My Thoughts On Traveling With The Nintendo Switch

Hey Airplane Switch Guy, the FCC would like a word with you…

I was excited about my vacation last week for a number of reasons, but one of the more-interesting ones was that it would be the maiden voyage for my Nintendo Switch. My post examining the TSA’s potential impact on the Switch has inexplicably become one of the most-viewed on the site, and I was curious to see how my initial suggestions held up in reality.

So how did things go? Well, I wound up with some interesting and unexpected findings:

  • It turns out that I underestimated one major factor when it came to transporting the Switch: My paranoia over avoiding screen scratches. This paranoia led me to purchase an official Switch carrying case (a generic one, sadly), which required that the Switch be in its handheld configuration with the Joy-Cons attached to fit properly. As a result, all my space-saving ideas from the initial post were useless (although the TSA had been making noise during my previous trips that the Switch had to be X-rayed separately from carry-on luggage anyway). However, the case did its job flawlessly, and my Switch screen survived the trip in pristine condition.
  • Despite the above bullet, the Switch-scanning process was surprisingly painless. I dedicated a specific compartment of my laptop bag to the console, so popping it in and out was easy, and no one complained when the Switch and 3DS (yes, I brought both) shared a bin while passing through the scanner.
  • Example #4,821,032, 774 that advertisements do not reflect reality: Not only was I only one in every airport with a Switch (and I only saw one 2DS the entire trip), no one even noticed when I pulled it out and started playing Mario Kart. Most people in the terminal (predictably) messing around with their phones or tablets instead of a game console, and the appearance of Nintendo’s fancy new hardware didn’t move the needle at all.
  • While I didn’t get an exact measurement of battery life, I will say that I played through 11 Mario Kart cups, a 4-race Vs. match, two game-ending cut scenes, and one 4-set Shine Thief marathon on a single full charge. Granted, the Switch was in airplane mode with the sound turned off, but the key takeaway is that the limiting factor was my game library (I only own Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the system, and it starts to get old after 11 consecutive cups) instead of the battery.
  • Example #4,821,032, 775 that advertisements do not reflect reality: When I tried to detach the Joy-Cons and emulate the Skyrim airplane scene on the plane, I got an error message declaring that using the Joy-Cons wirelessly is not allowed when the console is in airplane mode. (How could the introductory trailer lie to us so?!) Because of this, I used the Switch exclusively in handheld mode while traveling.
  • If there’s one hardware limitation that really annoyed me during the trip, it’s the fact that the dock is the only way to link the Switch to a larger screen. While the console traveled well and the Joy-Con grip was an easy throw-in to my luggage, the dock is too cumbersome for traveling and was left at home…which meant that when I finally got a chance to show off the Switch at my destination, people were left staring at a tiny screen perched on a table instead of the 60-inch TV mounted above it. If Nintendo really wants to take advantage of the Switch’s “wow” factor, it needs to let people show it off without having the dock around.

On the whole, however, I think the Switch lived up to its promise as a portable console, and it didn’t add any extra burden to my air travel. While it won’t fully replace the 3DS until its library expands a bit more (and that’s coming), if Nintendo intends on making the Switch its flagship portable console in the future, the Switch certainly has the power and potential to handle it.