I’ve been traveling a lot lately. In the past two months, I’ve been to Alaska and Maine and now I’m in Chicago. Just recently I made some changes to how I travel that have made the process much easier.
Get TSA Precheck
Contrary to what people too lazy to actually look into it will tell you, TSA Precheck is not another trick to extract money from elitists like priority boarding is. It costs $85 – a one time fee that gets you five years of coverage. For that paltry investment you are registered as a “known traveler” and receive expedited passage through security. In addition to keeping your luggage assembled throughout the process, you get your own line. As long as most people are still fooling themselves that TSA Precheck is out of their budget, it’s a vastly shorter one. In a few days I’m looking forward to taking a flight out of the much-maligned O’Hare airport and seeing just how much of the horror my fiance and I will simply saunter past with self-satisfied chuckles.
Write a Packing Checklist
This is one of those things that is so easy and obvious that it indicates the suboptimal construction of the human brain that there is anyone who doesn’t use it. I am guilty. I used to always manage to forget something when packing. Now I keep my checklist in Evernote and say goodbye to pondering what I’m going to want to bring on any given trip. Below are some items you might not think to put on your checklist.
This may be out of date, but once upon a time, power sockets at an airport were a rare commodity highly sought after and the focus of much competition. In these dark days, someone with the foresight to bring a tool to multiply the available sockets was considered a genius, a hero, or both. Since I learned about this, I have left an extra surge protector in my luggage so it’s always there in case I need it.
Portable Power Supply
These are pretty cheap these days. It’s just a big rechargeable battery that you can plug your electronics into to charge them if need be. This is the sort of thing you’ll wish you brought when you are on an old airplane and your phone dies, interrupting your Audiobook just at the climax. Or maybe you’re navigating Japan and your phone dies leaving you with no GPS. Or if you’re taking pictures on a jungle tour and your phone dies. A portable power supply can be the difference between a desperate situation and a routine one. Also consider getting a phone with a better battery life.
Have you ever been in a hotel room with a beautiful 42″ TV that offers nothing but basic cable and on-demand movies so expensive you may as well be going to the theater? You may well end up laying on the bed watching Netflix on your 18″ laptop screen, or your 6″ phone screen. A Chromecast can plug into any HDMI slot, which, believe it or not, these TVs have. What it does for you is connect directly to your phone over the WiFi and play anything compatible on the screen. This includes all the major services (except Amazon Prime due to their competing device the Amazon Fire Stick, which for the same reason does not support YouTube). You can also use a Chromecast to show whoever you’re visiting travel pictures on their big screen. All this may apply equally well to an Amazon Fire Stick or even a Roku, but my experience is with the Chromecast.
Empty Water Bottle
You can bring an empty bottle through security, and water is free. Even on the plane, most attendants will happily top off your bottle rather than give you one of those silly plastic cups.
This is so much more than just “bring snacks.” On the first trip you bring it, a snack bag may well be an empty canvas bag. Over time, it will fill with extras from whatever cravings you or your fellow travelers happen to have during your trip. You will also start to realize what a cornucopia of snacks are available at conferences and other events and will be able to stock up. A health benefit – whenever you are tempted to stuff yourself in case you may not see food again for a while on a long leg of your trip, just remember your snack bag and eat a gentile sufficiency. A social benefit – despite using it for no more than half of one trip and a quarter of another, this bag has already made me a hero on multiple occasions.
Earplugs and Eyemask
If your stay turns out to be noisier than you expect, or if you didn’t realize that where you’re going it’s never night-time (hello Alaskan summers) these could be the difference between fitful slumber and a good night’s rest. Unfortunately I am aware of nothing that will fit in airline luggage that will help with the ubiquitous too-hard or too-soft bed.
Update: not 15 minutes after writing this entry I caught my my stepfather in law to be watching Netflix on his laptop. I helped him set up the Chromecast I brought on his TV and connect his laptop to it. I even brought out my surge protector when all the nearby outlets were in use.
Let me know if you have other travel tips to share, or if you have stories or thoughts relating to mine!