Packing For Travel

I have many thoughts about this article.

Packing For Travel:

Your bags: Travel bags should always be rollable and made with telescoping handles.

No! No! No! If one has health reasons as to why one cannot carry bags, then roll-a-board bags make sense. If so, I strongly recommend the two wheel variety and not the common four wheel type. Why? If one needs to quickly move – say, to a distant gate to catch a tight connection, and/or have to deal with stairs – say, anywhere where there are stairs, then the two wheel bags will handle those far better than the alternative.

However, if one can do non-suitcase bags like backpacks and shoulder bags, they are the best. They are more portable, safer, flexible, and are less likely to be gate checked. I will take one of each on longer business trips.

Do Not Travel with camo or khaki or military drab or overly tactical bags. There are many places in South America and Asia where that will flag you for additional scrutiny, at best.

Also, a lot of non-US airlines are very strict about bag weight where US airlines care more about bag size. Keep that in mind when choosing between a suitcase that weighs 6 pounds empty and a bag that weighs 2.

Do Not Travel With Four Wheel Suitcases! They are AV carts, old-school Daleks. The wheels are tiny and prone to breaking. One cannot move quickly with them and they require more space when one runs alongside. To be fair, I own one for a very specific use case but otherwise avoid it.

Ideally, if you are traveling by air, you can pack everything in your carry-on, at least for the outbound trip.

True.

This is because checked bags force you to wait at the airport for them to come out at the claim

… unless you can gate check them. If so, then you might be waiting about 10 minutes.

They can also get delayed or lost, forcing you to rely on an airline’s delivery services that can take several days.

NEVER only check bags. Always keep one with you with at least a full change of clothes, medication, toiletries, and anything that might get stolen.

Lastly, as the snarkily fun/Air Babylon/suggests, checked bags can get pilfered, and since 2001 it’s effectively impossible to lock them. Even locks advertised as TSA-safe can result in your bag arriving half-open and with zippers wrenched-off because the security services don’t care. Since you can’t lock checked bags, anything that has a possibility of being checked should also be anonymous: black nylon with no particular designer marks.

True. Suitcase locks are beyond worthless. They instead signal that the bag might be worth taking.

Leave the gorgeous Rimowa aluminum on Instagram and the custom-fitted, excruciatingly heavy leather luggage for a car trip.

Yes.

If you have a flashy bag, … 

Don’t. Just … don’t.

For the return trip, consider shipping things home if you have a lot. I bought a bunch of books on a recent Portland trip and was on the tipping point of shipping versus cramming into a checked bag.

… always keep the following ready to go:

Plenty of plastic bags: To store dirty laundry, wet clothes such as swimsuits, leaky bottles of shampoo, or the new bottle of wine that you’re bringing back. You never know when you’ll need them.

Yes, but not for those reasons. You do not want to store wet clothes in a plastic bag for more than an hour or so. Instead you want something made of a modern fabric that will wick away moisture. Why are you traveling with liquid shampoo? If your wine bottle breaks a plastic bag will not help.

Slippers

Agree. Muji sells some and they have a good travel option when it’s in stock.

Travel tray: To keep hotel keys, sunglasses, change, watch, wallet, and other stuff that’s otherwise easy to leave lying around your room. Available at all price ranges, such trays can be unbuttoned at the corners so you can pack them flat. I love mine.

I have a Tom Bihn model that is multipurpose as a packable bag for tech kit.

Plastic utensils: A spare set of plastic knives, forks, and spoons will come in handy when you have to stay somewhere too sketchy for room service. More advanced colleagues travel with nutrition bars.

Agreed, though I include chopsticks (also useful in unexpected non-food ways), a thermal bottle, and a collapsable water bottle. I level up with a foldable plate/cup/bowl set. Instant coffee and tea sachets are great when you can get hot water.

Clear travel washbag: Regulation sized, of course.

Yes, but … 

In addition to hotel-sized toiletries, you need a compact, concentrated shaving cream. 

No. If you’re traveling to a modern hotel they will have shaving cream. Better, find a dry shaving soap one can lather up with a washcloth.

Travel accessories: A plastic receipts folder, noise-canceling headphones with jack adaptors, plug converters, and spare charging cords. I usually keep extra collar stays in my bag and a cheap pair of ribbon knot cufflinks if I ever mistakenly pack a French-cuff shirt.

Yes!!! Also, a lapel pin and tie clip. Bring some duct tape or similar for de-linting clothes (and quick repairs), a sewing kit, and a shoe polishing cloth.

Roll, Don’t Fold: Remember to pack clothes by rolling them, not folding them. 

Yes!

Also, pack a small collapsible umbrella because it will rain if you don’t.

This varies based on destination. I would not bring an umbrella to Japan. Not because it won’t rain, but rather because one can buy a better-than-average one in a konbi for little. On an NYC trip and I will definitely bring my own.

What to wear when you travel?

That is the question.

When I have to travel light, I usually wear a pair of my suit trousers. They have side adjusters to loosen them when I try to rest, and their wool generally breathes.

I travel with a pair (or two) of modern performance trousers that can work in a business casual environment. The company that made mine lost its way, so I’ll link to a resource to help you find something else). I’ll usually wear one on the plane.

I may wear the jacket on the plane as the pockets are useful for travel documents and other essentials.

Pockets on the plane or train or other conveyance are key. I often wear a travel blazer on board.

However, instead of a dress shirt, I usually wear a fine-gauge knit, which is more comfortable and softer than a woven button-up.

I wear a modern performance button down shirt, such as from Ministry of Supply and Mizzen & Main.

When I travel, I often take only a single pair of shoes, something laceless and made with a rubber sole. Laceless because airports and planes can be filthy, and it saves time having to remove and put them on again at security (which is why I also keep a small shoehorn in my bag). Rubber-soled because you never know if it will rain while you’re traveling.

I do much the same with shoes that are color muted. I also pack boots if I think I will do any hiking or long walks.

After this, I hope you can stumble comfortably off your red-eye and eventually direct yourself to a shelter where this advice helps you settle, spruce up, and feel you have what you need. … 

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Other things I recommend (brain dump; I’m not sure the last time I did such a list):

  • Printed boarding pass (even if you keep it in your bag and use your phone in the airport)
  • Playing cards and/or dice
  • Book(s)
  • Sleep mask
  • Melatonin
  • Notebook, notepad, pen, and pencil
  • Copies of your ID kept away from your actual ID
  • A piece of paper with important numbers (emergency contacts, embassy and consulates, hotel, local contact, etc.), medication, blood type, etc. in a plastic bag
  • Foreign language guide (if needed)
  • Wool socks
  • Wool t-shirts
  • Wool or performance underwear
  • Lots of $1 bills (in the US for tipping) and the same in other countries as culturally allowed
  • Emergency currency
  • Wired over-the-ear headphones (and adaptor, because mobile phone makers hate us)
  • Inexpensive reliable watch (Casio makes a bunch of these)
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Bandanas and handkerchiefs (for nose issues and sweat and tourniquet and hobo-ing and sun avoidance, etc.)
  • Day bag (that I also use as a packing cube)
  • RFID-blocking pouch (for passport, etc.)
  • Inexpensive reliable compass
  • Whistle
  • Door stop
  • Destination map that includes the airport or train station
  • Jumbo binder clips
  • Airplane seat back organizer
  • Airplane cup holders

Here endeth the lesson.

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About Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

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