Working at a small government lab, I am fortunate to have had many opportunities to travel around the country for business. Whether I am traveling to DC for official briefings, FL for professional conferences, or the desert for an experimental rocket launch, I never leave the house without some key accessories. Over the last several years, I have created a list of travel necessities and tips for any kind of trip I may take.
1. Luggage and Backpack
I use an Eagle Creek No Matter What Carry-On bag for all of my trips. It is by far the best luggage I’ve ever had. Made of durable fabric, the luggage has weathered dozens of trips in all climates. The bag provides maximum packing volume with a minimum footprint, fitting in the overhead bins of most airplanes. This is crucial for quick trips across the country when you can’t afford lost luggage. I also carry my backpack everywhere I go. This typically holds my water bottle and snacks, laptop, chargers, and whatever documents I may need throughout the trip.
Oftentimes, it can be tough to pack for even a 3-day trip when that trip entails official business and leisure in differing weather conditions. The east coast especially is no stranger to sunny and 65 one day with rain and 40 the next. Smart packing is essential to fitting everything in a carry-on. The key is versatility of clothing choices. Take shirts that you can dress up and down. Wear the same slacks twice. Pack outfits that match with one pair of shoes. You can also wear business clothes while traveling if absolutely necessary, although I always prefer to be comfortable on the longer flights. Don’t overpack. Stick to the essentials.
3. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
I don’t go anywhere these days without my noise-cancelling headphones. I use the Bose QC20 in-ear headphones. They’re pricey yes, but they sure do make flying so much more manageable, and even enjoyable when you throw in a few good movies.
Use apps on your smartphone to keep track of your itinerary and boarding passes. Wallet, Passbook, and Tripcase are a few examples. If you plan on watching tv/movies on the plane using their wifi, make sure you have the appropriate app to allow that.
5. Things to Pack
Phone charger: I leave one in my luggage so that I never have to remember to pack it. Cheap insurance.
Cash: While most places accept credit, there are some holdouts that only take cash, so be sure to take some.
Book: I take a Kindle with a free classic book installed as it is much more manageable than the massive novels I read at home.
Water bottle: I carry a small plastic water bottle on every trip to stay hydrated. A screw top one is best so that it doesn’t leak up in the air.
Snacks: Why pay an arm and a leg for a bagel in the airport? I pack a few bagged snacks with a fresh banana to keep food costs to a minimum in the airports.
Meds: My sinuses are never happy when I fly, so to keep from pressure buildup I take a cold and sinus pill prior to the flight. Staying hydrated and chewing gum during the flight also helps tremendously. Some pain relief and allergy pills are always a good idea as well.
6. Rewards Programs
Even if you don’t travel frequently, join the hotel, airline, and rental car rewards programs. Sometimes just being in the system as a member gives you a few perks. For those who travel often, use those points and miles for upgrades, or better yet, family vacations to take your better half somewhere nice.