The Simple Travel Hack I Use To Save My Time And My Sanity

diary and calendar with passport and map

I like going places, but I don’t like what it takes to get there all that much.

I’m sure I’m not alone here.

But I do spend time some away from home, as shown in the screenshot below from my TripIt profile.

Tripit Stats - July 2015

I’ve been using TripIt for four years. I average about 12 trips per year and in 2015 I’ve done less than half of that. Even still, my past travels have shaped how I travel now and one of the things I pride myself on is “walking the productive walk” as much as I talk the talk.

In short, I like to make sure I’ve got as much as I can ready in advance.

I also don’t like to spend money on travel needs like shampoo and deodorant in the places I’m going to. I’d much rather use those funds for social activities and decent meals while there. That means I tend to travel a bit heavier than those who purchase and use what’s in the place they are visiting, but I don’t overdo it either. I’ve travelled enough now that I know what works and what doesn’t, which saves me time at home and abroad.

One of the things that helps me do this is a simple travel hack – a checklist of items that needs to be kept up to date for every trip I take. I’m going to break down this simple travel hack for you now so that you can have a more productive (and ultimately pleasant) travel experience going forward.

The Dopp Bag

I keep a dopp bag inside of my suitcase, even when it is put away and not in use. I also make sure it’s refilled upon my return from every trip. Here’s what I keep in my dopp bag.

  1. Toothbrush with portable case: I do have a Phillips Sonicare at home but I don’t travel with it. It’s too bulky to carry comfortably, so I just keep my spare toothbrush in my dopp bag at all times instead so I never forget a toothbrush for any trip.
  2. Floss x 2: You never know when you’re going to run out of floss and I don’t like to surprised during a session. So I always keep two of them in my dopp bag. (They take up little room, too.)
  3. Comb: I picked up a comb at one of the hotels I stayed at and have used it on the road rather than a brush because it takes up less space.
  4. Razor: I picked up a second Harry’s razor for travel and I also kept the small package of two blades from it to bring along. If I go through a blade on a trip I’ll simply replace it in the two-blade box when I get home.
  5. Deodorant: This was a free one I got at Dad 2.0 Summit, so it’s a full-sized one. It takes up the most room in my dopp bag.
  6. Q-tips: To gently clean the ears. I have about 10 in there on average for each trip.
  7. Chapstick: I rarely get chapped lips, but I keep one in this bag in the event that it does happen. Again, it takes up little space.
  8. Shaving soap: This is a solid shaving cream tin that I picked up from my local barber. It takes up more room than I’d like but it also means I have one less thing in the Ziploc bag (which I discuss below) that contains all of my small liquids.
  9. Eyeglass cloth: I keep one in my dopp bag and exchange it with another when I get home so it can be cleaned. (Even though I have contact lenses I rarely wear them,. so they don’t come with me on trips very often. So they don’t stay in my dopp bag as a result.)
  10. Eyeglass screwdriver: Just in case my glasses need tightening or fixing. It hasn’t happened yet, but I want to be prepared in case it does.
  11. Shaving brush: I use this with my shaving soap. It’s a bit bulky but it’s necessary for me to get a decent shave while traveling.

The Ziploc Bag

I also keep a Ziploc bag with liquids inside my dopp bag, and when I pack for travel it is kept separate at the top of my carry-on for quick access. Here’s what is in that bag:

  1. Shampoo: There are occasions where I don’t wind up in a hotel that has shampoo. It’s rare, but it does happen. So I keep this with my travel gear just in case.
  2. Eyeglass cleaner: A small bottle to use.
  3. Toothpaste: A travel sized toothpaste accompanies me on every trip. I almost always have to replace it in the bag when I get home, so we have several extras there for that purpose.
  4. Hair gel: Using this is smaller than the hair clay I have, but it does mean I need to put it in this bag instead of leaving it in my dopp bag. As Peter Drucker said: “Everything is a trade-off.” (Although I’m certain he wasn’t thinking my particular circumstance would fit that quotation.)
  5. Body wash: I still have body wash over soap because it has a longer shelf life. Using a bar of soap and then repacking it can get messy. I don’t do that kind of messy, especially when I’m traveling.
  6. Conditioner: I like to condition my hair, but like the shampoo it’s not always at the hotel I’m staying at.
  7. Rescue Remedy: I spray this on my tongue before traveling sometimes to calm my nerves. A lot of travel in one period of time can take its toll on me, so having this at the ready is a good thing.
  8. Sunscreen: I received a small bottle of sunscreen at Macworld a number of years ago, and I just refill it with fresh stuff when it runs out. I have fair skin, so having this with me no matter where I go allows me to protect my skin without resorting to buying it while there.

I almost always grab a new Ziploc bag at the airport when I go somewhere as well. That gives me a spare in case the current one breaks or ends up with liquid all inside of it (which has happened).

When I return home from an travel, I replenish both of these bags as needed. Then I put the suitcase away until my next trip. Because of this routine, I never have to think about whether or not I have what is needed for my next trip other than the ideal clothing, footwear, and tech gear I need for the trip. That allows me to be more thoughtful about those items and spend more time on choosing them rather than worry about whether or not my razor is packed or if I have toothpaste in my bag.

Even if you just start preparing for future travel by doing the basics of what I do – having your dopp and Ziploc bag ready – you’ll be that much further ahead when you get ready for your next trip. And who knows? Maybe by adopting this practice you’ll see that being proactive with it will find its way to you being proactive in other aspects of your life.

Wouldn’t that be something?

I talk about some of the other things I do in advance of travel on a two-part bonus episode series of The Productivityist Podcast, available to Patreon supporters only. If you’d like to support the podcast – either at the $1 level or more – you’ll not only get bonus content and the occasional special offer, you’ll help me fund the show to make it even better. Click here to visit the Patreon page.