With a few years of massive tennis travel under my belt, I think I've finally got it all figured out. For your reference, here are the 11 things that make my life on the road easier. I get this question a lot so I figure I'd just put it all in one place.
1. Four-wheeled hard-sided suitcase. I used to travel with your standard soft-side two wheeler. You know the one you tip and pull behind you. Having had to trek up and down hills, through airports, over cobblestones, and all that jazz, the two wheeler can be a real pain in the ass. I don't know if this happens to other people, but the two wheeler actually makes my arm go to sleep when I pull it for a long time. Not good.
Everything changed when I upgraded to a the four-wheeler (I got this one from eBags), the kind you can push alongside yourself with zero effort. I am no longer sweaty and out of breath when I get to the ticket counter. As I hate sweating, this was a game-changer. When I'm feeling particularly lazy I just kind of kick it in front of me when I'm walking in a flat smooth area, like an airport terminal.
2. Aeropress, Porlex grinder, and Bonavita travel kettle. I only bring the kettle when I travel domestically, because U.S. hotel rooms don't provide kettles and international voltage will burn it out. But having fresh tasty coffee every morning is a must for me, and this saves me a lot of money in countries where a good cup of drip coffee costs $4. Also I got this for my birthday and I am already so excited for Australia, where I will have both Aeropress and pour-over options.
3. The Intocircuit Power Castle. God I love this thing. When I have any questions about gadgets to buy, The Wirecutter is my source. This is their recommendation for an external battery back to charge your phone, laptop, ebook reader, etc. It can charge two devices at once and can probably charge my iPhone 3 or 4 times over before needing a recharge. When I'm not traveling I use it at home as my primary gadget charger so I'm not tethered to any particular wall outlet. It's great and it's only $24, far cheaper than those Mophie packs, which I think are a complete ripoff.
4. PSB M4U1 headphones. I know, it's obnoxious to keep talking about these things and they are crazy expensive at $250. But no item has made a more positive impact on my time in planes or at airports. The best thing about them is that they don't make my glasses pinch, which is a big obstacle for the bespectacled bunch of us who want to use over ear headphones. Alternatively, I also really like these Sennheiser in-ear headphones. I just swap out the buds for these foam replacements and they are incredible. The sound is great and it's one of the few earbuds that still use that asymetrical cord so that when you take them out of your ears they just hang from your neck. You have no idea how much of a difference this cord makes. So great when you need to take your earbuds out but want your hands free.
5. Amazon Kindle. I remain adamant that the Kindle Paperwhite is the only way people should be reading eBooks. I just really don't like the glare of reading off an LED iPad or iPhone screen. As for the arguments about books vs. ebooks, I love both. If I love an eBook I will buy it in hard copy. But when you travel and are a finicky reader like me, the Kindle lets you carry 20 books at a time. I can't do that with real books. So the upshot: I read more with the Kindle. And isn't that the goal of books?
6. iTunes. I hate being a slave to Apple's digital content -- at home I normally buy off Amazon -- but the fact is iTunes purchases aren't geo-blocked. You can downloand and buy movies/shows off iTunes wherever you are. You can't do that with Amazon, which only works in the States.
7. Apple World Travel Adaptor Kit. I totally thought this was a waste of money. After all, most of us get along fine with the regular adapters. But I ended up buying the kit on a lark -- seriously, I have no idea why I bought it. I think I was just bored at Heathrow -- and it's been worth it for no other reason than I no longer worry about my laptop getting fried when I plug it in. As many of you who travel internationally know, when you plug your US plugs into a travel adaptor, it can spark and get a little weird. It's like playing a bit of roulette. Since my laptop is my livelihood, this at least gives me peace of mind. It also ensures that I can actually plug my laptop in. Many times, because of the huge charging brick, the plug won't stay in the adaptor. This solves that.
8. A large rolltop backpack. I much prefer messenger bags. That's what I wore in school, to work, and through the first year or so of tennis traveling. But my back finally cried "enough!" so I went the backpack route. I've gone through many iterations and different designs and I have to say the large capacity rolltop backpack is the way to go. I used to prefer those school-type backpacks with tons of compartments to keep everything organized but as I traveled more and more it became clear that I needed more modularity. Compartments actually create inefficiencies when you're packing. What I love about rolltop bags is that you can fill them to the absolute brim with anything. It is basically Hermione's Undetectable Extension Charm. You just have to use more of your own bags and pouches to keep your stuff organized.
9. Tripit. A very necessary website/app that automatically creates your travel itineraries by scanning your inbox for confirmation emails. I wouldn't be able to stay organized otherwise.
10. Pocket. If you're not using Pocket (and Evernote for that matter) you are not living as efficiently as you can be. Great way to catch up on some reading on train rides, layovers, and flights.
11. Converse. I don't pack in order to make a fashion statement so these are the best travel shoe for me. They pack easily and can pretty much go with anything. Plus you look waaaaaay less like a tourist in converse than you do in sneakers.
Got any must-have travel items that you can't live without? Post them in the comments!