Since joining the company, I have been travelling way more than I ever thought I would. In this time I have learnt a couple of things to keep myself sane whilst on the move.
Here is a list of things that have helped me on the way. By all means, this is not ever going to be comprehensive, but it’s a start.
Just because I travel, doesn’t mean I don’t need to do my job. I have a couple of gadget bags which help me to be prepared for most situations – still there are some things I just live by.
Always be charging
You never know where the next plug socket is going to be – or if it works. I’ve been on trains which have plug sockets, but because of a technical issue, non of them have had charge. It also happened to me at an airport where a whole bank of sockets were busted.
For this reason, if you have tech gear – always make use of any plug sockets you do have access to! If you have the choice between charging your laptop or not – just do it. You never know if a flight is going to be delayed, or you get stuck in the air.
If you have the choice between charging your phone from a battery pack or a plug socket – always go for the plug socket. Save that battery pack for those moments where last minute plans change and you have no choice but to charge from the battery pack.
That is assuming your battery pack is fully charged of cause! I once did a last minute pack, ( Who am I kidding, thats how I pack all the time. ) where I threw in all my battery packs ( I have 4 ) and because I didn’t stick to this rule whilst I was at home, with a USB power station… whilst on the move, at the moment I really needed them, non of the 4 battery packs were charged. I realised I had used the battery packs instead of plugging in my phone for ease.
Such a fail on my part but back to the point – always be charging.
Power board it up!
Lets face it, many places we stay are not even designed for the amount of plug sockets we need so heres a tip; Travel with one of your local power boards and one international adaptors.
This means that you don’t need to carry a million adaptors. I love power boards which have surge protection built in. I’ve been to places where when I’ve plugged my stuff into to charge, the surge protector cut out. It is better and cheaper to let the power board fry instead of your tech gear.
Even better – which is what I’ve been spending all my wages on – condense the amount of power sockets you need and find a power board which has the perfect amount of things you need. I currently have a power extension which has 4 USB ports and 1 plug socket. It is a selfish way to carry things, but since I’m travelling more on my own these days, I get to be selfish.
Power boards with extra plug sockets does make you everyones best friend at conferences though – because lets face it, conference venues never have enough plug sockets for us techies.
I always thought that international adaptors were – well, international. Then I ended up in two countries where my international adaptor didn’t work.
Yes it shows the lack of research I do for the location I’m going to. It is always when my battery packs became life savers. Let this be a lesson to us all that it’s not a bad thing to check the location’s power plug situation.
As a caveat – just because you are in Europe, it doesn’t mean your european plug will work. I was at an Airbnb in Italy where all the sockets were the old style, and various countries have their own too- so check.
I once weighed my gadget bag. It was nearly 5kgs. Now considering my gadget bag was basically charging cables, extensions, adaptors.. that’s a lot of weight! Add my laptop to the mix, it’s no surprise that I ended up with back pains form lugging that stuff around.
Think about how long you are travelling for. What travel gear do you need? A 3 weeks road trip with colleagues is different to a 4 day in-out trip. What is the purpose for the travel as well? Are you going to a conference or hackathon? It is worth buying quality over quantity.
I now carry two gadget bags. One which is always on-hand and one which I am happy to leave in my suitcase / accommodation so that I don’t carry it on my bag and still be able to make myself home when I’m away.
The smaller go bag is a selection of things that changes depending on where I am going. When I go to conferences, it tends to be filled with battery packs, spare headphones and cables and my clicker and display adaptor so that I’m prepared for the conference.
When I am on my way to the airport, I tend to swap the display adaptor and clicker out, and add a plug adaptor. If you can, think though your day and imagine all the tech you might use in what situation and then work out what would be handy to have to hand – those things are the things that should be in your smaller go bag.
There are some things which I would probably cry if I didn’t have with me. One is headphones. I always carry the cheap Apple earbuds with me as backups. I love them because they survive a wash cycle, don’t have any rubbery bits that fall off. They ain’t the most comfortable nor do they have the best sound quality, but some music is better than no music so I don’t care.
Another thing is charging cables. Have spare usb cables when possible. When I was in New York, one of my cables failed me. No worries, just let me grab the other cable in my bag. Like magic it worked. Well, it did till I lent that cable out and never got it back, but that happens way more often than I care to admit. My mum asked me this weekend where all my salary goes, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her cables.
Label your stuff
How can you tell your USB cable apart from everyone else’s?
If anyone has seen my gadget bag, you will notice that nearly everything of mine is labelled with my name. This is for a few reasons. The moment when someone borrows a cable and forgets who that cable was from, it helps them out.
It helps me out when I am at my accommodation packing, and I can’t remember what I brought with me and what belongs to the accommodation.
Some people I have met think it’s overkill. But if I price up the cost to replace my gear every time I lose something, it would get costly quick.
If you work at a company that does company retreats, it’s also useful to know what you are meant to be taking home with you. I always take my label maker with me to the company retreats, because people ask me to bring it along, but from what I can see, it never gets used. At the end of the retreat then complain that they can’t find their gear or don’t know which cables belong to them… and I just sit there all smug.
Organise & Tidy
It’s really easy to throw your cables into your bag and not care about what state they are in. This is prime time for those cables to look liek a knotted ball of wool. I have tried a number of ways to avoid this from happening.
My favourite is retractable cables! I have a retractable ethernet cble, USB B cable, lightening cable and even an HDMI cable. These are great! and I mean Tony the Tiger style GRRRREAT! Quick and easy way to have tidy cables.
Unfortunately, not all cables are retractable. For those, I have historically used things like elastic bands, velcro cable ties and hair bands to tie my cables together. The problem is that elastic bands and hair bands break, and velcro ties can become really messy or go missing.
I recently found these amazing little things called Gear Ties from Nite Ize* . They are basically stronger pipe cleaners with a rubber coat on them. You can use them to twist around cables which makes them great as a cable tidy. When not in use, it is also easy enough to twist them around the cable fully extended which means it’s a little harder to lose.
I have brought my rooster stand and mouse with me on trips before. These are usually trips where I will be static and working from the same place for a week or more.
You can’t put a price on good health, so always consider ergonomics of the gear you are using.
So there you have it. I hope this helps you out.
This was originally a 5 minute flash talk at our company retreat, but by demand I ended up writing part of the flash talk up. At some point I might write up the second half the talk.
For now, comments welcomed. <3
* Amazon affiliate link – because if you are going to buy the stuff, I might as well get thanked by Amazon for sending you over.