What goods+services will make my travel easier?
November 18, 2012 4:41 PM   Subscribe

In the next few months I anticipate much U.S. domestic air travel for job interviews. What sorts of goods and services can I acquire (or put on my holiday wish list) that will make the traveling part of this process easier?

Here's some of the things I already have am 100% satisfied with:
  • Suitcase: Briggs and Riley Baseline 18" Carry-On Expandable
  • Eagle Creek Pack-it folder (for nice shirts and trousers), cube (for other clothing), and toiletry bag
  • spare toiletries so I can keep my bag packed at all times
  • Little mesh bag for small pieces of electronics
  • ThinkPad X220
  • iPad 2 with Smart Cover
  • Logitech presentation remote
  • spare computer, phone, and iPad chargers
  • Mendeley Pro
  • Evernote Pro
  • Expensify (free version)
  • Applied for NEXUS membership which should hopefully get me access to TSA Pre Check
Thinks I am considering upgrading, changing or replacing:
  • "Personal item" bag for laptop, iPad, and 3-1-1 liquids freedom baggie—my current backpack probably doesn't look so professional. I'm thinking of switching to a leather or ballistic nylon messenger bag. One that would be convertible to a backpack so as not to overly strain one shoulder would be best.
  • Laptop case (or maybe the bag would have this integrated so it would be unnecessary, and could do it in a TSA-friendly manner)
  • Monoprice external microUSB battery—works great 90% of the time; doesn't work at all the other 10%; charging both battery and phone simultaneously is unreliable
  • Linear three-outlet power replicator—having a cubic one with outlets on three sides might be compatible with more wall warts. Or it might take up more space
  • TripIt (free version)—doesn't seem like upgrading to pro is a big win?
  • basic membership in frequent flyer programs—I am an AA member and I travel on Alaska and American most often but can't guarantee that I will always fly on them. Therefore $120 for an AA Gold Challenge doesn't seem that great. Nor does membership in the Admiral's Club ($500) or Board Room ($450) seem useful enough to overcome the cost
Any suggestions or thoughts on these? Think my reasoning above is faulty? Other things that would make my life easier/better? Buying somewhat pricy things that I can use for a long time is an easier sell than something expensive I will only get access to temporarily, or a credit card that will incur an annual fee after the first year (or require me to ding my credit by canceling it).
posted by grouse to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Buy and keep a comprehensive set of toiletries that duplicate those you have in your home bathroom, and keep those in the toiletry bag. Saves time locating things and packing. Likewise you may want to buy a duplicate set of other common things like socks, underwear, etc and leave those in the luggage.
posted by thewalrus at 4:45 PM on November 18, 2012 [7 favorites]

TSA Pre-Screen via Global Entry if you are based in a city with the program or you will going to cities who have the program.
posted by JPD at 4:49 PM on November 18, 2012

Depends on your field, but I go to a reasonable number of academic conferences, workshops, talks, etc., in CS-ish fields, and I see Wenger backpacks (e.g.) everywhere. They're durable, quite comfy, can (depending on contents) be stuffed under the airline seat in front of you. Definitely not un-professional where I am, anyway. Maybe that is engineers though - although I am not an engineer ...

Non-iron dress shirts.

I have small foldable noise-cancelling headphones for flying, and working while flying. Obviously not as quiet as the ear-defender types, but will stuff into a small backpack pocket, and the active cancellation does great with jet rumble. Remember to take AAAs.

I have a semi-rigid laptop case that packs inside my backpack. Forgot who made it, and the logo is indecipherable. It appears to have corrugated plastic inside it, with a ripstop cover. It is very light. It can double as a laptop rest to stop my legs getting hot.

I have a Sansa Clip Zip, love the non-DRM file management system, micro-SD upgradeability, and also the built-in FM radio, for when I am bored with my gigs of music.

Letter-size clear plastic wallets to organize and keep separate flight schedules, hotel details, maps, receipts, etc.

Also things like rec stuff (e.g. swim wear for the hotel pool). I also usually take a pair of flip-flops for in-hotel use (versus socks and shoes).
posted by carter at 5:23 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bobble water bottle with built in filter for refilling in airports.
posted by bq at 5:23 PM on November 18, 2012

Bose QC 15 noise cancelling headphones are one of the best flying-related gifts I've ever gotten. You won't even realize how much more relaxing flying can be until you try them.
posted by willbaude at 5:25 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Neck pillow and sleep mask. Seriously. Took me from "can't sleep on planes" to feeling like I was practically in my own bed for < $30.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:37 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kind of optional, but a 3.5mm stereo extension cable (e.g. 6 feet) for plugging music players into the aux ports on hotel radios, tvs, etc.

Some sleep masks have semi-rigid bulges over the eyes, I kind of prefer these.
posted by carter at 6:44 PM on November 18, 2012

Loose comfortable trousers with a drawstring or a non-metal belt. Slip on shoes.

These make going through security a lot easier.

Earplugs and a good sleepmask - good for the flight and noisy hotel rooms.
posted by srboisvert at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Suitcase Scooter
posted by Sophont at 6:50 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm keying on the part of your question about traveling for interviews. That makes me think that you'll be doing a lot of either long day trips or quick overnight trips (trips < 24 hours at any rate) and really don't want to check a bag, ever. I'm also assuming that you will be at least sometimes renting cars and driving to company locations for the interviews. Based on that, I would make the following suggestions:

- It looks like you are thinking about a roll-aboard and a laptop bag. My first question would be, do you really need the laptop? I've pretty much stopped carrying a laptop on business trips and have reverted to an iPad. That may not work for everyone, but worth considering.

- I'm finding that just about every flight is full these days, at least for my usual flights on Delta. Meaning that if you have a roll aboard and a laptop bag, there is a chance that if you are boarding later, there won't be any bin space left for the roll-aboard and it will get checked. These days I'm carrying one bag that, in a worst case scenario, can fit under the seat if it isn't overpacked (a Tom Bihn Aeronaut). Like b1tr0t, I've also got a Timbuk2 Commute (black/black/black, natch); if you are going the roll-aboard + messenger bag route, I can highly recommend it.

- If you are going to find yourself driving to interviews rather than taking a taxi, you might think about using your smartphone as a GPS. I'm on an Android myself, so the built-in Google Navigator app is fine, and I usually pack a car charger. I haven't figured out a good solution for how to mount it on the dash in a rental car, but I haven't looked very hard, either.

- What is your solution for internet access? I tether to my smart phone, but that is a battery drain. You might also think about a Boingo Wi-Fi plan.
posted by kovacs at 6:55 PM on November 18, 2012

Ditto on the Neck pillow, sleep mask, travel slippers, yelp app for locating restaurants, drugstores, etc., also agree with duplicating your regular toiletries so they are ready to go and you don't have to repack them. Magellan's sells leak proof toiletry bags which have saved me a couple times.
posted by Summer Fall at 7:12 PM on November 18, 2012

2nding Bose QC 15 noise cancelling headphones. If you wear those with foam earplugs, a flight is a COMPLETELY different experience. You have no idea how much work your brain does in filtering out all that engine noise for hours. It's exhausting. I wouldn't fly without the headphones anymore. A flight with the Bose headphones is much much much much much more relaxing. It makes such an incredible difference that they're totally worth it. You can get them pretty cheap on ebay.

(Wearing foam earplugs adds just an extra bit of noise cancellation beyond the headphones alone... I like the little bit of extra, and it's cheap.)
posted by kellybird at 7:45 PM on November 18, 2012

Seconding: noise-canceling earbuds; backpack with fold-out holder for laptop, so you won't have to send the computer through separately.

If you're okay with tap water, just bring an empty water bottle. I like a hanging toiletry bag --easy to see and grab the items inside.

To avoid having to steam or press your nice pants, fold them with either tissue paper or dry-cleaning plastic bags between the layers. It'll make a huge difference in how presentable the pants will look when you unpack them. I'm recommending this only because you're going on interviews... it's fussy, but worth it for a few things. Here's a brief video showing how to do it. You don't have to use so many bags; just cut them open and they work just fine.
posted by wryly at 7:45 PM on November 18, 2012

In terms of services, look at whether Priority Pass would work for the places you are likely to go. It gives access to a whole stack of airport lounges and does not depend on which airline you fly (a problem with airline based memberships if you can't guarantee that you will fly that airline all the time). If you search for it in Google, it will always give you a link to buy membership at 20% off. It makes all my flying heaps better because I can go and sit somewhere quiet, use the internet, grab a drink and hang out when I'm delayed or in transit.
posted by AnnaRat at 8:19 PM on November 18, 2012

I find a travel blanket (a compact, easy to fold/roll fleece blanket) super helpful - you can use it as a blanket if you're cold, or as a pillow, or just as a general addition of comfort.
posted by radioamy at 8:32 PM on November 18, 2012

Also, if you're staying in a hotel with a coin-operated dryer, a Dryel cleaning kit will help steam and fluff wrinkles out of your business attire.
posted by invisible ink at 9:06 PM on November 18, 2012

I am about to buy this bag organizer for chargers, phones, etc.
posted by jacalata at 9:10 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find that when travelling my biggest problem is that I have too much stuff.

The iPad and x220 are redundant - ditch the iPad.
posted by Yowser at 9:48 PM on November 18, 2012

Gum. I chew gum on takeoff and landing to help keep my ears equalized.

Also, a non electronic magazine or book, so you have something to read between the time you take off, and the time you're allowed to take out your electronic devices.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:12 PM on November 18, 2012

I've also been travelling a lot more recently, and have found that a combination of two suitcases works very well. I'm using the Tom Bihn Tri-Star and the B&R U116 Rolling Cabin Bag.

The Tri-Star fits nicely in any overhead space, no matter how small the regional jet, and the cabin bag fits under the seat. At the airport, I slip the backpack straps over the rolling bag's handle, and can go easily from terminal to terminal.

Also, I would recommend starting to read the forums at FlyerTalk. If you're not already familiar with them, it's my go-to place for all frequent travel information. In fact, it's where I learned about this luggage combination. You also might want to check out this thread.
posted by neurodoc at 10:39 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Personally, I never carry my personal item bag farther than down the aisle of the plane, so it doesn't matter to me whether it's a backpack or messenger bag or what. The strap on your rollaboard is there for a good reason. Properly positioned, the extra weight balances out the weight of the rollaboard and contents.

While I probably wouldn't pay the non-status rate for the Admiral's Club, especially since alcohol isn't even free, it is invaluable during irregular ops. Rather than dealing with a line of angry customers or the wait on the phone to rebook, the folks in the club can take care of it for you, sometimes before you even know there's a problem. You don't get that sort of help from third party lounges.

I would absolutely do a Gold Challenge if you will be/can mostly fly AA, though. The ability to reserve good seats ahead of time, free same day standby, and access to the priority boarding lanes (and getting ahead in the phone queue, not to mention occasional upgrades and the 25% mileage bonus) are more than worth $120 to me.
posted by wierdo at 10:40 PM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

"how to mount [a smartphone] on the dash in a rental car"

A colleague has one that clips onto the heater vent. Has an adjustable bracket for the phone, he as a larger samsung I think. Looks compact and inexpensive, easier to travel with than a suction cup thing.

(I don't have a smart phone so I always get a GPS when renting a car, so far all the major companies in the US have had them relatively cheap.)

I'm a minimalist when travelling, try to get away with only one carry on bag whenever possible. I'm sick of ironing shirts in hotel rooms though, so I'll check out that Pack-It Folder thing.

If you have a laptop, books, tablet etc. a separate bag to keep those together in your seat is nice if you tend to leave those things in the seat pocket like me. Especially if you are travelling every day for a week or something.

(By the way if anyone has EVER got something back from an airline after leaving it in a seat pocket, please post, I will be astonished for a week.)
posted by thefool at 3:46 AM on November 19, 2012

1997, ATL to Laguardia, left my beeper in seat pocket. They mailed it to me.
posted by Sophont at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2012

I've been using this vent mount for my phone, and it works very well. (Just remember to take it off when you return the car...Or just look for the one I left in Altoona, PA last week...)
posted by neurodoc at 8:59 PM on November 19, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the great answers! Keep 'em coming!

These are academic job interviews that usually involve at least one full day and most times the better part of a second day. I have to drive a presentation from my laptop, and I usually have a lot of material I have to read on the iPad. I would be surprised if I were asked to rent a car ever, but it could happen.
posted by grouse at 9:39 PM on November 19, 2012

I use tripit pro. I love how it organizes my travel and I also get flight alerts. I couldn't travel without it or something like it.
posted by reddot at 6:53 AM on November 21, 2012

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