Email is up there with mobile phone coverage and broadband web access - it's now so pervasive that most of us take it for granted. We experience a mixture of bemusement, stupification and perhaps even a touch of relief when we're cut off from our inboxes.

We depend on being able to send and receive emails, much as we expect to be able to log on to the net and Google a query or consult the BBC site for the latest headlines. Not being able to get at your emails - or drowning in a flood of them on your return from holiday - can be awfully frustrating. Being unable to keep in touch this way can lose you friends as well as business.

Here, we look at the hows and ifs of being able to get at your email while on the road and away from the vagaries of Outlook. And it's not just keeping in touch with the office - getting at the fun stuff, or simply finding a means of staying touch with back home when work or leisure takes us far afield, is of far more interest.

With that in mind, we've provided a rundown of ways to access your email whether or not you've got a live web connection. You need never cut the lifeline again...

Access email offline

The web has become a staple in our everyday lives. Indeed, most of us would struggle to cope without internet access - and email in particular.

But what happens if you're going somewhere that doesn't have an internet connection, such as on a plane? If you're hyperventilating at the thought of a few hours offline, fear not. You can still partake in these online activities - you just need to be prepared. We've got some handy hints that will ensure that you can still read emails and surf the web, provided you plan ahead.

Fine-tune email settings: You obviously can't send or receive email without an internet connection. But you can read messages you've already received, and compose replies and new messages that will be automatically sent out as soon as you've reconnected to the web.

If you use just one PC for email and access all your accounts using POP, your incoming messages are automatically downloaded to your computer. If you set your email client to skip or partially retrieve large messages, make sure you change that before you go offline.

If you've got one or more IMAP accounts, your email client is still likely to download local copies of your messages, but you should check a few settings to be sure. If you adjust your mail client's settings, your email will automatically sync your server-based mail folders with their local counterparts. It doesn't hurt to check your email manually a final time just before leaving, however.

Streamline your accounts: If you've got lots of email accounts, you can often streamline things by routing them through one account. That's where a POP account earns its keep over and above a corporate IMAP one.

A web-based POP client such as GMX or Gmail can import messages from several sources - you just need to set it up for Forwarding and click on POP/IMAP. You'll find this under Gmail's Settings menu. Click Enable IMAP, Save Changes and then click on Accounts. Under Send Mail As, click Add Another Email Address. Enter your name and one of your other email addresses and follow the instructions to verify it. Repeat for any other addresses you want to be able to send from.

Enable IMAP and save the changes

Next, to redirect mail through Gmail, turn on automatic forwarding and enter your Gmail address. If your main email client doesn't support this, there is a workaround. In Gmail, go to Accounts, Get Mail From Other Accounts, click Add Another Mail Account and follow the prompts to enter your address, password and other details.

Import mail from other accounts to Gmail