How do I Choose the Best Universal Travel Charger?

Bobby R. Goldsmith

Choosing the best universal travel charger is a matter of knowing exactly what devices you wish to charge or power. Even travel chargers that are advertised as universal are often not compatible with every type of electronic device on the market. The most common devices that require a universal travel charger are cell phones and mp3 players. It often depends upon where a person plans to travel most frequently, because a universal travel charger designed for the United States will not be compatible with electrical outlets in Europe and vice versa. This is due to the varying types of current and fixtures in use in each region.

A travel charger.
A travel charger.

To achieve the highest level of versatility, you should find a universal travel charger that features a USB-to-outlet adapter. This will allow the universal travel charger to power and recharge any device that has a USB host port. Numerous types of cell phone now feature this type of port, as do most types of mp3 players, mini netbooks, and even some laptops.

A few travel adapters work wth European electrical outlets as well as North American outlets.
A few travel adapters work wth European electrical outlets as well as North American outlets.

If you are looking specifically for cell phone travel chargers, look for the inclusion of a set of adapters, which offer compatibility with a variety of types of cell phone. Chances are that the universal travel charger will outlive a successive series of cell phones. With a variety of adapters, you may be able to ensure that the one charger will not become obsolete every time you buy a new cell phone.

Compatibility may be important for those who wish to charge their MP3 player on the go.
Compatibility may be important for those who wish to charge their MP3 player on the go.

For those who travel across the globe frequently, the most suitable charger may be one that fits North American outlets. These types of outlets are common across North and South America, Japan and numerous Asian nations. For those who travel primarily between North America and Europe, there are a few travel adapters that fit both types of outlet, but there may be compatibility problems with the devices that you wish to charge.

There are alternatives to travel chargers that require electrical outlets. A solar travel charger is capable of powering a wide array of devices, but a solar charger will require a considerable amount of exposure to direct sunlight in order to function. These chargers may be ineffective for travelers heading to regions with dense cloud cover or where the daylight hours are short.

Another drawback to universal travel chargers is that repeated use can wear down your battery at an accelerated rate. This will cause the battery-powered device to require more frequent charging which in turn further degrades the battery's ability to hold a prolonged charge.

A travel charger may be needed for people who bring their own hairdryer.
A travel charger may be needed for people who bring their own hairdryer.

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Discussion Comments


You know, if you find out you've lost your phone charger on a trip, instead of looking for a universal phone charger you might want to try this first.

People are always losing their phone chargers in hotels and they almost never go back for them. Go to several hotels and just ask nicely if they wouldn't mind letting you look through the chargers in their lost and found.

Chances are, they'll have one which will fit your phone, especially if it isn't a particularly strange kind of phone. And they will probably let you have it for free.

While I've seen universal chargers going for quite a bit of money in electric stores. They know if you are buying one, you are probably quite desperate to get your device going again.


@umbra21 - I find most devices also come with a car charger, so that could be another universal way of making them work. That would depend on whether or not you're going to have access to a car, or even a car that will fit a charger though.

Also, you might want to look at getting a solar charger, particularly if you are going on a hiking trip or something similar.

People don't always want to bring their laptops along on that sort of vacation, but might want a phone for safety reasons. Having a solar charger along can work for batteries and things as well, but just bear in mind that they don't work really well. It takes a while, and it depends a lot on the weather as to how quickly the charger works.


I think that rather than look for a universal travel charger, you're better off looking for things that work on a USB charger, that way you don't have to worry about it.

I do this now, ever since I realized I was spending more money replacing the charger on my camera when it broke than I did on the actual camera. If you can find one that hooks up to the USB port on your computer you never have to worry about it again.

And if you look in gadget stores you can find all kinds of things that work through USB, from phones to fans and so forth.

Of course, then you have to make sure your laptop will be able to work in foreign countries, but it's pretty easy to get it a cable with an end that can be changed to different plugs.

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