The family and I have been traveling in Iceland for the last few weeks. We had an amazing time (more in a future post), but I was again reminded that whoever said “The joy is in the journey” never spent much time flying coach. If you do any amount of traveling, you know that travel days are often hard. You’re tired, rushed and a bit stressed. In my family, we deal with this in two primary ways. First, we know in advance that travel days are hard, so we do our best to both act and react with an extra measure of grace toward each other and those around us. Second, we have some key tools that help make travel easier. Below are 5 of my favorite travel tools. Click the orange links to learn more.
TripIt: Every trip involves booking things like airline tickets, rental car, hotel, Airbnb, dinner reservations and event tickets. Each of those bookings usually has some sort of confirmation number, e-tickets, instructions, directions and contact information. I used to print it all out and shove it in my carry on. Now I just use the free TripIt app on my phone (available on both Apple and Android devices).
Here’s how it works. Step 1: Book stuff like your flight, hotel and rental car (or anything else for your trip). Step 2: When you receive the booking confirmation email, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Step 3: TripIt automatically and instantly creates an itinerary for your trip with each piece of booking information organized neatly in a timeline. Click on a particular piece of information and it will pull up all the details associated with it. Voila! No more paper printouts.
You can create unlimited itineraries and if you get the pro version of the app ($49 per year), it will also give a number of helpful notifications like flight status alerts, terminal and gate reminders, check in reminders and even a notification when it’s time to leave for the airport. It will also alert you if your flight is delayed or cancelled (usually before the airline does) and will suggest alternate flight times and numbers so you can call the airline quickly and rebook before everyone else at your gate starts trying to do the same thing. This has saved my bacon more than once.
TSA Pre Check: I’m grateful for airport security, but rigorous screening can leave you looking and feeling like you lost a very public game of strip poker. And because it takes time to remove certain items from your bags, take off your belt/shoes/jacket/etc. and get a full body scan, long waits in security lines have become the norm. You can avoid all of this by signing up for TSA Pre Check.
Here’s how it works. Step 1: Go to www.tsa.gov/precheck, fill out a quick application and schedule an appointment at one of hundreds of available enrollment centers. Step 2: Go to your appointment, pay an $85 fee, get fingerprinted and agree to an in-depth background check. All of this only takes about 10 minutes. Step 3: Once the background check is complete, you will receive a letter in the mail with your Known Traveler Number (KTN). Include this number when booking your flight and “TSA Pre Check” will be printed on your boarding pass which allows you to use the Pre Check Lane. That means shorter wait times (usually 5 minutes or less), you don’t need to take off your shoes, belts or light jackets and you don’t need to remove things like liquids and laptops from your carry on.
Bose wireless noise cancelling headphones: As the Grinch said “There’s one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” The thrum of a jet engine accompanied by the screaming baby in 9C can leave you feeling a bit out of sorts and exhausted at the end of a travel day. Tune it all out with these Bose headphones. They’re a little pricey, but I absolutely love them. The best way to describe them is that they’re magic. Turn them on and constant noises like jet engines almost completely disappear and variable noises like people talking or a baby crying are greatly reduced. They’re wireless (no chords to mess with) so they automatically pair with your phone or tablet. Flip them on to watch a movie or listen to music and because the aircraft noise is being cancelled out, you don’t need to crank up the volume to hear. They also work great when you’re trying to sleep on the plane or even when you’re at home and want a little peace and quiet.
Anker portable charger: Our phones have become indispensable travel companions. When I hiked the Grand Canyon last year, my cell phone was my camera, camcorder, pedometer, trip organizer (via TripIt) and, not least, an actual phone in case of emergency. Most trips last longer than your cell battery, however, and you’re not always close to a power source. Whether you’re at an airport with no charging stations or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, this portable charger works great. It has two USB ports so you can charge multiple devices at once and it contains enough power to recharge my iPhone 7 times. Anker was founded by former Google employees and has quickly become the world leader in mobile charging by doing a few things very well. They have chargers in multiple sizes and make great (long and strong) phone cables as well if you don’t like the short one that came with your phone.
Amazon Kindle: Whether at the airport or at the beach, there’s usually plenty of time to read while traveling. Rather than taking a book or two, I just bring my Kindle, complete with my Kindle library as well as any books I borrow from my local library and deliver to my Kindle before the trip. It’s light, holds thousands of books and has a charge that lasts for weeks. I prefer the basic e-reader version because there’s no glare, but if you’d rather have the Kindle that’s also a tablet, the Kindle Fire is a good option as well.
Safe (and enjoyable) travels!