If you’re the type to catch the travel bug from time to time, then you’ve picked a great profession in web development. With a global client base and the internet as your office, the world is your oyster.
I recently traveled to Minnesota for WordCamp Minneapolis and finished up a two-week excursion to Europe for WordCamp in Austria. And because I have a very regimented list of must-pack travel gear, I was comfortably able to shift between work and play mode on a regular basis.
I’m fortunate that my job and my schedule allow me to embark on my fair share of travels, from the American road trip to the trans-Atlantic flight. Here’s my list of items I never leave home without.
Must-pack #1: My laptop (15″ Macbook Pro )
If you’re taking your work on the road, a plane, a boat, or even in a yurt in the Mongolian desert (the internet may be a little spotty there), you need the right equipment on which to get it done. Sounds obvious, right?
The bigger the screen, the better for me, and that’s why I like my 15-inch laptop instead of my other 13-inch model. I tend to work with a multiple-screen setup at home, but I get by with just the one larger one on the road. However, someday the Slide’n Joy will come in handy.
The reasons I prefer to work from my laptop instead of my tablet or phone are quite simple:
- It’s more productive and (at the risk of sounding old) it’s easier to see.
- I can communicate with my clients much more efficiently when typing with all 10 fingers as opposed to just my thumbs.
- The time my laptop saves me means I get to enjoy my travels that much more.
Must-pack #2: Chargers
Am I a paranoid traveler? Maybe. But the first time you misplace a phone charger or have a laptop cord spark out on you in a strange place, you’ll wish you had backups.
Also, if you’re headed abroad, make sure you know the shape of the outlets in the country you’re visiting. Our good ol’ surprised-face socket isn’t universal, and some international outlets are downright weird looking (though Denmark’s are adorable.)
You can get a universal adapter for about $10 online, or $50 from Brookstone if you’re a procrastinator. Again, get two, just in case. It’s also not a bad idea to charge every device to 100 percent before you leave.
Plus, keep in mind that not every outlet in the world outputs identical amounts of power. Say what? Yes, it’s true, and that’s why I also bring an extra rechargeable battery pack along with me to recharge the devices I care most about. If that battery pack bites the dust I’m not going to lose any sleep over it; however, if my phone gets fried I probably would.
Must-pack #3: Entertainment
If you’re on an international or even a cross-country flight, and the person in the seat next to you is working all the way through it, then they are not a fun person.
Remember: Part of working remotely is the actual travel time. That 14-hour flight is going to get boring, and it’s impossible to sleep well on planes. So bringing entertaining travel gear like books, music, phone games, etc. will keep you from racking up an astronomical bar tab on the plane or at your hotel.
Personally, I think the plane ride is an awesome place to read.
Must-pack #4: Business cards
If you want this business trip to lead to different business trips in the future, then don’t shy away from networking whenever you can.
I’ve made some pretty great connections at airports just waiting around to catch my next flight. Pack some business cards that are easy to access and you’ll have a potential golden ticket in your wallet when you meet the right person.
It happens more often than you think, especially for developers. In this day and age it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t need help with something. If their needs aren’t directly aligned with your skillset, that’s OK. You can help play matchmaker between them and your colleagues. They’ll certainly remember you the next time around.
Must-pack #5: An internet connection
WiFi is more ubiquitous by the day, but don’t count on a connection every place you go. Slow internet is better than no internet, so I always bring a hotspot along just in case. If you’re working internationally, this might be a bit more tricky/expensive but I would encourage you to make it happen if you can.
Bonus tip: Consider international SIM cards for business travel.
I’ve personally been on trips where the hotel WiFi didn’t work at all and it was miserable (well, at least the time I tried to spend working was miserable). Do yourself a favor and spend the extra few bucks to guarantee a stable connection, even if it’s not as fast as you’re used to.
Must-pack #6: Cash
This is a big-city and international issue mostly, but it saves you time no matter where you’re going. You never know when a restaurant will be cash-only, and you don’t want to have to scramble around looking for the nearest ATM.
If you’re traveling abroad, buy the local currency before you head over. Exchange rates at the airport suck, and using your credit card internationally can rack up fees and leave you always doing conversions in your head for how much you’re “actually” paying.
You can take this one step further, like I do, and bring a daily budget. On my last trip I split my money up into 10 envelopes, one for each day of my trip. This made budgeting a breeze and made it real easy for me to make decisions about what I should and shouldn’t be spending on.
Be sure to keep your receipts so you can write off travel expenses.
Must-pack #7: Camera
Laptop. Chargers. Wallet. Phone. If you bring this travel gear and nothing else besides the clothes on your back, you can have a successful trip and mix business with pleasure. This point is more of a reminder to step away from work from time to time and use your devices for entertainment purposes — in this case documenting your trip for the grandkids.
When I travel, work is always top of mind. But if there’s a skatepark, a sweet view or a cultural hotspot, you better believe I’m taking 360-degree panoramas to share and make all my friends jealous on social media.
Sometimes us developers get so busy working that we forget to live our lives. When you’re out traveling please break free of eating three “meals” consisting of just pizza and coffee. Get out and make some memories, take some selfies, and show off that awesome beard you’ve been growing.
Must-pack #8: Work
As a freelancer, I have the luxury — should I choose to accept it — of traveling anywhere I want, when I want, just because. So my business trips aren’t the same as many of my salaried employee friends’ trips.
There’s no expensing to the company, no one is making plans for me, and no one (most of the time) is making me work from the specific location I’ve travelled to. Which means I need to act like it’s business as usual. When I’m on the road, I have to continue logging into the outsourcing platforms I work for to keep in touch with my clients.
Keep in mind, though, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell your clients about your travel plans. Have an honest conversation with them before you go and give them as much notice as you can. Some of them might have a few projects in the pipeline for you, and you can either knock those out for some extra spending money on your trip or have a stream of work waiting when you return home.
Must-pack #9: Locks
It’s happened to me, and whether or not you’re a frequent traveler, it could just as easily happen to you: bags get stolen.
Don’t be laissez faire with security — do the little things to at least look like your bag is not one to be messed with. If you have to check a bag, there are plenty of TSA-approved locks that do the trick.
I also bring a tether-style bike lock so I can lock my bag to something sturdy in my hotel room when I’m out and about. You can never be too careful. Or too paranoid.
Must-pack #10: Carry-on bag
So we’ve gone through all the essential travel gear — now the question is what do you put them all in? For me, I try to pack as many things as I can into a carry-on, especially the valuable pieces of technology.
I had a checked bag stolen from the airport on arrival back home on my last business trip. That sucked, a lot. But it would have been much worse if I had anything truly valuable (relatively speaking) in that bag.
Is there anything irreplaceable that you’ve packed? If so, it might be time to rethink and re-pack.
Did I miss anything? What’s your must-have travel gear when traveling as a freelancer? Leave your recommendations in a comment below!