Here are a few travel hacks I use since I spend a lot of time on the road. If you have any you’d like to share, message me using the form at the bottom of this page and let me know your own tricks.
- Read fiction: when traveling to a city outside the US for the first time, I don’t focus exclusively on travel guides to a city but instead try to read a work of fiction that is set in that city (HT to Anthony Bordain – I read this bit of wisdom from him years ago and have adopted it). Fiction does a better job of “placing” us in a new city and stoking our passion before the wheels touch down.
- Read local: if you’re going to be in a city (domestic or foreign) for anything longer than 48 hours, consider reading local news sites so that you have a feel for the issues that people around you might be concerned with. It plugs you into what’s happening locally and better prepares you for casual conversations.
- Immodium: always pack immodium or your anti-diarrheal medication of choice. Lets just say you don’t want to find yourself without that sort of medication when you’re in the Beijing airport before boarding a 14 hour flight home. I pick that particular example for no particular reason (laughs nervously…)
- Ginger Chews: If you’re prone to motion sickness (as I am), pack these. They are a life saver when you’re turning green in the back of a cab. Plus, they’re tasty.
- Binder Clips: pack one or two standard black binder clips to get hotel curtains to remain closed. Many hotels have curtains that never really seal out the bright outdoor lights no matter how much you try to get them to close. Pinching them together with these little clips from your office supply cabinet works like a charm. Sweet dreams.
- Night Light: I find that if I have to get up during the night most hotels have two lighting options to choose from: either a) stumble around in the pitch dark (not recommended unless you want to break your toe on a chair leg) or b) be blinded by a thousand suns when you flip the light on in the bathroom. Just pack a small nightlight that you can plug in in the bathroom before bed. They’re pretty cheap so if you forget one at a hotel it’s not a big loss.
- White Noise: One of the main uses for my iPad is to run a White Noise app while sleeping. I use the “White Noise” app from TMSOFT. There are a lot of noises in and around hotels that can disturb your sleep, so I recommend an app like this. You can select a range of sounds to play during the night – I use the “brown noise” setting but there are many others, like “ceiling fan”, “clothes dryer without change”, “rain on tent” and so on. I set the White Noise app to play a selection from my music library for the morning alarm, and set my phone’s alarm a few minutes after the iPad as a back-up alarm.
- Roll with it: Rolling clothes in a bag is the most efficient way to pack.
- Miracle Shirt: This dress shirt from Mizzen+Main is impervious to wrinkles. I take it out of my luggage and it’s ready to go. I’m picky about shirts and iron them when I arrive in a hotel, so this is something of a revelation. Click here to get a discount on a Mizzen+Main shirt.
“Anti Travel Hacks” (going against some hacks I’ve seen commonly recommended):
- Love Your Shoes: I read a lot of stuff about wearing easy-to-remove shoes so as to aid your progress through airport security. This is nonsense. Just wear the shoes you want to wear. If you have to take them off, just go sit down after security and put them back on. It’s not rocket science.
- Neck-pillows. I see these recommended, but have found their value isn’t worth their bulk.
Dealing with Jet Lag (recommended article on the subject here)
- Stay awake. Landing in the throes of mind-numbing jet lag early in the day at your destination is hard, however sleeping before the normal local bed time is a bad idea. The Sirens will coax you ever so sweetly (come on…close your eyes…it will only be for a few minutes…you’ll feel better….). Resist their call. If you can’t stay awake when you’re sitting, start walking.
- Leave late. I’ve flown to Europe many times, and I’m here to tell you that the difference between arriving at your destination at 1pm instead of 6am is enormous. Whenever possible, I now book the latest departure available. This has two benefits. First, the departing time most closely mirrors when you’re likely to go to sleep anyhow, so sleeping in-flight should be easier, and second, the amount of time you need to power through before bed in your destination city is much shorter. I have had many trips where I landed between 6am and 8am and had a full day of meetings followed by a dinner where drinks are aggressively ordered for me by my enthusiastic hosts. Not recommended. Get in the afternoon before and get your legs under you.
- Work out. I don’t do this as often as I should, but I thankfully remembered the value of this some years ago when I found myself between meetings and dinner in India. To say my body was begging me to sleep is an understatement. Wisely however, I went to the hotel gym, had an awesome workout, and surfed through an enjoyable evening on a wave of energy that I never would have had had I slept.
- Drugs. Over the counter sleep meds are NOT recommended on flights due to grogginess upon arrival. However I am a notoriously lousy plane sleeper, so got a prescription from my doctor for Lorazepam, an anti-anxiety med that will help you “drift off into a gentle sleep” (quoting my doctor). I use this only when traveling internationally (6+ hour flights). With the horror stories of people reacting poorly to Ambien and other sleep meds on long flights you may want to consider this approach if you have a hard time sleeping (funny result of this prescription: whenever I go to the doctor now I’m momentarily confused when the assistant is reviewing my meds and asks how the “lorazepam is working for your anxiety”). Obviously, consult with your doctor to see if this is right for you.
- Hydrate: I don’t do a good job of this but am trying to get better at pounding water when I travel. Bonus tip: when in a country where the water quality is suspect, drink the beer. I recommend Kingfisher in India.
I love travel, but it can be taxing on the system. Using tips like these, along with others you may have picked up, makes the trip go a little more smoothly.
Good luck! Happy Travels!