Tips From a Road Warrior

I’ve never traveled more than I do in my current role. Although it comes in spurts, I’m currently traveling 4 out of 5 weeks. While it can certainly take a toll on loved ones and your own body, I’m starting to get more comfortable with traveling a bit more efficiently.

I won’t say I’ve got it down right, but here’s a few things I’ve learned, my hopes are that you’ll chime in and add your tips below in the comments, alright let’s get started:

Tips From a Road Warrior:

Flying a lot? Get a Travel Agent
I’ve a travel agent, Carlson Wagonlit (thank you Ron!), that helps me coordinate my often multiple city destinations, they use my frequently flyer numbers and really help coordinate flights, hotel, and rental cars. This saves me valuable time from doing research to find out flights, nearby hotels, and keeps me focused on what matters. I’m pretty sure this is what Tim Ferris would do.

Print out your itinerary
Despite being a digital guy, I always print out my itinerary that has my flight numbers, hotels, and other contact information. You can’t count on technology to work when you’re on the go, dead batteries, the hassle of looking things up, or the ability to rapidly pull out a piece of paper is invaluable.

Get the right luggage and bags
Watch airline staff. These guys and guys are the pros. If you look how they travel, they have small suitcase with wheels, and then a second satchel or bag with personal items, and then if a lady a purse. They make the items stackable so you can put the personal bag (perhaps a suitcase or laptop bag) on top so it can easily roll. I use a backpack, never a messenger bag as you want to keep your back in alignment as much as possible. For long walks, I’ll affix my backpack on my suitcase to relieve the weight.

Learn how to pack right
First of all, if you’re a business traveler, you’ve likely got a carry on bag, checking in and picking up luggage is a major time sink, let alone the risk of them losing the bags. The trick here is to pack your clothes so you don’t have to iron them later. I use the ol’ roll your clothes like a towel trick. As a gent, I put the largest items out on the end such as shirts, and then items that you don’t care if they get wrinkled in the middle. For example lay your coats down on your bed first, followed by suits, then shirts, pants, then tshirts and other undergarments. Then roll them up like a burrito, and put into your carry on suitcase. On the sides you can put your shoes in plastic bags (so they don’t scuff) and toiletries. Ah, stuff your shoes with your clean socks or undergarments to save space, and ensure they maintain their shape.

Steam your clothes in the bathroom
This is one of my favorite tricks. As soon as you get to your hotel room, un-roll that rolled set of clothes I just mentioned. Then, get those shirts, suits, and slacks on a hangers and put in the bathroom –not the closet. When you take your next shower, the steam will naturally get many of the wrinkles out minimizing any time spent ironing.

Have doubles of toiletries for a quick reload
If you’re on the road a lot, it helps to have a backup toilitiries bag so you don’t constantly have to move items in and out. Buy everything in duplicates so you have duplicate toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hair products. These little efforts make reloading a breeze.

Learn to traverse the airport
Don’t wear a belt, wear slip off shoes that don’t require a lot of tying, and put your watch, wallet, and other items in your backpack as you exit the car. I bought a Clear card a few months ago, which let’s you breeze past security, but there really isn’t a need for it in a down turned economy (also, I feel a bit like a jerk when they move me to the front of the line) I won’t likely renew my clear card in this economy. I always sit in the aisle when possible so I can get to the restroom without hassling that sleeping guy next to you, and to quickly get my bag and exit faster. Before you enter the security lines, before you choose which aisle to go down, avoid being behind people that are wearing a lot of jewelery or big families, they end to slow down the line. Side note: TSA is much friendlier in the midwest then on the coasts.

Bring the right in-flight gear
I have a spare battery for those long flights for my laptop extending my work time on the plane (one of the few places I can concentrate). Secondly I have an iPod and noise canceling headphones that really turn a confined environment more into a sanctuary. Also, I snagged earplugs and eye masks from previous long distance flights and keep in my backpack, those help. Oh and ahem, please bring mints or gum so you don’t annoy your fellow travelers.

Long trip? Go business class –but not first class
Traveling inter continental is a real time sink, west to east coast can be over 5 hours of downtime, but it’s great for catching up on sleep, writing those pesky reports, (my biggest struggle) or your latest blog post. The problem with many airlines is that the seats are so crammed together it’s nearly impossible to open your laptop and expect to extend your arms. If you’re working, upgrade to the business class, which provides more foot room, or get into the exit aisle or bulkhead. I don’t have the disposable income nor the miles to upgrade to first –maybe someday when I become an executive.

Text message yourself your parking spot
Ever forget where you parked at the airport? Yeah I feel you. Sometimes I get home late at night, bleary eyed, confused, perhaps a bit dazed from a conference party, the last thing I’ll be able to do is remember where my car is at the massive SFO parking lot. The good thing is that I always text message my parking spot to myself on my phone when I first park. Text message your parking spot to yourself, saving you time, frustration, and the embarrassing situation of thinking your car may have been stolen.

That’s enough tips for me, I’d love to hear from you, what do you do to make your travel efficient? Let’s collectively learn, I know there’s a lot of busy professionals that are part of my community. Do tell.

Written from a hotel in welcoming Minneapolis, 140am.

60 Replies to “Tips From a Road Warrior”

  1. This one handed down to me by a couple generations of European executives.

    When traveling on business. Don’t reset your watch to foreign timezone. It un-grounds you. You lose your footing. Keep it set to homebase.

    When vacationing (or “on holiday” to them), reset your watch so you sink into where you’re visiting.

    Safe travels.

  2. Good one Alan. I need to try that. I guess that’s why I’m writing this at 1am in the morning. The thing is my cell phone will auto-synch to the time zone, but I’ll keep my watch on my own native time.

  3. After travelling for over 30+ years coast to coast, I find I learn new tips all of the time. Thanks.

    Love the texting of the pkg space. One time I told SFO parking garage that my car got stolen (went to LA several days in one week). They take a pix of your plate when you park and they know where it is (this was over 20 yrs ago).

    I love polycarbonate luggage with wheels. Very very light. EBags has a great selection from inexpensive to very expensive.

    I would recommend using a limo service, saves time and money (when pkg more than a day) and great when you get off the NY to SFO flight after a really long day.

  4. Luggage with wheels – definitely. Carrying heavy stuff tires you out more than anything.

    Long-haul, I’d recommend you sleep as much as you can on the flight – no matter what time zone you’re moving to.

    And drink a LOT of water.

    I agree with Alan (above) – a couple of days, don’t reset your watch. More than that – reset to the time zone you’re in.

    Oh, and check your roaming data rates.

  5. I agree with Alan about the watch reset.
    And, if you are going to spend night out, select a number of restaurant for each city, where sooner or later you will feel almost at home.

  6. On the printed papers like itinerary and boarding pass etc, I always keep it in a red plastic folder which is easy to find in carry-on bags and on hotel desks. If you have an assistant to help prepare – have them put all relevant items in the ‘red folder’.
    On managing energy, naps and sleeps we’re delighted at the positive feedback we get from the brain resonance audio tracks at Easy to get to sleep and recharge when you want to – also for naps on a plane.
    Happy trails.

  7. Tips for international travel (addendum)

    Bring along basic meds.
    Many countries have different regulations on medication, and importing even the most basic over the counter drugs can be difficult, so don’t count on easily finding even basic cold medications at the local drug store. Bring along a sampler from your medicine cabinet AND CLEARLY LABEL EVERYTHING!

    Roaming or prepaid SIM
    International roaming can be expensive, and i meand EXPENSIVE! If you have a sim-unlocked cellphone and your phone is a multi-band model compatible with your destination, think about purchasing a local pre-paid sim card instead. Local sims give you the advantage of a local contact number for your business contacts and cheap calling to hotels or local businesses. If you must keep the tether to home intact, but still make a lot of local incidental calls, think about picking up a cheap second phone.
    WorldMate or other Smartphone travel assistant software.
    For power road warriors, try out mobimate’s Worldmate or some similar product. When you are out of contact with your travel agent and you need to change flights or are bumped due to weather or other unforseen problems, your Blackberry or iPhone could be the edge that gets you on the faster flight. More than once I have used these programs to quickly find alternate routes and when traveling internationally this can save you days of grief when an airport is closed.

  8. Oh I forgot, pack a few extra large gallon size ziplock bags. Useful…

    I carry an extra cell after 9-11 with a pay as you go SIM for a cell network different than my usual cell… Every now and then I run out and forget my cell but have the pay as you go as it is always packed in my day to day bag.

  9. Another international travel tip.
    When hopping all over the world, I like to bring a power strip, then one just needs one adapter for all your charging needs.

  10. Nice post Jeremiah.

    USB charging leads are a good idea; they save space and you only need to carry one power adaptor.

    Also agree re packing a spare bag (or small rucksack)or two; I now have a small collection of these from several ill-prepared business trips.

    Business travel has also meant that the quality of the camera in my phone has assumed great significance; something I did not even think about a few years back and now I have great memories and can share experiences more easily.

  11. As a regular traveller – I use modules for everything for example connectivity module – collection of RJ45, USB etc., cables all prepacked and available to go.. power module for various country plugs so on. So packing is just throw in the right modules adn you are set.

  12. I’ve found that using the phone on my camera to snap a shot of the car in the carpark with some identifying landmark (eg the letter/number sign for the level) makes for a good backup memory system.

    Confirming what Charles said – a six pack extended powerstrip with a surge guard means it’s a lot easier to feed the technology. I tend to add a small extension cord to the mix, particularly if I’m traveling for a conference – can’t always get the seat next to the powerpoint, but you can usually get one within 2 to 5 meters with the right powercord.

    If you’re at a domestic conference (ie same powerplug type), then the powerboard often means a quick community of new friends.

  13. On the road, use your camera phone effectively..

    rental car – what model/color was it this time? What were the plates?

    Hotel room # – damn dont want to wake up someone at 2:00 AM trying to open their door

    etc., etc.,,, once you start using it as a memory aid you will be amazed how useful it becomes…. who cares if the picture is cheezy!

  14. Great post. After flying 300k last year, let me add a few here..

    1. Looking for a great seat on your flight? – sites like this are great as they help you with getting the latest seat maps and configurations for your aircraft

    2. Trying to find a complicated flight itinerary? – this is the brains behind orbitz and the matrix display. Use their site to get the most comprehensive list of flights

    3. Need wifi access in a strange airport? Get an iPass account. These are lifesavers for access to hot spots around the world.

    4. Can’t figure out currency conversions? – the best place to check on currency conversions.



  15. Stop by a Watsons (in Asia) and pick up a pack of wet naps. 30 pieces, ~1.5 USD. Refreshing.

  16. Some great tips here
    couple of my own to add since I have been traversing the planet for almost three years now.

    1. Boingo- a must have for any traveler,most international airports are covered and most hotels. it will pay for itself in two days travel.
    2. Obviously get a maxroam (blatant plug sorry :-))
    3. For international- cheap underwear and socks-bin them as you go.
    4. If a group of you are travelling use, you can get houses with pools for the price of a night in average hotel
    5. Get a cheap portable wifi travel router, nothing worse than being stuck to the desk in hotels, also if you have your iphone you can now make free skype-skype calls using the router no matter where you are on the planet

  17. I wrote a post last year on all the online tools that I use when travelling:

    Since I cross the Canada-US border a lot, the NEXUS card is a lifesaver. TripIt is by far the most useful travel site that I use, just email it your itineraries (from travel agent or hotel/airline/rental car site) and it automatically organizes that into a consolidated itinerary.

    My travel plans are always in my iPhone calendar, and I add the hotel room number there as soon as I check in so that I don’t forget the room number later.

  18. Ah one more.

    Set up a digital wallet for your card information like eWallet.
    I lost my wallet once while traveling in Hong Kong, but luckily I had all my card/passport information stored in my Blackberry. Don’t forget to put your credit card company service center numbers in so you can quickly call to cancel your cards.
    (I actually had my wallet found and returned to me completely intact by a cleaner. Truly a hero)

  19. Hi, as a business traveler myself I’ve found a site to help familiarise with getting the best seat which is mapped to the aircraft model. Very helpful to find seats with power sockets, no multimedia unit under the seat infront of you so that you get the necessary leg room.

    Less crease in business shirts: before folding them, lay the shirts full spread and stack all you other LS shirts on top of the other in the same manner at 3 layer max, then fold them as you would. The air trap inbetween or for some other reasons produces less crease and easily ‘uncreases’ itself when you steam in your hotel room shower.

    More space: roll up your T-shirts, shorts, jeans, stuff that wont need pressing. Roll them up into a toilet-roll like shape. This helps with space.

    Hope this helps.

  20. I like the ideas for remembering car. However, I always immediately adjust everything to local time. Never have jetlag. Just back from trip to Israel. Automatically work up at same time (5:30 am) local time at each stop and when back home. Water and limited alcohol also a great saver. Prepare, then relax, so you don’t feel rushed at the airport.

  21. I used to travel 50 weeks out of the year.
    1. Get to the airport with enough time so you don’t feel rushed.
    2. Make sure you have a good frequent flier program that has free first class upgrades once you reach a certain mileage threshold.
    3. Check in early so you can get the best possible seat.
    4. Find humor in the bad thigs that happen along the way. There are some great travel stories on this site:

  22. Nothing shoots your immune system down faster than travel. I’ve been taking a killer (no pun intended) supplement (Immunomax), for a couple years now. I’ve managed to stay healthy for the last two years (that includes two brutal Chicago winters). Disclaimer: I work for the company that sells it. But I started taking it long before I got the gig there. Best way to stay healthy is to eat healthy, but that’s a constant challenge for me – and darn near impossible when I’m traveling.

  23. 1. Never check luggage. No really, I mean NEVER. Gone for 3 weeks in a row? Doesn’t matter. When you pack correctly (some great tips above) you can get a lot of stuff into your case. Find a laundromat along the way if you need. But you’ll save incredible amounts of time and hassle by not checking luggage.

    2. Get the right luggage. The polycarbonate 4-wheeled bag I have from Samsonite is amazing. It’s light, holds a lot, and the 4 wheels (vs 2) let it move in any direction. It’s so much easier to deal with. I also got a laptop case with a pass-thru on the back so I can just slip my case over the extended handle of my carry on, and be on my way.

    3. Everything has its place. I put the same things in the same pockets of my bag each and every time so I know where things are. This makes moving through lines (be they TSA or food lines) very easy.

    4. Be really, really, super nice to the TSA agents. They have a boring but stressful job and they deal with grouchy and rude people all day. Plus, if you tick them off, they can really ruin your day. Be extra kind.

    5. Sit on the aisle as close to the front of the plane as possible. Easy on, easy off. Oh, and you don’t need to rush to get on the plane as soon as they call your group number. So many people line up eagerly to get on the plane like they’re giving out free money in there. If I’m going to spend 5 hours on that plane, why am I so eager to get there early and spend more time there? Doesn’t make any sense.

  24. Love the text messaging your space and photocopy your passport and drivers license info in case something gets stolen. Adding that to my list.

    One thing I have done if I have a trip that I have to check bags is to have an extra shirt tie when I wear a suit on to the flight in case my bags are lost for a few days I have some sort of change of clothes.

  25. Something I have grown to value are small, nylon, zippered pouches. They can be used to collect pocket stuff to throw in your carry-on for airport security, an emergency purse, keep/confine various cords with their phone/MP3/etc., even money/directions pouches if travelling to multiple countries/cities.

    From your Twitter feed, it sounds like you are having a great time in Minnesota – I’m just down the highway from you and thanks for bringing the warm weather with you!

  26. Some great tips from everybody!

    I pack almost all of my clothes flat into the lid of the suitcase. That’s right. There is a lot more room in there than you think, even the smaller carry-on luggage. Hopefully you have a mesh or other divider that holds everything flat in the lid and in place during the flight. That gives the whole body of the suitcase for things like shoes, gadgets, cords, bulky jacket, yoga mat or gifts for foreign dignitaries. Pack your socks & underwear into your shoes.

    I do my best to only do carry-on as well. That means if I bring toiletries (“flying dry”) I pack them into my knapsack (along with my computer) so I can easily pull them out when going through security screening. They are already in security-required size of ziplock type bag.

    I pack any cords and gadget/camera/computer accessories into ziplock bags so they are sorted, can be easily packed, and stay dry.


  27. Great post. Just wanted to add…

    “Learn how to pack right”
    If you want your clothes less wrinkled try this technique instead of rolling ( Hang your clothes in the closet when you get to the hotel room. This will prevent ironing later.

    “Text message yourself your parking spot”
    If your phone has a digital camera feature, take a snap shot of your parking space. Sometimes a text message will get buried under a sea of emails or other texts if you have a pda/smart phone.

    Avoid getting sick on flights by bringing Airbourne or Vitamin C. Pop one tablet before the flight takes off. Circulated air on a long flight could lead to a disaster especially if you’re trying to enjoy your vacation or if you have an important business meeting.


  28. Loved the tip on texting parking spot. Will use that. Also remember to text airport. I spent hours searching for my car at Houston’s Bush airport because I forgot it was at Houston’s Hobby Airport! I was flying every week to Houston in those days. My team still laughs about it.

  29. Wow, thanks for these amazing tips, I think putting your clothes in the bathroom for steaming is a brilliant idea.

    Thanks everybody for sharing their tips as well.


  30. 2 more;
    1. pack some headache tablets & eye drops. you could get a headache, and you don’t want to look/feel bleary eyed for important meetings
    2. scan your passport and other important documents and send them to your webmail. that way if absolutely everything goes you still have access to your documents

  31. For me it is mainy international flying.

    I also never check in luggage even for a long trip.

    I don’t know if you can buy them anymore, but many years ago the best investment I made for business travel was a rugged Samsonite Mobile Office carry on. Two wheels, enough space, fits the regs (just), but most importantly had a great lockable and padded side compartment in the back wall for the laptop. It just makes it so easy to go through security, whip out the laptop without disturbing the other packing and throw it in the tray.

    I also always wear slip off shoes.

    I try not to need to wear my business clothes on the plane. I usually wear a comfortable lightweight military style jacket with heaps of button-up pockets all over the front (hey it’s not a fashion show!). I put everything in the pockets (wallet, watch, earplugs, ring, passport etc) and then simply throw the whole lot through the x-ray. It is also quite warm if the AC is too high in the plane. T-shirt underneath if the AC is too low. Great for multi-stop trips.

    My trips can be over 20 hours flying time, so I have to avoid jet-lag. I usually try to get a flight that arrives early morning at my destination, and stay awake all day. I try to ensure I am straight into my schedule once I arrive, to capitalise on the adrenalin. By the time it is nightfall I am exhausted and drop straight into the new timezone. Likewise on the return, which has the added advantage of less traffic as I drive from the airport because of the early hour.

    During the 20+ hours flight time, I don’t sleep when they want me to. Usually I’ll stay awake for the first leg and watch movies or work (i.e. get tired), and when it is exactly 8 hours before dawn in my destination I will go to sleep.

    Thanks everyone for your tips, there are some new things here that I will definitely try.

  32. I’ve got some tips. But it would seem like I am selling something….

    A couple of things that would seem to work(if available):

    1. Make sure you stay at the same hotel properties (if possible). The perks at hotels can be a lot better than airlines offer these days & can include free room upgrades to suites (Starwood has a platinum program for guests that stay at their properties 50 nights a year).

    “Buy everything in duplicates so you have duplicate toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hair products.”

    I probably wouldn’t do this unless I was fond of certain products. Most luxury hotels will have these items available (in room or at desk) at no charge.

    Since I travel abroad, I actually memorize my passport info, credit card numbers & important phone numbers.

    Amex, if you use it, also has some great insurance coverage available for medical & the like while traveling. Is $15.00 or so piece of mind when traveling? You bet.

  33. Oh, almost forgot if you’re going abroad…

    Bring Traveler’s Checks. You get a better exchange rate than cash, and you also have protection if it is lost.

  34. Great piece, great comments as well. In my last job I traveled quite a bit, including a good deal of short-stay international trips, and I learned a lot of these along the way. One difference for me though, I initially tried the “leave your watch set to home base time” approach. But I found doing that had the effect of constantly making me focus on the time difference, (“oh it’s really 4am my body time”). Suddenly you’re thinking you “should” be tired.. and the yawning starts.
    I found it far more comfortable and effective to put home time as far as possible out of your mind and jump immediately into the destination time. I started immediately setting my watch to destination time when boarding the plane,and getting into that mindset as early as possible. Yes, it’s a head game, but once I started doing that, it just really seemed to minimize any jet lag for me.

  35. Great advice on texting yourself a reminder of where you’re parked. (Yes, I’ve also spent time wandering aimlessly around a parking garage.)

    I’d add one tip for BlackBerry users (and presumably the iPhone has a similar app.): use the Memo application to create a trip memo where you jot down expenses. I’ve found this very helpful, and it’s made it much easier to do my expenses forms since everything from the bottle of water at the airport to that last cab ride is already itemized.

  36. I’ve had mixed results with travel agents, I tend to be real particular about the times I want to get to the airport, where I will transfer through, etc. but I guess if you had a great agent after about 3 months they would have that all internalized.

    My favorite tip is the American Express Platinum card so you can get into the Airport clubs for clean bathrooms and quiet time.

    I also get a lot of hits to this list I did a while back:

  37. For short hauls, I’m starting to use the train more. For example, a trip from my SoCal home to SFO is about $200 and about $80 on Amtrak. I don’t have to undress or open my carry-ons when boarding. Considering the time it takes to get through security and navigate an airport, the trip is not any longer. The trains are much more comfortable, more space, plenty of room to get up and roam around if you wish, plus tables to set laptops on AND AC outlets. i also arrive a little more rested because it’s so much easier traveling.

  38. Tying in on your focus on social, I thought you might want to try a new Facebook app that IHG (hotel company owning Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, etc.) just released on Facebook allows people to rate and comment on hotels they’ve stayed at across the world. They don’t only limit it to their brands, which is great. Link:

    I’ve always thought that ratings/reviews were great but if you could get those same reviews from your friends/connections, even better.

  39. I didn’t get to travel much in the past, but I always kept rolling my clothes as you described as a towel trick. I don’t know when nor where I heard about it, but I know of it for a very long time. And it really works! So, I recommend it for sure!

  40. I just wanted to add a special “thank you” to R. Ray Wang for his great website suggestions on how to find special types of reservations. Combined with the all the great tips in the post itself, I feel well-armed for my next trip! 🙂

  41. I just wanted to add a special “thank you” to R. Ray Wang for his great website suggestions on how to find special types of reservations. Combined with the all the great tips in the post itself, I feel well-armed for my next trip! 🙂

  42. I just wanted to add a special “thank you” to R. Ray Wang for his great website suggestions on how to find special types of reservations. Combined with the all the great tips in the post itself, I feel well-armed for my next trip! 🙂

  43. I just wanted to add a special “thank you” to R. Ray Wang for his great website suggestions on how to find special types of reservations. Combined with the all the great tips in the post itself, I feel well-armed for my next trip! 🙂

  44. you know you also need to bring a cellphone when traveling to use it in case of emergency, because in this time there are a lot of incident that compress around the world and we don't have any idea if when will that case attack to us that's why we should always ready and prepare before going

  45. you know you also need to bring a cellphone when traveling to use it in case of emergency, because in this time there are a lot of incident that compress around the world and we don't have any idea if when will that case attack to us that's why we should always ready and prepare before going

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