As a musician, I travel quite a lot for work, going on tours where we are moving places from day to day with an organised tour group... or travelling to be attached to an ensemble as an individual. Regardless of whether I'm travelling as one of a sheep herd or as a individual in a foreign land, I have picked up some little tips and tricks that make the process of getting from one place to another easier, so that you have less stress and more time to enjoy the actual destination! (Or get some much needed sleep before a concert...)
Now, I will have to stress that my travel tends to be with city/town destinations in generally developed countries. These tips are not quite as relevant for those who are travelling in less developed countries or those who might be backpacking... that said, there are still a few tips that are universally relevant!
- Handy Kit
- The Travel
- Wrapping Up
The best way to avoid stress when you are travelling to your destination is to be prepared with all your travel plans and documents BEFORE you leave! Now, I'm a big planner for travel... if you are prepared with your travel schedule and documents, you are better able to adapt to unforeseen events as you are in a more relaxed state of mind, in that you aren't constantly on edge looking for the next stop or the missing piece of paper that you need at that moment. Think slow, act fast!
So, I like to have all the travel itinerary logged in my Google Calender the moment that I complete the purchase of the tickets, with all the exact details such as Train/Flight number, Carriage/Seat reservation details, platform change details and locations of the hotel/AirBnB. This makes the changeovers work nice and smooth, as the train is coming in to your station, you only need to glance at your phone to have ALL the information at hand for your 5-10 minute changeover time!
Despite the fact that I'm a tech-nerd, I like to have dead-tree backups on hand as well. I have e-tickets when I need it, but I'm sure as hell not taking out my phone to hand over to random strangers that need to see your ticket! Plus, you never know when your phone will run out of battery because you've been playing too much Splinterlands!
When you are packing, the critical thing is to know what is absolutely ESSENTIAL for your destination. Of course, this will vary from trip to trip and from person to person... for me, I MUST HAVE my instruments, my music scores, phone and passport... everything else can easily sourced at the destination. It would be annoying and tiresome to forget something that doesn't fall in the essential class of packing, but they are always replaceable!
Having most of your bag packed the night before is always a great way to avoid a panic the next morning. If you have a late start, this doesn't really matter that much... but if you have an early start , every minute of extra sleep counts. Generally on tour, we would start the day around 5 in the morning, and after a week or more of early starts... you have NO brain in the morning! So, putting the toiletries in the bag and leaving immediately is the easiest way to NOT leave stuff behind!
Another nifty thing to remember is to ALWAYS leave your wallet, keys and passport in the same place... choose the spot when you arrive, and NEVER leave them elsewhere! (this also goes with when you are actually on the move... ALWAYS put your passport and documents back into the SAME pocket and NEVER in the seat pockets of the transport!).
Something that my wife taught me was that I should roll my clothes really tightly instead of having them just folded (or haphazardly thrown in...). This ends up taking much less space, which means there is more space for goodies to bring back home! These days, I have two kids (and a wife...) who love getting little presents from wherever I've been.... and we all enjoy trying some little food and drink treats from other countries! These things taste much better when you are sharing it with your own family!
Okay, my "handy kit" selections really reflect the fact that I'm a tech-obsessed nerd! So, topping off the list of handy kit to have is this trusty high capacity battery pack from Anker. Quality power supply with a metal casing to protect against abuse, it has enough power to charge my phone at least 10 times at a decent speed. Of course, you might not need that sort of power backup, but it is still a good idea to carry a LOW-capacity power pack that can just juice your phone enough to send out an emergency signal... or to fire up Google Maps!
The power pack is paired with a handy USB 3.1 spec power cable with exchangeable tip ends. Micro, C and Lightning are supported so you don't have to carry and rummage around for different cables whilst lugging your bags!
A Power strip (with surge protection...) is handy for some of the hotels that you travel to. If I'm travelling in Europe, it generally isn't necessary except for some weird hotels that have a single power outlet near the bed. However, when you are travelling to countries where you need to use an adapter, having a power strip means that you can hook up a couple of electrical gadgets to the same outlet point. Of course, you don't want to draw too much wattage... but if you are travelling with a refrigerator, electric heater, washing machine and air-conditioner at the same time... well, you are doing something fundamentally wrong!
A single charging solution is a core part of my travelling electronics kit as well. This is a nice Sateshi multi-charger with enough wattage to power my XPS15 via USB-C as well as 3 regular USB connections. Of course, this is paired with decent quality Anker cables which adhere to the correct USB 3.x power delivery specifications... USB 3.x is much more than the shape of the charger tip, but also the permissible power delivery standards as regulated by the resistors... unless you are fond of magic smoke coming from your prized electronics!
If you are travelling, a quality VPN is an absolute MUST! Connecting to open and hotel WiFi is to be avoided at all costs... however, sometimes you have no choice and these WiFi Access Points are a well known cesspool of insecurity. I pair this VPN acess with a portable Wireless Bridge that can double as a small battery... this means that I have to only connect a single device (the Wireless Bridge) instead of connecting each device one by one...
These days, I always travel with a small pack of snacks, generally muesli bars. I hate eating whilst I'm travelling... preferring to have a nice meal when I arrive at the destination. Still, you need to snack on something on train rides that are over 5 hours!
Plus... there was this one time when I had arrived at a tiny little Italian town in the evening after travelling for the whole day. I hadn't eaten for the whole day due to fast changes... and there was NOTHING open in the little town! NOTHING... not even the bar or the tiny supermarket! I was so hungry that night... and I have ALWAYS traveled with little snack bars ever since!
When you are getting out of your last travel connection and walking to your hotel/AirBnB it is really handy follow the directions (that you stored in your Google Calendar weeks ago!) over an earpiece. After all, the whole street doesn't really need to hear the directions... and it is best to have as many hands free as possible instead of trying to juggle phones!
I really recommend a neckbud... these are the COOLEST fashion accessory and I was always wearing one long before they were cool! (They are cool aren't they... or at least trendy?).
Of course, there is always some things that often need to be deciphered from a foreign language and being the shy person that I am.. I would prefer to figure out things on my own rather than ask someone. Did you know that Google Translate has a real-time translation tool that hooks into your camera to overlay a rough translation? Take the translations with a huge grain of salt... but they are good enough to get the gist of a document.... just take care as this tool is a huge data and battery guzzler as well! (Pro tip... pre-download the language libraries that you know that you will need!).
Okay... much of this tips and advice guide is really for the techy-nerd obsessed traveler in a developed economy! Still, some of this is still relevant for the average traveler... perhaps less if you are travelling off the beaten path.
Most of this is to do with preparation... with adequate preparation, you have the basis and the extra peace of mind for responding unexpected events as your regular travelling persona is much more relaxed. If you are lucky, and nothing goes wrong... then you will find that your travel is just smoother and hassle-free, and that you will have so much more ability and mind-space to just enjoy the destination!