Do you travel a lot? Are you constantly juggling itineraries? Is the quest for an available power outlet at an airport part of your routine? Have you been in so many cities this year that you have lost count?
As a professional speaker, consultant, and writer, a lot of my time is spent in airports as I make my way around the country. Through a process of trial and error, I think I’ve gotten better at being a “road warrior.” Along the way, I’ve sought out and adopted various tech tools, gadgets and services. Joshua Kim, of the Technology and Learning blog , is always prompting me to share my experiences as a consultant, so here goes, this is a list of things that I use to manage my life on the road:
Delsey Lite Gloss Hard Shell Suitcase
It’s made out of polycarbonate (I know, it’s just a fancy way of saying that it’s plastic) and it’s about as subtle as a road flare. The red ribbed suitcase  is a four-wheeled tank that keeps my necessities from getting crushed during transit. While I’ve never packed it to full capacity, I’m certain that it will be more than capable for an upcoming week-long stint in Kentucky in April (I’m working with Kentucky’s community college system - KCTCS - on a virtual academic advising project). Having blown through several cloth (nylon) suitcases, I’m optimistic (and convinced) that hard shell suitcases are similar to switching from a PC to a Mac. It’s different, but it’s also better.
The list of cities* that is currently in my TripIt  account is pretty astonishing to me. I’ve been traveling more in 2012 than I ever have in my life. TripIt really is a magical service. Whenever I book a flight, make a rental car reservation, or confirm a hotel reservation, I send my itinerary information to firstname.lastname@example.org. TripIt sends me a confirmation email to let me know that they have my travel information. Then, all I have to do is refresh the TripIt application on my phone, and all of my itinerary details for every single trip is listed in chronological order. It’s fantastic! TripIt is simply a must-have app/service for anyone who travels. It’s phenomenal**.
* Completed trips to: Indianapolis, Bloomington, Chicago, Lexington, Salt Lake City, Phoenix. Upcoming trips to: Los Angeles, Louisville, Washington DC, Lexington, Portland, Syracuse, Seattle, Memphis, Las Vegas, Houston
** Brad J. Ward  of BlueFuego recommended that I use TripIt.com one day via Twitter. Thanks Brad!
Gmail and Google Calendar
I use the label functionality in Gmail to categorize all of my consulting projects. The color-coding and filtering capabilities make for an easy way to keep track of important emails. Google Calendar, while not perfect, is an uncomplicated calendar that is available to me wherever and whenever I need to access my schedule. My only issue with Gcal is that it has a lot of difficulty with time zones. I rarely switch my computer to the correct time when I’m traveling. Since all of my appointments were created in Boston, I leave my laptop on Boston time.
Is it a watch? Is it an iPod? Does it seemingly run forever on a single charge? Yes, yes, and yes. The Lunatik  is a watch kit for an Apple iPod Nano. It’s probably the bulkiest watch that I’ve ever worn, but it’s also the coolest. I’m listening to music streaming from my watch while typing this post. Since the touchscreen Nano now includes an accelerometer, I wear my watch while running. My runs are tracked via Nike+. I can even record voice memos with my watch/Nano when I plug my mic-ready headphones into the jack. With 8GBs of storage, my watch has more than enough audio on it to satisfy my need for tunes at 30,000 feet.
Holua Silver Ear Buds
My first set of SkullCandy headphones were the Full Metal Jacket model. I loved the audio quality, but the cord was far too short for my 6’ 4” frame. While perusing headphones at one of the ubiquitous airport headphone shops (this one was in Salt Lake City), I came across the Holua Silver SkullCandy  headphones. With a cloth cord that has an appropriate length and a novel “wood” design, these have become my go-to headphones for travel. The mic button functions as the perfect “remote” control for my music on the Nano watch. While the Holua buds are not quite as bassy as the Full Metal Jackets, the highs and mids are blissful.
It’s pretty cliche these days to be sporting a Moleskine notebook. In my defense, I’ve been using Moleskines for quite some time. The size and durability of a Moleskine just works for me. My preference is for the ruled notebook version. The Moleskine that’s sitting in my backpack right now has the Star Wars logo stamped on it. Do I receive double nerd points for that? Anyway, there are several journals/notebooks available for the non-Moleskine crowd. However, when my laptop battery runs out of juice (not sure if that is possible with my new MacBook Pro, but that’s for another post), my Moleskine will be ready for my thoughts, scribbles, doodles, poor penmanship, etc.
Signo Uni Ball Gel 207
Easily the finest pen that I’ve ever used. As an academic advisor, I used to say that I wouldn’t advise without a 207 . It makes handwriting a frictionless experience. Combine a 207 with the pages of a Moleskine and let the magic happen.
It’s an app and it’s also a plastic card in my wallet. The Starbucks rewards card is a must for the traveling coffee aficionado. As a soy milk drinker, the card removes the ridiculous Soy penalty from my espresso order and lets me keep track of my white chocolate mocha consumption. The app, running smoothly on my Android phone, has a lot of functionality (especially if you have forgotten your physical card). Some Starbucks locations let you use your phone to purchase beverages. In what may be one of the only accepted uses (aside from delivery companies like UPS and FedEx) of QR codes, the app generates a custom QR code that a scanner at Starbucks reads to complete your purchase. When it works, it’s genius. When it doesn’t, well, at least you can always use “real money” in a pinch. The other nice aspect of the app is that you can reload your account with the press of a button. I’m a big fan of this option. And, as an added bit of gamification, the app tracks your purchases, and gives you stars that fill up a virtual Starbucks cup. When you get enough stars, you earn “Gold Status.” My gold card  is on its way!
It doesn’t really matter which Timbuk2  backpack you purchase. Just make sure that you are prepared to use it for a very long time. I purchased my Timbuk2 backpack back in 2007 and it looks like I’ve barely used it. It has been stuffed under countless airplane seats. It always emerges looking good as new. I think it’s mocking me, as if it’s saying, “is that all you’ve got?” There are a lot of quality backpacks for the hardcore traveler, but the Timbuk2 backpack is a great value. Plus, the laptop compartment in my bag is lined with corduroy!
My go-to computer has been a MacBook Pro (MBP) since early 2007. This month, my 5 year-old MBP finally stopped working properly. Not bad for a laptop…5 years of solid use. The Apple Store in Boston did a great job of getting my applications/data transferred over to a new unibody MBP. I must say, it’s a beautiful piece of hardware, and it’s lighter than my previous MBP. Pro tips: Buy a second power adapter for your backpack. Keep the original at your desk. That way, you’ll never forget to bring your power cord. Additionally, I recommend that you purchase an LCD projector adapter and leave it in your bag too. It’s always the little things that make a big difference.
As a Verizon Wireless customer, I made the move to the Android platform when Motorola released the Droid X. While it’s not the fastest phone on the market, it is reliable. I’m due for a new phone in the fall. An iPhone might be my next phone. Android is a great platform, but iPhones are still the best overall smartphones in my view.
Having spent the past couple of days jet-setting around the country, I can say without hesitation that the above items/services have made life on the road a fantastic experience.
What are your must-have travel items/services?
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