The Best Travel Tips for People In Tech

avatar-quorralyne.jpg Heather Downing

Here on the Okta Developer Relations team, we travel a lot (like, a lot) and we’ve learned a few things to make it easy. We’ve tried out countless suggestions over the years and I’ve rounded up the very best ones from my team to share with software developers getting their travel groove on. It’s all about making the trip less stressful and more enjoyable, and these tips are sure to get you well on your way - wherever your final destination may be. Without further ado, here are the best travel tips for people in tech!

Travel Tips Leading Graphic

Travel Planning Tips

Use TripIt Pro to keep your itinerary. Forward flight details and lodging confirmations to TripIt Pro and skip typing it all out. If you don’t need gate change alerts or to connect with friend’s itineraries, skip the Pro version and just use the free TripIt service. It still does a great job of organizing your plans.

Get Global Entry if you fly internationally to save a ton of time getting back to the US. Normally, whether you are a US citizen or not, the line for Passport Control at major re-entry airports can stretch for more than an hour. Global Entry allows you to verify your declaration information digitally on a quick and easy kiosk machine, and after a brief check-in with a border patrol officer, you sail past the long lines of passengers.

Prepare your phone for use abroad by looking up the GSM frequency used in the destination country. When I arrived in Ecuador once, my phone did not automatically kick over to the band used in the area, so my phone essentially had no data or call function available! If this happens to you, adjust your roaming settings and try out CDMA, LTE, etc until you find the one that works for that country. Alternatively, you can purchase a SIM card ahead of time if your wireless plan does not support international data - just know that your phone number will also be different and may not work with your current device. If that happens, pick up a pay-as-you-go, inexpensive phone that allows for reloading data. Investing in an international-ready phone with a major carrier ensures you won’t have to worry about SIM cards.

Find cheap escapes from your work destination by visiting Skyscanner and looking for inexpensive flights from the city you are working in to “Everywhere”. A great way to combat work travel monotony is with a quick flight to another place to explore for some personal time over the weekend. It will often cost you a lot less to fly from your destination city to places you have always wanted to visit. Take advantage of temporarily being near an airport with better international connections - which will save you money and justify a short vacation. Build in a couple of days for this the next time you have a mandatory flight coming up. It really helps keep travel exciting and relieves the stress of only traveling for work.

Changing planes at another airport? Getting from one gate to another can be stressful and frustrating. Find a map of the airport and familiarize yourself with the layout ahead of time - most airline apps include airport information. It’s also good to know if there’s construction at the airport ahead of time that could force you to take a shuttle between terminals. The fewer surprises, the better.

Changing planes and have a long wait? Check if the airline you’re flying has a lounge. Even if you’re not a member, you may be able to purchase a one-day pass for not much more than the price of an airport meal. You’ll get a more comfortable seat, better Wi-Fi, and food and beverages are included.

How To Pack For Success

Buy duplicates of all the stuff you need (shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, CPAP, belts) that you can leave in your suitcase to decrease packing time and the chances of forgetting something.

Carry on all your luggage! If you don’t check bags, they can’t get lost! It also speeds up how quickly you can get out of the airport when you land.

Get the smallest bag or backpack you can find that fits your gear because some smaller airplanes have super skinny or short under-seat storage! It’s incredibly frustrating having to stuff your backpack overhead if it’s too big to fit.

Bring healthy snacks in your backpack if you’re trying to eat healthily. It can be hard sometimes to find healthy food options in airports.

Bring a tablet and download movies to it so you always have something to watch on flights without entertainment options.

Pack a wind-up travel extension cord with USB and USB-C outlets for charging devices. This one on Amazon is a lifesaver on international trips when you might have only one power plug adapter.

Bring one small organizer bag to hold all dongles, power plug adapters, spare batteries, and the all-important presentation remote. Here is a good option.

Pack one or two compressible vacuum zipper storage bags for dirty clothes. These have a nice side-effect of creating more room in your luggage for the trip back.

Carry portable chargers for charging your phone and laptop. Obvious? Definitely. Commonly forgotten? All the time.

Buy a MiFi device for fast internet on the go.

Get a short charging cable for use in tight airplanes and avoid lots of long dangly wires at your seat.

Design a capsule wardrobe by being as minimalistic as possible and bringing outfits that are easy to mix-and-match and can be worn at least twice. Unless you are traveling for more than two weeks, you should be able to fit your clothing into a carry-on size bag. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane, including shoes like sneakers or boots, and wear your biggest outerwear item - you can take it off once in the plane. Preventing a checked bag is crucial when traveling abroad, as your bag might not meet you at your destination airport. Never check your electronics unless you can be without them for your entire trip.

Be prepared with an international adapter and get the smallest collapsible/retractable all-in-one you can find… then buy two of them! Find an adapter that works in most of the world and not just the country you are traveling to. Keep in mind there is a difference between a power adapter and a power converter too. Most laptop and smartphone chargers have the power conversion, so all you need is an adapter to fit the foreign plug type - but be sure to check first. For some electronics like curling irons and hairdryers, they require a power converter or you will fry it once you turn it on! Eliminate this problem by purchasing a dual-voltage or universal voltage hair styling tool and never worry about lugging a heavy power converter in your luggage again.

Stay Organized the Day of Your Trip

Always have power available by bringing a power bank with you. You won’t always have an outlet available at the airport, let alone on the plane itself. Bring a smaller one for charging your smartphone or other small electronics and a larger one for charging your laptop. Recharge both banks the night before you leave so you’ll be ready to go the next day. There is a limit on what battery capacity you can use, so be sure to check with the TSA website on what is currently allowed.

Combat jet lag by adjusting to your new destination the day or night before. Eat, workout and fall asleep within that window. Follow the same process while on an international flight - no matter when they are serving food, dimming the lights, etc - do your routine as if you are already in the time zone you will land in. Apps like Timeshifter work out the math for you and generate a schedule of when to do everything.

Breeze through Passport Control if you are a US citizen returning to the States from abroad. Download the Mobile Passport app on your smartphone. It allows you to digitally fill out the customs declarations, takes your photo and passport details and submits it upon your flight arrival. Fill it out after taxing to the gate while waiting for other passengers to exit the plane. You will get your own line at customs/passport control and normally it’s completely empty - making it faster than Global Entry. This is especially good if you don’t have Global Entry yet - on the day of your flight you can just download, install and go.

Want to take advantage of in-flight entertainment options? Some airlines require an app for streaming their in-flight movies, TV shows, and music, and this entertainment app may be separate from the airline’s app. You’ll need to download this app before you get in the air.

Take a screenshot of your mobile boarding pass to mitigate internet connection issues with the airline mobile app or your browser. Have the image pulled up and ready for scanning by turning the brightness up and locking it in portrait mode so it doesn’t switch to landscape when laying it on the scanner.

Use rideshare car services whenever possible. Services like Lyft and Uber eliminate the language barrier to communicate where you are trying to go and allow for easy digital payment and accounting. Look up your destination ahead of time to see if they offer a ride share service. Some cities may not offer rideshare giants like Lyft or Uber, but will often have an alternative app you can download and use in the same manner. Do this ahead of time, linking your payment options, and you will be good to go upon arrival.

Master Travel At The Airport

Parking at the airport? Parking lots and garages label each section, such as “C-5”. Take a photo of the nearest sign before you walk to the terminal. It’s no fun to get back from a long trip just to realize you don’t remember where you parked.

Take your parking ticket with you. Some airports have kiosks you can use to pay for your parking when you get back, letting you exit easier and faster.

Take an empty water bottle and fill it in the airport after passing through security. Bottled water is ridiculously expensive in airports and you can even pick up a collapsible water bottle to make packing it easy.

Stay hydrated during your travel. Planes are notoriously dry, and dehydration will impact how tired you are. Unsure about the water quality at the airport? Get a bottle with a water filter. Forgot yours? Buy a large bottle of water or two at the airport if you must, but don’t skip this step. Hydration combats fatigue.

Organize your small items such as your wallet, keys, phone, etc by sticking them in your backpack or another zippered luggage pouch instead of using one of the little bins when going through security. Less stuff to pick up on the other side, less to get lost.

Stay healthy by disinfecting the tray table and armrests the moment you get to your seat. Planes are cleaned in a hurry for turnaround time - which really means they just removed the previous passenger’s trash from the seatback pocket. Pack a small package of Wet Ones for this purpose, as antibacterial hand sanitizer is messy and inconvenient for surfaces other than your hand. Offer one to your neighbor too - you’ll be their hero.

Hit the nearest restroom before boarding begins. Airplane bathrooms are too small and this may save you from having to use one. I try to book flights in 2-hour segments so that I NEVER have to use the airplane bathroom, at least when flying domestically. At minimum, it will take 15-20 minutes for boarding, another 10-15 for flight safety briefing and taxi to the runway, and 15-20 minutes to get to the altitude before they turn off the seatbelt sign. So if you think you have to go before you’re on the plane - do it, because it will be almost an hour before you get another chance.

Make Cruise Ship Internet Work for You

Here’s one for cruise ship travel:

  1. Cruise ships charge a lot for the internet
  2. They charge for each simultaneously connected device
  3. If you want to use more than one device and only have one plan, you have to switch between devices

So, we’ve come up with a great way to mitigate these frustrations as outlined in the diagram below:

Cruise Ship Internet Diagram

  1. Buy one high-priced internet package and connect your mobile phone to it
  2. Use USB tethering to your laptop
  3. Set up internet sharing on your laptop and then connect any number of devices (satellite can be spotty, but it’s gotten good enough for Netflix or Hulu)

Bonus: You don’t have to switch devices as the phone is the primary.

Get Organized At Your Destination

Check the closet for a laundry bag when you get to the hotel. Use this for socks and underwear. This keeps your stinky socks from stinking up your other clothes.

Immediately unpack and put everything in its place in your hotel room once you arrive, if you are staying for more than a couple of days. This ritual should only take a few minutes and removes the frustration of rummaging through your luggage to find something constantly. This really helps to eliminate stress and hassle during your stay. For a one or two night trip you should have a lot less to bring, so leaving everything in your suitcase is best and allows you to not forget anything in a drawer.

Pack the night before you leave your destination if you have an early flight home. This is especially helpful in the event that you miss your alarm in the morning - at least you’ll be ready to rush to the airport and make your flight!

Jet, set, go

You are well on your way to travel like the pros! Got any other travel tips for us? Comment below to share with the rest of us geeks. Happy trails!

Learn More Development Tips from Okta

If you’d like to discover more tips from us, we’ve also published a number of posts that might interest you:

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