Making travel just a little more pleasant

This year, I’ve been on the road more than ever, which is one of the perils of working as a consultant.  Over time, I’ve accumulated a variety of junk that I haul around in my bag to make life a little bit easier while away from my home base.  One colleague likened my bag to Mary Poppins’ magic bag (which I am hoping was meant as a compliment!).

This is a departure from my usual food/CPG industry writing, but I know there’s many readers who travel as much as I have, and I hope you can find a little something useful to take away, or find something to share with a frequent traveler in your life.


1. Pencil case: Carries many of the pens and other tiny things in this photo. I have the Nomadic PE-08, which appears to have been discontinued and replaced by the PE-18, but any small case will do.

2. Umbrella: It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is terrible to be caught in the rain.  I carry a Lewis N. Clark umbrella.

3. Power strip: This might be the most useful things in my bag.  It converts a single power outlet into four.  I’ve made many friends in airports and meeting rooms when we all need to charge up at the same time.  My model is discontinued (and it has a piece of electrical tape on a part that lights up, which was very annoying in dark hotel rooms), but some like this Accel model, which includes some USB ports.

4. Back up power: I can get about 4 iPhone charges out of my old Anker, and newer ones can charge 7 times.  I can get about 75% charged in 30 minutes.  It’s a life saver when a call goes way longer than expected and your battery is almost dead – and you’re not anywhere near a power outlet.  I’ve loaned this charger to coworkers and even strangers and it has made their day.

5. Tide pen: This can often remove a stain without much residue. And I drop food on myself all the time.

6. All sorts of charging and connectivity implements:

7a. Writing implements: My favorite pen (Uniball Jetstream), a highlighter, and a Sharpie (not shown).  Sometimes some whiteboard markers if I expect it to be useful.

7b. Mouse: If you have the luxury to work at a table top or desk while on the road, Logitech’s Marathon Mouse makes it so much more comfortable to mouse around, especially if you’re doing a lot of Powerpoint.

8. Headphones: I buy at least two of these at a time because I seem to lose them.  My Panasonic earbuds are great, and I wrap them around a wrap thing from Sumajin, which keeps them from being a big jumble in my bag or pocket.  I have a bag of extras of the soft earbud tips at home because they seem to fall off and get lost.

If you want to splurge, the Bose QuietComfort noise-cancelling earbuds are ridiculously amazing. It’s amazing how much of the world they can filter out on an airplane or in a noisy airport or train. The earbuds work nearly as well as the giant headphones and take up a fraction of the space in your bag.

9. Medicine: I hate needing to track down a place to buy common medicine when an ailment strikes.  I keep ibuprofen, Immodium, and cold/allergy medication in my bag.  There’s no reason to carry the full container, and I’ve found these small baggies to be a great way to carry a few doses of each with me.  You never know when something is going to strike, and it’s helpful to have some common stuff on hand without taking up too much space. The baggies go inside my pencil case. I also like to keep a cheap nail clipper with me in case of an annoying hangnail or neglected long nails.

10. Notebook: I’ve liked the Moleskine large notebooks for a long time, and the Evernote edition is great, in that you can snap photos of pages and they import to your Evernote account.  There’s even some handwriting recognition that allows you to search handwritten notes.  It’s not perfect, but when it works, it’s so cool.

Travel extras

Some other stuff not shown:

  • Snacks: I have Kind bars (madagascar vanilla) and GoodnessKnows bars just in case I need to eat.  Sometimes it’s tough to fit in a meal before a meeting, and having a boost of calories at the right time can be very helpful.
  • Shaving: At 0.5 oz, this shaving oil takes up so much less space than a shaving cream container.
  • Airport security: Sign up for PreCheck or Global Entry.  It makes the security process so much more pleasant.  No worries about removing liquids, placing your laptop in a bin, or taking off your shoes and belt.  It’s like a throwback to how security was in the 1990s.  PreCheck is $85 and valid for 5 years but only works in the U.S.  Global Entry works in the U.S. and some places outside the country, too, and it costs $100.  (I signed up for PreCheck before learning about Global Entry, so I’m less familiar with it, but it seems worth the extra $15 if you ever plan to travel outside the U.S.)

(Note that I’ve chosen these products through my own trial & error, and most of these links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Are there any travel hacks you’ve found? I’d love to have you share them in the comments.


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