Travel Hacks for Academia, Part I: The right apparel
As you all probably don’t know yet – I’m a huge travel gadgets nerd. I own tons of them and spend way more money than I should testing the newest fancy shit from Kickstarter. But that also means I have lots of experience and expertise in travel gadgets that I wanted to share with you. Over the years, I’ve probably had many more gadgets and hacks that I don’t use anymore and don’t even remember. But I’ll show you what I use and like now.
[This, like many others, is a blogpost I wrote ages ago and forgot about in the drafts section of this blog… this particular post was probably around October 2020, just so you don’t get confused. This will be Part 1 because the material I created back then was abundant, to say the least.
Maybe it’s actually a good time to get this post back out because the coming week and last week are both weeks where I attend conferences virtually – which is still a thing.]
This post is not sponsored. I didn’t get any products for free and am only reviewing products I have personally used and liked. Also, given that I’m quite a travel gadget person, I probably am willing to spend more money on this shit than you might, so maybe not all the products I like are for you. You can travel elegantly and efficiently with no name brand products which were super cheap and are already ten years old.
But I for one have always had a huge passion for cool travel products and it is quite well known to those closer to me that I like to bring my camping gear and shit whenever I can. For example, I love my Light My Fire products, first and foremost (Titanium) Spork, that I bring everywhere and am eating out of every day during my current  fellowship just like I have back when I was on Erasmus Freemover in Montpellier many years ago . Maybe I’m weird like that.
But just so you know you this is not a bible, just a list of things I like.
Expensive gadgets versus high quality: How much value do we really get out of our stuff?
In terms of expensive products, I have learned that more expensive isn’t necessarily better but it’s still well worth spending a bit more on the right high quality product which really meets your needs.
Because in my experience, even many not-so-cheap products die shockingly quickly under the load of my books etc. Accordingly, in some cases, the less expensive option might end up costing you more if you need frequent replacements. Frankly, I find it astounding how un-sturdy many travel products even from well known „good“ brands are. My camping gear I bought almost ten years ago I still love and I’ll probably use my Nomatic bags forever, so even though they’re expensive, I will get at lot of value out of them which makes it worth it for me personally.
Also, sometimes it’s practical to have something / a wish in mind when relatives want to gift you „something useful“ for Birthdays or Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate.
Tip 1: Have a go bag with travel-sized cosmetics ready at all times if you travel regularly with only carry-on luggage
For conference travel (and any other kind of travel possible), I usually have a transparent little bag filled with travel-sized toiletries packed as a go-bag. That way, I can’t forget anything and I also try to never put anything in there that would not be carry-on-compliant so I don’t accidentally end up packing those things.
With this go-bag always at the ready, I can be packed in 10 minutes if needed. Although I try to only do very last minute packing for teaching gigs where I only stay one night and it theoretically wouldn’t be super horrible if I forgot something. Which, I must say, never really happens with my go bag anyway. It does, however, happen to me when I try to pack from scratch every single time.
Tip 2: If you conference-travel a lot, it may be worth having some optimized (potentially fancy) travel gear
Anyway, here’s a little image preview of how I pack, my mini travel computer (which I love but it’s also a relatively unnecessary tech gadget, if we’re being honest here), my Tropicfeel travel shoes packed up really small (you can swim with them) and me wearing one of my Kosan travel dresses. Since I love travel clothes so much, I have reached a point where probably more than 50% of my wardrobe is technically travel clothes 😀
You’ll also notice travel-sized cosmetics (shampoo concentrate, hair oil and Dr. Bronner’s for the win!), a packing bag which allows you to suck the air out of your pile of clothes, saving space) and a million baggies because chaos needs to be kept at bay!
However, I also want to make clear that this highly optimized setup is what I have now after a few years of traveling to conferences and teaching gigs regularly. But I already had some of this gear from my travels before I ever had a job in Academia. So don’t feel like you just need to buy stuff. In the end, I’m just constantly (passively) on the lookout, hunting for the coolest new gadgets and maybe getting a good deal (or making up my mind for quite a while whether to invest in them at all).
Tip 3: Don’t feel like you need to buy anything – but if you do, start with a toiletry go-bag
I wouldn’t recommend you just buy tons of stuff upfront. Use what you have and when you need something new, think about optimizing. Don’t bulk-buy any of these things because you feel like you need them. You really don’t.
If you totally want to bulk-buy something rightaway, I suggest you get on the hunt for cool items for your toiletry-go-bag. Even the items you see in mine are the result of years of attentive hunting for things.
Like the little brush from Body Shop, the Dr. Bronner’s miniature (always Tea Tree because it can be used for shaving, washing your face and washing your teeth – not all Dr. Bronner’s scents actually lend themselves to all the functionalities Dr. Bronner’s is supposed to have). For shampoo, I always use Guhl (probably not a thing in the Anglophone world) but the point is that their shampoo is actually a concentrate (which nobody actively knows but it will just last forever when traveling). You can also see eye drops in my photos (can be a life-saver on those trips!) as well as a relatively neutral hair oil (as conditioner/hair care all-in-one which also doubles as a mascara-remover).
So yeah, more of my tips to follow in the upcoming blogposts. Let me know if these sort of things interest/help you!
Brands I love:
Since they’re on the images anyway, I thought I’d mention a few brands I like here. As I said above, this is not sponsored in any way. I’m just a huge travel gadgets nerd and these, excuse the language, really are a travel nerd’s wet dreams 😉
The Nomantic Travel Bags and Accessories (the big toiletry bag, laundry thingy and vacuum bag are my go-tos) are some of my favourite products ever. High-quality material, easy to wash and clean (that has been important in times of Covid travel). They’re also optimized for the handluggage compartment at planes and trains.
It started out with their signature Tropicfeel travel shoes but now they also have backpacks. Currently, their Monsoon shoe is still my favourite (haven’t been into the later additions that much though I truly buy all their products which is starting to get dysfunctional really).
3) Kosan Travel
Kosan make the best travel dress ever (it has pockets and doesn’t need to get washed much) and also a travel rain jacket. I haven’t tried their other stuff. A minus point is that I need to pay tons of customs to order them here.
It started out with their Coalatree Hoodie (probably my most worn piece of clothing ever, you can probably find that olive green thing on our Instagram account because I’m litterally always wearing it). Now they have much more than that and basically, 80% of my wardrobe is Coalatree. With age, I have started investing more money in a few signature pieces (so cliché but that’s what it is). And nothing is as fluffy as their hoodies. I wear them climbing. And I’d wear them for anything else really. But not the office. You need to change out of the climbing clothes every once in a while. But for travel – love it. They have come on all my adventures and fellowships. Their jeans have actual useable pockets, so that’s a huge bonus too.
What are your travel hacks and favourite gadgets (both for private and academic travel)?
I would be interested to hear about your travel hacks, favourite products and secrets to make things just a little more efficient! Let me know if you’re interested in a (conference) travel hacks series because I have many more in stock!