Updated Sept 18th, 2017: Technology changes quickly and several new travel tips have been added: Check out the new mobile Wi-Fi options, headphone recommendations, and new app tips.
For most people, travel is fairly straightforward – take a vacation for a few weeks to a single destination, and then it’s back home. For DJs, performing artists, and business travelers, it’s an entirely different beast. It’s work mixed with exploration – often involving multiple cities and countries in one trip. This is high-intensity travel and it takes some tricks and planning to get it right. These are my best tips from years of touring around the world.
Reduce complexity with apps:
Overseas travel can quickly become overwhelming from layers of complexity. Different measurement units (imperial vs metric), currencies, time zones, power outlets, and language barriers can make things difficult. Simplify things with apps. I use Convert, Currency, and Google Translate. Translate is essential for quick translation of restaurant menus and signs. I also swear by 1Password for keeping my important logins and documents encrypted and backed up. It’s excellent for creating robust complicated passwords. I also love Evernote for keeping track of itineraries, trip notes, and to-do lists.
– Bring the largest possible approved carry-on, but avoid checking it whenever possible. Weight restrictions vary wildly overseas and sometimes you’ll be forced to check any carry-on heavier than 7kg, but more most travel – this size is perfect. Make sure you have rental or homeowner insurance since airlines will often only cover $600 of stolen or broken items. Ideally your bag should have a TSA combo lock.
– Weigh it: consider using a scale to weigh your luggage as you pack, to avoid surprises at the airport
– Pack laterally – aim to spread out your clothes and items so there are no bulky stacks. Roll your clothes to pack in twice as much clothing, but the downside will be wrinkles.
– Stay nimble: Can you fit your luggage on a crowded train at rush hour? If you’ve brought luggage that’s larger than a carry-on, this will be a problem.
– Upgrade your luggage: My favorite luggage is the Topas Aluminum line from Rimowa. These are splash proof and last forever. It’s definitely an investment, but they will generally honor their 5 year guarantee for replacing broken parts and hammering out dings in the aluminum exterior.
– Don’t pack all your clothes! Bring a one week cycle of clothes, and use hotel laundry services ($$$ but worth it) or a local laundromat. The best solution is staying at an Air B’n B with laundry.
– Don’t bring large lithium batteries. In many countries security will confiscate them. Stick to small, pocket size chargers
– Leave your bulky electric razors behind and just visit a barber. They add too much weight and will cause power problems with most international hotels with higher voltage. Same goes for hair dryers and straighteners. That international power adapter you have does not convert voltage, and power converters claiming to step down power from 220V to 110V don’t work with high power devices. A real power converter is heavy and not portable for travel.
– Don’t pack anything you can rent
– Never pack anything you can’t easily replace.
– Use a hot running shower to “iron” your wrinkled clothes
– Bring quick-drying workout clothes that can be washed in the shower
– Don’t waste valuable space packing bulky jackets, wear or carry them instead. Jacket pockets are great for bringing extra gear. You might even consider a photographer’s vest. This is a loophole that can work, but it’s always up to the airline and the mood of their staff.
– Curb hunger: bring protein bars to ease the transitions between flights and missing meals. I personally love Quest bars. They’ve been a life saver on tour.
– Minimize liquids or bring none
– Use dividers and bags to keep clean and dirty clothes separate, organizing items in sections.
– Store cables with the over-under method to avoid kinking and inter-coiling.
– East is a beast, West is the best. Review your travel schedule and prepare ahead of time
– Get on local time ASAP
– Get plenty of sunshine. At least 20min eye exposure per day without sunglasses
– Drink tons of water, but be wary of tap water in certain countries. Try to stick to bottled water – you can always save money by finding a local grocery store and stocking up when you arrive.
– Hit the gym hard
– Use hi-dose melatonin (10mg) to ease your body back on schedule after returning home. I use GNC 10mg Melatonin
Optimize your sleep:
– Sleep cool: Your single biggest factor for good sleep is regulating your body’s temperature. Take a warm shower, but gradually make it freezing, or take a hot bath 60-90 minutes before bed to allow time to cool down. Lower the room temp to 68 degrees and set the fan to high. Products like the ChiliPad are great for home, but not yet ideal for travel.
– Pare down: Remove that hot bulky comforter from the casing, and use the casing as a sheet. These are everywhere in Europe and Asia.
– Block out noise: Pop in some earplugs and wear a heavy duty eye mask. I use the Bucky 40 Blinks eye mask. I swear by the Bose Quiet Comfort 20 earbuds, using them in combination with the white noise app Relax MP. Earbuds are easier to store in a jacket pocket for easy access – and are better for sleeping. Earplugs are even better for sleep. For extra noise blocking and baby silencing action, combine IEMs with Bose headphones.
– Lights out: Enable Night Shift on your phone and computer cut down on blue light exposure before bed.
– Tea time: take some sleep-aid tea to naturally lull yourself asleep. Tim Ferriss recommends trying using Yogi Bedtime herbal tea
– Align your sleep cycle: Use the SleepCycle app to wake up less groggy, by waking up in your lightest sleep cycle. This is especially useful for partial sleeps.
– Map it: Check w/ the concierge for local running maps – almost every hotel has them. Use offline maps with GPS to so you don’t get lost! The Nike+ Running app works well. Enable data on your phone w/ roaming daypasses, or bring a Skyroam Solis along for the workout to stay connected.
– Rent it: Some hotels like the Westin even offer workout gear rentals
– Personal gym: Bring a resistance band, push up bars, or TRX kit for lightweight hotel workouts – so you don’t have to depend on a hotel gym. You can attach a TRX kit to a door hinge to create an instant gym.
– Global power: Bring a variety of power adapters. It’s ideal to bring the Apple world travel adapter kit – but you can plug-in without it, just using an adapter since the laptop power supply can automatically step the power down from 220V to 110V (for the U.S.). Don’t attempt to plug in ANY high power devices to converters that don’t explicitly mention high voltage compatibility otherwise gear will spark and smoke!
– Multi-converter: The best multi-power converter for small devices I’ve found is the Kensington International Plugin Adapter, but the main problem is the weight of the adapter will pull it out from the jack. You’ll need to stack items underneath the adapter to keep it in the socket. Combine the plug-in adapter with a mini power strip like the Belkin 3-outlet surge protector.
While most hotel wi-fi is decent, your most crucial connection while traveling is mobile data for maps, texts, translation, calls (Facetime/WhatsApp/Skype), and social media. Coverage is essential. In-dash GPS isn’t always reliable with rental cars, and you’ll often need to rely on data networks to get to many destinations.
#1 – Buy or rent a global Wi-Fi device like Skyroam Solis, or the older Skyroam 3G Hotspot ($80). It’s about $150 to buy, $9/day for unlimited data, and works in 100+ countries w/ 4G/LTE speeds. Connect to multiple devices, avoid SIM cards, and connect globally without needing to call your provider and buy data packages for each country. Also – it doesn’t require contracts with a service provider. The downside is that data is throttled after only 500 MB in a 24 hr period.
#2 – Daypasses: Providers like AT&T allow you to roam with your existing data plan for $10/day, as long as you don’t exceed 50% of your monthly plan data. It requires advance notice to the provider. The downside is that data is not unlimited, and it’s not as flexible as individual day passes with Skyroam Solis / Hotspot that can be consumed one a day, and conserved for specific days, rather than 30 consecutive days.
– Rent a country-specific Mi-Fi device, if you’re in town for several days. You can often get these at airports or a local mobile phone provider. This is not the best option because every country is different, there may be compatibility issues with your phone, and many require contracts to activate devices.
– Free roaming: If you’re only in one country for a day – you can get a dedicated global phone with T-Mobile unlimited roaming in 120+ countries, although data speeds will be slower than usual (2G).
– Block the censors: If you’re in a heavily censored country like China or UAE, you’ll need to pay for a VPN, in order to access blocked sites and services (Facebook / Google / Instagram / Snapchat). If you’re anywhere outside of your home country and you want to use territory restricted content and services like Netflix, you’ll need a VPN to “fake” your location. I use Astrill. It’s also useful for keeping your devices secure when using public wifi.
– Hand delivered: Some companies offer VPN ready MiFi delivery in a cute lunchbox delivered to your hotel for countries like China.
– Offline Maps – Most map apps provide offline options – so download large chunks of map data at the hotel for later use. In my experience, Google Maps is generally more reliable for directions than Apple Maps, and offers more features.
– Mic and keys: Bring a mobile keyboard – I love the CME Xkey 25. It’s super lightweight and feels great. I also bring a Blue Snowball mic to do my podcast. It has a built-in pop filter and stand, so there’s no need for attachments. The downside is that airport security usually thinks it’s a weapon.
– Bring a mini-mouse: trackpads are great, but nothing beats a mouse.
– Block out airplane noise and crying babies with custom IEMs (In Ear Monitors) or Bose QR25 noise reduction headphones. My new favorite is the wireless Bose QC30 headphones – crank up the pink noise to drown ’em out.
– Bring an iPad and fill it with books and movies downloaded from Netflix and Amazon Prime, so you to on’t need rely on an airplane screen for entertainment
– Stock your phone w/ offline music from Spotify, podcasts, and audio books. This is how I stay sane in traffic and customs lines.
– Skip the line by purchasing TSA Pre, Clear, Global Entry, and Nexus passes depending on what country you are from. It’s well worth the money and saves you hours every trip, but will only work on your return trip or with certain countries.
– Scooters! You might get some looks riding this, but the Micro Scooter is a major time saver and makes airports much more fun. It’s only really practical for weekend trips because of limited space.
– Remote signatures: Use Docusign to sign your contracts from any devices. A total game-changer
– Hire specialized agencies to sort out your visas. Visa offices are a nightmare and a waste of time.
– Call it: save on voice calls with WhatsApp and Skype Credit to call cell numbers or landlines when your contacts don’t have wifi handy
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