I’ve logged my fair share of miles on airplanes and nights in hotels over the years. Whether it was running an account team in Detroit, with creative folks in NYC and engineers in San Francisco, traveling for various deals around the country, or making the trip from my home office to headquarters, travel has been a part of my professional life.
In this post, I’ll share the gear that I use on every trip. Tried and true, every single item below is essential and highly recommended after significant real-world use by me. I’ve also included a few tips and tricks for using each item.
On the Airplane
Being an occasional backpacker and hiker, I’m highly conscious of how I pack and how much weight I bring with me. So, when picking the right bag for a short (3 day or less) business trip, you have to go with the Timbuktu Wingman Suitcase. Here’s why:
- It’s sneaky: at exactly the right size to fit in the overhead bin of a small jet (think CRJ200), or under the seat in front of you, this bag fits anywhere, and goes undetected by the “tag your bag” plane-side checking routine at the gate.
- It’s got smart storage: an extra-large compartment on the front holds everything from noise-cancelling headphones to your wallet and phone; side compartments perfectly stows your ziploc of toiletries and shoes; a spacious clothing area with cinch straps keeps everything tightly packed; and, an internal mesh pocket is perfect for holding dirty laundry and your personal humidifier (see below).
- It’s got smart straps: there’s the typical single-strap setup, for the over-the-shoulder “laptop bag” look, but you can also stow that and pull out the hidden “backpack-style” straps to wear it like a backpack – perfect for when you have to sprint to your next flight.
This is one of those products I wasn’t sure about. Could noise-canceling headphones really improve my travel experience? Do they actually work? The answer is a resounding yes! While there are many types out there, and I’m certainly not an expert on them, I chose these Sony MDR-NC200D Digital Noise-Canceling Headphones and have not been disappointed. These headphones listen for ambient sounds and block them out, delivering a quiet, clear sound that’s not over-optimized for particular sound spectrum frequencies (like bass, for example).
I use them when walking through airports, waiting on airplanes, and of course during the flight as well. Simply flipping on the noise canceling (without playing music or podcasts) brings a sense of quiet and calm. And, when the music is on, you get excellent sound, and the ability to “mute” it to hear announcements from the flight deck or to talk to a flight attendant.
Until I purchased the PowerGen Mobile Battery Charger, I would frequently run out of battery on my iPhone, running to find outlets, and being “grounded” at them until my phone was charged. No more. With this slim, lightweight battery charger, I can charge my iPhone while still on the move around the office or airport.
Now, I never run out of battery life, since the charger holds two full iPhone charges. I can easily recharge it at night while sleeping. Also, thanks to the multiple adapters included, I can also charge my bluetooth iPad keyboard when needed too.
The Arkon Portable Fold-Up stand for Apple iPad is my go to stand for several reasons: it’s light, it’s super compact (when folded up), and it supports many different viewing angles, perfect for all types of airplanes and tray tables.
This stand makes viewing your iPad while flying simple. It also frees up the hand that would be holding the iPad for other things, like holding a cup of coffee!
The ultimate immunity booster, Quantum Super Lysine Plus+ is my go-to supplement for the days before, during, and after any flight. I also take it at the first sign of any symptoms I notice, or if someone in my family is sick.
Three tablets contain this powerful combination of immunity boosters: L-lysine 1500mg, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) 100mg, Garlic (odorless) 200mg, Echinacea Extract (4:l PE) 100mg, Propolis 50mg, Licorice Extract (4:1 PE) 15mg, Goldenseal Root USP (Hydrastis) 15mg.
Of course, I’m not a physician and you should consult yours before taking any kind of supplement or vitamin. That said, I’m extremely happy with the results from this immunity-boosting supplement.
Want to make your seat mates on the airplane jealous? Simply order a cup of hot water from the flight attendant and mix in a Starbucks VIA. I’ve literally had people turn around on an airplane and ask me how I got such great smelling coffee. Sure, it’s instant coffee, but it’s actually quite good – much better than what is served on the plane (see an independent review from Hivelogic). I’m actually surprised Starbucks hasn’t struck a deal yet with major airlines to carry VIA onboard.
Starbucks makes VIA in several flavors, including Columbia, Italian Roast, House Blend, and Decaf. So, you can pick the one that’s best for you. Try some on your next flight, and it will make it just a bit better.
At the Hotel
With so many illnesses connected to dry nasal pathways and a general lack of humidity on airplanes and in hotel rooms, it just made sense to me to buy the Air-O-Swiss Travel Humidifier. It’s lightweight, uses readily-available bottled water, and has an adjustable humidity output setting. Combine that with a calming blue internal nightlight, and lightweight housing (it weighs just 1.5 pounds), this travel humidifier delivers.
Since I started travelling with this product, I’ve noticed I feel generally more fresh in the morning. And, paired with the travel neti pot (see below), I have a double whammy to counteract the dryness and airborne contaminants so prevalent in airplane travel and hotel stays.
First highlighted in my article, How to Sleep Better Tonight, the Bucky Shades Sleep Mask has been a mainstay of my sleep routine for years. Comfortable, adjustable, and great at blocking out light, this eye mask is a critical component of my hotel routine.
Since you never know what type of room, view, or lighting you will get, the Bucky Eye mask brings some certainty to uncertain conditions. And, with it’s calming, cushioned facial pads that sit right below the eye, you will be quickly transported to dreamland.
I have been a fan of the neti pot for several years, and for good reason: it works. Neti pots help you flush the nasal passages with a saline solution to clear them of bacteria, allergens, and other airborne junk. The Waterpik Sinusense Squeeze Bottle updates the traditional neti pot with a lightweight design, and ability to apply gentle pressure to improve the flushing effect.
This squeeze bottle also comes with 60 saline packs formulated with aloe vera and eucalyptus for a soothing feeling after use. Of all the formulations I’ve tried, I’ve found this saline pack to be the best. Simply add distilled water and a packet to the squeeze bottle, shake, and you’re ready to use. Another great perk: the 60 saline packs are small, lightweight, and perfect for travel – you can grab just what you need for the trip and nothing more.
As I mentioned above, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so please talk to yours before starting a neti pot regimen. You can also learn more from WebMD.
In my quest to reduce the volume and weight of what I bring on a trip, I found humangear GoToob Travel Bottles. These food-grade, 100% BPA-free, lightweight, high quality tubes are a TSA-approved size and can carry any of your liquids.
I use them for shaving cream and toothpaste, so neither large container needs to travel with me. And since they are squeezable, I can get the same dispensing effect at a significantly reduced size.
In the Office
Quick survey for the guys out there: who likes sitting on a wallet all day long? That’s right, no one. The Speck CandyShell Card Case eliminates the wallet and simplifies your life.
This case features a card slot to hold 3 cards (think: drivers license, credit card, debit card) and has a very secure holding apparatus inside. After many months of use, my case still holds cards securely.
Just like all CandyShell cases, your iPhone is protected by a hard exterior shell and a cushioned interior. It will save your iPhone from occaional drops, bumps, scuffs, and other wear.
I’ve been a Moleskine fan for years, and have a bookshelf full of my old notebooks. I’ve tried nearly every variety, size, cover, and paper type, but have settled on the Moleskine Squared Soft Notebook Large size. The paper quality is outstanding, it’s lighter than the hard cover variety, and the boxed pages allow multiple ways to clearly organized notes and drawings.
While some folks scoff at me when I walk in carrying a traditional notebook along with my iPad, I still believe writing on paper is the best way to retain what you are thinking and capture ideas quickly. These notebooks are where I capture decisions made and next steps from conference calls, video conferences, and other meetings I attend, to ensure my meetings don’t suck.
I’ve tried many pens over the years, and know you can pay significantly more for better pens. But, since I lose them and misplace them all the time, why bother? Instead, I choose the Uni-Ball Vision Elite Micro Point Roller Ball Pens. These high-quality but relatively low priced pens deliver a great writing experience and work well with the Moleskine notebook above.
Other pens leak when cabin pressure changes on an airplane, but not these. That alone is reason to buy them. But, they also look great, write smoothly, and have a cap (which I like since it minimizes accidental writing on clothes, skin, bags, etc.).
I hope these products, and tips for using them, help make your airplane, hotel, and office experience much better than it is today!