For the last four years I've had jobs that require me to travel a great deal. This instructable will highlight some of the things I've learned in this time about packing, travel by car and plane, hotels and other assorted bits of travel knowledge. These appear in no particular order, but I've tried to group related topics together.
Disclaimer: Many of the images in this instructable are clip art based or gathered from the internet. Airport security asks a lot of question these days of people who are taking pictures of airport security check points. And since I'm too cute to go to prison I decided to gather images in another fashion.
Step 1: Packing
Some folks swear by only having a carry on and never checking a bag. My trips always last longer than what I can fit in a carry-on so I go with a checked bag. In all my trips I've only had two instances when it didn't arrive with me. In order to make your bag more easily identifiable at the baggage claim tie something to the handle. I went with green ribbon and my priority club luggage tag. This greatly reduces the number of black suticases I think are mine.
One of the biggest time savers I've found with packing is pre-packing. I have my shave kit constantly stocked with duplicates of deodorant, tooth paste, tooth brush, razors, nail clippers etc. This saves about ten minutes because you don't have to gatther everything up and put it in order. Instead you have to just grab a few things like perscription meds and you're ready to roll.
A note on perscription meds. If you are traveling by air keep these in your carry-on in the event your checked bag is lost or delayed. Also make sure you keep your meds in their original containers if travelling through customs or to a foreign country.
Since most of my traveling is done by car I put the amount of my meds I'll need in an old bottle and leave the rest at home. This way if I forget my shave kit in the hotel I don't have to drive back to get it. It can make a leisurely return trip through the U.S. mail and I'll still be properly medicated.
I always have two plastic bags in my suitcase. A large one to place dirty clothes in and a small one for shoes. I also carry some plastic cups. After seeing a great many news reports about how glasses aren't being properly washed at hotels, I decided not to take the chance. Call it paranoia if you wish, but the idea of drinking out of a glass cleaned with Lysol just isn't appealing to me.
To save a little space when packing I roll up my belt and place it in my shoe.
Step 2: Parking
If you check your car in long term parking write down where you left it. Or take a picture of it with your camera phone. After a long trip this seemingly simple thing to remember can elude you leading to frustration.
Step 3: Airport Security
When you go through the check point you'll have to pass through a magnetometer (metal detector) and everything you're carrying will have to go through an x-ray machine. One way I've found that makes things go faster is to take all of the metal on your person and place it in your carry-on. This way you don't have to try and gather up a bunch of small items when leaving the check point. In fact if you watch the line you'll notice the majority of the slow down comes from people trying to gather their crap up on the other side of the x-ray machine. This way you just grab your stuff and put yourself back in order in a leisurely fashion in an out of the way location.
If you carry a pocket knife either leave it at home or put it in your checked bag. And if you check it, make sure it is a cheap knife. This way if you are forced to gate check your bag because you're running late, it is slightly less painful to have it confiscated by the TSA.
Shoes. Most U.S. airports want you take your shoes off pass them through the x-ray machine. The overhead announcement says if you don't you may subject to additional screening. I've observed that if you don't take your shoes off you will be subject to additional screening.
Additional screening usually means a going over with a wand type magnetometer and/or a pat down along with detailed baggage search. You can also expect this in several other circumstances:
- If you have artificial joints that set off the magnetometer
- If you've had a nuclear medicine study and you set off a radiation alarm
- If you are flying on a one way ticket bought by someone else for you
Liquids. The TSA now will not allow liquids through the check point unless they are in a 1 ounce bottle in a clear plastic bag that is x-rayed. You are limited to three bottles. So buy your pop, water or coffee after you go through the check point.
Always check the TSA web-site before you travel to get the latest restrictions.
Step 4: Living in the Airport
If your flight is canceled or delayed you may be in the airport a while. When the airline employee tells you this news be sure to ask for meal vouchers. Most of airlines will give them out to help defray the cost of eating overpriced airport food.
Find a bench without armrests so you can have a place to sit or stretch out and nap. And keep an eye on your carry-on so it isn't stolen or confiscated as a suspicious package.
Step 5: Hotels
Be sure to steal the pens. You never know when you'll need them. OK not really. I just have a compulsive need to acquire hotel pens.
Make sure you always engage the security latch. Obviously this so you are secure. If you really want to be paranoid book a handicap room. Many times they have two security latches. One is at the "normal" location while a second lower one is in place for use by people in wheelchairs.
I don't trust the hotel alarm clock. Typically they are inaccurate from all the other guests fumbling around trying to set the alarm. I'm also not a fan of wake-up calls. They can forget to call you. I use my cell phone alarm clock. It resets automatically when you change time zones or when daylight savings time kicks in.
If you forget Q-tips and need to clean your ears, tear off a piece of toilet paper and twist it up. Let it expand in your ear and spin it around. This works fairly well, just don't push it too deeply into the ear canal as you might damage your ear or trigger a gag reflex.
Step 6: Receipts
To be reimbursed for expenses we have to submit receipts. I keep track of them using two pouches I keep in a three ring binder. One is for receipts to be submitted and the other is for stuff to be shredded.
When staying at a hotel sometimes they slide a receipt under your door on the last day. This receipt typically shows that you still owe them a balance. Depending on how anal your accounting department is they may not reimburse you if your receipt doesn't indicate you've paid the hotel. You'll want to get a zero balance receipt from the front desk.
If your employer won't reimburse for alcohol or wait staff tips order room service and charge it to your room. The receipt won't be itemized it will just show the total restaurant charge.
This sort of relates to receipts and I couldn't think of where else to put it. Sign up for rewards programs. Whether your company uses the points or you collect them for yourself is between you and your employer. However, you can redeem them for lots of cool stuff. Holiday Inn's Priority Club has been very good to me.
Step 7: Technology
There are three pieces of technology I think anyone who travels a great deal should invest in. So far I only have gotten off my ass to invest in two of them.
1) An MP3 player. This is great for passing time in the airport and drowning out screaming children on the plane. If you aren't into music you can download free audio books from some libraries and web sites.
2) A GPS system. If you do a lot of driving these are wonderful. Trying to read mapquest directions and maps sucks when you're driving. This is easier and safer. And if for business purposes it is also tax deductable.
3) A power inverter. I need to get one of these. This way when my cell phone is upgraded I don't have to buy a new car charger every time.
Step 8: Car Essentials
Stuff in the cabin:
- Trash can
- Receipt book (see step 6)
- Hand wipes
- First Aid Kit (available at many stores)
- Survival Kit (you can probably find an instructable on how to put one together or pick up Bradford Angier's "How to Stay Alive in The Woods" to get some pointers.)
- Tool Kit
- Stuff for changing a tire
- Small snow shovel
- Small heavy duty shovel
Step 9: Toll Booths
Occasionally I'm forced to take a toll road when travelling. Unlike the toll road picture many aren't clearly labelled as to which are automated and which have attendents. I need to get receipts for reimbursement, so I want a booth with a person in it. These tend to be on the right hand side of the road in the U.S. So when in doubt I go to the right.
Second Prize in the
Lonely Planet Travel Tips Contest