I recently read a fantastic article in the Travel section of The New York Times on travel tips called “How the Tough Get Going” by Stephanie Rosenbloom. She interviewed a cadre of Bay Area travel gurus (criminally, not me) to glean their top travel tips for ameliorating many of the common inconveniences of being on the road. So whether you’re a blue moon traveler or TripIt junky, there are travel tips here that are going to make you mumble, “Doh! Why didn’t I think of that?” Tip: I recommend reading this next to your laptop—most everything mentioned below can be downloaded or purchased online.
The first tip is something so obviously simple that I’m stupefied it didn’t already occur to me: When you’re at the airport screening area, place your items in the bins in a choreographed order: Shoes and belt in the first bin, liquids and laptop in the second, then your briefcase/purse/carryon. That way, when the last bin arrives through the x-ray machine, you’ve already got your shoes on, belt on, laptop in your briefcase, and all that’s left is to grab your carryon and roll.
I know, this sounds obvious, but watch people at the airport—they never get this right.
“Damn! I left my phone charger at home.” We’ve all been there. But this time don’t head for a Radio Shack. Walk up to the hotel counter and ask if they have a lost-and-found box. Dollars-to-donuts there is a charger that fits your phone in that bin of assorted leftovers.
Only people with AOL accounts call a cab these days. Everyone else is using Uber, a cashless and no-tip-expected car service that’s utilized by texting only. You sign up for the service at Uber.com, enter your credit card number on file, then when you need a ride, you text UBR-CAB and within minutes a professional driver in a sleek black car arrives curbside. Your credit card is automatically charged and a receipt is sent you by email. You can even arrange for a ride as you’re sitting on the tarmac waiting to deplane, and your ebony chariot will be there by the time you walk to the curb. It’s genius.
You’ve heard of Wikipedia, but have you checked out Wikitravel? It works on the same concept, where everyone is allowed to edit this world-wide online travel guide (via a copyleft license). It’s hugely helpful for need-to-know stuff such as transportation, safety, and getting around, and it’s easy to copy and print just the info you need.
You don’t get sick on vacation because of all the viruses floating around—there are always viruses floating around. You get sick because you’re not getting enough sleep. So always pack an eye mask, earplugs, and whatever else helps you zonk out for a long as you need. Boosting your immune system as well with supplements such as Quantum Super Lysine Plus before you travel could help as well.
Flashlights have come a long way since we were kids. In fact, they are so powerful now you can use them for self-defense. Since the FAA won’t let you pack pepper spray, consider purchasing a military-grade flashlight such as a Brite-Strike or Streamlight-88040. The light is so freakin’ bright that at night it will temporarily blind anyone you point it at. Plus, it doubles as a handy flashlight. (Tip: I highly recommend watching a YouTube vid on how to use a tactical flashlight for self defense.)
Trip insurance isn’t very sexy, but when you need it, you need it. I once used it to pay for an emergency helicopter ride out of the Costa Rican jungle (they wouldn’t even start in the engine until the insurance company agreed to pay). It’s surprisingly cheap for what it covers, and it only takes a few minutes to purchase it online. I usually go with Travel Guard, or WorldNomads if I’m doing adventure travel.
Carryon liquids: The bane of any travelers existence. Solve this problem forever with Humangear GoToobs—refillable, squeezable, leakless, 3-ounce silicon travel bottles that come in different pastel colors so you don’t even need to label them. Amazon.com carries them in 3- and 5-packs.
Face it: You’re helpless without your smartphone. So why sweat a dying battery on vacation? There are three easy solutions: 1) Buy a spare battery (practice getting that back cover off before you go); 2) get an external battery for your phone (they’re clunky, but you’ll get over it); or 3) purchase a portable charging device such as a PowerGen Mobile Juice Pack, which will also charge your iPad or tablet—it’s about the size of a deck of cards and can extend your iPhone’s battery life by 4x.
There are so many travel apps out there that I could write a novella about them. Instead I’m just going to rattle them off here and let you do the legwork. So pour yourself another cup of coffee, fire up the laptop, and check ‘em out—these ones rose to the top for a reason: TripIt.com, Trippy.com, Room (free Apple app), Google Translate, GetHuman.com, all major airline apps (very handy for flight info), and, but of course, LocalGetaways.com ;-}