Travel Tips: Local, In-Country and International

The need to travel often comes with short notice or when you're busy and do not have much time to prepare. This page provides a proactive approach to travel, along with recommendations for gear and a checklist you can customize to your needs. The end result should be travel with convenience and minimal discomfort.

I. Local travel

Local Travel can be described as packing for the office or short trips between offices. It does not involve an overnight stay. Opt for a laptop bag at the office because it appears more professional than a backpack. This is especially true if you are wearing a suit.

Laptop Bag: Find a laptop bag that suits your needs. Open the zippered compartments and consider how the bag would organize your gear. Look for a slot on the back to slide the bag over the handle of your suitcase. Tumi makes high quality bags that wear like iron and have several compartments. The T-Pass feature can be useful to pass through security checkpoints quickly. Each Tumi bag is tagged with a unique marker to help reunite the bag with its owner. Tumi gear can be found at reduced prices on eBay.

Power strip: Carry a power strip with surge protector for trips to conference rooms and between offices. The surge protector is an important component. It protects against power surges that reduce the life span of your electronics gear. Belkin and Monster make good portable power strips.

USB Charger: Carrying a multi-port USB charger enables you to reduce weight by leaving chargers at home. Photive makes a good 6 port USB charger. Plug it into a power strip and charge up to 6 devices at once.

Accessory bags: Pack your laptop bag with two or three small bags to organize gear. That makes life easier.

II. In-country travel

In-Country Travel involves an overnight stay and typically includes a trip to the airport. Airlines allow for two carry-ons. They need to fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

Traveling light
Carry a small suitcase onto the plane if the trip is three days or less. The TSA strictly regulates how much liquid can be transported within the airplane cabin by their '3-1-1 Liquids Rule'. If you are not familiar with that, check their website for details.

Small Suitcase: Purchase a small suitcase that meets the size restrictions of carry-on luggage. Size restrictions vary by airline. Refer to the appropriate website(s) for details. Look for a model with an expandable handle at the top. Slide your laptop over the handle. That reduces the weight you need to carry.

Toiletry Bag: Q-tips, tweezers

Traveling heavy
Check a full-sized suitcase if a trip is more than four days. Most airlines charge for that. Consider packing a duffle bag to bring back gifts or purchases.

Large Suitcase: Purchase a model with four roller wheels and an expandable handle at the top for your laptop bag. Roller wheels are easy to maneuver. Look for a model with an integrated suit bag.

Luggage Scale: The airlines limit the weight of checked bags to 50 pounds. Weigh each bag at home and again at your hotel room. A luggage scale is great for maxing out the weight of checked luggage, making your carry-on(s) lighter.

Consider driving if the destination is within five hours. It ends up being a wash, when you consider the drive to the airport, bus from the garage and the hassle of going through the security checkpoint, the flight and ground travel to your hotel. The benefits are you are 'master of your own destiny', packing is easier, take whatever liquids you want and your clothes do not get wrinkled.

III. International travel

Traveling between countries requires unique preparation.

Passport: A passport is an obvious requirement for international travel. The US Passport Book is valid for international travel by air, sea, or land. The US Passport Card is valid for international travel by air, sea, or land. The passport card is not valid for international travel by air. Refer to the State Department's website for details.

Credit cards: Call your credit card company to determine what they charge for exchange rate in the country you will be traveling to. Let them know your dates of travel. Enable multiple cards for use on your trip in case one or more of them reaches the limit or is mistakenly disabled for fraud.

Cell Phone: Contact your cell phone company to determine what plans are available for travel to your destination country. Provide them with your dates of travel. Carefully track your usage of minutes, data and text messages while on the trip.

International Electric Adaptor:

When traveling internationally, check the US State Department for travel advisories.

IV. Gear, gear and more gear!

I learned about the importance of gear backpacking on the Appalachian Trail and again on the Bataan Memorial Death March. If you do not have gear, it may cause you to suffer. If you have too much gear, it is heavy and that can cause you to suffer. The expression 'plan the work, work the plan' applies here.


Rain jacket: One size too big to accommodate a suit coat or blazer beneath. I pack a black nylon jacket for weight and size considerations. It hangs down to my thighs for coverage. I prefer a hood as well. Black is a good, conservative color (considering a hooded jacket is not business attire).


Tablet: Download movies for long flights. I have an Android tablet, which ties me to the Google ecosystem. I have a library of Google movies, with the option to rent as well. Amazon Prime Membership includes movie downloads at no additional cost. Download movies in advance while at home. Hotel room networks are typically slow. I also had an issue traveling internationally, where Amazon blocked my download with an 'INVALID_GEO_IP' error code.


Note: Comments in this Gear section are based upon my experiences. They should only be used as a data point. Your mileage may vary. Whether gear is 'good' or not is somewhat subjective, especially when it comes to luggage and technology. Please conduct your own research and make decisions based upon the outcome. I posted these recommendations as a courtesy.

V. Travel applications

If you have a smart phone, download applications for the companies you conduct business with (e.g. airlines, rental car, hotels). Establish accounts with each company to earn points towards future travel. Many airlines allow you to use your phone as a boarding pass, if you use their application.

Open Table
Gate Guru
Airline and Hotel Applications

VI. Packing checklist

Here is a link to a packing checklist. It is organized by travel category. I hope you find it of use.

VII. Travel Programs

Travel Customer Accounts: Establish accounts with the companies you conduct business with (e.g. airlines, rental car, hotels). That enables you to earn points towards future travel. Routine travel can result in perks such as free wi-fi or upgrades. Take the time to fill out each account completely. Many of them allow for an emergency contact to be entered. Some airlines allow you to opt into text message notifications to your phone (e.g. schedule changes, gate changes and baggage carousel). If you have TSA PreCheck, enter your Known Traveler Number in your airline profile. All of this will help make your life easier in the long run.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP): STEP is a free service to allow U.S. citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy. STEP provides information about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. STEP helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency (e.g. natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency). STEP also helps family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency. Refer to the STEP website for details.

VIII. Frequent Travel Programs

Global Entry: Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at select airports. Refer to the Global Entry website for details.

TSA PreCheck: If you travel more than twice a year, consider enrolling in the PreCheck program. It enables you to pass through airport security checkpoints more efficiently. Under PreCheck, there is no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. Refer to the PreCheck website for details.

Global Entry members are eligible for PreCheck benefits at no additional fee. Enter your membership number (PASS ID) in the 'Known Traveler Number' field when booking reservations, or enter it into your frequent flyer profile with the airline. Refer to the Global Entry TSA PreCheck website for details.

IX. Pro Tips

Ask for the same hotel room

Use the bathroom before each flight

Store gadgets and small items in small pouches in your laptop bag. Select different styles, sizes and colors to easily find your belongings.

Carry a tide pen in case something spills on your clothing.

Look for unique ways to get from the terminal to your car without taking the shuttle bus. That can save you time and keep you from being squeezed into a crowded bus. In some airports it is possible to walk from one garage to the other, eliminating the need to take the bus.

Have a playlist with positive, upbeat music to play when leaving the airport to drive home. On a good day, it may make you happy and get your blood flowing. On a bad day of flight delays and late arrival, it may be what keeps you awake on the drive home. Have a playlist of upbeat music to play when you drive home from the airport. Something that really makes your heart race...

Carry a tide pen in case something spills on your clothing.

Hair oil shampoo cuts down on weight. They eliminate the need for conditioner and hair gel.

When walking around town, bring a battery pack and a power cable for your phone.

When traveling overseas, pack a duffle bag to bring back gifts.

When traveling overseas, refill your prescriptions before leaving. Ask your doctor for an antibiotic in case you get sick.

Always pack a rain jacket and a small umbrella.

Pack a carabiner in laptop bags and backpacks.

Do not leave items visible in the interior of your vehicle when parking at the airport. This helps prevent break-ins, especially with soft top convertibles.

Use the bathroom before boarding a plane. You'll be glad you did.

Ask the flight attendant for a full can of soda with a glass of ice. They will usually comply with that request.

As you are standing in line for the security checkpoint, take off metal items and store them in your carry-on bag. That helps speed you through the line.

When packing, remember to refill your toiletries (e.g. Shampoo, bath soap and face soap).

Keep full-sized spare containers of each for easy refill.

If you have enough room, pack an extra pair of underwear and an extra undershirt.

X. Cruise Ship Packing List

* Passport / Cruise Ship ID
* Medicine
* Summer attire
* Swim suit
* Formal attire
* Aloe vera, in case you get sunburned
* Shoes: Dress shoes, sneakers, flip flops and closed-toed water shoes
* Wrinkle release spray
[Items listed in the Excursions Packing List below]

Excursions Packing List

* Backpack: Also good for packing souvenirs
* Passport / Cruise Ship ID
* Battery Pack
* Device Charger(s)
* Binoculars
* Sunblock
* Mosquito repellant
* Water Bottle
* Snack bars
* Hat and sunblock
* Light-weight rain coat or poncho

Next steps

Use the checklist to shop for items you need for future travel. Purchasing gear does not need to be expensive. Ebay is my first stop when searching for gear, followed by Amazon and Walmart. Take your time.

I hope this page makes life easier for you. Travel is much more enjoyable if you are prepared.

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