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Traveling in style

As the season for travel draws near, gear-headed technocrats are faced with the perennial series of questions. How can I stay in touch while I’m on the road? And why can’t I just stay in the office?

As the season for travel draws near, gear-headed technocrats are faced with the perennial series of questions. How can I stay in touch while I’m on the road? How can I carry everything I need around with me? And why can’t I just stay in the office?

Well, you can’t stay stuck in the office all the time. But you can get out and about, travel, carry your gear with you, and above all, still be wired to the hilt at all times, just as you want to be. The knack is preparing yourself properly to carry for the onslaught.

Dress for tech success

Back in the 1980s, David Byrne from Talking Heads appeared on stage in a massive suit–something that could house at least three skinny singers like him. That’s the kind of garment I wear–something so large that I can carry all the gadgetry and documents I need in it. Usually, it’s a photographer’s jacket packed with 20 pounds of stuff. Of course, Byrne was trying to get a laugh by wearing his big clothes–and that’s not the effect a minor-league entrepreneur goes for.

That’s why I could kiss the feet of whoever designed the TEC sport jacket. This is a worsted, navy blue, three-button jacket, light enough for summer wear but pretty good in winter too. And, it’s capable of carrying practically an entire office in its pockets. It’s a masterwork of textile engineering–and that’s not a term I use lightly.

The TEC sport jacket is the next step up the sartorial ladder from the Scott eVest, a windcheater with enough pockets to satisfy any cell-toting, PDA-addicted, notepad-carrying, road-warring pack rat. The Scott folks designed this jacket too, and nothing seems to spoil its lines–which is amazing when you consider that it contains 14 hidden pockets, some of which can hold manila folders or magazines. It even contains a tailored conduit from many of the pockets that you can snake headphone wires through. There are even two little pockets for bud-style earpieces under the collar.

In the TEC blazer, I managed to conceal a PDA and cell phone, and slip a CD player into the mix–then listen to tunes with two very discreet Secret Service-style earpieces that were all but invisible at a distance. I concealed a spiral notepad, about a dozen pens, and a secret stash of cash and personal papers in a secure zippered pocket-in-a-pocket. Better yet, I had a photo ID hanging off a concealed clip in my breast pocket, my shades slipped into a pocket with a lens cleaner, and my keys were secured on a detachable clip. Even fully laden, the coat looked stylish–which on me is saying something. I have been accused of making every coat I wear look like ten thousand lire (just over six bucks).

Wired (and wireless) hotels

So I was all dressed up with somewhere to go. But where should I stay? In a hotel with broadband access in the rooms, of course, and preferably Wi-Fi in the public areas. The first research stop: GeekTools. This no-fuss site includes a hotel guide called GeekTels that lists only hotels with high-speed and Wi-Fi Internet access. Its coverage isn’t exhaustive–either in the cities it includes or the hotels in those cities–but it’s a good starting point.

As it turns out, two hotel chains on my shortlist for a planned pan-Pennsylvanian road trip were not listed in GeekTels, and that was a shame, because both of them offer some of the best sets of computer-user features in a midrange hotel.

The first choice is the Hilton Garden Inn. Most hotels in the Hilton chain now include in-room broadband Internet access as a standard feature, and have a networked printing service called PrinterOn that lets you dash out a hard copy of your masterwork in your room, then zoom down to the business center and pick up the final copy. It’s a little nerve-racking if you’re not used to centralized network printers–or if you want to print something ultra-confidential–but otherwise, PrinterOn is a great service. Depending on the location of the hotel, you can get rooms at a Hilton Garden Inn starting in the mid $100 range, and book them online.

Slightly behind the Garden Inns in my set of wired hotel criteria ran the like-priced Courtyard by Marriott. They too offer free in-room high-speed Internet access in hundreds of their North American locations, though at press time they didn’t have a networked printer solution–you need to traipse down to the business center and fire up one of their PCs to print. But they do include wireless hot spots in some public areas in their hotels. And if you’re dressed in a natty navy blazer that’s wired for action, you definitely want to strut it around a hotel lobby.

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