While I can hardly claim I’m part of the jet-set, or an adventurer who has sailed the seven seas, I realised that I travel regularly on trans-continental flights and a gotten to the point where I have my ideas on what to pack, and how to minimise the hassle of air travel. The following tricks are clearly optimised for me, but they might still be useful for others.
If you fly economy and you are a man, you only get one piece of hand luggage, so you should make the most of it. As you will put a lot of stuff into it, it will probably be heavy, which means it can hurt your back. So want something sturdy, convenient, and comfortable to wear for long times. A good bag tends to be expensive, but it protects your back, your stuff and it will probably last longer that your laptop. Currently, I travel with my second crumpler back-pack. I discarded the previous after using it for all sorts of travel (including hiking) for more than four and a half years.
The bag features good back-padding, lots of pockets, it can be opened to take out the laptop (which is mandatory a security checks), and has second interior bag to keep your stuff from falling. The bag is designed in such a way that it cannot be opened if it is on my back.
A standard trick is to travel with your heaviest shoes to save on luggage weight. I usually travel with a pair of light hiking shoes. I think this not only a good weight strategy, airport are a place where you walk a lot, and if you luggage gets delayed, you can still walk. As you are going to need to remove your shoes anyways and you will have plenty of time to remove them.
For the clothing, I recommend light and soft clothing. At the same time, in my personal experience, I get bothered way less by officials when I’m not wearing a t-shirt – the only time I was upgraded spontaneously to business was when I was wearing a suit. So I tend to wear sport chic clothing (my hiking shoes are dark coloured) so I don’t stand out to much.
Stuff to take on board
Besides my laptop, I take the following things in my back-pack:
- Camera, mostly because it is delicate and some people might think it’s worth stealing. I store it in separate pouch (also from Crumpler) that can be attached to the back-pack.
- Laptop accessory kit: power-adapter, some small cables, memory card adapter, etc. I also have set of USB powered devices: ethernet hub, wifi access point. I won’t need them in the airplane/airport, but it can be very handy in hotel rooms.
- Spare battery, I usually don’t use it, but this means that if I’m stuck somewhere I can use my laptop.
- Some light food. You can usually get water to drink in both airport and airplanes, but in case of delay, having some snack can be useful. I tend to take tried fruits, swiss chocolate is also nice, if you don’t eat, it makes a nice mini-gift.
- Warm socks. I take off the shoes as soon as I’m seated to be confortable, but the plane tends to be cool, so I take an old pair of wool socks my grand mother did for my while I was in the army. Given their colour, I’m not really afraid if they get dirty.
- Eye cover, inflatable neck cushion and ear-plugs. I actually use in-ear earphones as ear-plugs.
- A small silken sleeping bag (a gift from my mom), I can use as additional blanket.
- Some books
- A paper copy of all important travel documents.
- Some pens, there are always forms to fill in.
- A foldable bag – if you somehow end up with to much stuff, and you don’t want to go around with airport shopping bags.
- A carabiner, to hook the keys I will get (rental car, corporate apartment).
The stuff I avoid taking in my hand luggage: toiletries (security control hassle, and easy to buy if luggage is delayed), spare clothes (clothes are generally cheaper than in Switzerland), hat, umbrellas. I sometimes also pack a pair of swimming trunks. I love swimming, and so the fun/volume ratio of swimming trunks is quite good. Swimming trunks are not so easy to get by, but there are many places where you can swim. Also you can use themas emergency underwear.