In a couple of days I head for Montreal for the annual company meetup, the 11th trip I’ve taken with work in the last 18 months. Now, I’m not a seasoned, back-packing traveller but having to regularly head out, for anything from a few days to a week, I’m already getting pretty used to the whole experience.
And, having exchanged tips with colleagues, and also seen some panic on those not so used to this life yet, I thought I’d share some of my own advice.
Tip 1: Don’t Panic
Follow some of my advice and hopefully it won’t all be a last-minute panic.
Tip 2: As the Scouts say, “be prepared”
Plan not just for a specific trip but generally. My wife may mock me for it, but I have a spreadsheet I use with all the items marked on that I may need, along with tick boxes to confirm they’re actually packed. I can specify quantity and also whether it will need charging beforehand. There are tabs for my toilet bag, back pack, hold luggage, etc.
Also, consider making things easier for yourself by not having to search around for everything at the last minute. I have a ready-to-go toiletries bag, for example, and a number of other low-cost items that I have duplicates of, just for this purpose. Keep these in your suitcase as well as things you’ll only ever need when travelling (e.g. travel adapters – see below for my recommendations).
Tip 3: Schedule everything
As early as you can, do all you can – book hotels, transport, etc. Then use something like Todoist to remind yourself nearer the time to do “all the things” (packing, checking-in, etc).
I generally don’t do anything further about a trip until a week beforehand (for the bigger ones – probably just a few days for the shorter ones). Then I’ll do a consumables check – make sure I’ve got enough toothpaste, shower gel, etc. To be honest, I make a concerted effort AFTER every trip to check on this before putting everything away again but a double check before the next event is always reassuring. This gives you a week to replenish stock. Oh, and I’ll dig out my passport and ensure it’s in safe place.
A few days beforehand I’ll do a final wash of clothes that I’ll need, knowing they’ll be dry in time. I’ll also start charging everything that needs to be.
Finally, I pack the day of the trip or, if it’s early, the night before, knowing that I have everything I’ll need.
Tip 4: Learn balanced packing
By this I mean the fine art of not packing too much but also not to pack too little. I can usually go a week without having to resort to washing any of my clothes (not because I leave them on for days and stink but because I’ve bought enough to last me). I could never be one of those people who travels for a week with just a back-pack. But equally, I’m not one of those with a massive suitcase either. For items that you really need one of a day (underwear, for instance), I generally pack one for each day plus an extra spare.
I use packing cubes, which not only help compress your clothes but make it easier for you to lift sections out and re-stack. I also have an assortment of different sized suitcases – that way, if I come to pack last minute and the one I intend to use is not big enough, I can quickly upsize without any panic involved.
As a rule, my suitcase usually weights about 11-12Kg (weight limits on airlines are usually around 23kg).
Tip 4: Only carry what you need
And, by this, I mean whatever is about your person for the trip. So, if flying, this related to any backpack, or similar, that you’ll take onto the flight, rather than your hold luggage. In this I carry my electrical items plus anything I need for the flight – noise cancelling headphones, Kindle and dry-eye spray (which is the only thing in a plastic bag that I need to identify during security, as all other liquids are in my hold luggage).
This means I’m carrying as little weight as I really need to. In the past I have been known to have all sorts of items in my back pack – remember, that you can easily change over what’s packed where when you arrive at your destination.
Tip 5: Travel for comfort
As mentioned in the previous tip, I ensure I have to hand any item that will make my journey more comfortable. But this also extends to your accommodation. Hotels can be pretty sterile at time but will end up as your home whilst you’re away.
I’ve not got to the point of putting up family portraits in my room to make it more like home, but I do what I can do to make it more familiar and more friendly. For example, I carry a FireTV stick and Chromecast (older models that have since been replaced at home) with me for entertainment. I also carry a bedside clock (a tiny Braun model) as many hotels don’t provide these.
Also, consider your comfort if you may spend any time in your room other than just sleeping. I’ll often take a pair of lose, joggers to wear (as I would do at home). A colleague takes slippers.
Tip 6: Plan for the worst, hope for the best
Luggages sometimes goes missing, particularly during those tricky flight transfers. This is why many people prefer to pack so light they don’t need to put anything into the hold. Which is an option, but can be inconvenient. There are 2 things I do to try and reduce stress around this happening…
- The Tile tracker that I usually have on my house keys, I throw into my hold luggage. Sat on the plane, before takeoff, I can then confirm that my luggage is onboard using the phone app. This also works when you’re stood at the luggage carousel and can tell when your luggage is nearby again. The downside to this… if your phone doesn’t identify your luggage, whilst sat on the plane, what do you do? For the majority of the time, though, this won’t happen and will give you peace of mind.
- Place a small packing cube in your cabin luggage containing a t-shirt and underwear. That way, if your hold luggage does go AWOL temporarily, you have a change of clothes.
Tip 7: Travel adapter recommendations
There are 3 types of travel adapter I would recommend – you don’t need all 3 but which ones you may need will be down to choice.
- TWIST+ World Charging Station – twist the side to switch between different plug configurations. Has 4 USB sockets and the ability to connect a MacBook charger to it (all variations work).
- SKROSS World Travel Adapter – like the TWIST+ this has configurable pins but has a main sockets on it rather than a MacBook connection. Also 2 USB ports.
- Lencent USB charger – this does one thing and that’s charge up to 4 USB device. Comes with a number of interchangeable plugs for worldwide use.
Tip 8: Other travel item recommendations
- Go Travel Bottles – these are soft, refillable bottles, ideal for travel and incredibly easy to use, dismantle, clean and everything else. I use 2, for shampoo and shower gel, and simply refill when I get home. If you get nothing else, I’d highly recommend these.
- CHOETECH Apple Watch Portable Charger – whenever I travel with this, people are asking about it. It’s a combined power bank and Apple Watch charger, which happens to be cheaper than a spare official Apple Watch charger (which requires power).
- USB rechargeable torch – you should always have a torch and one that can be recharged, wherever, via USB is incredibly handy. The downside is that it doesn’t hold a charge for very long so you’ll need to charge is up before you leave.
- Philips Sonicare DiamondClean – yeah, this is quite specific. And expensive (I got mine during last year’s Black Friday sale). This is my everyday toothbrush but also comes with a carry case for when travelling. So far, so normal. Except this has a USB port in the bottom of the case, allowing you to charge up the brush from within the case.