How to Charge Your Phone or Laptop on a Plane

Keep your phone, tablet, or laptop charged as you travel

Young Asian man using laptop and reading newspaper on plane
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The last thing you want is to take your work with you on a plane only to find out that you can't charge your laptop or phone, and you certainly don't want to download a bunch of Netflix movies to your iPad but not have a place to charge it. Fortunately, there are a few ways to charge your phone and other devices on a plane.

Airports are getting better about providing charging stations in terminals, where you can charge up before or between flights, but once you get on the plane, your options are limited.

Some airlines offer a power outlet or USB port in their seats, so you can keep on working or playing as you head to your destination and be fully charged by the time you land. However, not all planes have this option, and you may need to take advantage of an alternative charging technique.

Use a Portable Charger

A portable charger is just what it sounds like. It's a charger that you take with you. Juice it up in the airport before the flight or at home before you leave. Most portable chargers provide enough power to run your device(s) a few times over.

Belkin Portable Power Bank

For your tablet, phone, e-book reader, or any other device that charges over USB, a USB battery is all you need. Some have multiple USB ports to charge more than one device at the same time.

To charge a laptop on the plane, bring along a portable laptop battery charger. Not only do laptops require way more power than a battery charger meant for phones, but you need a way to plug the laptop into the charger. A portable laptop charger has the two-pronged or three-pronged connection you need to mimic a wall outlet.

It's best to charge a laptop battery charger overnight because it holds such a huge amount of power, but even if you have only a few hours of wait time in the airport before the flight, plugging it in is often sufficient to top off the charge.

Plug-In on the Plane

Some planes offer in-seat power that works with your standard AC power adapter, such as how your laptop plugs into the wall at home. For these types of aircraft, bring along the standard power brick you use with a wall. You can get one on Amazon if yours is missing or broken.

Alaska Airlines In-Seat Power
Alaska Airlines

In some cases, DC power adapters are used in planes, like the circular cigarette lighter power adapters found in almost every vehicle. If that's what's available to you, you'll need a DC to AC power converter.

If you frequently travel with both a laptop and USB devices, you might prefer a DC to AC converter like this one from Foval that includes not only a three-pronged port for your laptop but also two USB ports for your smaller devices.

Not sure if your plane has in-seat charging? Search for your flight at SeatGuru or look up your airline. For example, from the Alaska Airlines page, click Compare seat pitch, etc. on the right, and locate the Power Type section to see if "AC Power" is listed.

Tips to Reduce Your Power Demands

If you'd rather not bring a bunch of batteries with you or pay for something you'll only use on one flight, there are some things you can do to make sure your devices remain powered for longer.

Battery Saver, Automatic turn on toggle, Turn on now button on Android

One obvious way to avoid charging your phone on a plane is making sure it's fully charged before you leave. Charge up in the airport before you take off or keep your phone turned off until you get on the plane to avoid using it until you need to. The same goes for any of your other tech devices that need power on the plane.

Something else you can do is reduce your phone's requirement for power. Aside from keeping it turned off, the next best thing you can do to save phone battery is turn off location services, dim the brightness, and turn off automatic updates. See these tips to extend iPhone battery life (or your iPad or Android battery) for dozens of other tips.

If the above methods don't do enough to keep your iPhone or Android-powered, your phone may be overwhelmed with useless junk files that you can delete to free up space and, ultimately, make the device run smoother and hopefully use less battery. See these iOS maintenance tips and these Android cleaning tips.