After a trip to the west coast last week, I realized that I had a bag full of tools that I depend on to travel with. I have to say it was one of the most difficult trips I’ve taken recently because we had snow and freezing rain here in North Carolina. There are plenty of folks who deal with this on a regular basis but I’ve been a transplanted Yankee for over 30 years. I haven’t dealt with slippery roads for an extended period of time since I left Ithaca, New York (home of lake effect snow, hills and parkas) in the early 80’s.
I had an early flight on Wednesday, so my husband insisted I get on the road on Tuesday afternoon as the sleet and snow were coming down. The plan was to drive the 75 miles to a hotel near the airport and then be able to get to the flight in the morning without a long harrowing drive in the pre-dawn. Well, the drive that afternoon was horrible. The snow/rain/sleet was freezing on my windshield which made it really difficult to see; it was like looking through Vaseline which made everything distorted. Trucks would pass and spray more liquid onto my car. Let’s just say, I was really tense for about two hours. When I finally got to the hotel, I was greatly relieved. It was the right decision because the roads close to the airport were much better than the roads in my hometown.
I came out the next morning to drive my car to the airport only to find that my battery was dead. Luckily the hotel I was staying at had an airport shuttle, so I made my flight.
So here they are. The 8 tools that no traveler should be without.
1. Phone charger (s). There is nothing worse than having your phone die while flying over Kansas City. I always plug my phone in whether I’m in a rental car, at the gate at an airport or in a conference. Any time my phone is less than 50% charged, I am on the hunt for an outlet. There are also portable chargers available, and I have two swimming in the bottom of my purse as an emergency backup. Keep your devices charged.
2. Calendar. Everyone has a calendar. I make sure that everything I need is on my calendar. If it’s a flight number and the time I need to get to the airport, once I book a ticket, it’s on my calendar. The address and name of the hotel? On my calendar. The confirmation number for my car rental? On my calendar. A reservation at a restaurant and its address ? On my calendar. I also copy my husband or my daughter on my air travel, so they know when I will be out of town. I have forgotten to tell my husband more than once…didn’t I tell you I’m going to Tampa? Calendar everything.
3. Headset. I have a set of really nice Bose headphones with a microphone that I can conduct conference calls with while I am traveling. I will use earbuds when running but when I’m on a plane there is a lot of external noise that makes earbuds inadequate. Whether it’s a book, podcast or Spanish lesson, a nice headset can block noise and can fold up when you are back on the ground. Make sure you can plug in to be able to listen.
4. Auxiliary cable. Most cars post 2000 have a plug in for an auxiliary cable. This lets you drive while having directions given through the car speaker system. This is invaluable when driving a rental car in a strange city. No need to crank up the phone and hope you hear every instruction. It also makes volume control much easier because you don’t have to mess with the actual phone and just turn the knob on the volume control on the dash. Be sure to take an auxiliary cable with you.
5. Phone. I wrote about the 7 apps (actually it was more than 7) no traveler should be without last week. Well you need to have a phone to have that all on. I organize my phone so that the most frequent apps I use are on my main screen. I know exactly where to find my navigation app (critical when driving a rental car) and usually have the hotel address preloaded so all I have to do is click to navigate. Keep it charged (see item 1), dry and you will always be ready to go.
6. Umbrella. I always keep a compact umbrella in my car. Not only does it pack easily if I might need it on a trip to Seattle (wait, that is a must) but it serves a dual purpose. I ended up using my umbrella to take all 5 inches of snow off my stranded car when I got back on Saturday. I know an ice scraper would be more efficient but a tool like a compact umbrella can be a multitasker (especially when you are desperate, cold and have nothing else). Keep your umbrella handy.
7. Jumper Cables. So my car battery was still dead when I returned to the East Coast on Saturday. AND I did not have jumper cables. So this is a new tool for my travel toolbox. AAA might be a better tool but I didn’t have AAA as of Saturday. I have to send a big shout out to Ron and Gustavo from the Doubletree Hotel in Durham. They searched the hotel for some jumper cables but failing that, they went to a local auto parts store, bought some and then came back and jumped my car in the dark, icy snow drift with the hotel shuttle. Saved my bacon. So, keep a set of jumper cables in your car, because you never know.
8. Toolbox. Make sure you have something to carry all these tools to keep them handy. I don’t think I’d keep the jumper cables in there, but having a backpack or purse (like this new one I have from Thirty One) is invaluable. I can keep all the cables, charges, headphones, umbrella and a dry secure spot for your phone all in one spot. Make sure it’s small enough store under the seat in front of you on a plane. The purse I have has a place for a water bottle with is a necessity for any two hour plus plane or car trip. Make sure you have the right toolbox.
This is my list (with the addition of the jumper cables). I’m curious as to what you see as an essential travel tool that you can’t live without?