Being a business traveler to over 20 countries, I have a “things to bring” list that I keep on my phone whenever I’m heading out to a foreign land. It’s a pretty extensive list that helps me to remember what I need to pack in my luggage before leaving for the airport. Some of the things that I find indispensable, which often give me “thank God I brought that” moments, are at the top of my list.
Below are some recommended items to have in your suitcase.
1. Swiss Army Knife
Made famous by the TV series MacGyver in the late 80’s, this jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none tool is first on my list because of its novelty and life-saving qualities. I must admit that since I was a boy, I was captivated my MacGyver’s ingenuity in getting out of trouble by this using super handy tool. So, I begged my mom to buy me one, and after 20 years, I’m still using the same one she bought for me with my name engraved on it.
Okay, enough of nostalgic memories; the reason why this item is on my list is because you would never know when exactly you might need scissors, say to remove the label on the brand-new tie you just bought for the conference, or my most-used feature of all, a bottle opener for the foreign beers I love to try. But please ensure that you store this item in your check-in luggage, as it absolutely will be confiscated by the airport security officers during your security screening. This tool is still a Swiss military standard issue, which is why it is top on my list.
2. Portable Luggage Scale
With so many low-cost airlines around nowadays, chances are you might be flying with one of them, whether your company is under budget or not. And your flight might restrict the weight of the luggage to as low as 20kg/44pounds (“thank you” Ryan Air). So, weighing your luggage before each flight is becoming a routine for business travelers, especially if you’re on a long trip. This is when a luggage scale comes to your rescue (or your company’s rescue) from paying hefty fees on those extra kilograms you just packed into the plane. Investing around $10 into this gadget could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run.
3. Foreign SIM Card for Mobile Internet
Today’s highly connected world requires us to always be, well, connected! Some of us may dread the feeling of not checking our Facebook or Twitter account for days, but beyond that, staying connected over mobile Internet is crucial for a business person to check their emails, texts, Linkedin, or to power those traveling apps (see item 10).
It also acts as your WiFi hotspot via tethering when you’re not getting good enough signals from your hotel’s WiFi. It’s getting more affordable and accessible for any foreigner in any country to get a pre-paid or post-paid SIM card, or a short-term cell phone plan. In Europe, a 2GB plan could be as low as $25 per month. I myself once bought a pre-paid SIM card from Hutchinson 3 of UK in South Korea for only $35 and used it all over Europe for 2 months, without paying any roaming charges. Even a post-paid dominant world like Korea has introduced SIM card plans for tourists.
Besides getting a foreign phone line, you could also put your phone on roaming mode with data, or continue to hunt for those elusive WiFi zones around the city.
4. Credit Card, ATM, or Debit Card
This is a rather self-explanatory item that you must have, but do check with your bank if they charge extra (by percentage) for overseas transactions. If so, use your ATM/debit card to withdraw cash instead, via the globally connected ATM machines (check the logos on which interbank network the machines support). You only need to pay a small one-time withdrawal fee, on top of the cost of currency exchange.
5. External Portable Battery
Travelers are always out and about; not to mention constant photo taking and navigating via Google Maps. These activities will absolutely drain your phone’s battery, and if you can’t find a place to charge your phone, consider carrying an extra battery around, or an external battery pack to share with your other power hungry devices. Ensure that you bring them along with you in your carry-on luggage and not in your checked-in baggage, due to risk of fire hazard.
6. 2 Travel Power Adapters
Ok, I’m assuming we are not first-time travelers, so we never assume we could hook up our phones or laptop chargers to any power outlets in any countries. But, we should assume that we may need more than one power adapter in this ever increasing, digitally connected world. In fact, I carry two of this when I travel, because I just have too many things to charge or power-up. You could also consider bringing a socket extension as an alternative, but do watch your luggage weight.
7. Mini Sewing Kit
I thought I heard you laughing. Well, some may laugh now, but wait till you accidentally pop that button of your favorite office shirt and you’re meeting your huge prospect tomorrow. If you think your hotel does not provide one, please bring one. What I do is I keep one from the previous hotel I stayed in.
8. Business Cards
I add this on this list because I actually have it on my “things to bring” list just in case; you may forget (like me). Many foresee that business cards will be dead soon, and be replaced by new high-tech devices or apps (but many of these hopefuls have failed). So, until that happens, pack them in your suitcase and remember to bring lots of them.
9. Business Card Reader App
Okay, say you’re a pretty popular business person and in a day, you could collect dozens of name cards from your newly formed contacts. How do you plan to keep those cards? Name cards are becoming a real burden to store, as we swiftly move into the digital age and the current best option for you to efficiently manage these cards is via name card reader apps. I personally use CardHQ’s business card reader app because it’s lightning fast and super easy to use.
10. Apps, Apps and More Apps
Apps are already becoming don’t-leave-home-without-it essentials we all must have. My top must-have traveling apps are:
- Google Maps (or Waze)
- Google Translate
- Whatsapp (or other commonly used chat apps in the country like KakaoTalk for Korea, WeChat for China, Line for Japan and Thailand, or Facebook Messenger)
- Weather app
- Currency converter
- Booking.com (or any apps from your online hotel site)
Featured photo credit: Matthew Hurst via flickr.com