RadBear's Travel Tips




About: I'm cheap and like to use what I have on hand and I really enjoy taking things apart to salvage parts. Rather than be a precise engineering type of person, I'm more of an enthusiastic tinkerer. Making things...

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.

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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

One of the biggest parts of traveling today is dealing with airport security. Since 9/11/2001 several measures have been put into place to increase the level of safety (or the illusion of safety depending on one's cynicism level). Unfortunately the measures which make us safer make things move slower.

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
  • Randomly
  • If you are flying on a one way ticket bought by someone else for you

I have seen at some airports additional screening now means going through a bomb sniffer. This device blasts you with puffs of air which are then sucked back into the machine. It then processes the samples to see if it detects chemicals which are found in explosives. These same chemicals are in fertilizer. Don't wear the shoes you wore to fertilize the lawn to the airport they will register a positive. One of my co-workers discovered this at a nuclear plant.

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

When you get to your hotel there are several things you should do. I go through and try all the lights, faucet, shower and toilet to make sure they work. You don't want to discover a slow drain by finding six inches of water around your legs in the morning.

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

I keep all sorts of stuff in my car because I spend so much time in it. These fall into two categories:

Stuff in the cabin:

  • Trash can
  • Receipt book (see step 6)
  • Hand wipes

Stuff in the trunk

  • Blanket
  • 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

Some will argue this stuff isn't worth the extra weight, but if you end up stuck some where without cell phone reception you won't be saying "Boy I'm fucked, but I got great mileage!"

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.

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    16 Discussions


    4 years ago on Step 8

    The TSA limit on liquids is 3oz bottles and as much as will fit in a 1qt bag, one bag per flyer. 3-1-1 not 3 one oz bottles.

    Phil B

    8 years ago on Introduction

    In hotels and motels I like to make a mental note of how to evacuate the building in case of a fire. This means being aware of where the fire exit is before going to sleep, and maybe checking it out before turning off the lights at night. Imagine trying to find it if the hallways are partially filled with smoke.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    where we live every booth is marked as OGS,KGS,Receipt for Class 1(cars) and Receipt for Class ?(trucks and buses).Oh,and the OGS lane is painted as yellow.
    Note:OGS is E-pass for u americans,and KGS uses prepaid cards.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I like the first picture you might want to fix step number eight there's children on this site but then again, there's lots of adults

    1 reply
    Aburame Shino

    11 years ago on Introduction

    Simply amazing Instructable! I myself don't travel as often, but my dad does a lot of the same things!

    Regarding parking: We usually try to park somewhere obvious, like in a corner. We also write down the column we parked in, and on which side so that it's easier to find the vehicle.

    It might also help to carry a tire in the trunk with that kit. *cough cough*

    One last thing: Step 3, that blue-gripped knife. Is that an out the side switchblade? If it is, I have one exactly like it with a black grip.

    Once again, awesome Instructable. Happy travels!

    9 replies
    mbearAburame Shino

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Don't worry, the spare tire is under the floorboard. His big brother won't let him travel without it. (Of course his big brother can be an intrusive know-it-all, but his heart's in the right place.)


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Correct. The tire is under the floor board of the trunk and my brother's heart is in his chest. :)

    mbearAburame Shino

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Actually it varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I want to freak out the medical staff, so I make it travel all over my torso. You should've been there the day I had it down by my stomach. That was a hoot!


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Actually it varies depending on my mood. Sometimes I want to freak out the medical staff, so I make it travel all over my torso. You should've been there the day I had it down by my stomach. That was a hoot!

    RadBearAburame Shino

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Not a switchblade. Just a folding knife. Switchblades are illegal where I live and I'm too cute for prison life.

    Aburame ShinoRadBear

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    :P Where I live, out the front/top switchblades are illegal. These means when you push the button, the blade just shoots out straight. :==:-> How ever, if it opens out the side, it's completely legal. :==: