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When I travel, I have a personal checklist I use to make sure that I pack what I need and what I want, but not so much stuff that I’m frazzled. This is something I’ve learned the hard way, after doing quite a bit of travelling over the last number of years, and I know it’s something that others also struggle with when they’re headed out on the road.
Travelling can be really stressful, but hopefully, this episode can give you an idea of some of the things you should be thinking about bringing for your own trip.
The Number One Mistake People Make When Packing for Travel
What is the number one mistake people make when packing for travel? You can probably guess what this is, as you’ve likely done it. I know I’ve done it myself. It is bringing too much stuff. If you brought things that you didn’t touch once while travelling, then you have packed too much stuff.
There are a few indications that you’re making this mistake:
- Your backpack straps keep digging into your shoulders while you’re standing in line at the airport.
- Your carry-on bag keeps falling over because it’s too heavy.
- You have a suitcase full but you don’t know where individual items are.
What are the Benefits of Packing Less?
There are three main benefits to travelling lighter.
Benefit #1: You have a better travel experience
When you don’t have to carry a lot of stuff, you know to find where the things you need. You can relax, buy a coffee, and walk down to your terminal. If you have way too many items packed, you can’t have a relaxing travel experience. If you’re travelling multiple times a year, you don’t want to be stressed out the whole time.
Benefit #2: You’re less likely to lose your luggage
Unless I’m travelling with my family, I always try to avoid having any sort of checked luggage, as it tends to get lost more easily.
Benefit #3: You’re less likely to miss a flight
You can also get on and off the plane more quickly. If you have to run through the airport to catch your next flight so you don’t end up getting laid over in Newark for 24 hours or something really crappy like that, you don’t want to have to worry about your checked luggage. You just have your carry-on bag, so you can run and avoid missing your flight.
The GradBlogger Travel Checklist
This is my travel checklist, which you can use for doing your packing.
I try to be pretty minimal here: laptop, laptop cord, and headphones. I also like to bring an external mic so that I can record any podcast episodes on the road. I have a small Rode Lavalier mic that I can place on a table if I want to do a group interview. It’s also a good idea to bring a USB thumb drive so that you can transfer files between yourself and somebody else while you’re on the road and don’t have an Internet connection.
I want to share a tip on cords that I got from high school. When you put the skipping ropes away after gym class, my gym teacher made you tie them in a certain way. You hold the rope out, fold it in half, fold it in half again, and then tie it in a knot. This way, the ropes can’t get tangled. You have this nice little bow, and all you have to do is pull out that one knot in order to use the rope again.
I use this technique with my laptop and headphone cords and just put them in my bag. They don’t get all tangled up and they’re easy to find. It takes literally eight seconds to do and saves you a big headache when you’re trying to get those cords out of your bags to use them.
The last equipment tip that I have is to bring an international adapter. If you’re going to be travelling abroad, having something that converts your power cords over to the international system is really important to have.
The second group of items consists of travel material. One is your passport. If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll need that. I like to bring a clipboard, which helps if you’re taking notes, and all print-outs of my flight, hotel, and rental car information.
Printouts are especially great to have if there’s a language barrier or you don’t have an internet connection. If you’re trying to get a taxi, bus, or a train, just to point to the address and say, “Hey, I want to go here.” They also come in handy if there are problems with your hotel reservation.
One extra tip here: I like to download the Google Map of where I’m going. This will avoid problems if you get stuck and need to find your way around. When you’re in a different country and facing a language barrier, having that Google Map downloaded to your phone can be really helpful.
There are a few other optional things you can bring:
- Business cards: I’ve been doing business cards quite a bit because I like to put a call to action on the back that invites people to go visit the website or check out an event that I’m promoting.
- Reading material: I used to bring a ton of books with me, which sucked because they’re really heavy. Now I try to only bring one book, and if I need to, I’ll buy more reading material on the road.
- Notebook: I bring a little notebook for taking notes and writing memos to myself.
The biggest tip I have here is to get one of those big Ziploc freezer bags and put in all the stuff that you’d normally want for travel, such as an extra toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, mouthwash, shaving cream, lip chap, Lysine, maybe some Tums, Halls and moisturizer. Then, when you’re going through security, you just take that whole bag out and throw it on the table. You don’t need to worry about liquids and all that sort of stuff.
Other personal items you might want to pack include:
- Sleep mask
- Reading glasses
In terms of packed luggage, I go pretty minimal:
- Underwear and socks: obviously, a pair for every day
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of dress pants
- One dress belt
- Three dress shirts
- Two casual shirts.
- If you’re going to need to go to banquets or formal events, throw a tie and a jacket in there and one extra set of shoes.
The big tip here is to take your time folding. It’s very easy to make all of that fit into a carry-on bag and still have a lot of room. If you can’t do that, it’s probably because you are not folding things well. Google, “How do I fold my clothing for luggage” and you’ll have a lot of tips on how to make things smaller.
Another helpful tip is to get a bag that fits on the plane. There are a lot of small four-wheeled bags, but they don’t fit in the overhead compartment on many airplanes. You may have to check your baggage instead and pick it up on the other end, which defeats the purpose of ‘carry-on’. So make sure you get a luggage bag that’s going to fit on most planes. I found that the ones with two wheels in the back tend to be a lot better than the ones that have four wheels.
That’s all I tend to bring. Anything else you want, beyond that, you can get on the road.
5 Tips for a Great Travel Experience
I’ll give you five extra tips that will help maximize the benefit of your travel experience.
Tip #1: Charge your computer and phone before packing
Make sure you charge your stuff before you pack. That way, you’re not opening them up to do some work at the airport and then realizing, “Oh crap, we have no charge at all.” Then you’ve got to go find a plugin, which can be a headache depending on where you’re working.
Tip #2: Carry less in your backpack
At the end of every packing session, I look at my backpack and review what’s in there. It’s not usually a whole lot. I ask myself, “Can anything go in the suitcase?”
Again, the thing that frustrated me the most while travelling during my corporate days was carrying way too much stuff. I had a gargantuan laptop, and it was heavy. So the last thing I do is review my backpack and think, “Is there anything else that could go in the suitcase? Do I need to bring two books on this plane or could I bring only one book?”
Take everything extra out of your backpack at the end of the day and put it into your luggage so that you don’t have to carry it around.
Tip #3: Back up any critical information
Tip number three is to back up any critical information on your computer. Are you doing a presentation where you’re going? Do you have slides on that computer? Back them up to the cloud or Google Drive. Make sure you put a copy on a thumb drive. That way, you aren’t in trouble if your bag gets stolen, lost, or damaged.
Tip #4: Bring an extra slide deck
Tip number four is to have an extra presentation handy. This is a tip that I learned from a mentor in the online business space. They said that if you’re going to be travelling to conferences, always have something to talk about in case a spot opens up.
It’s really good to be that person who says, “Oh, the speaker didn’t show up? I can talk about something. I have a slide deck here on blah, blah blah.” And you’re good to go. This is a really great way to jump in, share your knowledge, and get access to an audience at a conference. I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s worked out really well.
Tip #5: Clean your office
Tidy up your office before you leave. That way, when you come back from your trip and you’re tired, you have a clean space to work in.
I’m going to be travelling quite a bit this year. I have at least four trips scheduled: Germany, Chicago, Florida, and Houston. If you’re in any of those locations, definitely hit me up on Twitter or on Instagram @GradBlogger. It would be great to grab a coffee and talk about your online business, your research work, and the things that you’re putting into the world.
Did I miss any great packing or travel tips? Share your savvy suggestions in the comments below!