HOWTO: Travel more intelligently

This year I’ve taken 23 trips, travelled just shy of 106,000 miles, visited 28 cities, 4 continents, and 9 countries. Tomorrow I’m heading to London for my 29th city and my 10th country. It will also put me within striking distance of United 1k status. Over the course of such a travel schedule one tends to learns the tricks of the travel trade. I thought I’d share a few of mine.

  • Remember to download enough TV, movie, music, and game content before you embark on your journey. Network connections on the road, particularly in hotels and in foreign countries, can be extremely poor. I have more music than I know what to do with and tend to download enough video content to cover 150% of my travel time as I tend to wind down at night with a little TV. In order to take a gargantuan amount of rich media with me, I’ve purchased a 1TB Western Digital Passport, which I used to store my iTunes and iPhoto libraries.
  • Buy an iPad or iPhone or Android or some other device that will play music and video. I’d recommend one that allows you to install lots of cheap casual games as well. Both the iPad and iPhone 4 have 10 hours of video playback, which should comfortably get you through many long flights.
  • That being said, the longest flight I’ve ever flown was from Chicago to Hong Kong and took 15 hours. My iPad or iPhone 4 would have ran out of battery 2/3 of the way through. To rectify this situation I’ve purchased the Zagg Sparq 2.0, which adds between 5 and 6 hours of battery life to your iPad. Additionally, I ensure my laptop is fully charged so I can use that as a glorified battery charger in the air.
  • Ever try and find an outlet at an airport only to find them all taken by people charging their laptops and their cell phones? Yeah, me too. Go and buy a Belkin mini 3 port power strip and don’t worry about that problem anymore. In addition to turning a single outlet into three, it has two USB 2.0 powered plugs. Beware though! The USB plugs will not charge and iPad. Also great for conferences.
  • If you’re traveling with a friend or your significant other, you might consider buying a headphone splitter. When Diana and I travel, she can plug her headphones into this and we can both comfortably watch my iPad.
  • Speaking of headphones, do yourself a favor and buy some nice over the hear, noise canceling ones. I have the classic Bose around the hear headphones, which are comfortable and block out the jet engines. Even without any sound they do a great job of blocking out the sound of crying babies during takeoff and landing.
  • Get yourself a 22” carry-on. It’s not really well known, but domestic carry-on limitations are usually more liberal than international ones. 22” is the international standard.
  • You don’t need to pack 14 distinct outfits for a two week vacation. I promise that they have washers and driers wherever you are going that operate, more or less, how the ones at your home does. I don’t think I’ve been to a hotel yet that didn’t offer wash and fold service either.
  • When you’re picking your seat find a seat that’s as close to the front of the plane as possible. This allows for a quicker exit when deboarding and usually keeps you away from toilet seats. Be sure to check out SeatGuru before you choose your seat.
  • Avoid any line containing one of the following: families with children, elderly people, someone in a wheelchair. Instead, look for people with roller laptop bags in suits; they’re the ones who will navigate lines the most quickly.
  • Stand on the right and walk on the left.

The last note I’ll mention is to find a decent worldwide carrier and stick with them until you hit status. Things get a whole lot better once you hit status on a single airline. I love United, which is #1 among the top carriers in on-time departures. I’ve heard others who enjoy Delta.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” –Mark Twain