When you travel any distance with a laptop it helps to have some good habits for packing, carrying and using your computer
What to pack:
Avoid wrapping the power leads tightly around your power brick -- it stresses the cables and causes failures (I had a colleague who did it all the time)
Have a specified order and placement for all your items in your luggage. Do it enough and you won't have to think about it and you'll know were everything is.
Invest in a good quality laptop backpack. It will save your spine from being pulled to the side and leave the hands free for other things. Business travelers can get smart, black, bags now. It should have a padded laptop compartment, or use a laptop sleeve. In addition make sure that the bag has enough additional packing for your other travel needs. e.g.
- If you travel abroad then a universal mains socket adaptor is required. I quite like this one, make sure it's as robust as possible because sometimes they can be a little fragile.
- USB Charging cables for phones, iPods etc. Saves taking the mains based charger and having to share the mains adaptor when abroad. Some laptop BIOS settings allow you to configure the USB ports to supply power even when the laptop is off or on battery, which is useful for overnight charging but you can flatten your laptop battery so be careful
- Security cable for laptop. I prefer a combination lock to avoid having a key to lose. Get one with as long a cable as possible as anchor points sometimes need a stretch
- If you use a mouse then get a smaller laptop model to pack -- it could save you get getting RSI using the built in trackpad or trackpoint all the time. The really small laptop mice may be too small for prolonged use or larger hands so check before buying.
- A small mouse matt. Hotel room desks etc. are often covered with glass (or worse dirt) and will not work with laser mice so get a small mouse mat. Pack it so it stays flat
- I have always carried a spare LAN cable, however I am using it less and less as wireless becomes more common. Depending on the places you go it can be useful, especially in hotel rooms, but beware buying retractable cables (sight unseen) as some are bulky.
- Have small bags to place cables and mice in. It makes finding things a lot easier. Ziplocks plastic bags will do when you can't get nylon or cloth
- Headphones can be useful for music and VoIP calls (needs a mike as well). I don't recommend USB headphones as they may be bulky and take up a sometimes precious USB connection. You need to experiment to see if a bluetooth headset works for you. If you can spring for headphones that work on the plane as well that's a bonus but I have not bothered for a number of years as airlines now provide reasonable quality headsets (ignoring issues of noise cancelling headphones). It seems to be hard to protect expensive headsets without bulky cases so I get cheaper headsets and save the space.
- Consider the use and packing of a 3G modem. In Australian hotels broadband access can be very expensive (A$20-30/night) and with the added convenience of 3G it can make a lot of sense. Shop around for the best deals. In the US free wireless access seems to be included as part of the hotel package -- but check before leaving. And check how much 3G access costs when using global roaming, it can be VERY expensive.
N.B. When travelling, even with carry on luggage only, assume you will loose access to your suitcase for 24 hours and need to work/live as best you can from your backpack
Lastly make sure that you have the correct work processes and tools on hand to make the best use of your time away
- Paper notebook/journal/Filofax
- Paperwork (use file folders to protect loose paper sheets), magazines and books
- On longer trips passports, toiletries and spare plastic bags. I wrote some additional notes on trans-Pacific travel earlier
- Anything else that supports your travel flow and work flow.