In my career, I travel a lot. And there’s nothing worse than getting to my destination and discovering that I left something critical behind. I’ve found that a little preplanning, however, will prevent headaches later on. Here’s a seven-item checklist to ensure that you’re ready when you hit the road for business.
- Charge your batteries. I like to check e-mail, work on presentations, and occasionally play Solitaire on the plane. But without a fully charged battery, I don’t get much done.
Laptop batteries need a good eight hours of charging before you can rely on them for long-term work without AC power.
If you find that your laptop isn’t keeping its charge long enough, the battery has probably developed a “memory.” Memory is introduced when batteries are recharged before they are completely discharged. When this happens, the first step is to do a deep discharge of your battery before recharging. Some laptops have power utilities that will do this automatically. Otherwise, just leave your laptop on until the battery discharges completely. If this doesn’t help, you may need to replace the battery.
I also like to carry an extra battery. That way, if one goes down, I just pop the other one in, and I’m back in business.
- Pack the cables. One time, I carefully prepared my laptop, loaded the video projector, and then left the cable that connected the two behind. Make sure you always pack these items:
- Power cables
- Video cables
- Modem/phone cables
- Don’t forget the cards. If your modem is a PCMCIA card, make sure it’s packed. However, don’t leave it in the PC. PC Cards are notorious for using battery power, so pulling it out can significantly extend your battery life.
Second, make sure you have your long-distance credit card handy. It’s a lot less expensive to use a calling card than hotel long distance.
- May I see your papers? It seems silly, but don’t forget your airplane tickets. In this day of e-tickets, I find that I’m less likely to remember real tickets when I have them. If you’re traveling internationally, don’t forget your passport, either.
While we are discussing international travel, here’s something I never would have thought of without the advice of another seasoned traveler: Take a copy of the purchase invoice for your laptop. Some countries have limitations on the import and export of electronic equipment, including laptops. With a copy of the invoice, there is no question about the origin of the equipment. Bringing your invoice can prevent time delays and problems when going through customs.
- Slim down. When traveling, especially if you have carry-ons, weight is an issue. Leave behind all noncritical items. For example, my laptop allows me to pull both the CD-ROM drive and the floppy drives. That eliminates about a pound from my bag. It also saves my battery, since those items draw precious battery power when left in place.
Of course, if you will need them at some point, make sure to bring them. I typically pack them in the suitcase, which I can either check or roll.
- Synchronize. Microsoft Outlook can be configured to allow offline access to e-mail. This enables you to read and write e-mails without being physically attached to the network (for example, on the plane). In order to use this function, you must synchronize before you disconnect from the network to ensure that you have the latest information. Then when you reconnect, either in the office or from a remote connection, any e-mails you have written while offline will be sent and you can pick new messages.
I also synchronize my address books, so that all of the e-mail names resolve when I type them. Outlook can also be set up to automatically synchronize when you shut your PC down at the end of the day.
- Checkout time. This is the most simple and basic precaution, but it’s often overlooked: Double-check your flight departure time and your meetings’ start times and plan accordingly. Make sure you allow enough time for travel, check-in, and so on.