Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Travel essentials

I don’t travel as much as I used to.  I used to think of distances purely in terms of battery life.  At one point, I was regularly turning up at the airport with only a vague idea of where I was going; my secretary had booked the trip, arranged all the details and even checked me in.  All I needed to do was drop off my luggage at the right desk.  The routine was pretty slick.  I knew what to wear and carry to get through the airport as quickly as possible and automatically fell into the zombie-shuffling demeanour that makes airports (barely) bearable.  I had a kit of essential items so I didn’t need to think about what to pack.

I don’t travel so much now, but I’ve been thinking about what I’d put in my travel kit these days, since there’s so much cooler stuff around these days.  Any other suggestions?

  • Chargeable power supply for my various devices.  There are a lot of these on the market.  I’d be happy with one that could handle 2 or 3 USB devices at a time and charge from both mains abd USB.
  • Universal power adaptors.
  • Travel power strip.  I find that most hotels have only one (if any) socket at each side of the bed.  I usually want my phone (for listening to audiobooks) and my kindle next to the bed and night is usually the only convenient time to charge them.  I usually end up with my laptop on the floor next to the bed with USB cables trailing all over.  This greatly annoys me.  I want a small, light power strip which has maybe a couple of UK mains sockets and 2 or 3 USB sockets.  It would be great if this had a battery in it so it could double as item 1.
  • Pocket wireless router.  Some hotels have only a wired broadband connection.  A pocket router could convert it to wifi.  It could also be used as a wifi extender and to foil those hotels that charge for wifi per device.  It would save having to use my laptop as an access point.
  • Phone.  Mine is a Galaxy Note II, which I love.
  • Tablet. Mine, like my phone, is a Galaxy Note.  I use it mostly for taking handwritten notes, which I do every day.
  • Laptop. Size, weight and battery life are obviously the most important things here.  Mine is a really small and light Toshiba one which fits in my hand luggage and gets about 8 hours of battery life.
  • USB stick.
  • Pens, plural.  I always have my Fisher Space Pen with me anyway and would use this to fill in my landing card.  But I’d carry at least one more to lend to other passengers.
  • E-book reader.  Mine’s a Kindle Paperwhite, which I much prefer to the Fire.
  • 2 or 3 retractable USB cables.  Non-retractable ones have a life of their own and no matter how I coil them, they seem to unravel when I’m taking my electronics out of the bag at airport security and get in the way when I’m re-packing.
  • Eye drops
  • Moisturiser
  • Deodorant
  • Mouthwash
  • Clear plastic case for the above four items.
  • Small case for carrying painkillers.
  • Cheap, foldable, disposable reading glasses.
  • Several NFC tags in bracelet and necklace form.  I have several profiles set up for travel ranging from simple things like turning airplane mode on and off to more complicated experimental stuff. Thinking up and implementing new uses for NFC tags is also a good and relaxing way to fill up long flights and layovers.
  • A set of lockpicks, just because I like carrying them around. Wonder if I’d be allowed to take them on the plane?
  • Headphones.  I just use a standard pair of earbuds on the plane.  My usual headphones are these bluetooth ones, which are really good (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00H1XKC2U/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) but they might be too bulky to carry in my hand luggage.  If I have a long layover, however, I’ll find a way to fit them in.
  • Comfortable, non-metallic clothing, usually tracksuit bottoms, trainers and T shirt,  No jacket. No watch. Wallet, coins, keys in my bag. NFC tags go through airport metal detectors with no problems. I try to do without my walking stick when I travel. It gets in the way and people in airports and stations seem to view it as an invitation to walk in front of me or barge past me.  I don’t know why.  I usually regret not taking it when I don’t and taking it when I do.
  • Nuts, seeds and other snackables.  Anything to avoid airline food if I can.  The food itself is less of a problem than eating it in such a cramped space surrounded by other slobbering passengers.
  • I usually carry all this stuff in a messenger bag,  I use this hand-dyed tentacle one: http://fashionablygeek.com/handmade/carry-your-stuff-in-a-tentacle-messenger-bag/  I’ve tried bags with lots of pockets, but I find them more annoying than useful.  The messenger bag has pockets for my phone, travel documents and headphones and that’s enough for me.  I might consider something like this though, so I can stow my bag and have my phone, kindle and headphones to hand: http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/e95b/?srp=37

So that’s my ideal travel kit.  What do you carry when you travel?  What things don’t but should exist to make travel less horrible?

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