Traveling is a system I continuously try to improve. Improving this makes my trips smoother and more enjoyable.
I think improving at traveling requires intention. Traveling takes you out of your natural habitat – your city and your routine. To make traveling more pleasant, you need to actively mold this foreign environment.
Below is a list of things I have done to improve my travel experience. You may have different preferences. It is important you understand what matters for you and then act on it.
I keep a list of everything I ever packed. When I pack, I first go through this list to understand which things I am taking. And then I cross stuff as I get them into the bag.
I used to forget to pack stuff. Now I don’t.
I keep adding stuff to the list as my packing preferences change. I recently added loose leaf tea to the list.
I use AnyList (an iOS app) for this. But you can use anything.
I travel with two pouches. One has all my tech stuff (dongles, chargers, power banks, etc). The other has my toiletries (tooth brush, deodorant, etc).
I keep duplicates of most stuff so I don’t have to open these pouches when I get home. They just go into the bag. No need to take the toothpaste you keep in your bathroom because there is a “travel toothpaste”.
This is a new addition. All my clothes go into cubes. Cubes are great for organization. They also compress your clothes so they take less space. I just switched to “one bag travel” and cubes make that easier.
Flight seat location
I prefer sitting on the aisle. I book accordingly on most flights. This is not important for short flights. But it is crucial for long flights.
When I fly from Maputo to Lisbon, I take the (economy) seats which are closest to the front of the plane. Staying in the back of the plane usually means having to eat the meal nobody in the front wanted to eat (typically the fish). Have you ever eaten fish on a plane?
No alcohol on flights
Alcohol increases travel fatigue and decreases the quality of sleep. Flying is already so tiring that I don’t want to make it even harder on my body.
This is even more important if you are flying across multiple time zones. Your goal is to mitigate jet lag not to make it worse. It took me a while to stop drinking on flights. It is hard to say no to free booze!
It is hard to control meals when you are on the go. Your preferred food may not be available when you most need it. I always travel with health bars. These are typically nutritionally complete: they have enough protein and vitamins. My preferred brand is Clif Bars.
Early morning flights are usually a terrible idea. Late night flights aren’t great either. If my flight is at 0800, I will have to leave my place at 0500! This makes the trip even more tiring.
Early morning flights are attractive because they are cheap. Sometimes you don’t have an alternative. You can’t have it all. Pick your poison.
Plan your meals
This is partially correlated with flight times. Let’s say you land at 2200. Where will you have dinner? Will you eat something on the plane? What do they serve there? Would you rather eat before the flight? Or when you get to your destination?
Plan your arrival
I am most concerned about check-in times. If I arrive before check-in I want to know if I can leave my luggage somewhere (e.g. hotel lobby, train station). If you are renting an apartment, you may need to coordinate the collection of the keys.
Things I will add soon
As I mentioned before, traveling is a process I continuously iterate on. A few assorted improvements I will do on my next trip:
- Pack a tea steeper. I need this for my loose leaf tea. I forgot this a couple of times already.
- Take a packable bag. I travel with a ~45L backpack. It is a bit too bulky to use when I arrive to my destination. I need a backpack which I can fold into my larger travel bag.
If you are into this topic, I have learned a lot from Dave Copeland’s take.