I’ve been fortunate enough to have attended a few festivals and conferences over the past few years, and while this has been lovely and super exciting, it’s also been super stressful for my Hobbit-y, introverted, would love to have the superpower of teleportation because I get so stressed out while packing, traveling, and coming back from traveling self. I also happen to have, as my friend and colleague Tara Sim (author of The Timekeeper Trilogy and the forthcoming Scavenge the Stars) likes to put it, the immune system of a wet tissue, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time the past few years getting sick from travel. To make things as low-stress and germ-free as possible, I’ve done a couple things and accumulated a couple coping strategies for those of you who also have to travel for work and also don’t super like the act of traveling itself.
1. Eat as regularly and as healthily as possible. Due to flight times and the high cost of bad-to-mediocre airplane foods, it’s easy to miss meals or to eat junk while traveling. Yesterday, I was boarding at noon, my regular lunch time, and in the air at dinner, and I wasn’t sure what kind of meal options were going to be available to me either on the plane or during layovers. So I bought both my lunch (a Filet of Fish, which isn’t super healthy, I know, I know, but I don’t eat a ton of fast food and I really wanted it!) and my dinner (a turkey and avocado sandwich from La Brea Bakery in the airport) at 11am. I ate lunch while waiting for my plane to board and kept the sandwich in my backpack until I was on my next flight, and didn’t have “hangry” to add to my list of travel complaints.
If possible, one can always pack meals, too. When I have early morning flights, I usually bring a small bag of cereal and buy an orange juice at the airport. I’ve also packed sandwiches for lunch, because I make a good sandwich. This is easily more cost-effective than buying meals at airports--the only issue is you have to carry it around (and sometimes juggling more stuff or cramming stuff into your already-full carry on can add to your stress) and hope it doesn’t smush.
2. Bring healthy snacks. Sometimes, there just isn’t time to grab a meal, or sometimes, you’re feeling a little peckish between lunch and dinner, and this is the time for healthy snacks! I bring mine in snack-sized Ziploc bags (although I am in search of another, more sustainable yet packable option), and they usually include the kind of delicious but energy-giving stuff I’d take on a hike: dried fruit, nuts, beef jerky, trail mix. Dark chocolate can be a good addition as well. These things are tasty, healthy, and pretty-smush proof, so they make great snacks to bring for a long day of travel.
3. If you’re in the US, and you’re flying, and if it’s an option for you, get TSA Pre-check to help you get through the security lines. It takes a fingerprinting and an interview and some cash, but it’s good for five years, and that little green check mark on your boarding pass will usually get you through security lines more quickly (although not always), and you don’t have to remove your laptop and liquids from your carry-on, or remove your shoes or sweater/light jacket (which is a bonus if you’re always cold, like me).
4. Acquire a good set of luggage that works for your needs. I’ve checked soft-sided suitcases and had them tear before, so I got myself a set of hard-sided luggage with three sizes and those wheels that spin in all different directions so you can roll your suitcase without leaning/dragging it behind you (the convenience of that is great). I’ve heard great things about Away luggage, but I’ve also heard it’s pricey, so I’m probably going to use my current ones until they break before investing in new suitcases. I also have a carry-on size soft-sided luggage with a compartment for a laptop, which I sometimes need because these are work trips, after all.
5. It’s hard for me to lose a full day of work to travel, so I’ve invested in a laptop specifically for travel (it is also my regular laptop/computer because what do I need two for?). It is a small, lightweight 13” laptop with a solid state drive (for speed and for the roughness of travel). The screen is pretty small, but I have a monitor setup at home, and the small size of the keyboard means it fits on an airplane tray table and doesn’t make my bag super heavy while I’m carrying it around. This means I can work while I’m at the gate and while I’m in the air, which gives me hours of extra time to get the words down.
6. Hydrate. Public bathrooms aren’t always the cleanest and airplane bathrooms are usually super gross, so it’s tempting not to drink very much so you won’t have to use the restroom a lot, but that’s probably a mistake. Also buying bottled water sucks. But also having to wash a reusable water bottle in a hotel bathroom can be a pain (as I currently know because I dropped mine in curb water last night--yum). Whatever you choose for your convenience and conscience, drinking water throughout your travel day keeps you from getting dehydrated, which means your skin doesn’t get so dry in the airplane air conditioning, and you don’t get those headaches from not getting enough fluids, and your breath isn’t as bad!
7. Make a travel kit. This kit can have whatever emergency or daily things you might need while on the go. Mine in particular is pretty much a first aid kit (because you never know!) + my anti-get-sick arsenal. Some of this arsenal came from a post from another author that I unfortunately cannot for the life of me remember but if someone knows it, please tell me. Some of it is what works for me. I keep it all in a little complimentary beauty bag thing that I got from Air France once (see this week’s post for size comparison and contents), and because of its first-aid-ness, I also always carry it in my purse anyway. In my travel kit, you will find the following:
And those are my author travel tips! This list is by no means exhaustive, because I also try to get a good night’s sleep, and meditate in the mornings, and stretch, but I don’t always get to these things, and I ALWAYS do/bring/use the above. Traveling is stressful, but I think being prepared can make it a little easier on the nerves (and immune system).