It’s spring cleaning time, which for me means it’s time to wade through my briefcase. Within every frequent traveler is the desire to carry everything you could possibly need on the road — to make your briefcase into the road warrior version of Batman’s utility belt, letting you amaze your travel companions by pulling out just the right thing to solve any travel problem. Great for the ego; tough on the back. You’re always prepared, but you’re always dragging up the rear because you’re schlepping the heaviest bag or TSA is pulling you for secondary screening because all your wires make them suspicious.
You need to hit the right balance between weight and need — what do I need all the time vs. what can I buy or borrow for the couple of times I may need it?
Technology makes up most of the weight. Looking back over my briefcase dissections in 2006 and 2011, there’s always a laptop — going from a 3.6 lb 12-in ThinkPad in 2006, to a 2.4 lb 11-in MacBook Air in 2011, to a 2.8 lb 12.5-in ThinkPad today. An iPad appeared in the 2011 walkthrough. It replaced books, magazines, and printed out documents, but it couldn’t replace the laptop. In 2015, the full-sized iPad has been bumped by a smaller Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro — an inch smaller and half the weight. I use it to read and watch videos, though when I force myself to leave my laptop home on vacation, the Microsoft Office for Android tablet apps let me sneak in some document reviews while the family sleeps. A Verizon WiFi hot spot pays for itself when I’m trying to pump out that one last e-mail in the airport or sidestepping overloaded hotel WiFi.
And there’s always been a phone, but here we can see a bit more evolutionary progress — from a Motorola V551 flip-phone to a iPhone 4 to an HTC One. The iPhone let me ditch the U2-themed iPod that was in the 2006 briefcase while the front-facing speakers on the HTC One made a Jawbone Jambox redundant.
Nothing has replaced my Bose noise cancelling headphones, though. No self-respecting frequent traveler is seen on a plane without them — even if they’re not plugged into anything. After I wore out the original QC-2’s, I upgraded to the QC-15’s. The old DJ in me prefers the over-the-ear models.
What’s stayed the same? Mostly the non-technology things — the Moleskine notebook, a random selection of pens, the semi-transparent folder for the few expense receipts that don’t get e-mailed to me, a bottle of ibuprofen and Zyrtec tablets and, perhaps most importantly, a tin of wintergreen Altoids to counter dry mouth when I fall asleep in a plane — a very common occurrence.
The newest addition to my briefcase? A bottle opener. I just don’t understand why have hotels taken bottle openers out of the rooms right when the craft beer revolution made them a critical necessity.