Back in 2017, I revealed, after just a few months working and travelling for Automattic, what I carried with me in my backpack. 2 years on, and many more trips, and that content has changed. I don’t carry everything with me at all times and will modify the bag contents based on where I’m travelling (travel light, you know!).
What has massively changed is the amount of tech I now carry, as I was always lacking a cable or adapter. A much bigger cable organiser bag has allowed me to put all of this in one place but I’ve also taken the opportunity to review what I have and why.
- Apple 13″ MacBook Pro, 2018 model. This is my Automattic-provided laptop and I genuinely love it. When travelling, I also use a Kensington privacy screen with it.
- My current notebook of choice – a lined, A5 Kokuyo soft-ring. I like a ringed notebook as they lay flat but they will often be uncomfortable as your hand or arm sits over the rings – the Kokuyo uses a soft ring that flattens when pressure is put on it.
- A Clairefontaine pencil case. The contents of this, I recently wrote about.
- Bose QuietComfort 35 Bluetooth headphones. Very comfortable and with a great sound, where these really shine are with their noise suppression, so are very useful on planes and trains. Also in the case is a lighting to headphone jack cable, for when on flights I can’t use Bluetooth and need to connect it to my iPhone (yea, I forgot it last time so couldn’t use them) as well as a set of EarPods (just in case).
- Umbrella. Because I’m still English 😉 A windproof, auto pop-up brolly for when I get caught by the inevitable rain.
- Hoxton travel pass holder. As my wallet but a rather splendid travel pass holder – whether for plane, train or bus tickets this keeps everything organised.
- My passport in a fetching leather WordPress cover!
- A small Rollbahn notebook with Cross ballpen – I keep these in the small compartment on the front of my backpack for easy access.
- Samsung Galaxy Tab A tablet (shown here with magnetic cover). I use this purely for entertainment – I’ve put in a large capacity SD card and download movies and TV shows before travelling. I chose this particular tablet for its expandability, full HD screen and value for money.
- Boots Dry Eyes Eye Mist. Contact lens friendly and able to spray on even closed eyes, this is great for the inevitable dry eyes that you get when flying.
- This rather splendid red packet contains two data-blockers from PortaPow – female USB-A to male USB-C and female USB-A to male USB-A. Use this for charging equipment when you don’t trust the source – the blockers ensure that only power is supplied and no data connection can be made. Essential for airports and hotels!
- Nintendo Switch. Yes, I’ve upgraded from my 3DS and now travel with the full-blown Switch. Shown here in the official case, it contains pockets for a number of games.
- Hoxton slim leather card holder. There’s room for receipts and notes as well. Most of the time, the only cards I now need when travelling are my Tandem and Monzo. Monzo is my current account and I use Tandem for my go-to credit card.
- Apple Watch charger and power bank. People love this when they see me with it. It’s basically an Apple Watch charger that also has a power bank built-in, meaning that, when charged, you don’t need to plug it in. With a clip on it, you can take it anywhere. And it’s cheaper than the official Apple Watch charging cable.
- Flare ISOLATE Earplugs. Not designed for sleeping in but when you need to shut out the sound around you in normal life. As I suffer from sensory overload, this can be particularly useful in noisy environments.
- kalibri Business card holder. In a smooth, brown leather, these aren’t as good as the Hoxton accessories but, until they make a business card holder, this will have to do. It holds a lot of cards and also has a number of additional pockets on it too (essentially, it can replace your wallet too).
- A Qlipter – a rather neat carabiner that you can twist and configure in all sorts of ways. Handy for hanging bags off of.
- Ralph Lauren Glasses. If the eye mist isn’t enough and I need to ditch the contact lenses, I always carry my glasses with me. These Polo branded glasses in red and matt black are rather smart.
- Ray-Ban Justin sunglasses. With a matt-black finish, I really like these.
- The Aer Fit Pack 2 backpack. This is the latest backpack provided by Automattic to its employees. It has a very large front section and a useful shoe holder at the bottom, which I tend to use for water bottle storage (just in case it leaks).
There are a few items missing here – they’re items that usually go in another bag (and transferred to my backpack, as required) or I only occasionally travel with.
- Fidget spinner. In an attempt to keep my hands still when they need to be, this is a useful distractor. This is a high quality version made in a heavy metal – so heavy, I keep it in my main luggage during travel and only put in my backpack when at my location.
- House key with Tile Sport, bottle opener and small screwdrivers. It’s been nearly a year since I bought one so I’m not sure how much life it has – I’ll be buying another one, though. I buy the sport for its extra volume and extended findability!
- Braun alarm clock. When staying in hotels, I often find they no longer provide any form of bedside clock – I find using a phone for checking the time in the night to be too disruptive. You can’t beat this clock, which has a white-on-black display. I keep this in my toiletries bag.
- Bose Soundlink Colour Bluetooth speaker. This is the first generation model, splash-proof instead of waterproof, but I got it for half price from a local Bose retailer. Superb sound and you can connect multiple devices to it via Bluetooth. I’ve got it in a smart case, which also holds the charger and cables.
- Luggage scale. Travelling, I’m paranoid about going over my weight allowances, so I always carry this compact, digital luggage scale.
- Philips Sonicare DiamondClean. 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.
- Rechargeable Desk fan. This is rather handy, USB powered fan that I might take with me if I’m not staying in a hotel (so, an Airbnb, for example) and are going somewhere quite hot. I don’t sleep well if I’m hot so having this on me at night is a great compromise.
Hold on, where’s my water bottle? I’ve always carried one before but, you know, I never end using it. I can’t use it pre-getting on a plane then don’t get a chance after that to fill it. Once at my location, I often end up with a free bottle anyway. However, for when I will need one, I’m currently keeping my eye on Stay Sixty for their new models.
What’s in my cable bag?
Not shown in the main picture is my cable bag which is now rather large but carries so much of what I used to pack separately. I also now take the opportunity to carry other items as well. Made by Bagsmart, it has multiple compartments and is available in a number of colours (mine is grey and matched my backpack nicely).
I read something a while ago (I’m sure it was by Matt Mullenweg, but I can’t find it anywhere now) about the perfect sizes of cables and I now, where possible, pack a half metre version and a shorter one, usually around 16cm.
The only downside – airport security scanners don’t like it! Make sure you open it up fully and remove any screen-based devices before putting it through the x-ray machine!
- Half metre USB-A to USB-C cable.
- Half metre USB-A to lightning cable.
- Half metre USB-C to USB-C cable.
- Apple EarPods.
- Apple USB 3 to USB C converter.
- Two items here..
- Apple lighting to headphone jack cable
- USB powered LED light.
- HDMI extender. Useful if you can’t get a Chromecast or similar to plug directly into the original port.
- USB OTG cable. Has a micro-USB cable on one end and female USB-A on the other.
- Half metre USB-A to micro-USB cable.
- 10cm USB-A to lightning cable.
- Universal charging cable. 6 different connecters makes this great for slipping in your pocket for whatever you may want to charge.
- As 11.
- 5 items are held loosely in the zipped, netted areas…
- Assorted USB converters. The converters are Victsing USB 3 and micro USB to USB-C. There is also a micro-USB to mini-USB adapter too.
- A Sandisk USB-C memory stick (32GB)
- A Kingston dual USB-C and USB-A memory stick (32GB). This is my stick of choice for backing up my speaker presentations – that way, whichever device I need to restore from in an emergency, this should connect.
- A cleaning cloth.
- SIM card converter kit. A neat collection of SIM adapters, an ejector pin and even a sanding card for getting your SIM to the right size.
- This section has 3 card slots (from left to right)…
- A Three sim card (and adapters), which includes a rolling small but free data plan.
- A FIDO U2F Security Key. Because you honestly can’t have enough security.
- Toshiba Exceria Pro 64GB SD card. As a spare card this is ridiculous to have sitting around so I’m probably going to swap this out at some point.
- Apple AirPods. For the money, these are excellent quality. I keep mine in a brown, leather protective case.
- Card reader. I have no idea where I got this from now but in the side are slots of SD and Micro CD card. At one end is a USB-C connector. On the other is a combined micro-USB and full-size USB 3 connector. All of this is wrapped up in a metal shell.
- Apple Watch charger – this is the one that comes with the watch itself.
- Retractable, WordPress-branded multi-connector. Provides USB charging to micro-USB/lightning and USB-C. And the ends glow.
- USB re-chargeable LED torch. A decent torch is essential and this is great – LED powered, it’s extremely bright. It has different lighting options and, when you take the end-cap off, it has a male USB connector for quick charging.
- ReTrak extending ethernet cable. For those moments when the hotel ethernet is far superior to the WiFi!
As the bottom section is just a jumble of items, it’s not something I can number, so here is a list of what’s included…
- Jetpack power bank. Made by Jackery this is a 6000mAh power bank with a built-in torch. Nicely portable and convenient.
- Screwdriver, with swappable tips.
- First generation FireTV stick with remote control. Great for a late night movie back at the hotel!
- First generation Chromecast.
- Assorted leather cable straps. Made from off-cuts, these are great for when you need to tidy up those cables!
- GP Charge Anyway. This is a combined power bank and battery charger, which make it incredibly handy. All of the remote controls, etc, that I carry have their batteries removed for lightness and then I use them from here, when required.
- Cable Matters USB C Multiport Adapter. This is useful for presentations, as it provides numerous display options.
- USB-C mains adapter for the MacBook Pro.
- Folding Apple USB main adapter (used when travelling within the UK but, otherwise, removed).
- Belkin phone holder.
- OneAdaptr TWIST+ World Charging Station. This twists (hence the name), causing the mains pins to alter configuration, basically allowing you to modify it to plug into various electrical sockets around the world. On one side is a connector for your MacBook adapter (and it works on the old and new adapters too) and then there are 4 USB ports too. With everything, bar my MacBook charger, only requiring USB then this is the only travel adapter I need to take. In the picture, my MacBook charger is already connected.
- USB-C to USB-C cable (i.e. the one that goes from my MacBook charger to the MacBook itself).
- ReTrak extending HDMI cable, complete with mini-HDMI adapter on on end.
- Long USB-A extender – basically, male to female USB-A.
- Logitech R500 Presenter. Great for presentations or, at team meetups, where we’re doing group calls, this is a laser pointer and remote presenter. Unlike cheaper alternatives, this allows you to re-program the buttons (so I use it, for example, to toggle the mute in Zoom for those groups chats I mentioned). To protect it, it’s stored in a hard case.
Finally, there is a middle compartment of this bag which holds my Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (3rd Generation) – my reading method of choice when travelling. I take advantage of services such as BookBub to get books at sale prices, so I’ve always got a large library available at any time.