I have had a very strange concurrence of events that have lead to the most jam-packed fall schedule I have ever had. Friends getting married, work trips, fun trips, brain trips, basically have resulted in me traveling a lot from September -November. I am also a terrible combination of super nerdy about stuff and processes and also hella smug. So, the result is that I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about my stuff during travel.
And I will now share these thoughts with you in the form of a list of 10 things that I consider necessary when traveling with only a personal item.
All this travel has been made possible by the fact that I live in a big city (serviced by two international airports and a well-developed mass transit system). My last two air travel trips were shortish flights (to Tallahassee and to New York City), for short trips (2-4 days). My normal MO would be to bring a roller bag and pack probably too much stuff or check a bag. Both of these are bad, because I cannot even with checking in at airports anymore. But also, I hate roller bags in airports. Seriously, if I were running shit, the first thing I would do is ban roller bags in airports. Really, most people are terrible about being aware of themselves in space and time, we’re not even considering what they are like dragging a roller bag behind them. Oh, you’re just going to stop in the damn middle of Concourse B in Atlanta, Carol? You and your husband are going to argue about where the gate is, right here, outside this Starbucks? Fantastic, allow me to hurdle over your stupid bag so I can make it to my plane.
Since my flights have been leaving super early (because cheap) and I refuse to give an extra dollar to the major discount airlines (because reasons), I have been experimenting with packing into a “personal item”. This is based on one of my major anxieties coming to life last year at Thanksgiving, where it took us so long to check in at the counter with a bag that we almost missed our flight. So, I don’t do that anymore, if I can avoid it. If you want to avoid standing in that line, and that extra $$ for the carry on bag fee, you’re pretty much left with carrying ONLY a personal item. Tangentially, this shift for me has been HUGE. It’s quite a feeling to whisk from your front door through security in an hour, by passing checking in at the counter and dropping your bag. It’s fantastic.
Some things I would recommend that have changed my travel life:
Light athletic jacket with zippered pockets.
Seriously- the athletic jacket with the zippered pockets is my go-to travel apparel for several reasons. You can throw your small stuff (wallet, keys, phone, earbuds, chapstick, etc.) into the pockets and zip them up. When you go through security, you don’t have to worry about your shit spilling out all over the belt or anything. Plus, sometimes pockets are good for holding bigger items like Kindles or bottled drinks or snacks. Being able to have all of this stuff ON YOU means you can have more clothes in your personal item. Even awesomer is that by having pockets that zip, you lower your profile as an easy target for pickpockets.
My favorite is a black Adidas jacket that zips all the way up, so it is great for when that plane fan is blowing on you- and works as another layer when you get to your destination!! Here I am wearing my jacket while fishing!!
Headphones and Cord Management
I know we are throwing it back these days and a lot of people are going back to the over the ear wireless headphones, because we are living in the damn future. However, for me, the over the ear head phones aren’t always worth it (granted, I don’t have the super swanky Beats headphones). Having them on your head and trying to rest your head against the bulkhead to sleep is not great. Having them down around your neck like a professional athlete looks cool, until you realize that they’re all up on your face. They are big and annoying and don’t fit nicely into a pocket (even if they are foldable). Plus, depending on what your travel situation is, maybe you run the battery down in your headphones, and now you’re dealing with a dead piece of tech, hanging around your neck. ANNOYING.
My system? I go with in-ear buds bluetooth headphones, so I can still rest my cabeza against the bulkhead. If necessary, those bad boys can go in my pocket. In fact, this is my cord set up. I have four cords/wires (in addition to my computer charger):
-micro USB (charges headphones, external battery, kindle)
-backup set of earbuds
-double charging block
-backup external battery
Twisted together in a little nest of cords, it doesn’t take up much space. I like to stash them into a soft/flexible little case. It can go into my jacket pocket (if necessary) and also squishes down well to fit where it needs to fit.
I am trying not to buy garbage anymore.
As a hippie liberal socialist pinko (my parents’ words- not mine), you know I gotta be all about reusable water bottles, because environment. Also, I live with people who seem not to concern themselves with where bottles and caps are in relation to each other. This usually results in constantly having to search for a water bottle when I need it. I also *really* like nice travel mugs, but realize that I don’t bother with travel mugs for drinks I don’t really like (tea and coffee). If we’re talking about hot chocolate, I am all about THAT life, but let’s be honest, I can’t be trusted to only drink one (1) hot chocolate in a given day, so its better if I just abstain. But I appreciate a hot drink when I am watching my son play sport on cold days. It just feels ridiculous to have a travel mug dedicated to one activity during one circumstance (watching my son do sport on a cold day outside).
So, when I saw this Swell bottle at the New York Public Library, I bought it, thinking it would be perfect for my life. It actually is turning out to be perfect for my life. It holds water most days. And on days when I am watching sport outside in the cold, hot cider goes into it perfectly. I like taking it when I travel because I can take it empty through security and fill it with water at a water fountain. thus saving myself from $2.99 a bottle water purchases.
I am not going to lie- I am afraid to think about and analyze whether or not I am actually addicted to my phone (mostly because I think we know the answer: YES). The thing is, its not just social media. Don’t get me wrong, I like my likes and mentions like the next girl. But I LOVE LOVE LOVE all the reading a person can do (not books). Pocket is an app that allows you to collect links. What I love about it is that I have the browser extension, so when I am
slacking working really hard at work, when I can save links so that they all go in one place. Even better is that the links download and save on their own when the app is open. In Chrome, when you open a new page, the top trending stores are there, along with the Save to Pocket button.
My last computer session before getting on a plane, I pop on and use the “explore’ option to find the latest articles on something I have been thinking about; hiking, writing, time management, productivity, etc. Then, I can scroll through the page adding things to my pocket. If it is the night before, when I go to bed, I open the app and make sure the stories are downloading. If it is the day off, I open on the way to the airport or at the gate. Easy- and I don’t run out of things to read on the airplane.
I subscribe to my share of garbage things that waste my time and money every month. But, the $14.95 I spend each month on Texture is ABSOLUTELY worth it. Texture is a magazine app that works best on something like a Surface Pro or an iPad. I say that because I have used it on a Kindle Fire and I don’t like it as much (it requires a LOT of pinching and zooming). On the Surface Pro, Texture is about the size of a magazine page. It has a fantastic selection of magazines (Outside, New Yorker, Money, ESPN, Bon Apetit, etc.) Before a flight, I will download several of the latest issues and have them on the ready for being on a plane. Even better is that I can get access to most of the magazines that I read without necessitating a stop at a magazine stand or a subscription and without accumulating a stack of magazines that makes your heart hurt for the environmental damage that you can see sitting in your foyer. Seriously, I once traded “about to expire” airline miles for magazines and it was a disaster. At one point, I had a stack of magazines over 12 inches tall. That is too many. Too many magazines.