Okay, so “road warrior” may be a stretch. However, as a sales engineer here in SolarWinds EMEA, I still do rack up a decent amount of international travel every year. Leon has already written a post, “A CONVENTION GO-ER’S GUIDE, PART 1,” where he covered stuff to bring to a conference, but I thought a post covering more international type travel might be of interest.
- Spend money on proper luggage. Traveling can be hard enough, without having to deal with annoyances like bags with squeaky wheels and broken handles. If you travel a lot, it is worth investing in proper equipment. I have numerous bags that I use for different occasions, all of which work and work well. This means that not only can I get to my destination with minimum fuss, but my contents are also more likely to get there intact.
- Bring carry-on whenever possible. This is advice that’s commonly known by business travelers, but it’s worth reiterating. Carry-on not only means that you are less likely to lose luggage; it is also faster when you arrive. (According to George Clooney’s character in the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” it is 35 minutes on average to claim your luggage, but I am not sure what the scientific study was that was behind that particular claim.) One of the biggest wins for me, however, is that I have less to carry on the other side. A big bonus, if I need to catch the London Underground, for example. With this in mind, my go-to bag for short business trips is a Samsonite® hard-sided carry-on roller. It is not the cheapest, but it allows me to bring both my laptop, and several days of clothes, in a form factor that keeps the weight of my back, while being small enough to work as carry-on.
- Use a sticker as a name tag. Over the years, I have found that traditional luggage tags are prone to wear and tear, and hence can get lost. However, a name sticker at least allows it to be identified easily.
- Be fault tolerant. If I need a hard copy of something when I travel (like my driver’s license or passport), I’ll always keep a scanned copy in Dropbox®, just in case something goes amiss. Similarly, if I have soft copies of things that I might need (such as my itinerary), I will print those just in case my phone dies. This goes all the way to ensuring I have a things like a small first-aid kit (more in the next point), wash bag, and polo shirt with me on carry-on (even if I have luggage checked).
- Have a mini first-aid kit. A lot of travel tends to not lead to the healthiest lifestyle, and as a result, I’ve succumbed to various ailments over the years. However, I have found that by having some standard, over-the-counter medicines to treat things like stomach aches, allergies, toothaches, etc., can prove invaluable when you’re on the road and away from a chemist (or pharmacist, depending on your locale).
- Your phone can do a lot. Of course, you can use your phone for the usual texting/calling/social media duties when abroad (especially if you have a good roaming package). I also have mine loaded with useful travel apps like Tripit®, Uber®, Google® Maps, and Dropbox (see point 4). For entertainment, I ensure my phone is synced with offline content from Netflix®, Spotify®, and Audible®. In addition, for some less conventional use of the camera, I always take pictures of where my car is parked in the airport, as well as taking photos of receipts.
- Pack an extension lead. A bit of an unusual one, but I discovered Powercubes™ online, and haven’t looked back. One of the annoying things with many hotels is the disconnect between where you want to have your devices, and where the actual power sockets are located. As an added bonus, it also means I only need to bring a single international adapter
- Modules! I would not say I have OCD, but when traveling, I want to know where exactly everything is. This helps not only reduce time to get through airport security, but it allows me to reuse things for different workloads. As an example, when I’m at home, my Maxpedition® Organiser goes everywhere with me. (It holds items such as a battery pack, USB cable, earphones, pens, a notebook, a Leatherman® Skeletool® CX, a 4-in-1 screwdriver, a Spork,and a Led Lenser® flashlight). Combine that (minus anything that may cause issues with airport security, such as the Leatherman, screwdriver, and light) with my smartphone, and it contains everything I need to pass hours on airplane. It even has a keyclip, so you don't lose your car keys! (cc sqlrockstar) Even my notebook is “modular.” Simply by adding a penholder, I can now carry two pens all the time, whenever I need the notebook. Other modules include a document holder (passport, tickets, etc.), packing pods for clothes, and a Grid-It® for other electronic accessories.
- Keep the bag packed. Usually, as soon as I get back from one trip, I start repacking for the next one. This means I am much more likely to replenish any consumables (such as toiletries or medicines) that I may have gone through. However, it also means that if I’m ever called on at short notice, then I’m good to go!
- Never turn your nose at a power socket. This is a fairly common-sense tip, but even if I know my laptop battery should have more than enough juice to last for a particular trip, if I get a chance to plug in and keep the battery charged, I’ll take it. Why? Well, let’s just say I have been on the wrong end of cancelled flights, in countries where charging wasn’t possible!
And that concludes my top 10 tips for business travel. I would love to hear yours in the comments below!