 12 yrs), you could imagine the scope of movies needed to fit the everybody's tastes. We almost never watch anything during the day, but we all enjoy watching them to relax in the evenings. Besides being heaven sent for use in rustic cabins or budget hotels, they're also one of the only antidotes for children's "are we there yet" syndrome during long travel days. Our 1 terrabyte Passport holds our movies and can probably hold twice as many more.
We also carry a couple of thumbnail drives with us for easy file transfer when we want different movies on different devices, or if one of us need pictures while the other is paying music, etc.
So, when you're planning a long family vacation or extended journey make sure you remember external hard drives on your packing list. You'll be really glad you did.
Additional Tip: Be sure to buy a case for whatever storage device you choose. One of my older hard drives was dropped and didn't fare well. Had it been in a case I may have saved thousands of photos. The passport brand has it's own cases that store the drives perfectly.
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