I have a bit of a reputation as a travel pack-rat. I tend to pack for every possible contingency. Not so long ago, I couldn’t bear the thought of carrying on my luggage for fear I would miss some precious toiletry or outfit combination. After multiple instances of lost luggage and missed meetings, I broke the checked luggage habit. But I am still guilty of packing an oversized briefcase that carries an assortment of electrical chargers, gadgets, and various personal effects. But before you judge me too harshly, aren’t we all a little guilty of clinging to a few never-leave-home-without items? Whether a purse, wallet, briefcase, folio or messenger bag, we all have our travel safety blanket that brings us comfort and security knowing they are there when we need them.
This week, I paint for you the portrait of three seasoned travelers – Tyler McPheeters, Chris Andrus and me – through the contents of our ruck-sacks. In college, the three of us started a company together and have now joined the ranks of the Big Four Accounting/Consulting world. And though our company affiliations and the services we provide are different, we share one thing: we are constantly on the road. Tyler is a Senior Manager with Deloitte Consulting and focuses on PeopleSoft. He is on the road nearly 100% and has served clients on the west coast, east coast and everywhere in between. Chris is a Director with KPMG and advises his clients on a variety of technical accounting issues. Chris also travels extensively for his clients and has become an expert at finding balance on the road. And then there’s me…y’all know me so I’ll skip the pleasantries. The three of us have been friends for years, went to school together, and often share stories about making life on the road work for us so I thought no better three people to profile than three Hoosier alums and Big Four consultants.
So, without further ado, I present to you the contents of our bags.
When it comes to personal travel, I basically pack like I will be gone for a month and never actually what I end up needing (hmm, wise move to bring my sweatshirt to the Florida Keys…). However, my approach to business travel is if I can live without it, it doesn’t make it into my bag.
I rank packing for work somewhere between washing the dishes and doing taxes. I would pay $30 a week to have someone figure it out for me in exactly the way I like it. However, until an app appears on the iPhone to take care of that for me, I have developed some tried and true techniques to make it easier on me.
- All my clothing is non-iron and I can go several weeks between doing laundry
- Toiletries are all non-liquid based (generally grab free toothpaste from the hotel front desk)
- All my miscellaneous accessories such as toiletries and chargers are duplicative with anything I keep at my house- they are in my bag at all times so I never am without power/means to proper hygiene and never have to remember to pack them. This includes a spare electric razor.
- Most of my shirts are either white, white with blue accents/designs, white with black accents/designs (I think the color choices may be part of the AICPA guidelines) and can go with basically any pair of pants I have. This ensures minimal brain power is expended, typically in short supply, on clothing choices.
- I always bring five days of clothing, regardless of the trip duration. My travel can, and often does, change mid-week.
When traveling for work, my personal time is usually filled up with the following (in order of frequency):
- More work
- Working out
- Watching TV
- Suitcase – Briggs & Riley Domestic Expander Carry-on Upright – 21inch height is critical for universal overhead compatibility
- Bag – North Face Borealis Backpack
- Laptop – HP Elitebook Pro 840. This brick serves two purposes: (1) spreadsheet surfing and (2) strengthening my back as it lug it around the country
- Pointing – N/A – A mouse is for amateurs
- Phone – iPhone 6 (128GB) + Blackberry Curve 8300 (circa 2008) for work…you mock, but I have 3 days battery life and a keyboard
- Tablet – iPad Air 2 (128GB) + Verizon/T-Mobile 4G (do they make other tablets?)
- Headphones – Klipsch x10 in ear passive noise cancelling (no battery required, effective against engine noise, crying babies, and the dude yapping the entire 6am flight from ORD to LGA)
- Harmonica – N/A
- Note-taking – KPMG standard issue note pad most times…cuz I am thrifty (cheap)
- Speakers – N/A – I have a Soundlink mini that I love for personal travel, but it doesn’t fall into my “lean and mean” business travel philosophy
- USB – I carry the iPad power adapter – everything, save my laptop, can be powered via this thing. For emergencies, from time to time I carry a USB battery I got for free at a firm sponsored event
- Coinage – Coins? What century is this? Are they still legal tender?
- Badges – All badges from all clients as well as my drivers license
- Connectivity – Firm issued air card
- Chewy – Is there a type of gum that is not chewy? …sounds horrific….I like 5ive (I think that is how they spell it) spearmint
- Snacks – Cliff builder energy bars
- Breath Remediation – My breath smells like a petunia (or spearmint, when i am enjoying a piece of chewy gum)
- Trading Cards – Business cards
- Shades – Maui Jim Guardrails – they have a flexible frame so they can handle abuse from travel
- Workout Accessories – Nike mesh and running shorts, lifting gloves, and Bose MIE2i sport headphones (for those keeping track, the third pair of headphones in my bag). I just wear the undershirt I work to work that day as a workout shirt.
- Abacus – 10-key calculator (I am an accountant – it’s mandatory)
For me, I pack for every contingency. Call it my Cub Scout ethos or perhaps my pack-rat-itis, but whatever it is, my bag is fuller and heavier than most. I’ve accepted it as a weekly ritual to hand my bag to my driver only to be asked “what you got in here, rocks?” The truth is: I do. Intrigued yet? OK, here goes…
- Suitcase – For some reason, I tend to break suitcases easily. I usually end up buying a new one every year because the zipper breaks, the canvas tears or the wheels or handle breaks. So, I traditionally do not spend a lot on fancy suitcases. I typically use a Samsonite rolling suitcase; anything that can be easily checked and carried on an airplane.
- Bag – Tumi Messenger Bag
- Laptop – Standard issue Dell Latitude E7240. If I had my druthers, I’d opt for a sleek and sexy Mac, but alas, I’ve got what I’ve got. I did choose the smaller sub-notebook option vs the larger, heavier model. After all, I have to leave room for all the other junk.
- Pointing – I hate touchpads, eraser-head pointer sticks and track-balls. The wireless mouse, for me, is non-negotiable. In fact, I just broke my latest one: the Microsoft Arc (new model) and I am in the process of finding a new model. I just picked up the Logitech MX Master and I’m getting used to the ergonomics.
- Phone – iPhone 6 (128GB). Yep, I’m an Apple fanboy.
- Tablet – For the longest time, I couldn’t find a good business use for my iPad other than games, movies and personal use. But now, I love taking notes on my iPad Mini (128GB/Verizon) with the Logitech Foldable Keyboard. In fact, I always type The Art of Advice articles on my iPad Mini, including this one. It’s a pleasure to write with and is super portable.
- Headphones – Bose noise-canceling in-ear headphones. I used to carry the Bose over-the-ear headphones but they were stolen when I had to check my bag one fateful day. I lived without them for a while, but once these little babies came out, I was hooked. They are phenomenal; both the sound quality and the noise canceling feature is tremendous and drowns out the hum of the engines and plane noise.
- Harmonica – I usually swap out different models and brands on my weekly trips. By far, my favorite brand of harmonica is the Anthony Dannecker Centurion. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there’s no finer harmonica in the world than a Dannecker. But a man cannot eat Filet Mignon and drink Romanee-Conti for every meal, so I’ll usually try out different harps for different sounds. Some of my non-Dannecker favorites are: Yonberg D1 and D2, Dortel Harmonicas, TurboHarp, Seydel Session Steel (with a Blue Moon Corian Comb), Suzuki Promaster, and Suzuki Promaster Hammond.
- Note-taking – I’ve got a system. One book for notes and one for my ever-increasing list of to-dos and action items. For notes, I use a MontBlanc zipper folio with a Moleskine notebook. For to-dos, I carry my trusted red At-a-Glance Standard Diary (see here for a preview of my system). As for pens, I’ve got a few I really like. I generally carry pens that use space pen cartridges. I also avoid roller-ball pens! When you are on a plane as much as I am, ball-point pens lessen the chances of exploding in your bag. I’ve had way too many roller balls explode in my bag to bother carrying them. Right now, I carry the Fisher telescoping space pen and the Lamy Pico Chrome.
- Speakers – I’m a big music fan. I usually return to me hotel room and throw on some tunes. I tried out a bunch of bluetooth speakers and I really liked the JBL Flip 2. It’s got just enough bass to fill the room but it excels at the highs and mids. It definitely takes up a lot of bag real-estate but it also doubles as a speaker phone for conference calls so I definitely think it’s worth it.
- USB – I have a few of these charged and ready to go. The smaller ones I usually pick up for free at conferences, events and shows. The bigger one is a Mophie Juice Pack Power Station and has saved me on more than one occasion. I also carry a DC power adapter for my USB and my laptop because – well – you never know. I also carry an assortment of cables… The big ones are Micro USB and Apple Lightning cables. But I also carry an auxiliary audio cable to connect to the audio in rental cars or other audio sources to my wireless speaker (see below).
- Coinage – I always carry a few EY Culture Coins on me. You never know when you will catch someone in the act of living the EY values and doing a good deed for someone else. Pay it forward.
- Badges – No ID? No entry. Gotta have ’em.
- Vitamins – Getting your vitamins on the road is important. The current cocktail is a mix of a multi-vitamin, vitamin D and Omega-Red.
- Breath Remediation – I drink too much coffee to not have a breath remediation solution. Listerine Pocket Packs do the trick and pack a fast minty punch.
- Cleaning Supplies – For the longest time, I dealt with dirty glasses and attempted to wipe my lenses with a napkin, tissue or my shirt. I finally caved in and bought an Oakley lens cleaning kit and it has served me (and my vision) well. Also, I never travel anywhere without my Tide pen.
- Painkillers – With long nights and missed flights, you never know when a headache may strike. Always good to have some Advil close at-hand.
- Hand sanitizer – The world’s a dirty place. I try to keep a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer; especially during conferences, career fairs and big “hand-shaking events.”
- SecureID Token – ’cause s’curity!
- Trading Cards – Stack-o-EY-business-cards
– But what about the rocks? –
One piece of quartz – I’ve collected rocks and minerals since I was a kid. Once of my favorite stones is quartz. I’m not sure why (and no, I don’t believe in the chakra stone mumbo jumbo) but I feel better when I have a piece of quartz on me. Call it a good luck charm or just call it something from my childhood, but I always have a piece of quartz in my bag wherever I go.
Oh, and a few things I carry on me:
- Glasses – ’cause I gotta see.
- Wallet – ’cause I gotta pay.
- Keys – ’cause I gotta get in.
Traveling for work is one of my favorite parts of the job. Having traveled over a million miles in the past 12 years, I have picked up a few tips for packing and traveling. I will caveat some of my choices with the fact that 95% of the time I’m traveling to the same destination every week, so keep that in mind.
I always pack on Sunday nights, I don’t understand how people pack on Monday before a 6 am flight. Unless we are not coming back to Chicago (which means I’d be away from home for many weeks), my suitcase is pretty light. I keep most of my work clothes at the hotel/dry cleaners near my client. This saves a lot of stress and re-ironing of things on the road.
A few packing tips:
- My work socks are all the same. Fun socks are great, but after losing 10 individual socks, consistency becomes more effective. Always bring more socks than you need, this is always the first thing I tend to run out of…
- Don’t sacrifice space for commodity items that can you can buy on the road – this is often overlooked. For example, when I’m away from home for 3 weeks in a row, that’s a lot of space in my suitcase for undershirts, which they sell at Target for $10. I’d rather use the space for something more important and needed some new t-shirts anyways.
- Most people completely overlook the need for bringing things to do while traveling. The iPad is great (if you find some fun games that don’t need to be online to play), but I have always found magazines to be my favorite. Instead of buying them at the airport, I subscribe (a year costs the same as one at the airport), to over 20 magazines. The best part, when you’re done you can give them away or recycle instead of carrying a book around when you’re done.
- Finally, make sure you’re bringing things that allow you to be comfortable. Just because it’s a work trip doesn’t mean you can’t throw in some jeans and a casual shirt, gym clothes or a swimsuit!
Here’s my list:
- Suitcase – Tumi Alpha International Expandable 2 Wheeled Carry-on
- Bag – Tumi T-PASS Alpha Expandable Brief
- Laptop – HP Elitebook Pro 840p
- Pointing – Logitech Anywhere MX
- Phone – iPhone 6 (128GB) + AT&T (Unlimited Global Data)
- Tablet – iPad Air 2 (128GB) + Verizon/T-Mobile 4G
- Headphones – Bose QuietComfort 20i (in-ear, noise cancelling)
- Harmonica – N/A
- Note-taking – I carry a fancy Deloitte rollerball pen and a Fisher Space pen that Justin got me about 4 years ago. I rarely take notes on paper, so don’t waste space on a notebook.
- Speakers – My mobile music device of preference is currently the UE Boom, made by Logitech this thing rocks and is about the size of a large Monster Energy Drink. Nine out of ten times this lives in my “hotel” bag instead of flying with it though.
- USB – Obviously power is a major need while traveling, I carry 2 x 12,000mah+ chargers (I prefer Anker)
- Coinage – I carry around $50 in small bills for tips/incidentals while traveling, sometimes a $5 tip at the hotel gets you more than having status. I still find random coins from foreign countries from time to time stuck in the bottom of my bags…
- Badges – Obviously Deloitte and client ID badges, and passport for international travel (had to skip a last minute trip once because I didn’t have this, have taken it everywhere since – it’s not going to earn stamps locked up in a different city than you’re in!).
Tyler is a Senior Manager in Deloitte Consulting’s Oracle Technology Practice focusing on Oracle PeopleSoft implementation projects of every size. Primarily focused on complex business transformation projects, he has experience with many full life cycle implementations, offshore delivery and project management. Specific background in developing leading practices for data intensive processes (conversion, integration, performance), Oracle databases, cutover and project management. Project experience includes a variety of client engagements including: financial services, real estate, health care, energy, transportation, education, telecom and manufacturing.
Chris is a Director in KPMG’s Accounting Advisory Services group which provides guidance to clients on technical accounting matters as well as financial reporting assistance to clients who are contemplating, in the process of completing, or have recently completed a transaction involving strategic mergers, acquisitions and/or divestitures of specific parts of the business and fresh start accounting for companies emerging from bankruptcy. Prior to joining Accounting Advisory Services, Chris spent close to five years in the KPMG audit practice in Chicago planning and conducting audits of both public and privately held clients in the information, communications, consulting, and manufacturing industries.
Photo Credits: Header Photo