I do a lot of travelling. Conferences, /dev/fort, and random trips to the Arctic Circle all factor in, and of course moving to the USA recently means I'm often going back to London to see my boyfriend and my family.
I wasn't always a 'regular traveller'; back in the mid-2000s an occasional summer holiday was the highlight of my travel, and I'd never left Europe. However, an invitation to DjangoCon 2008 changed all that, and now I travel... quite a bit.
I want to share a few tips and observations I've made over the years; hopefully you might find them useful or interesting.
Over the years, I've forgotten all manner of things; the first time I went to the USA I forgot my phone charger (and this was back when that didn't mean micro-USB, but a special Nokia one), and more recently I managed to go back to the UK to renew my pilot's license - while forgetting to take said pilot's license.
So, as I forget things and streamline what I travel with, I've built up a checklist, which I've uploaded for you to read. It's a simple thing to run through as you pack or as you leave, and it stops me worrying about forgetting something quite as much (though I still do occasionally).
If you get stressed about forgetting things or prepping for travel, I highly recommend making one! It makes packing the night before (or that morning!) a lot easier and quicker.
There's a fine art to picking a plane seat. As someone who doesn't get up a lot, I always opt for a window seat, and if I can, a window seat on the non-sunny side of the plane (or with the better approach view - for example, coming into SFO, the left side is usually better).
If you're shorter than average, then rejoice, as plane seating is one place you can reap rewards! If you're tall, then I feel your pain, but remember that you generally get the better deal, so you can probably put up with a few hours of your knees being scraped. Exit row seats are, of course, better - as are front row seats, but beware of ones with very close bulkheads and less stretch room.
If you're in a two-aisled (3-4-3) plane, always consider the very central seats over the middle or aisle seats on the side; there's one less person to push past you in both cases.
Finally, the rear seats in a section can be pretty good too; no guilt about reclining (though they may not recline as much), and you can store things under your own seat as well as the one in front. Obviously, all of these things can be checked on one of the seatmap review sites.
Sleeping on planes
If you're lucky enough to be able to sleep on planes, then overnight flights are amazing - I get them whenever I can. It's like teleporting somewhere else while you're sleeping (and you're more likely to sleep if it's nighttime).
To help me sleep, I do a couple of things - make myself tired the day before, and take an inflatable pillow in my small carry-on bag (I have a TravelRest - the odd shape is actually quite good).
Making myself tired is also my general solution to jet lag - you can stay up longer than you should, but it's very hard to go to bed early. I generally get up extra early the day before, sleep a bit on the plane, then stay awake and go to bed about 2 hours before my normal bedtime. This only works, however, if there's a big enough time gap for you to sleep a bit on the plane (intercontinental flights).
Frequent flyer programmes
They're probably not really worth it unless you travel a whole lot, but if you do, then the ancillary benefits can be good. Obviously, pick a home airline and alliance and stick with it if you can; you can find much more detailed advice about which one to pick and what bonuses to prioritise online.
Lounges might seem like a fantastic thing (they did to me), but they're often actually busier than the main terminal, so the only real advantage is free drinks and snacks. If you just want a quiet place to sit, most terminals have empty gates that have just that.
If the lounge charges for even snack food (I'm looking at you, American Airlines), then I often get more substantial food outside the lounge. If you're ever in the LAX international terminal, just go to the Umami Burger there. It's one of the few good things about LAX!
Don't count on getting many free upgrades; they happen very rarely, and unless you're travelling a lot you're unlikely to be very high on the seniority list. That said, when they happen, they're a wonderful surprise (generally, you'll find out at the gate as you're boarding, if they're genuine operational ones).
Spending air miles/Avios/etc on upgrades is the most efficient way to do it, but availability is very limited; Award Nexus is a great resource to check this stuff in bulk.
Almost every device I own has a switched-mode power supply, so voltage is never really an issue these days; just the plug shape. I usually carry two plug adapters and, if I have one, a USB charger with a native plug.
The large majority of my stuff charges over USB; you can even buy USB charging cables for some things that use 5V but aren't USB by default (like the 3DS).
You can never have too many USB cables; I travel with about 4 or 5 usually, sometimes more, which occasionally causes the security people to get quizzical about what exactly is in my bag (but they're fine once they see what it is).
Money & Passport
Unless you have a crazy bank, or you're going to a country without ATMs, just get money at an ATM in the destination airport. It's cheaper than any airport currency exchange shop, and a lot less hassle than getting money via post.
Be wary of third-party ATMs that charge huge fees though; these aren't a good deal. They're usually quite easy to spot - smaller, free-standing, dodgy graphic design.
If you lose your passport, it's not the end of the world - your country will have a consular presence who can get you back home, but it'll take time and money. If, however, you're like me and are living on a visa in another country, it can be pretty catastrophic. Keep your passport and money either on your person or in the hotel room safe (the safe isn't that secure, but weigh it against bag-snatching and other street crime).
Finally, check up on admission criteria for countries before you go! Even if you don't need a visa, several countries (the USA, Australia as two examples) need you to register online before you travel. For UK citizens, the FCO have great travel advice for every country including admission criteria and common crimes/scams. Hilariously, every country is marked as having at least a low risk from terrorism, even Antarctica.
Travelling with only hand luggage is a wonderful thing. You save a good 20 minutes when you arrive at the destination airport (not only do you skip waiting for your checked bags, you're often skipping the line that forms at customs too), and while some customs agents will stop you and ask where the rest of your bags are, there's never any actual issues (I imagine a lot of people just forget).