Traveling Tips and Doo-Dads for Writers

Ah, traveling. What writer doesn’t love the refreshing feel of foreign, faraway places? New sights, sounds, cultures and flavors and time away from the daily grind can really spark our creativity. Thank goodness, because traveling also brings challenges. Little ones. Funny ones. Please-get-me-outta-here I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening ones. With a little creativity, we can weasel our way around or through them. (Okay, most of them. May as well chalk the gigantic OOPS! ones up to “research.”)

When I spent much of my time traveling for work in the fashion industry, I picked up useful habits. My multiple, large bags gradually whittled down to a single carry-on. I’ve honed the art of travel-friendly wardrobe choices. And I no longer choose flights solely for the lowest prices. (Four transfers and twelve-minute layovers are seldom worth it.)

Writing brings a whole new set of challenges, from typing on airplanes without laptop-squish or over-the-shoulder story stalkers to toting the “office” along without creating 10-ton luggage. As I prepare for ThrillerFest in New York (YEAHOOO! ;)), I’m applying lessons I learned last year with hopes of an even better time. Here are some of the ways I’ve learned to make writerly traveling easier.

1. If you’ll gain a lot of loot, bring a prepaid flat-rate shipping box. Goody bags of books are a huge perk of writers’ conferences. Last year I had to choose between buying something to tote them home in and a $40 bag fee , and didn’t have time to hit the post office mid-trip. So I left some of the freebies for the hotel cleaning staff. *cringes at the memory* This year, not gonna happen. For about $16, I can ship books home from the hotel lobby.

2. For short and busy trips, consider a compact writing gadget. For the first time in years, I may travel without my laptop. Assuming I don’t wimp out, I’ll rely on my iPhone, word processing app and attachable keyboard for writing. (The same tools work with iPads.) If you have the cash, you could invest in MacBook Air—a slim, light-weight laptop I occasionally dream about. *sigh* Ginger Calem uses a NEO, which is much more affordable and similarly compact. Dell and other companies also make mini laptops.

3. Take measures to elongate your phone’s battery life. Heat, push notifications, intense brightness, email alerts and other factors zap battery power. Changing the settings on your phone can help keep the juices flowing. For more tips, check out these Apple’s battery tips.

4. Research hotel tech features. The last few hotels I’ve stayed at have had iPhone charger docks—same for rental cars. Not having to pack chargers saves us luggage room, keeps us from having to remember to re-pack them and forgetting them. Some hotels charge a pretty penny for WiFi use, so if you’re going to need web access, seek a hotel with free or affordable WiFi. You could also scope out the surrounding neighborhood, if you don’t mind heading to Starbucks as needed.

5. Invest in comfy travel gear. Backpacks, laptop bags and sturdy luggage on wheels can help ease physical stress during travel. If you’re looking for a great, well-made laptop bag, check out outdoor and climbing stores. Stores like REI have entire laptop luggage sections, all designed for portability and comfort. (I get loads of compliments on my REI laptop bag; they actually look pretty chic.)

Other tools worth toting:

  • Kindle or other eReader
  • Notebooks, pens
  • Business cards in a sleeve or caddy (Cards look way less professional laced with granola bar crumbs.)
  • Mini hand sanitizer (Laptops and smart phones are notoriously dirty. I can’t imagine travel helps any.)
  • Healthy snacks—whole grain granola bars, fruit, trail mix, nuts…
  • Travel pillow and blanket (For collapsible comfort, try the Travel Pillow Reinvented, by TravelRest. It rolls up and inflates with three breaths. I LOVE it for overnight flights.)
  • Headphones, ear plugs and eye mask
  • Mini toiletries (I tear perfume samples out of magazines for trips—fun way to try new scents at far less than 3 ounces. ;))

Any tips or gadgets to add? Funny stories of travel-gone-wrong? What can you not leave home without?

Psst! Don’t forget to send me your “I’m a writer” photos by July 21st. For a few more details, visit my last post.