We can all benefit from a smoother travel experience - here’s some tips to make that happen.
I travel a significant amount, usually with work but often for personal trips too. This includes a variety of planes, trains and automobiles. Through this, I’ve developed and identified what I believe are some burden-removing essentials for any trip. I’ll continue to edit and add to this list when appropriate. I hope it helps make travel that little bit easier for you.
Firstly, if you don’t have a packing list on which to base each trip then this is where you should start. I use Things 3 to generate and tick-off my list. You can load my list using this link to get you started. I don’t pack everything on this list for every trip but it’s comprehensive enough that I don’t forget anything critical.
Alternatively, quickly build your own list - the important thing is to start with something and build on it as you travel. If you ever forget something on a trip, add it to your list so you’ll never forget again. Perhaps the simplest way to store it is in Apple Notes or Google Keep; ultimately the tool doesn’t matter but the list does. It’s one less thing to think about each and every time you travel and you’ll benefit whether that’s every week or once a year.
What to Pack
Below is a selection of items I’ve found to be invaluable, many of which I carry or use daily as well as on longer trips.
Vapur Water Bottle - There’s a number of designs like this but I’ve been using this specific brand for a while and love the bottle. It rolls up to smaller than my fist and never leaks when full. Additionally the karabiner can attach it to your bag strap if needed.
Mu Duo Charger - Again, there’s a number of options available like this one but I’ve long used Mu’s products and recently upgraded to the Duo model. It folds down to a very sleek puck and is ideal for charging two USB devices overnight.
Short Apple Watch Charger - If you travel with an Apple Watch, a simple way to ease travels is by purchasing a second, short charging cable. Not only does this save you from unplugging your day-to-day cable if you travel regularly but it’s also one less thing to remember to pack (repeat this tip for other devices, such as your phone or tablet).
Outlier Futureworks - Outlier trousers are an investment in comfort and flexibility. I’ve worn these casually to do work around the house, business casually into the office or for travel and more formally with a jacket/blazer for bigger events. They clean well, iron easy and are extremely comfy.
Woven Fabric Belt - To pair with the Outliers, I’d highly recommend this belt. The material makes it simple to buckle and has avoided all airport scanners to date.
I’d also highly recommend packing cubes of some kind. Most travel brands have a set for sale (including AmazonBasics) and I’ve no specific recommendation beyond simply: buy a set. They help simplify and maximise the space used in your bag, can allow you to separate dirty and clean clothes if required
Finally, consider rolling items of clothings (especially t-shirts and trousers). I generally find this keeps things wrinkle free and saves some space (combine with the packing cubes to really maximise your space).
I’ll state upfront, I prefer not to check bags. My aim is to spend as little time in or around an airport, and I’m especially focussed on escaping as quickly as possible at the other end. Also, having been burned a couple of times with lost luggage I find the more clothes I can carry on, the better prepared I’ll be.
One choice that’s made this easier is using a backpack over a case or duffel bag. The right backpack is much more likely to fit under the seat on the plane and leaves your hands free for coffee, passports, tickets, etc. This will allow you to move more quickly through the airport and avoid catching your bag on people/chairs/stands.
Every airport security must be modelled on purgatory; it’s the only rationale explanation for the rage it induces in me. Here’s a couples tips I use to ease the pain:
- Upon approaching the unloading bays, I begin moving items (phone, watch, headphones) from my pockets to either my jacket or backpack. By consolidating down the number of loose items in the security tray you can avoid the rat race at the other end when gathering up items and reduce the chance you leave something behind.
- Invest in a more permanent solution for liquids. If you have to re-bag liquids at the airport, you aren’t prepared for travel. There are a number of approved options (at a minimum, make sure it’s transparent and small enough) but storing your travel toiletries in a long term bag will make packing and security all that much easier.
Once I arrive in departures, my first visit is to the nearest water fountain. Every airport has to have water freely available to customers and if you can’t source a fountain, ask a member of staff at a cafe/restaurant to top up your bottle. It’s often repeated but I’ve found to be true; you need to keep hydrated whilst travelling (and the corollary from this is that you’ll never know where your next bathroom is; don’t miss an opportunity).
And a final tip for simplifiying your departures experience - most aiports now offer Messenger bots that can provide realtime updates for your flight, including gate announcements and boarding notices. I’ve generally found these to be more timely than the boards and significantly more convenient. Here are examples for LCY and EDI.
I find train travel to be much more simple (although delayed trains often complicate things more than a delayed flight). As such, I have only a couple of tips to help here.
I can be extremely forgetful of short term items of note but, recognising my weakness, I now set reminders for my train arrival time to ensure I don’t leave my belongings in the overhead bins. This has saved the same coat from numerous trips to Aberdeen and London.
I often end up booking trains on the day or buying unreserved flexible tickets. To help me find the carriage most likely to be empty prior to boarding, I use the trainline app. Once you’ve located your journey, you’ll be presented with its crowdsourced view of available seats and you can position yourself appropriately on the platform.
To end, I’ll highlight a handful of apps that I use on most trips.
- Foursquare I’m a longtime user of Foursquare and Swarm. Setting that slight bias aside, I’ve found the recommendations to be extremely personalised to my tastes and the tips to be much more up-to-date.
- Citymapper It’s not available in all cities but if it is offered, Citymapper is the only way to get around. The routes are nicely balanced between travel time and convenience, with a large selection generally available for journeys (including Uber, public transit and their own new cab/bus).
- If you stay with Hilton regularly or fly with British Airways, both offer superb apps that will simplify your planning greatly. Whether it’s Hilton’s digital key that allows you to skip all human contact and go straight to your room or British Airway’s smooth digital check-in journey, I can’t recommend them enough.
This is a living guide and will be updated when I find a better option or new solution. I hope it proves useful and lightens your load when travelling.