Travel Hacks

With people traveling for the holidays, it’s time to talk travel hacks.

Tip #1 Invest In A TSA “Checkpoint Friendly” laptop bag (TSA.Gov)

One of the easiest ways for a thief to snag a laptop is when it’s out of your possession on the X-Ray belt.  Consider the number of laptops that are going through a security line at any given time.  They all tend to look alike, and it’s very easy for someone to “pocket” your laptop and walk off with it before you even know it’s gone.

The “checkpoint friendly” bags all unzip in such a way that they pass through the X-Ray machines with the laptop still inside.

I’ve been using one for the past year and have not had to take my laptop on any of my trips through security.  It is not only more secure, but it’s also a huge time saver.

I opted for a backpack and went with the CaseLogic CLBS-116, but had I been looking for a messenger bag I’d have probably upgraded my current Timbuk2 Commute with the Commute 2.0.

Tip #2 Get Organized In A Hurry

Two of the most important things I carry on any trip are:

  1. Eagle Creek Pac-It Sac (medium)
  2. Transparent Zipper Envelopes (Office Depot).

The Pac-It Sac is primarily used for when I go through security.  I can quickly dump all of the items in my pockets (including my belt) into the Sac, zip it shut and toss it into my laptop bag and breeze through the metal detector.  Once I’m through, it’s no trouble at all to find all my stuff and load back up.  The Pac-It Sac also serves a dual purpose for storing loose change, pens, receipts and other stuff that winds up in my pockets during my trip.

I also carry a Transparent Zipper envelope with all the printouts of confirmations, calendars, tickets, etc. for my trip and will use that to put receipts when I’m traveling on business.  They also work well for storing comics in my backpack so they don’t get banged up in my bag.

Tip #3 Packing A Swiss Army Knife, Without The Knife

Sharp objects are item 1 on the TSA list of prohibited items for carry-on luggage, which means that packing a Swiss Army Knife in your laptop bag is not an option.

Which is why I put together a collection of tools that work within the TSA guidelines of tools under 7 inches in length (see link above).

  • General 4-in-1 mini No 744 screwdriver (Amazon.Com or $2 local at Fry’s)
  • Serbertech m2 (Amazon.Com)

While this is not nearly as extensive as my Swiss Army Cybertool, it works for the majority of problems I encounter on the road.

I also carry a AAA powered LED flashlight (“Camping” aisle at Target) as well as folded over Duct Tape (seriously).  I forget where I got the Duct Tape, but it’s fantastic.  It’s folded over and about the size of an iPhone and it’s in a pocket in my bag.  And yes, I’ve used it more than once when traveling.

Tip #4 “Old Man” Tools

You get old, you start forgetting stuff.  It happens.  Which is why I carry a pocket spiral notepad with a Sharpie Fine Point at all times to write stuff down before I forget.

In addition, I keep a Radio Shack Lighted Magnifier (Card Sized Cat NO 63-240) for reading serial numbers.

Tip #5 Computer Accessories

Power adapter, headphones, flash drive…sure, those are all the obvious things to pack.  But here are a few that you might not think of:

  • Blank DVD-R (or CD-R) media and/or equivalent sized flash drive – assuming you make regular/full backups at home, this becomes useful if you need to make a snapshot of configuration files and current projects while on the road.  I speak from experience.
  • Ophcrack and Knoppix – two excellent utilities that are worth keeping in your laptop bag for Windows password flake outs and diagnostics.
  • Velcro ties – I always keep an extra few for when I need to get cords out of the way.
  • Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger – turns one power outlet into 3 power outlets + 2 USB power ports.  I’ve found this useful for leaving other chargers (like the power square on the iPhone) behind to minimize bulk as well as for sharing power adapters when at the gate or wherever.
  • Security cable lock – lock down your computers when you’re traveling.  Seriously!

Tip #6 Medication In Your Carry-On

Assume that any luggage you check-in, could potentially not be there to greet you at your destination (this has happened to me on an International flight).  As obvious as it sounds, pack any medication you take in your laptop bag.


Hope this helps.  Have a happy and safe holiday.


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