Many families are now setting their sights on Christmas and year-end vacations. Once they do hit the road or line up at airports, bags will be stuffed with smartphones and tablets and, most likely, a ratís nest of chargers and cables.

As much as we love visiting family and friends, traveling during the holidays can be maddening. You can smooth out some of the bumps by keeping your tech gear safe, powered up and organized.

Safety first

Before you leave, make sure your gadgets are passcode-protected and loaded with apps that will help you track and find them in case they get lost or stolen.

For iPads and iPhones, thereís the free Find My iPhone. Android users can try Lookout Mobile Security.

The nice thing about these apps is they allow you to remotely wipe the gadgets in a worst-case scenario. You donít want to risk sensitive information falling into the wrong hands, which could expose you to identity theft.

Set your gadgets to automatically back up to the cloud. You might receive some important documents or email that you wouldnít want to lose. Youíll also be taking lots of family photos and videos. Gadgets can be replaced; memories canít.

Youíll probably be leaving gadgets and valuables behind when you travel. Itís a comfort to be able to monitor your home while youíre away. An inexpensive indoor security camera will keep an eye on things. You can watch your home remotely via iOS- and Android-compatible apps.

Take charge

We ask a lot of our gadgets. Theyíre cameras. Theyíre portable GPS units. They entertain us with games and movies. Some people even use them to communicate. All of that drains batteries fast.

If youíre reading a book and need to keep a little juice in a gadget until you can get to an outlet, tweaking a few settings will help conserve power.

Turn off Bluetooth if youíre not using a headset or wireless keyboard. If youíre nowhere near a Wi-Fi connection or donít need one at the moment, toggle that off, too.

Lower screen brightness or use the gadgetís auto-brightness feature. Turn off or limit notifications and location services to only essential apps.

Power Saver Mode for Android will manage these power-sapping features for you. Going into airplane mode on an iOS gadget instantly shuts off the cellular connection, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and location services.

Hereís a bonus tip: If youíre traveling out of the country, airplane mode is a great way to keep your gadgets from connecting to cellular services at international roaming rates. Your phone bill will thank you. Learn some other ways to avoid data overages while traveling.

Portable recharging/backup battery gadgets and battery cases for phones and tablets will give your gadgets a few extra hours of usable life. You might have e-readers and other gadgets that need to charge through mini USB cables. Bring an adapter that turns a wall outlet into a multiport USB charging station.

If your vacation involves a hotel stay, throw a mini powerstrip/surge protector into your luggage. Hotel rooms never seem to have enough outlets because most outlets are blocked by desks and dressers.

Organize

Thereís nothing worse than arriving at a destination and then spending hours untangling all your gadget power cables. Fortunately, there is an easy solution.

Head down to your nearest office supply store and grab some twist ties for a few bucks. Then just roll up your cables and tie them to keep them in order during travel.

Twist ties also work great to organize the cables for your computer or entertainment center at home.

Happy trails.

Kim Komando hosts the nationís largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com.