My day job involves traveling around northern Europe and occasionally further afield. I often get little notice of where I’m going, or how long I’m going for. This makes for a lot of trudging along train platforms and across departure lounges. Hauling too much stuff around is guaranteed to ruin my day. Traveling light becomes a necessity, not an afterthought. To make this nomadic existence as painless as possible I’ve gradually refined my packing techniques. Even though you didn’t ask, I thought I’d share it with you.
The first rule of traveling light is don’t over-pack. The second rule is, well you get the idea. Everything should have it’s place, and if you don’t use it every trip (or can’t replace easily) then it shouldn’t be in your bag.
- Awesome luggage is awesome. For years, I struggled with crappy luggage that fell apart or was just too bulky. This year I finally invested in a set of lightweight Samsonite spinner cases. Easier to handle than my old “wheely” case, they take up much less of my precious luggage allowance and are much easier to handle. Paying retail for luggage is a mugs game; even online there are few real discounts. I’m lucky enough to have a Samsonite outlet nearby, and if you don’t mind last years model or a selection of “interesting” colours, then it’s money well spent.
- eBags – These wafer-thin but strong bags are brilliant for packing. Rolled shirts go in the big bag; unmentionables in the smaller. I can easily pick out a shirt without disturbing the others; unworn items are easily repacked. I think carefully about what I take; at least one spare shirt, but seldom more than that. I’m occasionally shanghaied into making dinner invitations. Having something more suitable than a “Frankie Says” T-Shirt (original) is a good idea. For the bags I’ve chosen bright yellow as it’s highly visible in water; the bags make an ideal makeshift distress signal when my budget airline inevitably ditches me in the north sea.
- Foldaway knapsack – This cost me £5 from an airport shop, it’s usually used it for laundry. However it’s useful to have something that looks like crap when I’m wandering dens of scum and villainy looking for my hotel. Incidentally, I’ve never been mugged (touch wood) when traveling but I put this down to my crazy eyes and murderous appearance.
- Toiletries – Apart from the usual, I carry a custom first aid kit:
- Cold/Flu remedies (no caffeine!)
- Antihistamines (non-drowsy)
Painkillers can be sourced easily, but I’ve had real trouble finding effective cold remedies and antihistamines. Having a supply that I know won’t make me ill or drowsy is important. Also Imodium. ‘Nuff said. Electrolytes are also useful if the customer has insisted on sharing with me and my credit card the local firewater.
- Canon G9 – My phone has an excellent camera, but on the occasion when I’m off-site before 11pm, it’s nice to take some photos. The older optical lens still beats the digital zoom hands down. The G9 is small & light enough for my laptop bag and looks like a circa 1990 35mm. If it got pinched, the loss would not be devastating. The battery is good for 300 shots, so I don’t need the bulky charger.
- Sony Xperia Z1 – Although this phone has been superseded, it’s definitely the best smartphone and probably the best phone I’ve ever owned. Battery life is 36 hours if I’m careful, 24 if I’m not. Sat Nav; Guidebook, MP3 player (via 64GB SD), mobile hotspot, usable browser and excellent compact camera all in one. And it’s freaking waterproof. I have two weeks of water park holiday photos to prove it. These days if I had to choose between my laptop and that phone, it’d be the phone.
- B&O Beoplay H3 / Sony MDR-1RNC – I own more headphones than I suspect is entirely reasonable. I replaced my ancient A8s with the H3s to avoid taking a separate hands free kit. It has been pointed out to me that I tend to yell when using noise-cancelling headsets, but these are perfectly fine for short haul. If I’m going any distance, I’ll take the Sony MDRs as well, but they are pretty bulky.
- Kindle Keyboard 3G. – Obviously.
- Sony Vita – Optional item, if I have it I tend not do anything useful (like blogging) in the evenings.
- Logitech MX Anywhere mouse – The only mouse that’ll work on those stupid glass-topped desks they put in hotel rooms.
- Cable-board thingy. I’m not totally convinced of the utility of these things; my laptop power supply doesn’t fit and I still use an eBag for cables.
- Assorted cables – I have complete set of “native” chargers for UK, Europe, and US. International adapters are dead weight; I always break, loose, or forget them. To minimize weight and tangles I prefer short cables, and I always have a reliable CAT5e.
- Copper and Fibre SFPs – Some of the kit I work with has no native copper. It’s not unusual for me to arrive on site to discover a SFP deficiency; so I carry a couple of spares. SFPs are not typically available over the counter, and even next-day delivery is a roll of the dice.
- CAT-5e couplers – I don’t use them often, but again, difficult to obtain at short notice. Especially useful when A) the desk you are working from is far from the rack B) the customer blames the firewall for his network woes. The coupler wins these arguments faster than any packet trace.
- Teabags. This is only real concession to home comforts. The filth described as “English Breakfast” served my most hotels is not fit to fill my toilet, so I always bring a supply when traveling.
Conspicuous by their absence:
- Serial / USB adaptor. My last three laptops didn’t have one, so I’ve learned to live without. All the kit I’m responsible for can be configured via an Ethernet cable, or in extremis, USB. Having managed without them for so long, i consider them bad luck; if I need one I’ve really screwed up.
- Tools/Screwdrivers. I can’t take them in my hold luggage and the customer always “borrows” them from me. Most importantly, I don’t do lifting. My back has never needed an excuse to leave me prostrate on the floor, and humping around 25KG+ firewalls is a very good one. Also, I can’t see the point of paying a consultant to do the job of cable monkey, when I could be doing something vital like making tea.
- A MacBook. Yes, I use Windows. An actual engineer that still does engineering things with Windows.
So snide comments about my choice in desktop operating systems apart, what else do you include/exclude in your travelling bags?