Sep 112007

Angus laments getting hit unusually hard by jet lag on this UK trip.  This is particularly amusing considering he’s recently imported to Redmond from Australia and generally has far too much energy to safely occupy one body.  I suspect he owns an espresso machine.  Possibly even USB powered and in his bag.

Angus’s criteria for professional traveler struck me as odd.  Carry-on luggage?  What a drag.  I try to get rid of the bag as quickly as possible so I can enjoy the rest of the trip without wrenching a shoulder out of socket.  Alas, the laptop backpack is inescapable, but at least on personal travel I can trade the 10 pound company brick for something a little more svelte – my 1.8 pound Sony X505.  Sure, waiting for baggage claim can be a drag, but that’s what frequent flyer program expedited baggage services are for.  Besides, if you’re picking up a rental car you can usually take care of that checkin and key pickup while the baggage handlers are getting your bag to the carousel.

Running down the gangway to get to the head of the passport control line?  Nah.  A casual stroll gets you there almost as fast, plus you get free entertainment watching the rat race rushing by.

Rely on plastic rather than local currency?  Absolutely.  All major purchases can be done on the card in any modern location – including magazines and snacks at airport kiosks.  It’s still a good idea to have a little cash in pocket change for the impromptu street vendor purchase.  Skip the outrageous transaction fees and exchange rates at the Cambio kiosks at the airport.  Just find a cash machine on the Cirrus, Visa, or other US bank network and make an ATM withdrawal in local currency.  The exchange rates tend to be more reasonable and no transaction fees (from my bank, anyway).

I’ve also noticed that the density of currency exchange kiosks in an airport is inversely proportional to the number of ATM machines.  Coincidence?  Hmm.  Gatwick is paved with exchange kiosks, but you’ll be lucky to find an ATM before you get to Victoria station.  Schiphol has a much better proportion of ATM machines.

Overall, I guess I don’t think of myself as a “professional traveler”.  I do travel quite a bit, and a lot of it is work related, but I’m definitely not in the power traveler category.  Even packing for most trips is a non-event.  Count the number of days away, grab a matching number of socks, underwear, shirts, etc.  Matching socks a plus.  Oh, and pants.  Pants good.

Making packing and trip preparation a non-event has become a bit of a sport at home.  Lack of preflight checks and rechecks drives my wife nuts, which is entertaining in its own right.

However, the wife will have the last laugh on this trip.  It’s been a long time since I’ve forgotten to pack something important, but on this trip I’ve left quite a few items at home – probably laid out on the bed but didn’t make it into the suitcase.  The dog probably grabbed them.  Ya, that’s it.

The most irritating miss was forgetting my (equally svelte) camera.  I made a point of moving it from its home in the laptop backpack to the charger the night before departure to make sure it had a full charge for the trip.  It didn’t make it back into the backpack.  Next time, I’ll just stick to the regular routine of packing the camera and charger and topping it up in the hotel on arrival.

For critical trips, I’ll do my homework and look up maps and so forth prior to departure.  For most trips, though, I just wing it.  Get a rail pass at the airport and figure out how to get to where I’m going by reading the rail map on the train.  Occasionally step off the train to take a look around, and step back on the next train a few (5, 10, 30) minutes later.  Pay close attention to next train times if you venture out into the suburbs, as trains generally aren’t as frequent in low density areas as they are downtown.

Taking it in as it happens makes the trip more interesting than racing around with blinders on.  It’s a great way to make discoveries that aren’t in any travel brochure.

Originally published on my MSDN blog.