What to Do When the Power Goes Out When You’re Traveling

Power outages stink in general–but what do you do when the power goes out in your hotel for an extended period of time?

I’ve seen a flashlight in the closet occasionally, but that’s more rare.  (And probably in hotels where power outages are more frequent).


I’ve stayed at two different hotels during a massive power outage.  Strangely, I was staying in a hotel with other family members both times too.  (Sorry grandma, I guess you are bad luck).

While power outages are a huge cost and inconvenience while at home, they can be dangerous and worrisome when you are in a hotel—especially when your “room with a view†is now a “room with a twenty floor walk up.â€

Here are some things that have helped me and my family when stuck at a hotel during a power outage.

power outage new york sandy

1. Download a (safe) Flashlight App

I have a flashlight app on the main screen of my phone.  Some phones have built in flashlight abilities now, so check yours out.

My flashlight app has been great when I’ve had to walk all the way up the stairs to my hotel room in the dark.  I’ve been able to light the way for other people

privacy flashlight

But be careful.  A lot of flashlight apps are really malware in disguise–but not all of them.

The Droid Review has a great list of flashlight apps you can trust.

I personally recommend the Privacy Flashlight.

2. Your Kindle Can Be Used to Contact “the outside world” (or other long-life product)

Believe it or not, my kindle was a life saver for me during power outages. The version of the kindle that looks like paper has a really long battery life, and you can access things like twitter through it.

It’s under “Experimental†in the menu and I found it as I was scrambling for ways to contact people during one of the power outages—which happened during my brother’s wedding in Upstate New York.

I was able to pass on information and get help just by sending tweets out and waiting for people to respond.

Here’s a list of instructions for how to access that on the paper-style Kindle.

And here’s how to get this feature on the newer Kindles (it isn’t as obvious):

Now I also carry a tablet with me, which also has a large battery life and a 3G connection.  I can alternate what tool I use to communicate out, saving precious cell phone battery.

3. Carry Cash

dreamstime_xs_14073689I’m really bad at this.  But when there’s no power, there are no credit card machines.  So those pieces of plastic mean nothing.  I had one restaurant take pity on me one time.  They took down my credit card number, trusting I wasn’t cheating them.

Some restaurants still opened during the power outages, but on a cash only basis.  Grills and brick based pizza ovens only need fire to operate.

Yes, you won’t get miles from your purchase, but you will get food.

4. Leave Town and Vacation Somewhere Else

I was traveling during a heatwave when one of these power outages happened.  We stuck around for a little bit, but it started getting really hot.  So peaced out.

We headed west until we found wine country (and power).

So instead of trying to show my parents around a darkened DC on a 90 degree day, we were enjoying this:


5. Carry a Battery-Based Phone Charger

This is a really light accessory to add to your bag and has worked great for me. It is also great for a dead phone while traveling.  And I have a few of these in my “go bag” at home.  It uses AA batteries and you can get a full battery off two AA.

phone charger

I own a lot of these and keep them in different places, just in case, along with a set of AA batteries.

This will keep your cell phone, iPad, Wireless Hot Spot, Kindle, etc., etc., charged. I also own a Micro USB to Apple converter tip to charge my Apple Devices (If you plug in an iPad, it won’t look like it is charging but it is).

micro usb to apple


6. Guard Your Room Keys Carefully

You don’t have to worry about an unlocked room.  The lock and key system operates through a battery.

But if you lose your room key, they might not be able to make you a new one.  So guard it carefully!  (Of course, they will still be able to let you in via their master key).

What do you do to make sure you are prepared in case of an emergency?

Disclaimer:  If you purchase items using my Amazon links, I get a small amount of affiliate credit and appreciate your support.  If you prefer not to use my links, no worries!  I use all these products myself, and own way too many of them stowed in different places. 

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Good tips. I wasn’t aware my Kindle would work without a wifi connection.

    I also carry a very small cheap-o led flashlight in my suitcase. It’s one I picked up at a convention for free and it’s not much bigger than a stick of gum. It has come in handy a few times.

    One thing I might add is that during storms you can lose power and not know if there are storm warnings. Most hotel stairwells are reinforced. So if you get caught in a tornado warning situation go to the lowest level of the stairwells for the best protection. This is also where that flashlight, phone, etc. will help you as well if it’s in the dark.

  2. My fiancé and I both carry flashlights on us / near us at all times. I carry a Fenix E12, good for ~40 hours on a single AA, she carries an E05, good for about 14 hours on a single AAA. I also keep a small 2-AA lantern (Fenix CL20) in my laptop bag. These have come in handy far more often than I’d imagined. Just last night I needed them — lightning strike took out a powerline and power pole, meaning no power at the hotel for 9+ hours. Fortunately the strike happened mid-afternoon, so by the time I had dinner and got back to the hotel, it was only about 3 hours without power.

    We also got stuck in NYC during Sandy. I packed a few FourSevens flashlights with us, which became essential once the power went out. I kind of had a feeling we were going to be stuck, so I had picked up a Costco pack of batteries before heading out to NYC.

    I also carry a beefy USB powerpack for keeping things charged and have a small USB fan I sometimes will put on the bedside table of the hotel. I also keep a small AA/AAA charger in my laptop bag for keeping the flashlights well-fed.

    Maybe I’ve just lived in Florida far too long, with a power grid which even 3rd world countries would be embarassed by.

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