PhoneBoy’s Travel Toolbox
Since I’ve joined Check Point Software, I’ve done a fair bit of traveling–moreso than I’ve done in quite some time. Since I am ending up more random places, and have had the joy of going through airport security in Tel Aviv on two occasions so far (which makes the TSA experience seem relatively painless by comparison), it has forced me to refine my travel toolbox–things that come with me on every trip I make. Lighter traveling makes for easier traveling, and the following items have earned a more or less permanent place in my travel bag.
The Apple iPhone: As much as I have liked the Nokia phones over the years, thanks to the breadth of applications on the iPhone, not to mention the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities, the iPhone has been a welcome travel companion. TripIt and iXpenseIt have become absolutely indispensable applications while traveling.
Portable iPhone Battery Charger: Written about this in the past, of course, but it bares mentioning again, especially when using the iPhone in airplane mode on a plane where they don’t provide a USB or power jack. It keeps my phone charged so that when I land, my iPhone and I are ready to go.
The Nokia E71: This comes in handy, particularly on those trips to Israel where I can’t use my iPhone as anything more than an iPod Touch thanks to AT&T’s roaming rates being so expensive. Prior to my purchasing an iPhone, the Nokia E71 was my primary phone and it is still quite capable in a pinch. It is also a failsafe in case I completely drain the battery in the iPhone
MaxRoam: One thing I have to admit missing from my days at Nokia was not having to worry about my mobile phone charges when traveling abroad. 500 – 1000 EUR phone bills were not all that uncommon for travelers abroad. Even though I was a responsible chap and asked how one might reduce that cost while abroad, I was often told “not to worry” by managers. Meanwhile, Check Point has a different opinion about these things, so I carry a MaxRoam SIM in that Nokia E71 to keep the roaming costs a bit more reasonable. That and I get a local SIM card if I’m going to be someplace more than a few days.
Skype: Assuming I have a good Internet connection, Skype is a lifesaver, especially for making reasonable calls to the US while I am abroad. Actually, the calls are included in the ~$30/year Skype North America plan, making it an excellent value.
Monster Outlets To Go: Given the relative lack of plugs I have found in hotel rooms, having a power strip with me has proven to be a wise investment. Abroad, it is even better because I can make more efficient use of the relatively scarce plug adapters. The Outlets To Go by Monster has been fantastic. It’s compact, the plug lights up when connected to power, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Can’t ask for much more than that.
iPass: As much as I’ve used (and loved) Boingo in the past, I have had numerous issues with their software on the iPhone and on the Mac. Also, I frequently find their “mobile” software doesn’t allow me to log into hotspots I use frequently. Enter iPass, who has been at this remote access game longer. They still provide dialup Internet access on the road, but also provide Internet access through a number of other mechanisms, including many of the same WiFi hotspots Boingo does. Their iPhone app works pretty well. More options is good, and when providing reliable remote access solutions, experience counts.
A Travel Router: Because one never knows exactly what kind of broadband connectivity one will find at a hotel, and I have multiple devices that might need to use that Internet access, a travel router has a place in my bag. I can plug it into the hotel Ethernet and make it WiFi so my laptop and my mobile phones can connect to it. I currently use a first-generation WTR54GS from Linksys, which I have flashed with the flexible DD-WRT firmware.
The EVERYMAN Headset: Yes, with Skype, one needs a quality headset for an optimal experience. The EVERYMAN delivers in terms of cost and compactness in my travel bag. Yes, they gave me a review unit a few months ago, but at $23 shipped to my door, I’d happily buy another one!
An Extra Change of Clothes: One thing I learned from a professional services guy I worked with early in my career is that you never know when you will get stuck someplace on the road. Flights get canceled or severely delayed. Any number of accidents can happen involving your clothing, as well. As a result, I always–even on short trips–bring an extra change of clothes with me. I have never had to use them, thankfully, but it’s nice to know they’re there if I need them.
An Extra Bag: Yes, I actually pack an extra bag in my carryon. It’s one of those nylon “recyclable” bags you might get at a grocery store. This particular one folds up nicely with a velcro flap to keep it a nice, tidy bundle. However, if I end up picking up a few extra things on my travels, having a way to carry that stuff home is important.