I was listening to the Analogue podcast this week and the episode featured Myke Hurley and Casey Liss discussing their travel rituals and I find it reassuring to see that I’m not the only one who is obsessive about travel preparation. When it comes to travel prep, I don’t mess around. Let me share some of my crazy with you …
When I was younger, I was like anyone else when it came to travel preparation. I would wait until the night before I had to go anywhere and just haphazardly shove things into a bag. Inevitably I would forget things I need. I would resolve that when I arrived at my location I would just go out and get what I forgot. This is inefficient. It cuts into your trip, you run the risk of not finding exactly what you would have packed, and you will probably end up paying more for things than you should.
Ideally, packing for a trip should be a hassle free experience and you should remove all thought from the process.
Keep a toiletries bag that’s always stocked and ready to go
I no longer pack for a trip the night before. When’s the best time to prepare for a trip? It’s when you have no place to go of course! I will go to Target and stock up on multiple travel items I would likely need and put them in a travel toiletries bag when I have absolutely no plans to travel. Keeping a few extra cans of shaving cream or an extra razor in a closet or drawer is a big time saver even if you only travel a few times a year.
Everyone remembers things like shaving cream, shampoo, and toothpaste but what about nail clippers, dry shampoo, a lint roller, lip balm, or travel sized Febreeze? Small, TSA-approved containers are great for holding things like liquid soap or your preferred body wash that no one ever remembers to pack or if you don’t want to travel with huge bottles of the stuff …
A couple of years ago, I read Adam Carolla’s In Fifty Years, We’ll All Be Chicks and he spoke at length about buying duplicate items of things you need but can never find when you need them and then keeping those duplicate items in places where you’re likely to need them. That made a lot of sense to me so now I always buy duplicate items of things I use daily. I own nail clippers and tweezers already but these particular ones are always packed and ready to go. Every dental checkup I get a free toothbrush from the dentist. Those are great to use for trips and cost you nothing. The dry shampoo is a good thing to bring should you need to be presentable but don’t have time to wash your hair. The body wipes are good for the same reason.
So what’s the point of this? The point is when I travel I can reach for a single small bag that contains everything I’m likely to need that’s ready to go without any checklist. I have multiples of each item so a cursory glance in the bag ensures that I have what I need with no immediate shopping necessary. All thought is removed and most common needs are covered. A little bit of preparation and a few dollars upfront has saved me so much time when I’m about to travel and already stressed.
DIY Luggage Tags + Zip Ties
We’ll assume that you were smart enough to invest in some good luggage for your travels. One thing I like to do is to pick up some self-laminating luggage tags. Open up a text editor or word processor and fill it out. I ensure the printed information will be on the front and back of the luggage tag before applying the lamination. I usually discard the plastic cord used to attach the tag to my luggage and use zip ties instead. The large, double sided luggage tags are pretty distinctive and easy to spot on a luggage carousel. If you’re a hardcore nerd like me, you’ll keep the luggage tag info as a document in Dropbox and you likely used a QR code generator to put your info in a QR code on your luggage tag too. I attach this to all my luggage and my backpack regardless of whether or not I plan on checking my luggage or not.
Keep a technology bag that’s always packed and ready to go
This is another life hack that I can’t recommend enough. Everyone has a tablet or smartphone and it’s so easy to forget to pack a cable or two while traveling.
There’s many things that you’ll find in my tech travel bag. First up, get yourself a mobile battery pack. Anker sells a 16,000 mAh battery for less than $40. You can charge a modern smartphone from empty to full about a half a dozen times with this battery.
Get yourself a Photive 50 Watt 6-Port USB Desktop Rapid Charger. This device allows you to hook up to 6 USB-connected devices and will intelligently shift up to 50 Watts / 10A to any device connected to it. The benefit is full 10A charging for several devices off a single plug. I used to advocate taking a power strip and multiple USB extension cables but I don’t need to do that anymore with this device.
Something else I find indispensable is the Grid-It organizer by Cocoon. This is a neat board covered in elastic bands that allows you to keep chargers, cables, and various dongles in one place and it fits neatly in a backpack or suitcase. Add in some Velcro cable ties and you’re an awesome traveler like me.
When it comes to spare Lightning cables, I’m a big fan of the Zinc-alloy tipped models from Monoprice. I hear on Apple podcasts all the time how great the official Lightning cables from Apple are and how they never wear out. Mine always wear out quickly. The Monoprice ones don’t seem to have the same issues. The strain relief portion of the cables seem really sturdy.
Extra Credit: Seasonal Stuff
Sometimes in your travels you’ll pick up some things you’ll rarely use but find essential. Every summer, I travel to Kentucky to visit my wife’s family. It’s the most time I spend outdoors in a rural area all year. I pick up peppermint shampoo and Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap. Why? I’ve found it’s very effective at repelling mosquitos as they hate the smell of peppermint. Sure I smell like a big ol’ candy cane but I’m bite-free by day’s end.
In the winters, my wife and I like to travel to Montana. While hanging out in the snow and ice I make sure I have two things I know I’ll need for my tech: a New Trent waterproof iPhone case and Glider Gloves (gloves with capacitive fingertips so that you can use touchscreens while keeping your hands warm).
Admittedly I don’t have much use for any of these items outside of their occasional use case but when I do need them they make my trips so much better.