list #20: my travel survival kit

Yesterday, I shared with you how I decide what to pack for a trip from a photographers' standpoint; today, I thought I'd share what I pack from a this-is-what-works-for-me-so-I-don't-lose-my-cool-while-on-a-potentially-stressful-trip standpoint.  Because while I was in New Orleans, my roommate, my sweet and long-suffering friend, Maile, was forced to witness some of my obsessive preparations for business travel, particularly when it comes to events and trips where I know I'm going to be crazy-busy.  

"Dude, this is so a blog post," she said, looking at me, somewhat stunned.

"Whatever," I replied.  "Here, take a Vitamin C.  You don't want to get sick."

(I tend to mother a bit. Pray for me.)

Anyway, taking Maile's cue, the photograph above is generally what I take with me every time I get on a plane.  I carry a cavernous handbag when I travel, so the items above are always with me as carry-on, because if I happen to get off the plane at my destination and my luggage hasn't followed, these are often the only things that will help me keep my head on.

So! Starting from the top left, and going clockwise:

1. Halls Defense Vitamin C Drops.  I live in fear of getting ill (because nothing is worse than being sick when you have a young child, am I right?), and sitting in a pressurized tin can with recycled air hurtling through the sky at hundreds of fear-inducing miles per hour seems like a great way to do it.  So I found these awesome Vitamin C drops that taste like sweets (as opposed to some of those other preventative mixes or drinks that don't taste very good).  I always throw a bag or two of these in my handbag, and eat them like candy while I'm traveling -- literally as often as I would a breath mint.  I've also been known to hand them out at conferences to other people who are also traveling.  I figure it can't hurt, and, knock wood, I haven't caught a cold from a trip in a while.

2.  A baggie full of my favourite tea bags.  I'm not sure when I started carrying tea bags with me on flights, but it's one of my favourite ideas I've ever had.  The thing is, I've never had a decent cup of coffee (or tea, for that matter) on a flight, but flights always have hot water, and thankfully, it's hard to screw up hot water.  So I with the cup of hot water kindly provided to me by the flight attendant, I make my tea exactly as I like.  Because the bags aren't liquid, there's no problem getting them on the plane; and then, once I get to my destination, it's a great way to wind down at the end of the day -- I just go to the front desk of my hotel and get a pot of hot water (and most hotels feel guilty about charging you for hot water, so it's usually free).  Similarly, I take tea bags with me to conferences, so that I can just get a cup of hot water and take it with me into the conference room.

3.  Mini-speakers for my iPhone.  These particular speakers were a gift from AOL (part of the swag from some conference or another), and they're great for turning your hotel room into a particularly peaceful place when you plug them into your mp3 player or iPhone (with a pre-established playlist of calming music, of course).  These gift speakers aren't working all that well anymore (which is to be expected from a freebie), so I actually just purchased these really inexpensive ones, which are on their way to me now.  Again, I just keep them in a pocket of my handbag, so I know they're always with me.

4.  My iPhone.  I mean, obviously, I like to travel with my phone on me, but there are a couple of things I do to prepare my phone for the trip:

a)  I preload the phone and cell numbers of anyone I'm meeting on the other end (a car service, the person picking me up at the airport, people who I know I'm going to be meeting), just in case I need to contact them in an emergency;

b)  I preload my schedule into the phone's calendar.  I go through conference schedules and look for sessions that I know I really want to attend, or parties that I know I need to make an appearance, but also, I actually schedule downtime, complete with alarms.  I know if I don't make time to go hide by myself every once in a while, by the end of the day, I'll be really crabby.  So I ensure I've built in time to take care of myself -- go back to my room to read, or do a bit of work, or even nap or shower.  Whatever I can do to keep me calm.  And then I stick to my schedule.

c)  I preload music that calms me, to use with the speakers in #3, above.  Often, it's just my 8tracks mix of the month, but in any event, I've always got my tunes with me (perfect for when I'm back in my room during that downtime, with my cup of tea and my good book).

5.  Business cards.  Not that I give them out all that frequently, but whenever I forget them, I regret it, because wouldn't-you-know-it, there's someone I want to give one to.

6.  My journal and favourite pens.  I journal every day, and the way I journal calms me.  (You can see my favourite journaling tools by clicking on the link here).  It's good to have my journal with me on long, boring flights; but I also try to keep journaling while I'm at the hotel as well, to give me some continuity with my routine at home.

7.  My American Apparel super-sheer circle scarf.  I blame my friend Maggie for this one -- she was wearing one last year at a conference, and I fell so in love with it, I had to buy one for myself.  I wear this thing constantly.  What makes it so great is that it's so large, it can be worn many different ways -- so on cold flights or conference rooms, I can turn it into a wrap or a shawl.  And because it's so lightweight, I wear it year-round.  I love this thing.

8.  An old rosary my mother gave me years ago.  Did I mention I'm petrified of flying?

So that's it!  If you have anything that you keep in your travel survival kit, I'd love if you'd share it in the comments.  I'm always looking for whatever can help keep my travel as stress-free as possible.


Image:  Photographed with my Nikon D300, 35mm lens.  aperture 1.8, shutter speed 1/125, ISO 400.


Song: Come away with me by Norah Jones