Travel Technology

How to Outsmart a Smart Room

This clever little travel hack lets you charge your electronics in a room that wants to cut the power every time you leave.

If you’ve traveled in Europe or Asia lately, you’re probably familiar with the wall slots where you slip your key card to turn on the electricity in hotel rooms. In many ways, they’re genius. They keep guests from leaving a room for 12 hours with all the lights on and the air conditioner running full blast. As an added bonus, you never have to wonder what you did with your key card when you’re getting ready to leave the room. You just grab it out of the slot on your way out and head out the door.

However, for the electronics-dependent traveler, there’s a fairly serious hitch. Since you cut the power every time you remove the keycard from the wall slot, you can’t simply leave a phone or a camera plugged in and hope that it will recharge while you’re out. Because … it won’t. It will sit there, powerless, until you come back in, put the card in the slot again and allow it to resume charging. And then you’ll wander over, ready to use the device again and wonder why it’s still only 4 percent charged.

Happily, this is one of those situations where human ingenuity can still—for now at least—triumph over smart technology. Nearly all hotels still offer guests two key cards. If you’re traveling alone, just keep one card in the slot. It’s of course preferable to turn off the lights before you go and turn the air down, but by keeping the card in its place, you’ll maintain power to the electrical sockets, and keep that juice flowing to your electronics. If you’re traveling with a companion, negotiate times when you’re out together to sacrifice one of the cards to the altar of electricity and keep the other with you so you can get back into the room.

You Might Also Like:

(Photo: Thinkstock)

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *