Written by Steven J. DeRose, November, 2002. Last updated 2008-08-23.
This is a guide to things I find useful to have along on the road. They are meant to make it easier to get online, to network local computers, to exchange data, and to be prepared for the inevitable surprises of travel.
There is a general collection of ideas, tricks, and things it's good to know. As with all my Guides, I welcome your feedback and suggestions for enhancements.
It's a good idea to label all your stuff with your name and contact information; if you lose it someone may mail it back to you. Also, pick 2 or 3 colors and put strips of tape on cords or other things you may need to find your stuff quickly at the end of a meeting. I use yellow and black, so pick something different. Getting an electric engraver (under $20) and using it is great, especially for identifying keys; return-address labels work on all sorts of things, like inside the battery cover on your cell phone.
There is a lot of detail in how to do this, so I've split it into a separate document. The main idea is to have the resources to connect and to transfer data in multiple ways, because no one way will work in all situations.
An extra laptop battery. Expensive but well worth it. Also, rechargeable batteries lose capacity with time, so replacement is needed.
Extension cord: outlets are rare in airports and conference rooms, so a longer cord is valuable, as is one with 3 outlets on the end so you can share. If someone is already plugged in to the only plug in sight, they probably won't mind letting you join in if you bring your own 3-way cord.
On many cords there is a small plastic tab sticking out the end which seems to have no purpose except to keep you from plugging a 3-prong plug into the cord. On many such cords you can safely cut off that tab and then plug in a 3-prong plug with the ground prong simply sitting where the tab was. Don't try cutting the tab off with the power on, and do make sure you don't expose any metal or create any other hazard. If you want to be extra helpful, you can add outlets along the cord too; some hardware stores carry simple ones that simply snap onto the cord anywhere you want.
Foreign power adaptors: A small set good for many countries is available at Radio Shack and similar stores for several dollars.
The best option I see for a power supply for the road is an adjustable/universal one, so you can use it for multiple devices. Or, make sure you have USB charger cords for everything but your laptop, and then you can plug it in, and charge the other ones from it.
All of the following should be in your organizer, organized so you can find the information fast:
Kinko's locations. A booklet of them is commonly available at Kinko's.
Taxi company phone numbers for many cities (as well as airport shuttles and the like). I haven't been able to locate an online list, but am starting one here. Do remember 1-800-taxi-cab; they'll forward you to a local cab company for no extra charge.
Whenever you visit a new city, jot one or two down (ask the concierge for recommendations). Feel free to send me numbers for additional cities and I'll add them to this list here (if you're a cab company, don't bother unless I have fewer than 3 for your city). Since it's hard to remember which company names go with which cities, you may want to:
Local-access numbers for your long-distance phone provider.
The local modem dial-up numbers for your ISP. Also be sure you've successfully gotten connected to your ISP by modem from home, so the only thing changing when you're on the road is the phone number.
A list of all your credit cards, with their PINs and the 800 numbers for service. However, do not place this information where someone who steals your organizer can get it. Get an encryption program like Secret! or Gnu Keyring for PalmOS that automatically locks them back up after a couple minutes or a power-off. See PalmOS Security Programs for a more complete list, or another site appropriate to your device.
Because CDs, DVDs, and flash drives hold a lot of information, you might as well bring a lot. Internet access is not yet universal.
My friend and colleague Jon Bosak was once on a plane, talking to another friend via the passenger phone system. A question came up that any good encyclopedia could answer. Much to the other friend's surprise, a moment later Jon had the answer, because he carries a couple CD encyclopedias along.
I think the most critical information should also be on your palmtop. This probably means you want a palmtop with some kind of removable mass storage.
First among your CDs should be a bootable system repair/reinstall CD. Preferably including a disk repair facility such as Norton Utilities.
Some general references such as an electronic encyclopedia, national CD white pages; map data for relevant areas.
An off-computer copy(s) of any presentations you have to make. I usually put a copy on a USB flashcard or a CD, and also email a copy to someone else going to the meeting or conference.
If you have a palmtop, choose a nice document reader and make versions of your relevant stuff. Since I work largely in standards, I keep about 600 MB of standards documents on my laptop and palmtop. For PalmOS I like the iSilo reader, especially because you can teach it a list of URLs and have it update and rebuild all of them on demand. Sadly, many readers use non-standard document formats; look for one that uses "palmDoc" (sometimes called "doc", but not to be confused with the Microsoft Word™ ".doc" format.
Any other ebooks you want to read. I carry a couple English Bibles, a Greek New Testament, and a short Greek lexicon. Plenty of fiction and non-fiction works are available; but be aware that some are poorly proofread scans of out-of-copyright texts, while some are far better, quality editions. Caveat Emptor.
If your laptop has a DVD player, it is becoming de rigeur to have some DVD movies along to watch on the plane.
Split your cash and credit cards into at least two places, in case you lose one or are robbed.
Have ATM cards that will work on international networks
Remember that if you take a cash advance against a credit card, you will probably pay a higher interest rate on it, and it will be the last charge your payments will apply to -- thus you may have to pay the card off entirely to get rid of it.
More important than any equipment you carry, is knowing what to do. Take a Red Cross or similar first-aid course; preferably advanced. Get certified in CPR. Know how to use an automatic defribrillator.
OTC medications: These are best kept in a pill organizer, available at most any drugstore (or see Apothecary Products) for a huge selection). Be sure to get one where the covers latch down tightly or lock. Be sure to label every compartment with what is in it, what strength, and the expiration date (this is required by law in some places, and smart anywhere). Some drugs I consider including (I'm not a medical doctor; consult one if you want advice about medicine):
Prescription medications: Be sure to take enough of these for your trip, and some extra in case of delays or losses. Divide them into 2 places so if you lose one, you have time to find a local doctor and get replacements (obviously the importance of this depends on how time-critical your medications are). Don't put them in checked baggage. Bring along a written prescription or a letter from your physician -- either to speed up getting local medical help, or to prove to local police that nothing's illegal.
Band-aids, antiseptic, antibiotic, etc. Pre-loaded antiseptic and anesthetic swabs are great.
Maybe it's just from my old EMT days, but I throw in a larger sterile dressing, some tape (generally useful anyway), and some butterflies or steri-strips (the last two are excellent ways of closing some wounds in the field -- I impressed the heck out of people when someone split her chin open during a freestyle skating practice and her coach and I had the bleeding pretty well controlled with a few butterfly bandages from my skating bag, long before the ambulance arrived.
Snake-bite kits: Don't bother. I just list them here to help spread the word that they are no longer considered helpful. As I understand it, the venom spreads too quickly for you to have much chance of getting it out by the cut-and-suction approach. Just don't get bitten in the first place.
Contact information for your doctor, dentist, and other professionals.
Easily-findable information about any important medical history, drug, food, or other allergies, blood type, medications you are using, or other special medical information. Don't make this information hard to find -- you might be unconscious when it is most needed. Put critical information in a file simply called "Medical Information" at the top level of any devices you carry (laptop, palmtop, flash drives, etc.)
If you have a serious allergy, have adrenalin (say, in an Epi-Pen™) and know when and how to use it.
If traveling in or near countries with special vaccination requirements or recommendations, be sure to have records (the yellow WHO booklets) of them.
If traveling in countries with poor health facilities, you may want to carry much more; consult a physician or department of health that is expert in the particular area.
Of course if you have some form of medical training, or a special condition, you may want to carry more; but in that case you should also know what you want to carry.
A gooseneck light that takes power from your USB port. If you're in the dark and want to light up your keyboard, this is great. The same thing is available for Game Boys, which could be very useful so you can keep the dome light off while driving and still let your kids enjoy their games on trips. Of course, Macs have backlit keyboards so (like so many other things) you don't have to buy this.
A swiss army knife (not on airplanes!)
Spare batteries as needed (camera, phone, laptop, flashlight, palmtop...).
I've spent a lot of time and money the last few years trying to find a good way to carry all the electronics and other stuff I want with me. One fundamental snag is that the "on the road" pack and the hometown pack are quite different.
As I have it now, the road warrior pack contain basically all the computer stuff (laptop, universal power and tips, palm sync&charge, ethernet cables, CD-Rs, Imation flash memory adaptor, etc.
Some options I've tried for carrying stuff include:
Finally, I found just what I wanted. I was in a hardware store and saw an over-the-shoulder tool-bag! The key, critical difference this brought is that all the internal compartments had 4 sides, not just 2 pieces of cloth sewn together with no actual space. this keeps things from falling out all over the place, and makes it much easier to organize.
The bag I got is this one from CLC ToolWorks. It's the 25 pocket BriefBag™, item 1122 (16"W x 12 1/2"H x 1 1/2"D). This picture is not that great a view -- the main cover flap is everything above the top of the manila folder you can see sticking out. About $30. Here's why I think this bag is great:
They have a huge selection of other bags:
IMHO, this bag or something very similar is the way to go. It never occurred to me to look among tool bags instead of computer or business bags; but it seems to me that's where the designers with the most clue must be working. Just as I didn't think to look in the costume jexelry industry for links from which to make chainmail armor -- but that, and not industrial chain, was where to go.