Travel Thoughts

by Dave Michels

I typically have about 2-3 trips a month and have a good and efficient routine. At least I thought so. I made some stupid mistakes (and lost some items) on my recent trip to S. America, so perhaps my success is partly do to familiarity. My trip to S. America involved several new elements including a different carry-on bag and that was part of my fluster.

Despite being demoted a few notches I still think I have some worthy tricks and gear worth sharing. Regular readers may recognize this post, but I wanted to improve and expand it. This is version 2.0.

  1. Long USB. I bought a 10′ USB cable that I find to be very useful. With this cord I can always have my phone charging on a table or nightstand. Too often we get forced into an awkward workflow due to outlets in poor locations. Since USB-C is around the corner, it might be worth waiting until you need to buy all new cables, but at some point consider getting a long one.
  2. Contigo Randolph Mug. The reason I carry my own mug is because the paper cups are a liability. The Contigo mug doesn’t leak. I can throw it on my seat while stowing my luggage overhead. The handle hooks nicely on the seat back pocket, so it’s available and handy regardless of the tray table’s position. I’ve learned once a coffee mug- always a coffee mug, so I keep mine coffee-free (when I want coffee, I just go with the default paper cup). I carry my own tea bags and Starbucks offers free hot water. I generally fill it up between TSA and boarding. It keeps drinks hot for hours, and it’s nice to have a beverage when I want it rather then when they serve it. I also find myself using it throughout the trip (taxi’s, hotels, meetings, etc.).
  3. Power strip w/ USB. I use a Monster power strip with three outlets and a USB port. What’s particularly nice about this one is it also supports 220 power (with a separate adapter). Most of my devices and yours (check) can support 220, so when traveling internationally I just use one physical adapter for the strip and plug all my US devices directly into my NA strip now running 220 – including my USB cable.
  4. Clear Card: If the airports you use support Clear, consider getting a membership. It has 2.5 benefits. 1) Shorter lines, though not much shorter than TSA PRE. I figure PRE will keep getting longer though. 2) No ID. They use biometrics. It sounds trivial, but it allows me to put my wallet safely/securely away before going through TSA. I lost my ID last year at TSA. Though unrelated, theft at/by TSA is a common problem. Just zip up the wallet to minimize the risk of a stupid error. 2.5) Cuts. Though I have mixed feelings about this, in some airports like MCO and SFO the Clear folks escort you all the way up to the front of the line.Selfie Stick from Tata
  5. Selfie Stick: Can come in handy. I had a great one that was pretty small, but I outgrew it with my most recent phone. I now have a fairly large selfie stick with a shelf which means it doesn’t get used as much, but still comes in handy.
  6. Cross Tech4 Pen. In our digital world we don’t use pens as much, but they are still important and should be nice. I queue paperwork for flights, but processing the stack usually involves a pen, pencil, and highlighter.  This Cross pen does it all. I modified mine by replacing the black ink with a nice highlighter ink. It also has blue for signing/writing, red for editing, and a pencil.
  7. Etymotic Earbuds: As much as I love the Bose earphones, they are just too big for me to carry. I use these small earbuds with foam ear tips. They do an excellent job of passive noise filtering.
  8. GoToob Containers: I started carrying my own soaps. I figure consistency is good, and using my own means less waste and better quality. Those little hotel soaps and bottles are cute, but really wasteful.
  9. AudioBooks. The problem with travel is all the hurry up and wait. Now I get a lot of reading done when I travel. Audiobooks are ideal for: pre-board wait time, walking through airports, taxis and buses, baggage claim, driving, and resting on the flight. I use audiobooks regularly at home too. In addition to I use the local library which has a decent collection, but frustrating processes.
  10. Eye Mask: I keep an eye mask in my carry-on. I consider sleep to be one of the most productive ways to pass the time on a plane. It can be hard to sleep while flying, so boarding exhausted helps as do an eye mask and some Grateful Dead with quality ear buds (see 7). If you prefer silence use a pair of foam ear plugs.

Other tips:

  • Though not always convenient, I try to travel with just one pair of shoes. Sometimes a thin cheap set of flip-flops can be useful as well for pools or beaches.
  • I always try to print boarding passes – mobile passes are easy to obtain, but a pain to use – plus nothing is more precious than battery on a long flight, so quit futzing with the mobile before boarding. If using a mobile pass remember to turn off auto-rotate on the phone. (I’ve always assumed all those scribbles and stamps that TSA adds to the printed pass were important, but then nothing happens to mobile passes. Could it all just be theater?)
  • I just bought my first RFID-blocking wallet. I am not sure if RFID stealing is a real threat or not, but it was less effort to buy a new wallet than actually research the potential risk.
  • On my most recent trip I left my PC at home and took my Chromebook. I have to say this is an ingenious little device. 1) It’s secure. 2) it has very little data (in case it gets lost). 3) It has long battery life. 4) It is a good size – comfortable reliable keyboard and fits on a the tray table. 5) mine is configured with on-board movies and music, 6) It DOES support offline documents and email. 7) Now, thanks to Skype Web Beta, it can be used for Skype. There are times where I need Office or other local apps, so I can’t commit to it every time. If you can survive within just a browser (plus smartphone), then consider splurging $300 on a Chromebook.
  • Public transportation. I love using public transportation when it’s practical. I alternate between driving and taking the public bus (Skyride) to/from the Denver airport. Getting to/from the neighborhood bus stop can be a bit tricky, but Uber is my fallback. That, the bus schedules, and the additional stops adds time to the journey. On the other hand, it is surprising how long it takes to deal with off-airport parking. It’s also nice to gain back the commute time for something productive. It isn’t as easy on the visitor side of the court, though I do take BART to downtown San Francisco.
  • I just got a GeniusPack High Altitude carry-on bag. This is part of my ongoing search for the perfect in-flight organizer. I haven’t used it, so can’t recommend it yet. My objective is a very small in-flight bag that can hold all the items I need during flight. Accessing the overhead is a pain and the seat back pocket is a bad organization strategy. I value my legroom, so the bag needs to be small.
  • I can recommend ebags. They sell many brands, but I find their ebags branded items to be consistently good quality and well thought-out.
  • Smartphone Prep: I suggest loading the following on your smartphone: Hi-res copies of your driver’s license and passport, itinerary, audiobooks, games, frequent flyer numbers, Google Maps, Uber, ePay solution, sleeping music, and flashlight app. I’ve had very good luck with T-Mobile on international travel – unlimited roaming and text messaging is included in my plan.

Let me know if you have some tricks or gear you recommend.

Also, I do recommend travel stuff as vendor give-aways. I’d like to thank:

  • Tata for a bluetooth selfie stick.
  • Yealink for a very useful international power adapter.
  • Cisco for some thin beach flip-flops.
  • BroadSoft for a very compact packable jacket.
  • ShoreTel for a foam eye mask.
  • NEC for a four-color pen.
  • Most vendors for some great T-shirts