Need a list of essential gear for frequent business flyers
August 30, 2012 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Need a list of essential gear for frequent business flyers

I just started a new technical sales/support job where I literally get to travel the world about every two weeks or so. I'm in the tech industry so I have to bring my laptop everywhere i go. I also use a carry-on and laptop backpack instead of a normal laptop bag.

I'm constantly lugging around my iphone, external hard drives, cables ,etc. For all you frequent travelers out there: what essential gear can you not live without when traveling the globe?

I was thinking about the following items but need some recommendations on models/brands:

- Grid-it for cable management:

- some kind of external battery/power pack for powering my iphone/laptop when juice is running low.

Any other gadgets/organization items/ or tips tricks that I absolutely have to know about????? I'm a closet nerd so dont be afraid to geek out
posted by deeman to Travel & Transportation around Dubai, UAE (32 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Small power strip, so you can plug all those devices in without having to have adapters for all of them.
posted by mskyle at 4:42 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really good earplugs.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:43 PM on August 30, 2012

This Belkin mini surge protector (or a similar one, but this one's great) -- has USB slots, and is great for when there's a paucity of outlets (say in an airport) and you need to share one.
posted by brainmouse at 4:48 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cables: I use ziploc gallon bags.
Extra power: mophie juice pack (cheapish, charges my phone/evdo up enough)

You absolutely need a EVDO mifi - it's way cheaper than paying for airport and hotel internet access. This is the one thing that I will turn around and go back for if I ever forget it on the way out the door.

Kindle or ipad for reading/movie watching/whatever; good headphones (I like etymotic earbuds as they block out everything); a Briggs & Riley roller suitcase (lifetime warranty! The handles run up the outside of the back of the suitcase so you get a flat packing surface! Well thought out pockets! I wish I got a commission from them or something, I've convinced so many of my friends to buy them).

Also in my kit:

Starbucks card in the outer pocket of my suitcase so I can get a coffee without fumbling for my wallet, black backpack that my purse and laptop go inside, cashmere wrap for chilly planes, EO lavender wipes
posted by lyra4 at 4:49 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Not tech, but picking up one of those cheap neck pillows in the airport changed my life.

You may think you "can't sleep on planes," but add a good sleep mask to a neck pillow and I bet you can.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:52 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

1) Power strip is key. Plus a zip case with two adaptors per system.
2) Apple Airport Express (for turning wired broadband into wireless broadband)
3) Depending on where you're going, a VPN provider
4) DropBox Pro account for backing up
5) A friend of mine swears by HyperJuice
6) Two pairs of headphones – over-the-ear for the plane, comfortable earbuds for conference calls on the go.
7) iPad (perfect for when the phone is too small and the laptop is too big)
8) 2 x big USB sticks
9) Headlamp flashlight
10) Airport Security Zen Discipline: no laces, no belt, consistent empty luggage pocket where you dump the contents of your pockets immediately before getting the tray. You will thank you. We will thank you. The people behind you with the wailing toddler will thank you. Don't be that guy who shows up with laced tight shoes, an experiential belt, 40 different coins in the pocket. And oh, oops, I forget my keys. Oh, but I don't want to put them somewhere I'll lose them. Which pocket should they go in? Not that one, they'll scratch the iPhone. Never be that guy.

BTW: get to travel the world may well be highly correlated with I just started.
posted by nickrussell at 4:58 PM on August 30, 2012 [7 favorites]

The thing I always forget to pack is an audio cable. Most rental cars and hotel radios have an aux-in jack nowadays.
posted by ckape at 4:58 PM on August 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

(healthy-ish) Snacks you like. Flights will be delayed. You will have hunger.
posted by bilabial at 5:01 PM on August 30, 2012

The Briggs & Riley suitcases are bombproof and fantastic. Seconded.

Slip-on shoes for quick getaway after security. On preview, nickrussell nailed it more thoroughly than I could have.

A checklist for packing up, so you don't accidentally leave a charger cable/razor/whatever behind in a hotel room and have to scramble for the rest of the trip.
posted by ambrosia at 5:03 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Global Entry.
posted by herrdoktor at 5:08 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Audio cables - 2:
1 1/8 inch to 1 1/8 inch
1 1/8 inch to 2 x RCA

Divide into phases (aka plastic zipping 'pencil case' style pouches):

Phase 1: On the go
iDevice-USB cable, iDevice charger, ear-buds.

Phase 2: Airplane Mode
Macbook Pro charger (with 12V adaptor), over-ear-headphones, earplugs, NyQuil

Phase 3: Overnight hotel / house party
power strip, one set of power adaptors, Airport Express, audio cables

Phase 4: Home Away From Home
Hard drive/FW800/cabling/adaptor, jambox, camera charger/cabling, other set of power adaptors, extra iDevice–USB cable, iDevice charger, ethernet cable

In the hotel, everything is stacked according to it's phase, for those "OMG it's 10:59 and check out is at 11" wake-ups.

When traveling a lot, discipline and organisation are your best friends ever.
posted by nickrussell at 5:15 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

(1 1/8 inch = 1/8 inch. been a long day.)
posted by nickrussell at 5:20 PM on August 30, 2012

Power strip is so necessary. When you'redesperate and people are crowded around a wall outlet, your power strip will make you THE GREATEST PERSON EVER.

I always wish I had a better way to separate my rental keys from my regular keys that have my Verisign token on them. Also a way to store work receipts.
posted by mckenney at 5:24 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones. They are incredibly effective in shutting out the sound of the plane and other passengers when you want to read, work, watch a movie or sleep. My favorite travel investment, and there are always lots of other people wearing them on any given flight.
posted by bassomatic at 5:38 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd make sure I had the following tucked away in my carry-on, to prevent accidental misery:

A couple packets of kleenex
Those packets of soap sheets
A little first aid kit with bandaids, sterilizing wipes, etc.
A pill bottle with a couple advil, tylenol, allergy/cold pills, pepto bismol pills
A sewing kit (one from a hotel will do)
A shoe buffer (one from a hotel will do)
A Tide To-Go pen
A mini deodorant
A couple nut-free granola bars/chocolate bars (some places ban certain nuts).

As a woman, I also find it good to pack the following "just in case":
- Makeup samples (mini mascara, one-use eye shadows)
- Face cleanser & moisturizer samples
- Any other trial-sized hair/facial/perfume/bath thing for a little luxury.
posted by lizbunny at 5:44 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm traveling on business in Brazil right now, and in my opinion less is more. I travel with one carry-on bag and one slim backpack (laptop) no matter how long the trip. Here's the tech that I have with me:

- 13-inch MacBook
- iPhone and tiny USB-to-outlet plug charger
- USB drive
- small, sturdy external drive from Other World Computing
- camera and its charger
- minimalist headset for Skype
- in-canal earbuds for iPhone
- Kindle and its USB charger
- compact travel power strip
- plug converter, depending on the country
- video adaptor if I'll be giving a presentation
- ethernet cable

I use to bring an Airport Express but used it only once, and it wasn't all that necessary then, but I tend not to use the internet in bed or anywhere other than sitting at a desk or I would lose all control.

Random thoughts:

Back ups in three forms because you never know:
1: important data in the cloud (for example, JungleDisk)
2: important data on a USB thumb drive, encrypted, kept in a pocket on your person
3: a complete, bootable backup on an external drive kept in a separate bag from the laptop

Encrypt your hard drive or at least the portion that contains client data and your sensitive data.

Travel docs: I keep photos or scans on the iPhone and on the USB drive, encrypted when possible.

You need Tripit!
posted by ceiba at 5:46 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to like rollers, but now adhere to more the onebag philosophy of no wheels and a shoulder strap. I will often use my black messenger bag for my one bag, but you may prefer a more formal style. I also prefer to keep my laptop in that one bag, and not have a separate case for it that I have to keep track of.

In my opinion, a set of good earbuds with a microphone replaces A) earplugs B) huge noise canceling earphones C) any aux cables (my earbuds will probably sound better than whatever system is available for me to plug in to), and D) a bluetooth headset. All this in a tiny pouch.

Always have your own wireless network connection if possible (MyFi, tethering, whatever) . You don't have to use it all the time but it's a really nice backup even if you have alternatives.

Keep in mind that the phone you use is going to be heavily dependent on where you're going.

Consider a wallet that can hold various currency sizes; I've found that my US-sized wallet doesn't quite work as well for some currencies.

I like to learn a few phrases in the language of where I'm going. Nothing special, just polite stuff like please, thank you, excuse me, yes and no, hello and goodbye.

Have backup plans for money. Money solves many, many problems. This applies to things like "Don't keep all your currency in one place", and things like "have various forms of credit card/bank account in case they freeze a card or two for suspicious activity".

Be ruthless about what you carry. Even if you're using luggage with wheels, every little thing is one more thing to pack and keep track of.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 6:02 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, yeah, to expand on what ceiba mentioned above: assume that you'll have to give your computer to officials to be searched in every country (including the US) upon entry. Probably also storage media, although that's getting more inconspicuous and easier to overlook. This means that A) someone will see everything unencrypted on your computer, and B) backups are even more important.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 6:06 PM on August 30, 2012

I am going to share with you the greatest travel tip ever, distilled from years of experience.

A cube-shaped triple-tap outlet adaptor (aka 3-way splitter) available from any hardware store for a buck or two.

The 3 outlets are on different faces of the cube, so big things plugged into them don't interfere with each other, unlike a 3-way horizontal adaptor where one wide (or tall, depending on orientation) plug blocks more than one outlet.

In domestic travel, this thing will let you charge your laptop and phone and you'll have one outlet to share with other weary airport travelers.

In international travel, this turns your single foreign power adaptor into three, three, three sources of power!
posted by zippy at 6:24 PM on August 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Hi from my hotel.

Travel Organizer for dress shirts/pants. Maybe I just don't know how to fold things properly, but having one or two of these is a huge help for me.

nth the headphones/canalphones. Also either the Mifi or a smartphone that tethers.

Check to see if your laptop has an "always on" USB port that can charge a device while the laptop is in standby. I can recharge my phone multiple times off of my laptop battery and barely notice the hit to my laptop battery (although I don't do a lot of work on the plane).

Not really part of the question, but make sure you're a member of all airline frequent flyer programs, hotel programs, and rental car programs. Pick one line of each and stick with it religiously.
Most road warriors I know will go to seemingly excessive lengths to ensure that they are accumulating points in their program of choice.
posted by hot soup at 6:35 PM on August 30, 2012

Seconding the following, as I'm in a similar line: Belkin doohickey, Tripit, gallon plastic bags. I also carry a small toolkit (basic screwdrivers, knife, and a few other tools that're specialized for the company gear I travel with). I've got an energizier 4000mAh battery for recharging my phones (one biz, one personal). I have a kindle for reading on planes, an iPad for computing on planes-- there's just no room for a laptop on that tray-table. (Why do I own both? Both were gifts, and I prefer reading on the Kindle.)

Wetwipes for hot places. Always bring extra cables.

A dedicated envelope for receipts-- I use a plastic one from the drugstore. If you get a sketchy receipt, take a picture of it in its best condition in best light.

I keep blank cards (cut down index cards) in my business-card-case for scribbling names, numbers, notes, receipts, but that's because I haven't mastered note-taking on my phone-- I'm just old. US-size business cards work fine in the west, but can suck in the east, so have something ready to take cards from contacts which odd-shaped cards. Learn the two-handed technique used in some east-Asian cultures to hand over a business card-- by comparison our one-handed offer seems flip.

Don't run out of cards, dammit. That first order of 250 seems like it'll last an eternity, and then you hit the trade shows...

Learn from your fellow coworking travelers the following: best airline miles programs, hotel chains, Airports to avoid. Book your own flights, but never use your own card, if a company card is available.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:41 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

My minimalist, go anywhere kit, domestic version, good for trips of arbitrary duration:

- iPad + keyboard (I have a Mac Air 11" but no longer travel with it; the iPad is Good Enough and stays in my bag at airport security. Also runs forever on a charge)
- Unlocked GSM Smart phone that doubles as a Wifi access point (Wifi tethering makes the Mifi and Airport Express redundant)
- wall chargers for above
- no more than 4 days of clothes, rolled
- toiletry ziplock
- in-ear noise blocking headphones. Etymotics at the high end, or Phillips at the low end. Dual use as ear plugs.
- everything goes into a Chrome Metropolis messenger bag as carryon.

- if dress shoes needed, worn. lightweight sneakers in bag.
- if suit needed, rolled loose and placed in bag last, on top of everything.

For outside the continent trips, add only:

- triple-tap outlet adaptor
- a two-prong local power adaptor. The cheap and minimalist kind.

I have an excellent rolling bag, but I haven't used it since I found I could fit everything into the (large) messenger bag. And that bag is nice enough I can use it at my destination to carry around my computer gear while all my clothes are at my hotel.

The bag also has a detachable liner, so I can keep dirty and clean clothes separate if I have to move from hotel a to hotel b between laundry days.
posted by zippy at 11:55 PM on August 30, 2012

Hand luggage: keep it essential and minimalist. Carry with you:

- the things that will enable you to do your job
- basic hygiene (inc toothbruth and toothpaste), change of underwear, medications you need to take.
- Most importantly in your hand luggage -- and I cannot stress this enough -- WET WIPES. Make sure they're the ones you can clean your backside with. They're also great for wiping down strange toilet seats and fittings, cleaning up messes, wiping down dirty aircraft tables.
- breath mints. Your breath will likely be not quite so fresh after a few hours in a plane with dry air.
- tissues
- I've just bought a Lenovo T430 with extended battery life and the travel charger which also charges phones and other things. It's freed up a lot of space in the carry-on as the cables can become a bit unruly in there.

Main suitcase: I found the best way to keep organised was to use the Eagle Creek packing cubes. They keep the case in order and you can see if there's a gap in the spot in the case where the packing cube should go whether you've forgotten anything. Get every size and shape. Work out a system for your underwear, dirty clothing storage, toiletries.

Make sure you have a packing cube for all those extra bits like:
- analgue alarm clock. It's likely you won't be able to find a spare power outlet in the hotel or one by the bed for your phone, so be prepared for this. It never hurts to have a backup alarm clock anyway, and it's good when you walk into the hotel room after a day at work to be able to see the time straightaway on a clock.
- Swiss Army Knife
- medications
- phone chargers


- if you're a man (I can't speak for the ladies, sorry!), if you can, buy and use King of Shaves shaving oil. These tiny bottles last for about 60 shaves and work great.
- Buy a good razor and protect the head.
- Pack TWO anti-perspirants/deodorants. You can never be quire sure when they're about to run out, so always carry a backup.
- Dental floss: carry two or three as these run out quickly. Buy a whole load at once when you can so you can top up when you get home.
- If you use an electric toothbrush, carry a spare head, the charger, but don't forget the simplicity of a regular toothbrush. Your electric one will die at the most inconvenient moment!
- a small pair of very sharp scissors for nose hair and everything else like cutting off dry-cleaning labels.
- buy a really highly engineered awesome set of tweezers.
- pack one or two of those tiny soaps you get in hotels and perhaps one small bottle of shampoo. Do not buy shower gel or shampoo, as a very well-travelled friend of mine said you can get shampoo/soap ANYWHERE in the world. Just carry enough for a couple of showers.
- more wet wipes!

Buy a very light and strong suitcase. I'm currently using the Samsonite Cosmolite range as they're so light, and weight is a very important consideration both for cost of travel and your tendons..

Camera if there's space: sometimes, you're in a great place you've always wanted to be in and your cellphone just isn't up to the job.

Bose round-the-ear noise cancelling headphones. The best thing for a long flight if you want a bit of peace. They're unfortunately quite bulky so you may not be able to get them in your carry-on, but they're worth it if they are.

Try and buy the smallest carry-on you can, especially if travelling worldwide. Airlines have all sorts of different rules regarding carry-on sizes and weight, so keep it small and light all the time. Don't assume because carrier A took it that carrier B will also take it.

If you can, carry a spare cheap old-style cellphone that has a SIM card provided by a company that does good international deals. If you have a smartphone, you probably won't always be able to charge it, so it's good to have an old-style cell which keep their charge for days and days so you can use that in an emergency.
posted by stenoboy at 12:18 AM on August 31, 2012

SanDisc SD Plus is the single best travel tech I've ever owned. Fits in my wallet.
posted by usermac at 2:01 AM on August 31, 2012

American Express platinum. Its $450 annual fee will pay for itself with its almost universal airport lounge access, not to mention its reimbursement of Global Entry/Clear Pass fees. Its other protections are all icing on the cake.
posted by mhz at 8:41 AM on August 31, 2012

Here's what travels with me from race to race:

Utility pouch (jammed into personal bag or carryon)
* MiFi and TruPhone SIM
* Gryffin USB Mini Cables and PowerTraveller Monkeytails
* Powermonkey Discovery portable battery
* Travel adapter, the aforementioned Belkin mini surge protector, and MacBook charger
* Ziploc baggie with La Fresh, DermaDoctor, Ben's Insect Repellent, and REI wipes, along with blister plasters and bandages
* Levenger pocket briefcase with index cards, sticky notes, and Fisher space pen
* A pair of earbuds for phone conferencing, a set of noise-canceling headphones, and earplugs
* Painkillers, antacids, and other meds stored in snap-top vials
* Flat-wrapped duct tape, carabiners, and paracord woven into a bracelet
* A Big Baggu packable tote that's been waterproofed, plus extra ziploc baggies

My new favorite on-the-go gadget is the bubi water bottle, which can double as a hot-water bottle or ice pack.

For filing papers and other materials on the road, I use Barcelona paper pouches, which have also been pressed into service as impromptu MacBook Air/iPad sleeves.

A passport card is my main form of photo ID when traveling, which lets me leave my passport and driver's license stashed in the hotel safe.

In my dopp kit, I carry solid shampoo, conditioner, and soap. REI make a 3-1-1 bag with a carabiner that I've found indispensable for putting liquids into. Colgate Wisps are small enough to keep stashed around for emergency tooth cleanings.

I'm a big fan of Davek umbrellas.

I organize my suitcase using Spacepaks and compression sacks. Can't sing the praises of Ex Officio undies enough.

Figure out which airlines/air alliances/hotels will work best for your travel needs and get status ASAP.
posted by evoque at 9:25 AM on August 31, 2012

Since you're already a little invested in the Apple ecosystem, an iPad would be high on my list for important travel tools, even with a laptop. It's just too handy and has too long a battery life to ignore. Skip Apple's "Smart Cover" and get one of the many cheap folio covers that allows you to prop the iPad up at a decent viewing angle.

+1 on the Belkin surge protector/USB charger, I use that constantly. Sadly, it doesn't have enough power output to charge the iPad (why Belkin has not remedied this boggles the mind).

Luggage-wise, Tom Bihn and RedOxx make excellent lifetime warrantied super-travel-friendly luggage. It's not the cheapest stuff out there, but the durability and design ethics more than compensate.

I've found the Mophie Juice Pack Air to be invaluable for the iPhone while traveling.

If you're laptop is a MacBook/Air, TwelveSouth makes a handy USB charger with enough power output for the iPad that works stand-alone or piggybacks on Apple's MacBook charger - Saves a plug which turns out to be a lifesaver more often than not.

I'm also a big fan of the Pack-It stuff from Eagle Creek. Their packing cubes are two large zippered pockets back-to-back, makes it really handy to have clean undies/socks on one side and dirty stuff on the other. I put all my "don't need in flight" cables in one of the small Eagle Creek pouches and use retractable cables to avoid tangle, rather than one of the GridIt systems.

Spend a few hours on the FlyerTalk forums for a lot more help.
posted by StickyC at 10:09 AM on August 31, 2012

Clif Bars and a silicone folding cup/bowl from Guyot. (I also asked a TSA guy last time I flew about bringing a spork on board and he said it was cool, so their $5 spork & spatula set may be a good thing. I keep one on my weekday backpack, too.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2012

Nth'ing the Belkin charger and iPad (although the Belkin won't charge the iPad through the USB port).

I like Hefty One-Zip Freezer bag to corral cables, miscellaneous bits and pieces and toiletries. The freezer bags are thicker and hold up better.

Duplicates of toiletries, cables, chargers, underwear, etc that all live in your suitcase will save you time and effort packing.

A reusable packing list will help you make sure you have everything. It doesn't have to be fancy. One of the free shopping list apps can be modified for this purpose.

Pare down clothing, shoes and stuff to the bare minimum. You really don't need all that much, and it will make coming home late on a Friday night easier not to have a heavy bag of stuff you didn't use.
posted by JaneL at 11:47 AM on September 3, 2012

Oh - Forgot to mention! Get a account and the Tripit app for your iPhone. Makes flight/itinerary tracking a lot easier. I usually augment that with FlightTrack Pro, GoGo In-flight, FlightBoard, and as many alternate booking apps as I can find (Kayak, Hipmunk, Expedia, Orbiz, etc) just in case. I've noticed that not all apps update with flight/schedule/gate changes at the same rate/accuracy.

Also, I scan/photograph/email copies of all my travel stuff (tickets, car/hotel confirmations, etc) into a folder in Evernote.
posted by StickyC at 5:35 PM on September 5, 2012

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