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frequent traveler ultimate packing and travel tips

A Frequent Traveler’s Most Important Travel Tips

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Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 as a worldwide pandemic, my husband, Chris, was a seasoned, world-wide frequent traveler. 

On the afternoon of March 12, 2020, Chris landed in New York City for work meetings. New York City! The epicenter for the corona virus in the United States. I was not thrilled as I saw the news and worried about him, even going so far as to suggest that he should come home. Fortunately, his employer agreed and Chris caught a very early flight home home the next morning. All flights were filling fast. 

Since that fateful day, Chris has been “grounded” as a frequent traveler.

It seems as though each week he laments, “I miss traveling.” 

Indeed, we are both a lot homesick for new travel adventures.

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Frequent Traveler Mishaps

Over the years as a frequent traveler, Chris has had so many crazy travel experiences.

Perhaps there are a few moments as the wife of one who is a frequent traveler that I don’t miss. Like the time I was greeted with a startling message from Chris’ phone. 

He had a quick work trip to Europe right before Christmas. He returned home on Thursday evening, leaving Paris around 3:30 am my time. When I woke up at 5:15 am, I was met with this notification on my phone:

Emergency SOS. Chris has made an emergency call from this approximate location. You are receiving this message because Chris has listed you as an emergency contact.

I wasn’t quite sure what to think but immediately felt a little panicked. I texted, but figured he would be sleeping and he doesn’t always pay for the wifi on United. IF HE ACTUALLY GOT ON THE FLIGHT.

So I waited, fretted, called United Global Services and found out that his ticket had been marked as “used”.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when Chris texted me when he landed at Washington Dulles. My response?

Jolayne: Christopher!!!

Chris: What?

Jolayne: Did you see the text you sent me?

Apparently, he pushed the right combination of buttons as he slipped his iPhone into his Work Bag[affiliate], and then his phone sent the text to me.

I was just grateful when he made it home safely.

And then there were the crazy food tastings that his foreign co-workers in Mexico delighted in sharing with Chris.

He doesn’t even like guacamole!

He texted me the pictures as he was served different dishes. This was the conversation we had by text as he was served:

Jolayne: Are you seriously going to eat that?

Chris: When in Rome. Sure.

Jolayne: You’re not in Rome!

Chris: I did it! Now ant eggs…

Jolayne: That is disgusting.

Jolayne: That’s like eating maggots.

Chris: Oh well. Not so bad

Jolayne: Do they not have any other food to eat?

Chris: Like ham and cheese larvae? There. I ate all three. Not too bad.

The next day…

Chris: Must have had some bad water on veggies. Stomach not super happy.

Jolayne: That’s not fun. Maybe it was the crickets, ant eggs, and larvae. Hmmmmmmm…

Chris: They asked me about tongue tacos tonight. I passed.

Jolayne: Are they just trying to give you the grossest things possible?

Chris: Annnd, I ate the tongue taco. It was ok.

Jolayne: Disgusting.

Chris: Back to my room. Headed to bed. Upset stomach.

Jolayne: No wonder.

The next next day…

Chris: Hi. Miserable night.

Jolayne: Sorry. Throwing up?

Chris: No, at least not that. Couldn’t sleep. Super achy. Couldn’t regulate body temp at all. Freezing and then huge fever.

Jolayne: Shoot. Do you have the flu? Food poisoning?

Chris: I don’t think flu. I think food poisoning.

Jolayne: Not exactly a good gift of tongues!

Chris: Oh, now you’re funny!

Chris: Bugs me that I got sick when I’m so careful with what I eat and drink and with washing hands.

Jolayne: What?!? Well, you can dork slap yourself now.

Chris: I had a sandwich for lunch. Guessing it was the water used to wash the veggies. I don’t think it was the crazy food. Timing doesn’t match.

Jolayne: Riiiiiiiggghhht.

Miracles for a Frequent Traveler

Throughout Chris’ years as a frequent traveler, we have experienced miraculous moments.

A couple of nights before Chris came home from an extended trip to India and Japan, he texted me that he thought he might have a kidney stone. 

Oh, my heart sank. 

Chris was getting ready for bed (about 7 am Colorado time), and mentioned that he was experiencing a lot of the tell-tale signs. After watching him experience a kidney stone last year and then taking him to the ER, aghhhh, my heart was so overcome with worry, and prayer, and wishing that I could do something more.

While Chris slept through the night in Japan, I asked family to pray for him. I prayed for him. I had a prayer in my heart throughout the whole day. I finally heard from him around 2 pm Colorado time.

He woke up feeling fine. It was a miracle.

Sometimes I just have to ask God to take over because, across the ocean, there’s so little that I can do. 

Except I prayed. My girls prayed. Our extended family prayed.

He handled his meetings like a rock star and returned home without any of the effects and has had no problems since.

His next trip to Europe had him leaving home just four days later. He earned his frequent traveler title. His body was so messed up. He arrived in Manchester after a couple of days of business meetings in London. 

Most people like to think that Chris’ life as a frequent traveler is glamorous, but when he talks to me after finally arriving at his hotel room after 9 or 10 in the evening, exhausted, having missed lunch, and waiting for room service to bring food, I know the life of a frequent traveler is not so glamorous.

I chatted with him for a bit and then said goodnight. I received a text a short time later, “I just threw up!” He said he felt better and then was asleep for the night. 

Sometimes he gives me a lot of cause to worry.  The miracle was that the next morning he awoke feeling refreshed and ready to go.

Frequent Traveler Skills

Some of the many things that Chris excels at as a frequent traveler? He has his timing getting to the airport and arriving at the boarding gate down to a science without having to spend a lot of time waiting around in the airport.

As a frequent traveler, he is familiar with airports all over the world and knows how to time his arrival just right. So long as traffic cooperates…

And his packing skills? He has those down to a science too.

His dopp kit, a term often used in the United States for a man’s toiletry bag, is repacked or restocked as soon as he arrives home in readiness for his next trip.

Did you know that dopp kit comes from an early 20th century leather craftsman, Charles Doppelt? His company designed the “Dopp kit” in 1926. The military issued toiletry kits during World Wars I and II, and “toiletry kit” and “Dopp kit” were interchangeably used. Samsonite purchased the Dopp brand in the 70s.

What does Chris pack in his Dopp Kit?

Chris keeps his dopp kit packed and ready to go at all times. The items listed below are dedicated toiletry items that always remain in the kit:

Hair brush

Deodorant

Metal Collar Stays

Fingernail Clippers

Meds – Unisom, Excedrin, Advil, Pepto Bismol chewables , Anti-diarrheal, cold medicine (Chris keeps these in his dopp kit as well as his carry-on)

Styling Gel

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

First Aid Items[affiliates]

When Chris began traveling in earnest over ten years ago, Chris invested in some new luggage. And, like many folks who are frequent travelers, he swears by his Briggs & Riley Luggage[affiliate].

Why Briggs and Riley?

  • The warranty
  • Quality and design is top-notch
  • Easy-access outer pockets and an inner system for extra capacity
  • Style and confidence for a frequent traveler
  • The first company to introduce wheeled luggage in 1970

Pro Packing & Travel Tips from a Frequent Traveler

  • Invest in a quality dopp kit and luggage.
  • Mark your luggage with easily identifiable Luggage Tags [affiliate] that make your cases quick to spot. Chris has been using Crew Tags for nearly 20 years and likes them for the durability, fun messages, and visibility.
    • Join hotel, rental car, and airline reward programs. The benefits of these programs roll over into your personal travel as well. Read 6 Steps to Plan Travel with Reward Programs. Pick a brand for each program and maximize your air travel, hotel stays, and rental car points.
United customer service desk
  • Book non-stop flights when possible. There are plenty of times when non-stop is just not feasible and you will need to connect.
  • Apply for Trusted Traveler Programs: Global Entry, TSA Precheck, Nexus, etc. to provide expedited customs and security screening. Many of the travel-oriented credit cards, such as Chase Sapphire and Bank of America, will often rebate one of the trusted traveler programs every few years. Check your card details.
  • Check out airport lounges. You can purchase one-day lounge access, invest in a lounge membership, pay to access a public airport lounge, achieve elite status, or use a credit card that offers airport lounge privileges, ie., Chase Sapphire Reserve offers the Priority Pass. While not available in all airports, it can either offer you lounge access or a free meal at a designated restaurant in some airports. Gold status or higher on most airlines (Star Alliance Gold, OneWorld, and SkyTeam) will normally allow you lounge access plus one guest on international flights (but not domestic).
  • Use a packing list and follow a routine. Download your FREE International Travel Planner below and easily access my International Packing List for Men
  • Plan to carry-on your luggage. Know the carry-on rules and limitations on luggage weight and size. Business travelers are notorious for their efficiency in travel.
  • Follow TSA Guidelines and keep liquids, gels, creams and pastes under the 3.4 oz size. Keep your liquids together in a Ziploc Quart-size Bag [affiliate] that is easily retrievable from the front pocket of your carry-on luggage at security.
  • Roll your clothes as you pack and stuff small items such as underwear and socks in your shoes to maximize space. Pack your heavy items close to the bottom of your suitcase.
  • Chris likes his dress shirts dry cleaned and starched just so. When he packs, he precisely folds his shirts and secures them in the built-in garment suit section.
  • Use Packing Cubes [affiliate]
  • Plan to carry-on your luggage. Know the carry-on rules and limitations on luggage weight and size. Business travelers are notorious for their efficiency in travel.
  • Follow TSA Guidelines and keep liquids, gels, creams and pastes under the 3.4 oz size. Keep your liquids together in a Ziploc Quart-size Bag that is easily retrievable from the front pocket of your carry-on luggage at security.
  • Roll your clothes as you pack and stuff small items such as underwear and socks in your shoes to maximize space. Pack your heavy items close to the bottom of your suitcase.
  • Chris likes his dress shirts dry cleaned and starched just so. When he packs, he precisely folds his shirts and secures them in the built-in garment suit section.
  • Use Packing Cubes. They help to keep your bag organized and like items together.
  • Invest in Travel-size Bottles and Containers.
Travel size TSA approved bottles
  • Make sure you have the chargers and adapters that you need. A Universal Adapter [affiliate] will come in handy if you are traveling in various countries with different plugs.
Travel Adapter Uppel Dual USB All-in-one Worldwide Chargers
  • Pack snacks.
  • Bring a Collapsible Water Bottle [affiliate] with you and fill it with water once you are through security. Or buy a bottle of water before boarding. Beverage service on medium to longer flights may occasionally be suspended due to weather conditions. Staying hydrated is uber important as you travel.
  • Don’t over pack. That’s a skill of a seasoned frequent traveler. Consider the length of the trip and the business vs. casual clothes that you might need. To avoid packing too many clothes, try packing a color theme, ie., for ties and socks. Bring one suit jacket that works with two pairs of dress pants.
  • Use Ziploc bags in a variety of sizes. Even pack a few empty bags.
  • Keep your essentials packed in your case and replenish all items as needed when you return home.
  • Use the hotel laundry bags for laundry, separating clothes in your bag, tucking shoes inside, or transporting damp exercise clothes.
  • Plan for laundry. Will it be necessary? Could you wash a pair of socks in the sink and let them dry overnight? Will you be traveling long enough that you can send out clothes to be cleaned? You can expect to pay a small fortune for hotel laundry. Check on independent laundry services where they will pick up your laundry, launder your clothes, and return the clean clothes for a significantly reduced price over the hotel laundry.
  • Bring a Light Jacket [affiliate] on the airplane with you.
  • In order to conserve space in your luggage, wear your suit jacket as you board the airplane and ask the flight attendant to hang it up for you for the duration of your flight (usually a perk offered in business and first class). They will return it to you as you land, but make sure you are getting the right jacket back! If you are traveling in coach, carefully lay your jacket across luggage in the bins above you once the bins are full.
  • Plan appropriate clothing for your downtime and sightseeing.
  • When you arrive at your hotel room, keep your luggage and bags off the hotel room floor to avoid unwanted pests.
  • Unpack your suitcase when you arrive home. Don’t get in the habit of living out of your suitcase at home too.
  • Consider a puffy jacket for cold weather when you travel. It will be warm and easily and compactly stuffs into an outer pocket of your luggage.
  • When you can’t be conservative with your shoes as you travel for business, wear your heavy or bulky shoes when you fly to open up space in your luggage.

The Carry-on of a Frequent Traveler

As a frequent traveler, Chris also travels with a Carry-on [affiliate] that accommodates all of his electronics and travel gadgets that doubles as a work bag once he arrives at his destination and sets off to business meetings each day.

eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack
eBags Pro Slim Laptop Backpack

His bag conveniently holds his Laptop in a padded section with room for his iPad and a convenient outer zippered pocket for his iPhone[affiliates].

Apple MacBook Pro
Apple iPad Pro 11"

Keep track of your passport. Chris travels with a Passport Holder or Wallet[affiliate]. Always keep a digital copy of your passport and other important documents that are stored in a secure vault program, ie., LastPass Personal Vault.

As Chris traveled around the world, he accumulated coins and paper money from different countries. Thinking that perhaps he would someday return, he would keep the money in Ziploc bags labeled with the country’s name once he returned home. As he would pack for a trip, he would grab the currency applicable to where he was traveling.

Many countries deal in coins for currency, so having a coin purse would also be recommended.

The benefit is that once he arrived in country, he would have enough cash for a taxi ride. One of Chris’ cardinal rules of travel is to never use the airport ATMs to withdraw cash. Find an ATM at a local bank for better exchange rates and enhanced security. Check out my eBook, “Plan a Trip to Europe: Essential Advice to Begin Your Travel Adventures” for more detailed information on financial transactions as you travel.

And just one more handy piece of advice: travel with an extra credit card that is separate from your wallet.

Plan a trip to Europe eBook graphic for resources page

Even in your carry-on, make sure that all liquids are consolidated into one easily accessible quart-size Ziploc bag.

Add meds to both your dopp (or toiletry kit) as well as to your carry-on: Unisom, Excedrin, Advil, Pepto Bismol chewables,[affiliate] Anti-diarrheal, and cold medicine

The mark of a seasoned business traveler is their ability to sleep on the plane. In fact, sleep is essential as they often arrive in country and hit the ground running to their first meetings soon after they land. Chris often takes a non-habit forming sleep aid such as Unisom[affiliate] to maximize his sleep time while flying and wears an eye mask.

A word or two about solutions to help with your sleeping AND to block out crying babies, chatty seat mates, and public announcements: invest in noise-cancelling headphones.

Chris uses AirPods Pro Headphones as well as Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones[affiliates]. The benefit to the Bose Headphones is that they are corded and offer less chances of falling out of your ears and getting lost while you sleep. Also, you can plug into the plane’s onboard system to watch movies or listen to music. Both types of headphones are an excellent option.

Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

Even after hours of wearing the Bose, they do not hurt Chris’ ears. He says they are his “faves”.

Apple AirPods Pro

Always keep a CHARGED Portable Charger[affiliate] in your carry-on for charging devices. You’ll be surprised at how often you will use one as your travel.

INIU Portable Charger USB C 10000mAh Power Bank

As the world returns to having more frequent travelers, face masks and hand sanitizer will be necessary must-haves.

Final Thoughts on a Frequent Traveler’s Guide to the Most Important Travel Tips

If you are new to the world of business travel, these are great tips to begin incorporating into you travel patterns and routines. Even if you have been traveling for awhile, you might just find a new idea to make your packing and travel experience go more smoothly.

What are your tips, tricks, and pieces of wisdom?

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David N Brace
8 months ago

Nice piece! It’s so important to plan before we begin the actual travel processes of packing and getting going. Planning leads to making sure things aren’t missed or skipped and gives us the time to make changes as things come up.