Friday, May 15, 2009

My Must Have Traveling Tools

Peter Shankman, of HARO fame, recently published an insightful blog post on his favorite traveling tools. There's plenty of good advice and suggestions here.

I think my favorite suggestion has to be his taxi idea:

Final option, and a personal fave: If the cab line is long and you haven’t made alternate reservations, do what I do sometimes: Go up to the front of the cab line, turn to the line, and shout, “Anyone going to (my hotel name)? I’ll pay for it if I can join you! It’s almost guaranteed that someone will be, usually within the first ten people on line. You were going to pay for the cab anyway, why not avoid the hour on line, and as a bonus, do something good for the environment? And don’t give me crap about how that’s “not fair.” No one is preventing EVERYONE in that cab line from buddying up. I just choose to do it, they all choose to stay in line like business-travel lemmings. Choice. I haz it.

Here, in order of importance, are the items that I do my best to never leave home without:

  • A sleep mask. It's amazing how a $3.00 sleep mask can turn a nightmarish trip overseas trip into one where you can actually get some zzzz's. Works great in hotels rooms or sleeping in the car. This is a must have.
  • At least one safety pin. Trust me, you'll need this one day. Have it ready.
  • A device for playing music (a $15 mp3 player works fine), and a couple hours of recorded chill music, and some noise canceling headphones. Combine this setup with the sleep mask, and you can turn almost any traveling conditions into one that's relaxing and sleep-able. For bonus points, throw a podcast or two on the device for more entertainment.
  • A handful of energy bars. For longer trips, I like to stop by Whole Foods and pick up a nice variety of bars. Between airlines not serving food, and never quite having enough time between layovers to eat, having a compact source of nutrition is invaluable.
  • A notepad and pen. Genius might strike - you better be ready.
  • A guidebook to the area I'm traveling to. Typically, I just visit and buy the Frommer's book. Or better yet, check it out from my library. At times, these books can be clunky to lug around, but they've more than earned their place in my carry on. Especially in a foreign country, that guidebook may be your best and only source quick of information. Need a restaurant in a hurry? Have a few extra hours to kill and want a site to see? What's the rules on tipping? Is there a town nearby to check out for an excursion? Oh, and I almost never read the book ahead of time. That would take away all the adventure.
  • A book to read for entertainment. Every once in a while, I think - I've got my phone, a computer, a music player - when am I going to actually need a book to read? And yet, every trip there's times like takeoff and taxiing where all the electronic gadgets have to go. Every time I leave a book at home, I vow never to do so again. The perfect traveling book is lightweight, related to the area you're traveling to, and hilarious.

I think that's about it. If I've got the above items, then I know I have a fighting chance at a restful and enjoyable trip.

What are your essential items for travel?

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