If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to travel–the right way.
For two years now, I’ve been making monthly trips from New York to Atlanta and back again. Delays, turbulence, cancellations, you name it: If it can happen at an airport or on a plane, I’ve just about experienced it all.
As the only IT professional at BetterCloud for a good portion of my time here, I’ve developed a few good travel habits that have helped to keep all hell from breaking loose while I’m wheels up.
Travel Tips for the IT Professional
- N+1 packing. Redundancy is all we know as IT professionals, and traveling shouldn’t change that. If you are carrying anything critical to you or your organization, whatever it may be, always bring a backup. Also, make sure to bring an encrypted, bootable backup of your machine in a separate bag.
- Come prepared. Charge everything overnight and download a book or movie. You should have offline entertainment and work-related reading ready to go when you hop on the plane. A Nintendo 3DS or a good ole paperback book works as well if that’s your style.
- Share your travel plans. I use Flightaware, which is a great application that keeps family, friends, and colleagues looped into my travel plans. Flightaware tracks any changes to your flight so if you’re delayed on the tarmac without internet access, all the important people in your lives will know why you haven’t texted them. I recommend telling at least one capable coworker (preferably a super admin) of your travel plans.
- Never use the public Wi-Fi without some security measure in place. Check to make sure your VPN or remote access solution are both working before you leave your house or apartment. You definitely don’t want to lose the ability to remote into your environment while you’re on the road.
- If possible, bring your own Wi-Fi. Airport Wi-Fi is slow and unsecure, so make sure to double check that your tethering or wireless jetpack are functioning correctly before you head off to the airport. A four-hour flight delay without Wi-Fi is far worse than a four-hour flight delay with Wi-Fi.
- Set a realistic out-of-office message. It may even be a good idea to under-promise and over-perform in this regard. Even if you know you will have access to email 95% of the time you’re traveling, it’s still important to temper people’s expectations of your response time.
- Don’t neglect other communication applications. Make sure to set up an out-of-office message for other communication points such as Slack.
- Keep your calendar marked. A simple block on your calendar letting people know where you are is invaluable. If you’re not at your desk, your calendar is likely the first place people will look.
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General Travel Tips
- Get TSA Pre✓. This is probably my number one tip for anyone who travels. Yes, the application process is a pain in the ass, but once you’ve been approved, you’ll save countless hours. You don’t have to take off your shoes, jacket, or laptop, and you skip the agonizing “normal” people security lines. It’s amazing.
- Buy the right bag. A good roller bag is worth its weight in gold. Make sure you choose a lightweight roller. If you’re going to travel, you should follow in the footsteps of the men and women who do it best: pilots and flight attendants. They use bags that have what are called J-hooks, which lets you easily hang a backpack or other bag off of. It looks cool and saves your shoulders and back.
- Pack light, pack right. This is obvious but I’ve made this mistake before. Don’t pack the outfit you plan on wearing while you fly. Leave it out next to, or on top, of your luggage. Also, when packing, make sure to lay out each clothing item individually (and count them). The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination and have to run to the closest Macy’s to pick up a few days’ worth of clothes.
- Check your bags and carry-on TWICE. Look for pocket knives, liquids, and other prohibited items (hey, we don’t judge). I’ve lost an ethernet punch-down tool and a very nice Gerber multi-tool because I forgot to take it out of my bag before heading to the airport.
- Check-in online. But take a screenshot of the QR code. Technology is a fickle mistress and who knows what could happen from the time you check-in online to when you actually need your boarding pass.
- Don’t go thirsty. Empty your water bottle, but don’t throw it away! Most airports have water bottle refilling stations so you don’t have to shell out $4 for a 20 oz. Dasani.
- Work your frequent flyer program. If you don’t, you’re leaving money on the table. Even if you’re traveling for your company, those points are yours to keep. Also, get a personal credit card that you use just for work. This will help you keep track of all expenses and makes paying the balance super simple.
- Please, wear socks. Going through security with bare feet, is just, well, gross.
Though I may not be a consultant traveling coast-to-coast twice a week, I do feel I’m one of the more frequent flyers among my peers in the IT industry. If you have any flight hacks, either for IT or for your personal lives, let me know because I’d love to add them to this list!