Staying Organized while Traveling

As a frequent traveler and technology writer I’m always looking for ways to keep organized on the road. Here are a number of things I’ve been used over the past year that have helped.

Things is a spectacularly well-designed software product for Apple users that keeps track of all ToDos, notes, reminders and other bits of disparate information. It’s allowed me to keep individual items as well as organized lists of activities associated with any topic and lets me quickly retrieve them. It reminds me when something comes due or lets me file it away indefinitely. What’s unique about Things is how fluid and elegant the software is. Designed in Germany, it has a level of simplicity in its appearance that belies how powerful and intuitive it really is.

The product costs $50 for the Mac, $20 for the iPad, and $10 for the iPhone/AppleWatch that all sync with each other. But it’s well worth the cost, and there are no recurring fees. It’s one of the most successful products of its kind, having won numerous best app awards and having millions of users. 

Rav Power Travel Charger is a small charger with USB-C power delivery and four conventional USB-A ports. This single charger, about the size of a deck of cards, can charge a notebook computer (up to 45 watts), phones, tablets and other devices – all five at the same time from a single AC outlet. I’ve traveled around the world with this product and it’s worked perfectly, especially in hotel rooms with a scarcity of outlets. I also purchased short cords to use with this charger to minimize the overall bulk. $30.

One of the benefits of the new USB Type-C charging standard is there are new options for charging notebooks that are less expensive than those available from the manufacturer. There are even now battery packs that can extend the time between charges while on the road, such as this RAV power battery pack that costs about $50. Be sure and check that the wattage required by your computer is equal or less than the wattage of the battery or charger.

B&O H9 Headphones – I’ve become addicted to listening to podcasts while traveling and, for convenience and quality, love this Bang & Olufsen H9 with active noise cancellation. Unlike the Bose and Sony models with similar features, the B&O excels in its quality of construction, materials and comfort. Most importantly for travel, it doesn’t need a bulky case for protection and takes up much less room in my backpack than the other headphones with their huge protective cases. And it’s great for listening to streaming music while I’m waiting for my flights or relaxing in my hotel. Now, Bluetooth sound is still a compromise compared to a good wired headset, but on an airplane it’s convenience is hard to beat. $500.

Compression Packing Cubes – For organizing packing, I recommend using compressing packing cubes that are similar to the original packing cubes developed by Eagle Creek. But these are airtight and have a second zipper that helps compress the bags into a smaller size. They work much like the zipper on expandable luggage, except in reverse.  They range in price from $15 to $25 depending on the size and assortment.

Pill Organizer – Traveling for a few weeks at a time, I would need to fill up and take several 7-compartment weekly pill dispensers. At my destination, I’d invariably find some of the compartments open and pills spilled among my belongings. That’s when I decided there must be a better way. I found this well-made Travel Pill Organizer that has eight large compartments, each with a locking cover, that then has another lock to secure the top and bottom halves together and provide a waterproof seal. The appropriately named Pillster eliminates the need to pre-fill daily compartments and instead fill each of its compartments with a specific pill. Some of the compartments are large enough for vitamins and the entire capacity is good for a couple of weeks of travel.

Lowepro Passport Sling III Day Bag – In preparation for a recent trip to Portugal I looked high and low for a way to carry a Sony mirrorless camera with zoom lens, a water bottle, light jacket, and a few accessories in a comfortable sling bag. I tried a number of camera bags, including the expensive $150 Sling Bag from Peak Design, but it wasn’t comfortable and too constrained with its stiff compartments and a shoulder strap that could not be easily shifted from one shoulder to the other. Conventional camera bags failed to work because there’s little room for anything but photo equipment.

That’s when I discovered this uniquely shaped Lowepro Passport Sling III bag. It’s very well made with an internal adjustable padded camera compartment that can be collapsed. It has a convenient internal zippered compartment, another pocket for a tablet and several external compartments that can hold a water bottle, maps, pens, and a paper notebook.  The bag can also be expanded for more room. The best feature is its shape that contours around the body and makes it comfortable to carry. It’s bargain at $37. 

A word about Amazon links

With the recent flurry in sales promotions for this month’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, just about every website provided their own lists of best buys and bargains. Not only the sites that you’d expect, such as the gadgets sites and tech magazines, but even respected publications such as the New York Times and the Wall St. Journal.

It’s not as if these sites want to provide us with a service that we need. It’s all about revenue. By getting us to click on one of their links to a shopping website – primarily Amazon – they get referral fees when a purchase is made. It does seem a little seemly for editorial content to be rewarded with a kickback, but that’s what things have come to. For newspapers  it’s become an attractive source of new revenue.

While most anyone that writes about products can get an account from Amazon to get these fees, I think it is unethical and don’t use them.

You can always check if there are referral fees by examining the link. For example, this is a link from Tom’s Guide to a MacBook deal on Amazon. Notice the appendage to the link for the referring entity:


by Phil Baker