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Can Silicon Valley Teach Us Something About Travel?

by Tony · 5 comments

The Sunday Times

Every Sunday when visiting my parents in Boston, it is a ritual that we all spend our mornings drinking cappucino’s while reading the Sunday New York Times.

The different sections gets passed around when finished and especially interesting articles are discussed at length.

While traveling, I obviously don’t have access to a physical copy of The Sunday Times… but an article online from it this week caught my eye:

How The Tough Get Going: Silicon Valley Travel Tips

Working In Silicon Valley

Not a bad angle on travel and I loved some of the ideas, but something was eating at me.

Most of these people just do quick business trips… and have more money to spend than the average long-term travelers. Why not ask travelers who have actually road tested their traveling process through prolonged trips (why don’t you just interview us already NYT?!).

There are some great tips offered though, so let me highlight those first:

  • Use free online resources to plan your trip. Highly recommended in the article was Tripit.com, Trippy.com, and Wikitravel. My favorite of these is Wikitravel because you can use the app on your ipod offline and it is helpful for almost any city in the world. Tripit is the one that I might have to try… it lets you email any reservation you have made to it and then it will turn an easy to read itinerary. Like a digital travel assistant!
  • One of my favorite recommendations was to use GetHuman.com. I HATE dealing with automated phone systems while traveling and GetHuman solves that problem in a big way. Just type in the name of the company you are looking for and not only will it tell you how to get a human on the phone, but it will offer you with better ways of getting help (like online chat or email).
  • I can’t believe I never thought of this solution, but… have you ever been to a hotel or hostel and realized that you lost or forgot an electronics charger? Just ask the front desk if you can dig through their lost and found bin! Do you know how many different varieties of chargers are in there?
  • There are a ton of recommendations on packing quick-dry, stink-resistant clothing. Duh! Every long-term traveler knows this, but definitely helpful even on shorter trips.
  • GoToob Travel Bottles? YES! These are amazing and can be used for anything. Plus, they are travel size so TSA won’t throw them anyway when full. A definite must-purchase for all road warriors.

Now for some of the bad tips. These either left me scratching my head for their ridiculousness or just aren’t in the budget for the more cash conscious traveler:

Starter Pistol?

  • Using Uber to get to the airport. Now I love the concept of Uber (using town cars that are not busy and all payments are handled online – think a more expensive taxi service), but this is definitely not the cheapest way to travel. Plus it is not in every city in the US, let alone the world. For serious travelers, it’s probably not the best option.
  • Buying a netbook and leaving your computer at home for fear of theft or damage… Makes some sense for business travelers. But for long-term travelers? You live and possibly work on the road… you’ll need more than a $200 netbook! And this quote is ridiculous: “The last thing you want to do is check your suitcase on a bus in the middle of Africa with your $2,000 MacBook Air.” Why would you check it on a bus? Just have a day bag you can carry it in and keep it on your lap!
  • If you have to check your bag, place a Starter Pistol inside and declare at check-in that you have an unloaded firearm. The thought being the airline would definitely keep track of that bag! A TAD dramatic if you ask me. Plus, this doesn’t work in every state (illegal) and is definitely not possible when traveling internationally. Definitely an attention-grabbing point, but RIDICULOUS.

A few tips of my own:

  • Control your electronics! We have so many electronic items these days between iPods, Kindles, Computers, etc., that the charging wires can get a bit impossible to organize. Pay a few bucks and buy these mini chargers for your electronics that charge by USB. For things like laptops, buy these reusable rubber coated metal twist ties. HUGE improvement in our bag organization.
  • Twitter! When traveling to a new city tweet to a local travel blogger that you’re a fan and would love to take them out for a drink. Most say yes and love the free drink, while you get a ton of free advice on places to see. Plus, if you hit it off, you might find a couch you could crash on later. Bonus!
  • Tim Ferriss recommended packing a swimsuit and goggles while traveling… great if you’re staying at a place with a pool. I know we don’t do that very often! Instead, download some free workout apps on your iPod and workout in your bedroom.

How About You?

What are your best travel tips? Do you have any that can beat some of the Silicon Valley suggestions? The most unique tip that is shared in the comments will get a shoutout on Twitter!

Let’s show Silicon Valley what the art of travel is really about!

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

Laura July 16, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I agree, not everyone can travel like Tim Ferriss–and the starter pistol thing seems beyond ridiculous. Besides the ones you mention, a tip I also use from that article is Google Translate on my iPhone. Also: I bring a cheap unlocked cell phone for the purpose of calling w/local SIM cards and use the iPhone (on airplane mode, to avoid extra charges) just for wi-fi, photos, and navigation (while you have wi-fi, take screenshots of where you’re going on Google Maps).
What else? If I have the chance, I’ll stash PowerBars for “emergency fuel” in various parts of my luggage/carry-on before going somewhere where food might not always be at my beck and call–they’re skinny and can withstand heat. And I never leave home w/o earplugs, an eye shade, and a headlamp for reading. (If you hadn’t guessed, I’m a bad sleeper and I get hungry frequently đŸ˜‰

Tony July 17, 2012 at 6:39 am

We don’t have an iphone… can you believe it?!?!? It honestly feels like we are the last traveler hold-outs… we use your ipod touches but just not quite the same. Also, we have cell phones that can work with any SIM chip almost but rarely get the SIM chips. It felt weird at first not having a cell but we really haven’t needed one!

Totally forgot to mention earplugs, eye shades and headlamp for books! Total lifesavers. My kindle cover has a lamp built in and has become my favorite thing ever!

We always always always have snacks in some farm. Whether its nuts, seeds, or apples… you have to have something in your travel bags for when your trains get delayed or you get stuck somewhere remote.

Thanks for the comment, Laura, and great tips!


Emily in Chile July 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I just skimmed the article, but I really don’t get the title. There are plenty of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who aren’t in the game of streamlining travel plans. I realize it’s just the title, but that kind of got me doubting the article’s value right off the bat when it starts with such a stereotypical generalization. I second the Twitter tip though!

Tony July 17, 2012 at 6:42 am

If anything, I would say most entrepreneurs are so lacking in time that most don’t even plan trips well! Just a ton of hustling about and cramming work in wherever. I did like a few of the tips though, but a lot of it just seemed very SF centric… not all travelers can afford some of those tips.

My love of startups though totally sucked me in just based on the title… what can I say? I’m obsessed!

Twitter’s been great though… we never would have met you without it!


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