Travel tips

Here’s a braindump of tips for making frequent travel more fun:

  • Learn a little of the language and culture. Look up interesting phrases. Check out a city’s attractions. Read some of their news. I usually check Wikitravel before I go to a different city. If a different language is spoken there, I’ll use Pimsleur or Web-based resources to learn a bit of it. It’s good mental exercise, and you’ll appreciate the place more.
  • Get to the airport early, and plan to do some offline work while waiting. Most airports will have power adapters, so you can still work on your computer. Internet connection may be spotty or expensive, though. Getting to the airport early beats worrying about traffic.
  • Pack light. Really light. Carry-on-only light. If you can avoid checking things in, you get into and out of airports so much faster. You can take advantage of the web or kiosk check-in and you don’t have to stand in line in order to drop your bags off. You can zoom out of the airport without standing around at the baggage carousel. Oh, and you don’t have to worry about lost luggage, either. It helps to have a backpack or a small rolling suitcase, and a large purse or a convertible bag (backpack / shoulder bag). Watch out for sizes. Some regional flights have under-seat spaces just a bit smaller than the standard carry-on rolling suitcase, and the overhead bins are very small. Elle sells a rolling suitcase that fits snugly under the seat on those small regional airplanes.
  • If you’re carrying two bags, try to get on the plane early. Overhead bins tend to fill up because people use those instead of putting their things under the seat in front of them. If you get in early, you can put your stuff into a bin close to your seat. If the bin next to your seat is full, put your stuff into a bin closer to the exit, so you can grab it on the way out. Do this before you reach your seat, because it’ll be difficult to go back with all the people coming into the plane.
  • Bring a jacket or a sweater on the plane. Cold flights are no fun. If you have an extra layer or some other soft thing, you can also fold it up for lumbar support. If your back tends to ache during flights, putting a folded sweater in the small of your back can help a lot.
  • Wear socks or travel slippers during your flight. You may be asked to take your shoes off during the airport security scan. Clearly, socks are a good thing. Also, your feet can get pretty cold in-flight, and socks can go a long way towards flying more comfortably. Travel slippers are great because they’re a bit sturdier and not as tight as socks, making it easier to walk around in the cabin or sleep in your chair. If you don’t have travel slippers, socks or sock slippers will do in a pinch.
  • Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to get dehydrated on long flights. Ask the flight attendants for water at least once an hour. You can ask them to pour you two glasses. You could also try bringing a wide-mouth water bottle and asking them to fill that, although I’ve never tried it myself.
  • Get some exercise. Get up and stretch your legs. Drinking plenty of water tends to help with this, as does picking an aisle seat so that you don’t feel guilty about waking people up.
  • Bring noise-isolating earphones. You can usually plug them into the airplane’s sound system. Use them to block out most of the noise from crying babies or  indicate that you don’t want to be disturbed.
  • Build in some breaks. It’s too easy to spend all your time doing business when you’re on a business trip, simply because there’s nothing else to do. Try to spend some time wandering around and enjoying the place you’re going to.
  • Meet up with friends whenever possible. Having dinner with friends makes business trips a lot more fun. Staying over with friends beats interchangeable business hotels any time. =)

More? =)

  • I can’t emphasize enough how important that second last point is about building in breaks and exploring the place you’re staying. I’ve been on long business engagements where I’ll spend weeks or months at a time in the same city, and if all you’re doing is work, it gets really dull pretty quickly.

    I make a point of trying to get out and walking in the city whenever possible, just pick an interesting direction and walk that way. Follow the crowds – ask bartenders and waiters/waitresses what’s good to see, where is good to eat, and what to do that’s fun on a weeknight.

    While I’m all for working hard when you’re staying somewhere on the client’s (or your company’s) dime, I find it impossible to generate any interesting or creative ideas if all I’m constantly doing is working.

  • Victor

    I tend not to use the in-flight entertainment (low or high-tech incarnations) too much so I have two little tips:

    On newer jets, a lot of seats – even economy – have a USB port. Bring your cables for charging your NDS, iPod, phone, media player, etc.

    Organize your in-flight stuff before you get on. For long flights, I have books, headphones, gadgets, cables. I will bundle them together so that they’re in a small bag that I can shove under the seat or grouped so that I just take them all out and plunk them onto my seat before I put my bag into the overhead. I hate that feeling of holding up the aisle traffic when I’m pulling out my ‘entertainment’.

    If you’re a guy (I find a lot of women don’t use pant pockets the same way), keep as much stuff out of your pant pockets and in your coat or travel pouches, doc holders, etc. In tight quarters, you’ll appreciate every mm of spare room you have. That, and by keeping stuff out of your pockets, it’s quicker getting through security. The dumping and retrieving of miscellany can be awkward.

  • I cannot overstate the importance of a neck pillow. It allows you to comfortably sleep while sitting in a seat so you don’t get those awful neck cramps from propping yourself up at odd angles! That and drugs. Gravol to take the edge off of nervous flyers like me! :)


    • Neck pillows are good, particularly ones with nice soft covers. Cheap inflatable ones become uncomfortable, polyfill ones are sometimes to be too soft for properly supporting your head, but there are some inflatable ones that are fairly sturdy and comfy. Don’t fill it all the way up. Leave a little bit of “give”. I have the Eagle Creek Travel Pillow, I think. The big air valve makes it easy to inflate or deflate, which is good.

      Sometimes I forget to bring it along. Some airplanes have adjustable head rests so that you can fold the sides forward, which is handy.

      Sleep masks are _great._ If you can get one that’s a little tighter than the freebie masks they sometimes still give out on long flights, that’s handy, as masks can slip off and get lost while you sleep. Darkness helps make sleep more restful.

      Travel blankets are also a Very Good Thing.

      Traveling with W- is _much_ nicer than traveling by myself. I can sleep on his shoulder. ;) We had a lot of fun bringing a Y-splitter, plugging both of our earphones into it, and watching the same show together. That said, I only get to do that on our personal trips. To make solo business trips a bit easier, I give myself things to look forward to. For example, I only play Nethack (an old computer game) when I’m traveling, so there’s something to keep me busy at airports. I bring my own hot chocolate packets for emergencies, too. I also write more postcards when I travel. Little things make travel more fun.

  • Hi Sacha – here in a link to even more tips for frequent traveler … from Jeremiah