Monday, December 26, 2011

More Travel Tips Inspired by Clooney

More than a year ago, I put up my list of travel tips that were inspired by George Clooney's character in Up In the Air. Since that time, I have realized that there is a bunch of other stuff that I do that wasn't mentioned. So in a followup to that, here are more tips to add to my original list:

(1) In my original set of tips, I mentioned that one should choose a bag suitable for the location. One that works well for me is a bag that can double as a wheelie and backpack. A great example is when I went to Gulangyu in Xiamen: the narrow cobblestone walkways and cramped ferry were best maneuvered in a backpack format. But when I got in a taxi to head to the airport after that, I switched my Tumi bag en route into the wheeled configuration for easy navigation through the airport.

(2) Try to avoid packing shoes in your luggage since they take up too much space. Assuming that I'm on a business trip, black leather shoes are generally versatile enough that I can wear them nearly anywhere (if I need to work out, then just pack swimming trunks which take up very little space and can be rolled up). And if I really have to pack a second pair of shoes for some reason, then I'll be sure to shove socks into the shoes to take advantage of that space.

(3) Not only does it make sense to travel lightly, but sometimes I intentionally underpack. Pants, if kept clean, can be reasonably worn on alternating days without needing a pristine pair for every single day. And if needed, one can just buy more clothes at the destination - or just pay for the hotel's overpriced laundry service in the worst case. The only thing that I intentionally overpack? Socks and underwear. They are small, light, can be tucked into corners of your luggage, and must be clean! Having it all in your carry-on also makes it convenient when using the showers at the airport lounge.

(4) I know a lot of people wear jeans on the plane. But jeans would be the last thing that I would wear, especially on a long haul. Why? Have you ever tried to sleep in denim? Ugh. My choice is for khakis instead given that the soft cotton is much more comfortable. Sure, shorts are comfortable too, but that pressurized cabin gets cold after a while. Plus, khakis give you the ability to look respectable (think: upgrade candidate), especially when paired with a jacket. And if the humidity down here on the equator makes a jacket impractical, then a dress shirt with a frontside pocket at least comes in very handy for holding a boarding pass while trying to get through the mayhem of an airport security check.

(5) One of the things that makes Singapore Changi airport so awesome is the fact that the currency exchange booths offer rates that are pretty much in line with the market (as opposed to the huge ripoff that I once faced at SFO's Travelex). And if one has a Singapore bank account, then one can use the electronic NETS system so that one doesn't even have to fumble for loose change. I also make sure to change money at the start of every trip, even if I have enough cash from my last trip to that country. This way I get a receipt that makes it easier to submit expense claims later without having to go online later to look up the historical rates and print it.

(6) When you have a lousy laptop like mine whose battery only lasts about two hours, a BlackBerry (or other phone of course) is key since I can do most emails in offline mode on the plane without having to drain the laptop battery. Plus, the emails go right out once you hit the tarmac rather than trying to find an internet connection for your laptop, which is really only needed when I need to do something deeper with attachments or applications that the BlackBerry can't handle.

(7) Many people have probably included one of those global plug adapters in their arsenal of travel equipment. But I also try to make sure that my electronics use US/Japan plugs because they are the smallest and also work best with most in-flight power outlets. The worst situation is to travel with one of those gigantic UK plugs - I've seen a couple of cool designs where UK plugs can collapse into a more compact form, but it hasn't been that common, and still doesn't beat a US/Japan plug.

(8) Always have small padlocks on your bag, even if you are not checking in anything. Why? Shockingly, some hotels don't have in-room safes. And even ones that do might be so small that they can't fit a laptop. Sure, these little locks can easily be cut, but at least it's enough of a deterrent in case you really need to use your carry-on bag as a makeshift safe in your room. And always hang the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to keep the staff from coming in. I mean, does anyone *really* need turndown service and an ice bucket? Even daily housekeeping service is unnecessary in my opinion unless one is staying more than a week (kudos to Westin for their Green Choice program).

(9) You know those little sheets of paper that hotels have sitting next to the phone? Always grab a couple blank sheets and shove them into your bag. This is to keep track of those little cash-based expenses without receipts, like tips, vending machine soda, or even street food. Scribbling them down on the little sheets not only helps one remember when filing expense claims, but also makes it a bit more substantiated when written on paper that has the hotel's logo and address on it.

(10) In the US, where security requires you to take off your shoes, jacket, and belt, I have a preferred sequence with which to send my bags through the X-ray machine. The first tray must contain my shoes. That way, once I get to the other side, I can put on my shoes immediately and be functional enough to move around quickly to keep the line moving. My second tray must contain my laptop. That way, once I get to the other side, I can easily grab that and shove it into the third item going through, which is my laptop bag. My fourth item is my wheeled luggage, which I can just grab and move away easily with - and put my belt back on later.

Oh - and if you are able to get your hands on kiosk-based immigration clearing in selected countries, definitely get it - it saves so much time. Singapore residents of course already have that, while I'm also very grateful for the US's Global Entry program as well as HK's Frequent Visitor e-Channel. Now I just need to somehow find a way to get an APEC card.


Blur Ting said...

One more tip - Wear a belt without metal buckle so you don't have to remove it.

Unknown said...

I strongly disagree about denim - at the Star MegaDo it was ingrained into us at the Austrian Airlines safety training that jeans are the best thing to have on in case of an evacuation. And one can easily learn to sleep in jeans.

Eskimo Grrl said...

Apec cards are only avaialable to citizens of APEC countries. Don't think US is an APEC member though.