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No matter what your method of travel, the balance between carrying everything you might need and just the essentials is sometimes a struggle.  I’ve been traveling quite a bit the last few years and I have figured just about the right balance … at least for me.  I get comments all the time about how light my bag is!  (For this post, I’m referring to my carry-on bag or briefcase).  I thought I would share what’s in my bag and why.

I am very picky about what I will add to my bag, and I get a little too much pleasure when I’m able to remove something from my bag permanently (e.g.  I was just able to dump my GPS now that I have a suitable replacement on my iPhone – check out waze).  The items you see are the same ones I carry with me whether I am running across town or across the country, and for short or long trips.  Having all the essentials in one place makes planning and packing ever so easy when you know everything is in your bag and ready to go.

These items are my essentials …  I would much rather lose my suitcase than my carry-on.  All right, let’s get to the list, mostly from left to right, but not really in order of importance:

  • Reading Material – so here I have Make: magazine which I commonly swap out with Wired.  I read cached RSS feeds from Google Reader on my iPhone quite often.
  • Clear Plastic Folder – I use this folder to quickly store necessary travel documents, boarding passes, and receipts.   It quickly secures with Velcro and it is easy to verify the contents at a glance.  I always empty this folder at the end of every trip.
  • Glasses, Case, and Lens Cloth – because, well, … it’s a bit easier to read for long periods of time.
  • Healthcare Stuff – Eye drops, Hand Sanitizer, Floss, Mints, Tube of Essential Medications, Carmex
  • Laptop and Charger – Necessary for email and presentations.  Nice for watching movies.
  • Lanyard – I dislike being given a promotional badge lanyard for every conference I attend.  I like to use my own sometimes.
  • Quarters – Sometimes you have no choice but to feed the parking meter.
  • Stack of $1 Bills – I find it easier to have a bunch of dollar bills accessible, rather than pulling out my wallet for tips.
  • MiO Water Enhancer – Nice when you’re tired of water, but know you shouldn’t have another Diet Coke.
  • Laser Pointer – It’s a must have for those “death by PowerPoint” presentations (I shy away from these as much as possible!)  This one also doubles as an LED flashlight.
  • USB Flash Drive – Too many times there is no VGA cable for the projector – just don’t leave it behind!
  • Binder Clips – There are endless uses for these … just read lifehacker!
  • Pen and Mechanical Pencil Instant geek cred when you have a mechanical pencil in your shirt pocket.
  • Bluetooth Headset – Single headset for both my phones.
  • Badge – I can’t show up to work without it.
  • Alternate Identification – I carry one of those credit card-sized US passports in my bag (complete with tin foil hat!) in case I lose my wallet.  Getting through TSA security to get back home would be a nightmare otherwise.
  • Luggage Tag – “I … uh …  forgot my bag on the plane.”
  • Business Cards – Complete with Google Voice phone number and Twitter feed.
  • Keys If you are parking and then flying, keep these in a safe place.  You won’t need them until you get back but you’ll be screwed if you’ve lost them.
  • Notebook You need something professional to doodle on, right?
  • iPhone – This is probably the most important item I carry with me.  It’s my phone (of course), hotspot, email, map, GPS, travel agent, notebook, white noise machine, etc.
  • Extra Mobile Phone – I don’t carry two phones on me, but having a backup phone on an alternate carrier in your bag is a good way to cover your bases.  See my post Prepping for Sticky Travel Situations.
  • Bluetooth Trackball/Mouse – Using the trackpad combined with limited elbow room on a plane is comfortable only for a short time.  Yeah, I know this is probably not kosher once the cabin door closes but I’ve never been cited.
  • Earplugs – “Really?  You have to tell the story of your second cousin’s hunting trip now?  On the five-hour red-eye flight back home?”
  • Noise Cancelling Earbuds w/ Mic – In addition to listening to your favorite tunes, these are handy when your bluetooth headset just won’t cut it for that important call with your boss.
  • Extra Laptop Battery –  This is a must-have for those all-day trips when you won’t have access to an outlet.
  • Retractable USB Cables – 2x Micro-USB, Mini-USB, iPhone, Stereo – These double as charging and data cables for every device that needs juice in my bag.  I use the stereo cable for rental cars that commonly have an AUX input.
  • 110V Power Splitter – This is nice when all the of the power plugs are being used at the gate.  Just ask nicely if you can split the power.  It’s like carrying your own outlet!  It’s also nice for those hotel rooms that never have enough power outlets.
  • Dual USB Car Charger – For charging all of my devices on the go.
  • Triple USB Charger – With folding 110V prongs!
  • Mophie Juice Pack – For those long days when I just don’t have time to charge my iPhone, I just swap out cases and I’m good to go.

I would love to know what you have in your travel bag – maybe I can consolidate mine even further!  Happy Travels …