Travel Tips

I’ve just finished off a series of speaking engagements and events that have required a lot of travel—six cities since mid-August—and have had a lot of time to practice and hone my travel skills.

Here are a few travel tips that guide my “travel philosophy”. Hopefully they’ll help you too.

1. Pack light

Packing light is the cornerstone of my strategy. For me, that means packing my entire trip into a single bag (this one, if you’re curious).

Because I restrict myself to one bag, I’m forced to make tough decisions about what stays and what goes, which is why I need to…

2. Pack smart

With so little space to fill, I need to be extra savvy about what to pack. That process starts by cutting out everything but the essentials, but also involves choosing gear that’s as light and/or multifunctional as possible.

For example, I often used to carry a single shirt for wearing under button-downs, and another shirt for wearing to bed at night. By switching to a shirt from Uniqlo’s Airism line, I’m able to get a single shirt that can do double duty, because it resists odors and wrinkles (Airism gear is also incredibly lightweight, which is just as important).

I also try to be smart about what I’ll actually need. I never pack liquids, because I know I can get them when I arrive at my destination, and it helps to avoid TSA complexities.

3. Last on, first off

When using air travel with designated seating, there’s no reason to wait in long, crowded lines, unless you need to ensure space in the overhead bins on a flight. Because I pack just one bag (that’s well within the “personal item” allowed by most airlines), I don’t have the same rush.

I also make sure I pick aisle seats (close to the front of the plane) whenever possible. Most people new to air travel go for windows, because they want to see the world from above—and that’s cool. But once you’ve become a flying pro, you quickly realise that the aisle seats are best. They give you slightly more room to stretch out (unless the flight attendants are doing drink service) and they’re easier to get in and out of without manoeuvring around other passengers.

The double whammy of packing light and choosing an aisle seat means I can wait until lines have cleared to board, because I can stow my bag under the seat (don’t have to worry about space in the overhead bins) and because I can sit down quickly without bothering the other fliers in my row.

4. Be prepared for security

The biggest bottleneck/time suck at any airport (especially domestic airports) is the security line. You can help this process along—and minimise stress—by being prepared.

I usually carry a wallet, pens, headphones, and other similar gear in my pockets. Rather than rush to take everything out when I’m loading my stuff in the security bins, I take a few moments (usually in the cab ride to the airport) to get everything out in advance and into a pocket on my backpack. The only things I keep with me are my identification and cell phone (for the mobile boarding pass).

While waiting in line to enter security, I also make sure to take off my belt and untie my sneakers. If I have enough time, I’ll take my laptop out of my backpack, just so it’s ready to go.

It may all be “security theatre”, but being prepared for the routine will help you get through quickly, efficiently, and on time.

5. Always remain calm

Travel is a great excuse to practice meditation and mindfulness. Whenever something goes wrong—whether it’s turbulence, missed connections, or anything else that’s unexpected—having a calm mindset is essential.

For example, one of my flights this past weekend was diverted. Instead of landing in Houston, we were forced to land in Austin due to inclement weather. As soon as the announcement was made, the plane erupted into panicked chatter and confusion. When we touched down in Austin, it got more pronounced as the cell phones were brought out to try to figure out what to do.

Some travellers left the plane to attempt to figure out plans. Others were on the phone trying to figure out what was going on with customer service agents who knew as little as anyone else.

In the thick of that, I focused on staying calm and continuing to read. When things had died down a bit, I got an Internet connection, used TripIt to find an alternate flight, and—by providing exact flight numbers—was able to get myself quickly booked on the next open flight. I also put myself on standby for a few earlier flights.

Because I was calm, and had a good understanding of exactly what needed to be done—and focused on that—I was able to get to my final destination much sooner than many of the other passengers on the flight. And when we did finally land in Houston, and I saw the mobs trying to get information from customer service, I was contented with the fact that my flights were well taken care of.

So those are a few of my travel tips. What are yours? Share in the comments.