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Some of my travel hacks

I travel a considerable amount every year and have developed various hacks to make my life easier. I figured I should document some of these so others may benefit.

Travel gear

For the last few years I've traveled with nothing more than my Minaal carry-on. It's the best piece of travel gear I've owned. I can comfortably pack enough for two weeks (+ laptop and other supplies). If I stay longer than two weeks, I often airbnb which means I have access to a washer and dryer. With essentials that stay in the bag, I can be ready for most trips in minutes using a few packing cubes. I've traveled over 200k miles the last couple of years with nothing more than my Minaal. I've recently also started carrying their smaller version (the Minaal daily) as my day pack at my destination.

Tech Dopp kit

My tech dopp kit of choice is the Peak Design Tech Pouch | (video review)(I also love their camera gear!). This compact and practically designed bag holds my Plugbug, Anker phone brick, cables, adapters, dongles, Advil and other misc gear in a compact way. This also works easily with my camera straps in case i needed a small bag.

Power

Most world power adapters available on Amazon just suck. They are clunky or never seem to snugly fit in loose EU sockets. I've spent way too much time propping electronics up with books and kettles available in my airbnb. Sometimes I even pack a bit of masking tape to secure plugs in sockets. My preferred solution is Twelve South's PlugBug World.

It allows me to swap out the connector on my Macbook Air (or Pro) charger for appropriate country. Additionally it comes with a USB port that charges phones and tablets much faster than the standard 5v connector that Apple provides. Also, it saves the need for carrying around additional chargers.

  • Pro: It has two usb-c ports and one USB-A port. It packs more power than the Anker PowerCore+ (below) and can charge my MacBook pro and two other devices at the same time. I can charge it back with my MacBook charger and the whole thing weights a lot less than Anker's largest power brick.
  • Anker PowerCore+ 26800 This is my backup/secondary power brick.
    • Pro: Can charge two devices simultaneously and multiple times. Never be stuck at one of the few power outlets at a conference.
    • Con: It's a bit on the heavier side and takes almost overnight to fully recharge.
  • A USB condom - Most charging outlets, especially rental cars/airports can easily download data (your contacts and photos for example) without any warning dialog. Attach one of these to prevent data transfer while allowing charging.\

Gaffer tape is magic 💫

  • I love gaffer tape. so much. I started using it for my photography but soon realized it's excellent for air travel. Have you ever tried to charge a laptop from the outlet between the seats? How often does your leg fall asleep from holding the brick in place so you can keep charging? Secure that with gaffer tape. Have you tried watching a show on your iPad awkwardly holding it or propping it on the tray table? No more. Gaffer that to the seat (a few double sided loops will hold even my 12" pro quite securely) in front of you (even over the shitty low res United screens). Then peel everything off, leaving no residue.

Sleep

I do my best to minimize jet lag by hacking my sleep (yes I realize this sound a bit douchey). The suggestions that follow are probably not appropriate for most people. Warning: Your mileage/metabolism will most certainly vary and I recommend speaking to your medical professional first.

a) If you're landing before noon at your destination (TLDR: Sleep much of the plane ride)

  • Eat a substantial meal at the airport. Try to avoid eating on the plane as much as possible.
  • Read a book or watch a movie (or do anything else to stay awake for a couple of hours), then take an Ambien (you'll need a prescription from your doctor first), and fall asleep. Make sure there are at least 6 more hours on the flight so you'll have time to wake up before landing. It really sucks to be grogy while clearing passport control.
  • Have coffee at your destination, then eat a giant greasy breakfast.
  • This allows me to stay up till past 10pm at my destination and my cycle is reset when I fall asleep. I sometimes take half an Ambien the first night to make sure I stay asleep through the night.

b) If landing at destination late afternoon to evening:
There is no set recommendation here but don't sleep much on the plane. Definitely nap for a couple of hours here and there but stay awake and watch as many bad movies as possible. Limit or avoid alcohol. Then eat a light dinner at destination and take an Ambien and get to bed at 10pm or after. You'll comfortably wake up at 6 and have a great day.

Other useful sleep stuff

Wifi

Hotels rarely have a simple wifi setup. It sucks to go through a splash page every few hours and on every device. Make your life easier by bringing your own router that all your devices recognize and instantly connect to. I recommend NetGear Trek.

This amazing little device has a built in plug (or use USB power), can take ethernet or connect to wifi and is fairly small.

a) Plug ethernet cable into your router, plug router into wall. All your devices are instantly connected
OR b) Plug router into wall. Connect to router and go through the splash page once. The device keeps the connection alive so you don't have to do this every time you come back to the room.

I also own a TBMAX router. It's much more compact but powers only off of USB (it's easy to connect to a iPhone power brick), but has the downside of not being able to navigate splash pages.

Ziploc for extra cash, transit cards, power tips

I have a Ziploc bag for a few countries I travel often where I keep loose change, local currency, transit card that I can just grab for every trip back.

Sim cards

Verizon's global plan is a total and complete scam. Telestial, which I keep as a backup (balance never expires) works in most countries but is exorbitantly expensive.

Always grab a local SIM card where possible. Most local sims are shockingly cheap. As of June 2017 roaming between EU countries is free of charge, so you can use a single sim for traveling within Europe.

Keeping your voice

If you're traveling, especially to a conference, you're going to be speaking to a lot of people. It's very easy to lose your voice on day 2. I've found Fisherman's Friend to be the best defense against that. You can buy a large box on Amazon for pretty cheap and leave little packs all over your carry on and day packs. These are strong and take a long time to melt and keep your throat well coated.

Misc first aid

I keep a small travel first aid kit (from REI) in my travel bag at all times. I also keep a pack of unit dose packs for 5 most commonly needed medications and update them as needed.

Apps

  • TripIt Pro (besides the standard features, I always find an alternate flight [same or different airline, including how many/what seats are available] as soon as I know of a delay. TripIt also tells me about gates long before most airlines update airport displays).
  • Hotel Tonight - works for last minute deals on nice hotels the same day/week. Using my code KRAM12 gives us both $25 off.
  • maps.me - Free offline maps, including transit directions, for nearly any place in the world. Navigating rural Norway without cell service has never been more fun.
  • iArrow - Helps me find my way back to things (losing a rental car or your tent is fairly disconcerting).
  • Loungebuddy - Find the nearest lounge in unfamiliar airports.
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