I travel a lot for work; the last 5 years, I’ve flown at least 30 weeks out of 52, both
short-haul and long-haul. I’m tall – 1.93 metres – and don’t much like flying
what I’ve learnt.
Join the frequent flyers clubs!
Get a frequent flyer card, and try to book all your flights using that airline – once
you get to a level above “cattle”, a bunch of things happen to make your journey more
bearable. Check out ways of getting there quicker on
FlyerTalk – it might be a pain, but it’s worth trying.
Once you get above cattle class on the frequent flyer schemes, you get access to the
lounges. This is the single big
gest improvement in air travel you can imagine – when
everything works as normal, you can get a snack, a drink, free wifi and power in the
lounge, rather than milling around the airport. When there are delays, the lounge staff
is far more helpful and accessible than the general airline staff in the departure zone,
so you have a far better chance of getting help.
You also have a decent chance of an upgrade once you reach the top of the frequent flyer
tree – for long haul flights, this is a huge deal – British Airways First Class is a
thing of beauty!
Pack for speed and comfort
On most journeys, I try to fly with carry-on luggage only – getting out of the arrivals
hall quickly dramatically improves my m
ood, and often means shorter queues at immigration.
The I use a Tumi bag which has wheels, but can also be used as a backpack; I put my
electronics in one compartment (so i can quickly get them out at the security scan),
and have my toiletries (never larger than 100 ml) in a clear bag, inside my washbag,
at the top of the case. The goal is to get through security as quickly as possible,
so I make sure I have some space in the Tumi to hold my wa
llets (one for UK currency,
one for destination country currency), keys, belt and phone, whilst going through the
My carry-on essentials – they go on every journey:
- Noise-cancelling head phones: I’ve got a cheap pair of Sony active noise cancelling
cans. They’re comfortable, sound okay with the noise cancelling feature enabled (though
the sound is much better without this feature), and they fold up to be quite manageable.
- A 600mAh USB battery, enough to recharge my phone and/or iPad twice. Given the lack
of accessible power outlets in most airports, knowing I’ll always be able to re-charge
is a bit of a comfort blanket…but worth it!
- Charger cable for my phone and iPad
- A mechanical pencil and moleskine. Free-form jottings are still easier that way.
- My battered 160GB iPod, creaking with my music collection. You never know when you
need a medicinal dose of Bach.
- My iPad, with a pay-as-you-go SIM for the destination country. This allows me to
keep in touch with whatever is happening online. I’ve not yet found a comfortable keyboard
to go with the iPad – so I keep my outgoing comms short; many recipients say they prefer this.
I use a Bamboo stylus with the iPad to doodle.
- Two books – one fiction, one factual. Currently, “Mr Penumbra’s 24 hour bookshop”,
and “Thinking, fast and slow”. Both in paper.
- A camera (unless I’m very short of space) – currently rocking a Sony Nex 5. I always
try to walk through the city I’m flying to, and having a camera helps me actually look
at what I’m seeing, even if I don’t take any photos…
- A pack of paper tissues. Travelling is messy, and I tend to get sniffly on planes.
- A USB hard drive with my work in progress backed up.
On my body – only briefly relinquished:
- My passport.
- My main wallet, with British cash, and my credit cards/driving license etc.
- My travel wallet, with cash in the destination country’s currency.
- My house keys, and car keys if I drove to the airport
- My phone. Currently using an iPhone 4; see no compelling reason to upgrade.
Next, the things I’ll fit into carry-on if I can, but am happy to check into the hold if
I need to.
- My laptop, power supply and adapter for the local power system. I prefer to use my
iPad whilst on the flight, and having this lump of technology off my back makes the
airport experience a little more bearable.
- Clothes – I usually take “work” clothes and bring a gym outfit if my hotel sports
these facilities. If I’m going for more than 2 days, I’ll bring a separate bag so
I can keep my laundry separate from my fresh clothes.
- A small set of speakers for my iPod – again, if I’m going for more than a day or two.
Having my own music can make a hotel room seem far more bearable….
- My washbag. I keep my toiletries in a plastic, see-through bag in my washbag, so I
can just grab them when going through security. I use shaving oil rather than foam/gel
when travelling – it’s a lot less likely to run out the day of a big meeting.
- A few coffee beans in the bag keeps everything smelling a little less offensive,
especially on longer trips…
I usually travel with my big Tumi backpack/wheelie bag, and a smaller briefcase
bag. When my luggage allowance only covers a single bag, the briefcase fits in the Tumi;
it means that I don’t have to lug my backpack to meetings etc. when I’m abroad for more
than a day.