If it’s Belgium, it must be USB

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wires sxc sxc.hu why am I struggling with a spaghetti of wires in a foreign hotel room before I realise I have not brought the right bit of kit?

London - There should be no surprise about it. I know before I leave home on an overseas trip that I will need chargers and plug adapters. So why is it always at the airport that I remember I have forgotten to pack these vital gizmos? Or worse, why am I struggling with a spaghetti of wires in a foreign hotel room before I realise I have not brought the right bit of kit?

Even those which are, supposedly, permanently in my suitcase tend to go missing at the vital moment, left behind on previous trips, lost en route, or loaned to, and never returned by, miscreant colleagues.

I try to carry one of those multi-thingies which can pop out every possible combination of plugs - EU, US, even the Swiss one which is longer and odder. But one is never enough these days: you have to recharge your phone, your iPad, your laptop, the BlackBerry.

Even if I have the right plug adapter, there are different wires for different devices. Thankfully the EU got to grips with this in 2009 and most phones now use micro-USB. Dear Apple is, of course, the exception to the rule, with a new fitting for its iPhone 5. There's no uniformity for computers, which still have a myriad of adapters - some small, some big, some with pins in the middle, and some still resembling a kettle lead.

Planes bring their own problems. I used to travel with an amazing bag of tricks called “the juice bag”. It had a cigarette-lighter adapter (which all planes used to require) and a dozen different adapters for just about every type of computer. Often I set up my on-board tech workshop, lending out bits and bobs to other passengers. Today, thankfully, planes tend to use normal plug sockets.

I recall a flight to Egypt that was badly delayed - by 25 hours. Having checked in my charger I was forced to conserve power as if it were rationed. Now I pack the charger in my hand luggage - and hope I have remembered the adapter.

Amid all this technological and communication confusion, I guarantee you two things. First, that you have a drawer, a box, a Tupperware wotsit somewhere at home, where you have loads of charger cables and plugs from devices long since abandoned. You'll have thought: “That might come in handy some day.” And like finding that single key that you can't identify, as the years go by you are terrified to throw your leads away, because sod's law says once you do, you will need it.

And secondly, that there is nothing worse than the smug, self-satisfied look on a friend/spouse/colleague's face when you have to ask to borrow their mobile phone charger. “Oh yes. I think I have a spare,” they say, as they launch into a lecture on how they never forget.

So, to road warriors and travellers everywhere, wherever you find yourself in 2013, I hope your journey is profitable ... and you don't leave anything behind. (But you will.) - The Independent on Sunday

* Richard Quest is CNN's international business correspondent and presents Quest Means Business. Follow him on twitter @richardquest

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