We have lots of gadgets that need power. Most of them plug in to charge. Computers, phones, cameras (future post coming on all the “gear” we’ve packed). Instead of a whole bunch of plug adapters, before we left on this field trip we bought two universal power strips.

One of our travel power strips

One of our travel power strips

Each of the power strips has a two prong Euro-style plug that goes into the wall. This is the type of plug that is used in most of Europe, South America and Asia (you can see the various plug types here. Ours is compatible with sockets C,E, and F).  There are three outlets on the power strip, each of which can take just about any kind of plug. If you are curious, I bought them here.

I love these things. They are compact and allow you to plug three things into one outlet with no plug adapters. You can even let that British guy with the goofy plug charge his phone too! We’ve found that when traveling, resources like power outlets are often shared, so this can be a real bonus.

When we checked out of our hotel in Brussels, somehow I managed to leave both of our universal power strips in our hotel room. Bummer. When we got to Switzerland, we had no way to plug anything in and the only plug adapter we could find was a round thing that didn’t accommodate our MacBook chargers, phone chargers, Kindle chargers, or camera charger. We had only one thing that would plug into the adapter- a cable for another of our camera chargers. On one end of the cable is the US style two prong plug. On the other end is a what I’ve heard called a “chinese 8” or “figure 8” plug:

Figure 8 plug

Figure 8 plug

I realized that the figure 8 plug looked a lot like the custom plugs on the end of the expensive Apple extension cables. So, I popped the plug portion off the “brick” on the MacBook charger and sure enough, the standard figure 8 plug slid right in!

Plug hack

Switzerland adapter, camera charger cord, MacBook power supply.

We now had power for the computer, and we could use the USB ports on the computer to charge our phones! Yay!

I subsequently found a Swiss power cord with a figure 8 output, so we could plug the other computer in too, without the need for a power adapter.  I thought this was a great discovery, as the Swiss cord was only about $6. Cheaper and better than a plug adapter! I have a feeling I’ll be doing the same thing in the future in other countries.

Anyway, when Mila broke her arm and we decided that we would be going back to Amsterdam for a while, I ordered two more of the power strips and had them shipped to me poste restante at the Amsterdam main Post Office.

What is poste restante you ask? Much more common in years or even centuries past, poste restante, or general delivery is a service where the post office receives mail on behalf of someone and holds it until they come to claim it. In this case when I placed the order online, I simply entered the shipping address as my name, poste restante, and the address of the main post office:

Waco Moore
Poste Restante
GPO Singel 250-sous (basement)
Amsterdam 1016

Yesterday, I could see from the online tracking that the package had arrived, so I went to the Post Office, showed them my passport and picked up my package. Nice, huh?

Not all countries still use the poste restante system, but many do. It’s a nice travel secret to know!