Don’t leave without it

You know what it’s like to be halfway to some place in your car, and you realize that you don’t have your cell phone? There was a time when the only thing you needed to remember was your wallet, but nowadays, leave the house without a phone, and you feel naked, isolated, and even a bit panicked.

But if you think that’s bad, imagine that several hours after you left a hotel room that you left behind the charger for your phone. Imagine further knowing full well that for the next three or four days that the phone is a dead weight you must carry, yet not lose, until you can get it charged. All you can do is stare at it.

Or, imagine having placed ten dollars worth of leftovers in the mini-fridge in your room that you plan on making for lunch the next day, only to realize that you have left it behind. How about your seventy dollar hat? Or your shaving kit?

I’ve done most of these things. I have not left a charger behind, although I’ve come close. And over the years I’ve left behind enough food to feed an army, forcing me to either buy more or get by on peanuts. What I’ve also done is come up with a packing system that serves me well both for work and personal travel. Here are a few tips to help you avoid at least some of this pain.

Losing a phone charger is a major hassle. The first trick is to keep a dedicated travel charger in your bag, and leave your home charger at home. What I do is keep my charger in my suitcase in a shoe, lodged in place with a sock. When I take the charger out, the shoe and the sock come out of the bag, and they stay out until I pack the bag and put the charger back in. So far, this has been bullet-proof for me. As a back-up, most hotels have a box of left-behind phone chargers at the front desk, and are more than willing to let you rummage through it for one you need, assuming you can find one.

Food in the fridge. This was a challenge, but what I realized is that you need to leave something in the fridge that you absolutely, positively can NOT leave without the next day. It also has to be something that you can’t possibly forget. The answer will shock you, and make you laugh, but if you follow my advice you will never leave food behind again. I guarantee it. The answer will be revealed later.

Leaving something behind in a bathroom is way too easy, and way too common. I’ve lost one complete shaving kit, and you don’t realize how expensive a basic shaving kit is until you have to put one together from scratch. I learned this the hard way, and while my solution sounds obvious, it wasn’t always so to me. What I do when I am taking the last of my stuff out of the bathroom is turn off the bathroom light. I haven’t made this mistake since I started using this trick, so I must be on to something.

You’d also be surprised at how little you really need to take when you travel, especially as an airline employee. For starters, you wear the same clothes every day, so you don’t have to worry about a variety of suits, shoes, etc. Everyone has their own method of computing how many extra shirts or pants to carry, if any at all. Generally, you will pack underwear, t-shirts and socks using the “trip plus one day” rule. If you are on reserve, you will be packing at least seven days worth of stuff more often than not, and you will learn quickly which hotels offer guest laundry facilities and what they cost. Clothes for off duty time are usually limited to one pair of pants or shorts, and maybe one to two shirts, and some workout shorts.

We all have our own little quirks about how stuff goes into our bags, as well as making sure that we pack everything that we unpack, especially on those rare occasions when you spend two or even three days in one hotel. (It should be noted that the unpacking process is usually a practiced procedure of regimen and habit as well.) But the importance of the system is hard to bring across, and there are certain things we each don’t like to do. For instance, I don’t like to use the little safes in the rooms because I am afraid that I will either forget something or that the unit will fail at the worst possible time.

As for the memory aid for remembering the food in the refrigerator? Put the food in, along with one of your work shoes. If you are afraid of the smell, put the shoe in the dirty laundry bag. As for your feet being cold, the shoes warm up so quickly you won’t notice. This trick, by the way, is great for CFI’s too: on hot summer days, put your headset in the fridge between flights or overnight (but don’t freeze them!).

Happy Travels…

–Chip Wright