Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wear Long Pants, Avoid Overhead Bins and other Hard Earned Travel Tips

I just finished Science of Ultra's Travel tips podcast. While much of the advice was pretty standard, I'm sure I picked up a new tip or two. The podcast certainly got me thinking: what are my top travel tips to share with others?

In that spirit, here they are. After reading my suggestions, be sure to check out Science of Ultra's Travel Resource Page.

  • If possible, sign up for TSA Pre. With Pre-check you can nearly neutralize one of travel's most annoying steps: the security line.
  • Consider purchasing a 6-in-1 USB Wall Charger Thingy. This turns the one outlet you can find in your hotel room into an easy to access charging station for all your USB powered goodies.
  • Buy a reputable travel guide and use it as a planning aid before and during your trip. No doubt there was a time when travel info was scarce and a travel guide was a critical source of on-the-ground information. Now we have the opposite problem: there's so much information available it's often hard to see the signal through the noise. A Frommers Guide or the like cuts through this and gives you a coherent picture of a destination.
  • On the day of travel, don't just pack snacks, pack meals. One common piece of travel wisdom is to not rely on airplane or airport food while traveling. Bring snacks, they say. Go one step further and bring complete 'meals.' Yes, meals, plural. Travel always seems to cut across multiple mealtimes. Note, a meal isn't a fancy affair--it's just a group of foods that meet whatever caloric and nutritional needs you're striving for. Last trip this involved bringing a Clif Builder Bar, a Pro Bar, Powdered Oatmeal and a ziplock baggie of pretzels. That covered my calories, carbs and protein for both second breakfast and first lunch.
  • Live your travel essentials. Rather than keeping travel gear boxed up and only deployed for trips, get as much use out of it as possible during 'regular life.' There's nothing worse than busting out a battery backup only to find that the battery no longer holds a charge. Or reaching for your headphones only to realize they're not in your bag. I keep these essentials in my Man Bag and they come in handy on a regular basis. When I find myself depending on them, I've got confidence they'll deliver.
  • Blog your trip. This is probably the most important and the hardest advice to follow. Publishing an edited record of your travels has two key benefits. First, no matter how moved you are by a destination, the memories quickly fade. By forcing yourself to create a written record of the trip you'll help stem that memory loss. The second advantage is linked to an observation I made years ago while reading Bill Bryson's travel books. Bryson's books are among the funniest I've ever read. We're talking laugh-out-loud uncontrollably funny. I realized that while Bryson was a sort of professional traveler, his adventures were far from flawless. In fact, it was often the flaws that made for the best parts of the story. I realized he was on to something: I could be frustrated when things don't go right while traveling, or like Bryson, I could use those mishaps as fuel for stories. Blogging about your travels lets you literally follow this advice, elevating your mishaps to something greater. In the past I've blogged my trip during the trip itself. But I've found that: (a) I'm usually too exhausted to do this, and (b) my time is better spent being in the moment and savoring the trip, rather than worrying about documenting it. Instead, I take copious amounts of photos and whenever I get a few minutes scribble notes in my pocket notebook. When I return from the trip, I recreate a narrative from these two sources.
  • Travel in long pants, t-shirt and something long-sleeved. It doesn't matter if it's 95°F at both the departure and arrival cities; it's almost certainly going to be frigid on the plane or in the terminal. My favorite travel outfit includes Unionbay Pants, Hanes Cooldri T-shirt and a Columbia long sleeve button down shirt with extra large breast pockets. And as per the advice above, I wear these clothes when I'm not traveling, too.
  • Bring the digital essentials. This includes movies, audio books, maps and other digital content that's weightless yet invaluable. See my Digital Packing List for more information.

And finally, here are two pieces of travel wisdom I've learned from Shira:

  • Avoid using overhead bin space. Luggage should either be non-essential and checked, or crammed under the seat in front of you. The overhead bin is a trap: you have to stress about getting access to one. And if you do manage to get a much coveted spot, you lose easy access to your belongings. Pro tip: don't be 6' tall and require leg room.
  • Optimize what you pack for happiness, not weight. There's a philosophy that says the less you bring the happier you'll be. Shira's not buying it and slowly but surely, she's winning me over. When you travel you should pack what's going to make you happy, not to win some arbitrary packing contest. Take our last trip: we stayed in a suite with a full kitchen and wanted to eat healthy meals between splurging on fun restaurants. The result was that we brought our Airbnb kitchen setup, which contains things like a full sized frying pan and pot. Was it heavy? Heck yeah. However, the benefit of being able to easily cook high quality meals for a week outweighed the hassle of dragging a heavy bag to and from an Uber for 10 minutes.

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