Ever fluctuating TSA regulations make planning and packing for airline travel a frustrating experience. Add to this the increase in airline bag fees, and suddenly an overnight stay or a weekend trip becomes panic attack inducing. Don’t worry, though. Breathe in, breathe out: help is on its way.
If there is one cardinal rule to packing it’s this: assess honestly. Don’t pack for the trip you wish to take. Don’t pack for the person you wish you were. Everyone at some point believes they will get through Crime and Punishment on their next trip. Most people don’t. Know if you need to watch a movie to pass the time on a flight, or if you’d rather just sleep your way through the time in the air. If you apply this rule to your personal affects as well as to your electronics, you’ll be traveling like a frequent flier in no time.
For starters, leave the laptop at home if you possibly can. This makes TSA screenings go by faster and makes your baggage load lighter. Remember to pack devices like e-readers and tablets next to one another, rather than on top of each other. For some reason, this annoys TSA and makes them scan your bag three times. For those who need a kickstart to minimizing their packing list, here are the tried and true tech gadgets, as well as a couple travel essentials, used by yours truly.
These things are a bibliophile traveler’s dream. In the place of three heavy books, suddenly thousands of books rest at one’s fingertips. A traveler can change her mind on what she wants to read on the tarmac, up to the cabin doors closing. Added bonus? Due to copyright expirations, most classics are free. So an attempt to read Dostoyevsky comes without the punishing weight and packer’s remorse. Downside? These, as electronic devices, do need to be powered down until the flight reaches 10,000 feet. But isn’t that why they provide a free copy of Sky Mall in the first place?
For work, For play. As mentioned in the previous Dropbox article, access to all necessary documents, whether work related or not, can be streamlined. There are also productivity tools and apps out there that allow a user to edit their data, so items are not only accessible but changeable. More on how to best do this forthcoming. Remember, though: if giving a presentation of any sort, make sure the presentation venue has internet access, otherwise that little annoying thumb drive needs to be brought along for the voyage as well.
Store any movies and T.V. shows on tablets for a more personalized in-flight entertainment. Games are a boon of these devices, particularly when traveling with the attention deficient. Tablets also have a variety of apps for keeping track of to-do lists, that way all travel checklists can live in one, easily accessible place. Obviously, tablets may also replace the e-reader. However, be wary: some readers experience eye strain from reading on a regular backlit screen for several hours in a row. Be sure to pack an e-reader that uses e-ink to avoid unpleasant headaches, if you are unable read off of a standard computer screen for long periods of time.
A Smartphone or WiFi Accesible Media Player
Any smartphone with a good lens and a decent flash should replace the digital camera in a suitcase. These photos can be immediately emailed or backed up onto a cloud service like Dropbox. Loading up the smartphone or the media device with a traveler’s favorite music allows for a more soothing traveling experience. WiFi accessibility on either device helps for those who want to forgo bringing their tablet and their laptop, but still want to browse the web whilst in their hotel rooms.
Noise Canceling Headphones
If you’re cool with the tiny cheap earbuds, they are the best from a space-saving and economic viewpoint. But nothing says “I do not want to talk about how to breed Corgis” on a flight like an enormous pair of headphones. Plus, with a pair of these on, a traveler can smile serenely at the wailing infant in 23B.
Re-Fillable Water Bottle
Do you enjoy paying $7.00 for a bottle of water on the other side of security screening? If so, bully for you. If not, pack one of these nifty, filtering water bottles. Since you’ll be originally packing the bottle empty, it won’t add much weight. There are also neat fold up bottles on the market that lie flat when empty, if you’re worried about bulk.
A Pashmina, or Long Scarf
Don’t use those airplane provided blankets, okay? Just don’t.
If traveling all fancy up in business class, airlines usually provide these to their travelers. However, one should always remain highly suspect of anything given out for free by an airline. They even charge for the food at this point. Also, these free eye-masks are, more often than not, scratchy, uncomfortable and barely cover enough eye area to truly block out the light. Instead, buy your own, nice, satiny one and travel with it forever. Plus, nothing adds that bit of necessary glamour to airline travel like pulling out a personal eye-mask. If you’re feeling Holly Golightly, check this one out. For a more eco-friendly version try these sleep masks by Laura Langley, available in a variety of prints and colors. Pack some earplugs with these if you’re noise sensitive.
Slip on, slip off. Comfortable to walk in, light enough to throw into your suitcase if you buy a killer pair of boots along the way. Plus, a traveler arriving back in SoCal after a sojourn to colder weather will neither feel ridiculous nor overheated when grabbing a post-flight meal straight from the airport.