Amalie Stokholm home

Travel hacks (or how to travel better and more comfortable)

Travel is one of those activities where small mistakes cascade into larger ones, and where simple preparations can make a huge impact on the quality of your travelling well-being.

Throughout my PhD and academic journey, I have been travelling a considerably amount more than I had ever done before and I have (more times than not) had travels that did not go according to plan.

On the bright side, this also means that I have learned a thing or two about optimizing a travel day and how to make travelling easier and more comfortable for myself. This list will be continuously updated whenever I learn something new.

Last updated: December 8 2021

Let’s talk bags!

Minimize your luggage

The best strategy: Have as few bags as possible!
There are many benefits to this strategy:

You don’t need half of the stuff you bring anyway, so consider what things you are bringing with you one extra time.

If you stay at hotels, you need only few items in general, so keep it minimalistic.

I usually travel with 2 bags at most: my backpack and my carry-on suitcase.


I like to bring a backpack with me as I can use it as an everyday-bag during my conference/meeting/stay.

My current backpack is a simple North Face school bag with two bigger rooms and one small outer pocket.

On travel days, my back-pack is mostly empty.
However, it contains the things that I will reach for the most during my travel:

If I am flying, my backpack also contains the clear plastic bags with liquids for an easy walk through security.


Get a carry-on with four wheels!
This changes how you move as you can now either push the carry on in front of you or have it by your side as a well-heeled dog.
This saves a lot of energy and makes it easier to move around in a crowd.

My carry-on is a normal small carry-on with 4 wheels with one big room and a small outer pocket.

On business trips, I usually save bills and receipts for reimbursement in the outer pocket as it has a ziplock and enough space for me to not worry about folding the receipts up too much or for them to get wrinkled and curled. This pocket also seems useless for any other purpose.

My carry-on contains mostly clothes and my toiletries and thus the things that I would leave in my hotel room at the destination. If I am away for more than a few days, I will bring my running gear and shoes.

I like there to be a bit of extra space in my carry-on, so I can put my coat and scarf away when I get to the train station or air port. I don’t need to wear the coat in these places and not wearing them gives me more freedom of movement and allows me to use fewer bins in the security line.

When I am flying, I can stove away the carry-on in the overhead compartment as the backpack contains the things I will reach for during a flight, saving a bit of much-needed mental energy.

Prevent losing your luggage

Luggage gets lost or accidentally taken from time to time.
Prevent this by making your luggage easy to identify.

Put your name and contact information on two labels: one outside the bag and one inside the bag.

Use a unique baggage tags, or add your own flair to your bag in order to avoid looking for the generic black, medium-sized carry-on.

Travel upgrades

Consider noise-cancelling headphones

I am probably going to write more about how getting noise-cancelling headphones changed my life.

These headphones Bose QuietComfort 25 changed my life. These are wired noise-cancelling headphones that run on AAA batteries. I currently use the wireless Bose QuietComfort 35.

But especially when travelling, they fully transform the experience.

I have more energy now when travelling. I can mute (or at least turn down the volume) for crying babies, loud chit-chatty passengers, and annoying muzak. This allows me to just focus on my own things in my own bubble and not spend my energy on my noisy environment.

I usually listen to relaxing conversational podcasts such as Hello Internet while travelling or nice power music.

Combating the lack of power

Power – or more specifically the lack of power – has been a common issue for me when travelling.

It sucks to be a foreign place with no phone to call a cap, no digital map, or even the possibility to look up the address of your conference centre which you forgot to write down on physical paper before you became powerless.

I usually carry my phone and my laptop with me in my backpack when travelling. In this bag, I also carry a USBb-USBc cord as this makes it possible for me to charge my phone from my laptop battery.

For me, it is typically more important to have power on my phone than on my laptop as I need my phone to show my boarding pass, to make phone calls, to use GPS, or just to listen to podcasts while walking (or to show my corona green pass).
A USB charger for charging my phone with my laptop battery solves the power issue for my for all shorter flights.

In most European airports, you can also find power bars where you can charge your devices for free. However, they are often crowded with people and in many other airports you would have to seek any corner for a usable power outlet.

Another way of solving the power issue is to get a power bank. However, a power bank is also another device that needs baby-sitting and needs to be charged prior to the travel.
In these days of USBc, I would opt for a simple USB charger instead.

Bring a universal power adapter

In 2018, I was at a multi-day meeting in New York City and I was going to give a presentation. I sat down in my hotel room after a long day of discussion to prepare my last slides and polish my talk and then my computer ran out of power. No worries, I thought, I brought my charger. And I took a closer look at my charger. My charger with the danish Smiley plug that not in any way compatible with the power sockets in the US.

In the city that never sleeps I went from one almost-closing foreign store to the next, frantically looking for a plug adapter or alternatively a replacement charger with the right plug.
After almost 2 hours of searching while jet-lagged, a small, suspicious corner store had what I needed: a universal travel power adapter!

The All-In-One 125V 250V universal travel power adapter which can input even weird Danish plugs and connect them to the wall outlets in more than 150 countries worldwide. It falls rather easy out of the wall, but besides that it gets the work done.

I got to my room, charged my laptop, and finished the presentation slides in my slightly fluttered, jet-lagged state-of-mind.
This is not an experience I would like to repeat, and therefore I always carry this universal power adapter with me in my backpack when travelling.

Prepare for your travel

Back-up your important documents and things

One is none – always have a backup!

Scan important documents such as passports, driver license, or possible visa documents and save them to your devices and an online back-up such as your email, Dropbox, Nextcloud etc..
Having an image of your passport on your computer is extremely valuable, if your purse gets stolen!

If you travel with checked-in bagage: take a quick picture of the inside of your packed suitcase/bags and save it with your other documents.
If the airline loses your luggage, you will want this to prove its value.

Have directions in a physical format

Print out or write down any addresses you may need ahead of time, such as the adress of your hotel or conference centre.
If you’ll take a taxi, this will make everything run a lot smoother – and that is just what you will need at the last 5 percent of the travel.

Consider printing the directions in the language of the destination!
When I was at a conference in Shanghai, it was extremely useful to have the name and adress of my hotel in both scripts as most people I came across did not speak/understand English that well.

Make sure your phone works across borders

Check with your phone carrier whether your phone plan includes mobile and/or data outside your home country.
Without an international data plan, the GPS feature on a smartphone can be extremely expensive.

International data plans can be expensive, but in my opinion they are worth it just to get GPS.

Pack food and an (empty) water bottle

This is a life-saver! Especially if you travel though smaller train stations or airports where there might not be any stores or where they are closed for the night.
Or if you have allergies or dietary restrictions, which further limits your options in these places.

Remember the limits on liquids for going through security.
Fruit can be an issues through security in different countries, so consider something individual packed.
Pack at least a few snacks for long trips!

This advice is especially important when travelling with kids.
Travelling is exhausting for everyone, but for kids it can be even more tiresome due to the many new sensory inputs.
Some comfort food can help turn the travelling experience into a more positive one.

Bring a refillable water bottle – it will save you a lot of headache and money.
If you are flying, remember to keep it empty until after security and then fill it up.

Pack clear ziplock bags!

Pack a handful of clear 1L ziplock plastic bags in one of the inner pockets of your carry-on suitcase.
It might sound ridiculous, but it is so convenient!

You can use then for travelling with liquids in your carry-on bag (and have spares in case one of your containers explode).
You can use them for wet/dirty clothes that needs to be packed in a hurry.

They don’t take up a lot of space and they can solve small otherwise annoying issues.

… and use clear plastic bags for an easy packing system

I apparently like plastic bags..

I like to divide my stuff in categories e.g. socks, small electronics, running clothes, and then pack these categories in separate plastic bags before putting them in my carry-on.

This makes it easy for me to keep an overview of my stuff while travelling and it makes it easier for me to keep clean and dirty clothes separate.
The plastic bags can be reused from travel to travel so it is a rather cheap and convenient system which I really can recommend.

This also make the surprise extra security screening check a lot easier.

Double-check what you packed!

While on adventure

Use a travel wallet

Do not carry all your cash or credit cards in the same place!

Spread it out over multiple wallets/pockets/bags.

Consider keeping some in the hotel safe in case of emergencies.

Receipts and tickets

Do not discard a train or subway ticket! Some systems require you to submit the ticket to a machine when you want to leave.

Keep a designated pocket in your suitcase or bag to receipts if you plan to be reimbursed.
As I mentioned above, there is a big pocket on the front of my carry-on that seems to have very little utility.
However, it is perfect for storing e.g. back-up travel documents, receipts, old train tickets and other things needed for reimbursment.

Forgotten toiletries

If you forgot basic toiletries, ask the reception when you check in.

Most receptions have a small stock of travel-sized version of everything.
If not, they at least know the easiest way of getting what you need.

Double-check your room for bed bugs

It is annoying to do, but it would be even more annoying to bring these unwanted guests with you back home or get bitten.

You should be searching for bed bugs, but also signs of bed bugs such as dried blood stains or dark pepper-like spots on your bedsheets or mattress, the shedded skins of a bed bug, or bed bug eggs, which are whitish-clear and look like tiny grains of rice. Focus your search around the bed and near wooden furniture.

If you find some of these things, contact the front desk immediately.
Get a refund for your booking and get out of the hotel.

If there are bugs in one room, they are probably in all rooms.

Find the closest landromat and dry all clothes and shoes on high heat for at least 20 minuttes.

When you get to a new hotel, place the clothes you have worn in a plastic trash bag and seal it up until the clothes can be washed.

Take a shower. Drink a nice cup of tea. Repeat as necessary until you’re able to fall asleep.

What other steps could you take to prevent getting your things infested with bed bugs?

It is a nasty topic but the situation will be even nastier (and more expensive) if the bed bugs travel with you back home.


It is not fun to forget something in a hotel room.
I use a simple system in order to make it easier for myself to not forget anything

Even if you follow this system, remember to double-check your shower niche and the power outlets near the bed for the things that you forget the easiest.

Dealing with jet-lag

Everyone has their own technique for how to cope with jet-lag.

I like to stay up until 10 pm in the destination time zone and set my alarm for 6 am the next morning

I get up, get ready, and get outside for a morning walk as soon as possible.

I find that light helps my synchronize my inner clock – be that either sunlight or strong artificial ligthing.


Travel can destroy a regular workout routine.

Lack of sleep, jet-lag, and a new city are all challeging to the everyday schedule.

In most cities I have been in, I feel safe enough to go for a morning run. It is easy and free and refreshing and it let’s you discover our destination in a different way.

If I do not feel safe outside or if the weather is not running-friendly, I usually opt for an apartment-friendly, body-weight work-out routine in my room – here YouTube is your friend!

But otherwise: don’t worry! You will catch up on the lost sessions in a week or two. It is more important to get your sleep (and do the work that you are travelling to do) than to follow the exact routines you would do at home.

Have food in your room

During conferences and meetings, I usually have dinner at a restaurant with collegues, but there are many other meals in a day than dinner.

It is convenient to have a bit of food in your own hotel room.
A bit of food for when you are jet-lagged and have not yet syncronised your inner clock to the clock at your destination.
It is annoying to wake up in the middle of the night in an all-closed city and be ready for breakfast when there is not even an open 7-eleven for miles around.

…Or if you are in a city, where the stores are all closed on Sundays (looking at you, Germany).

…Or if you are simply exhausted after a long working day.

Just like with the travel snacks, dry snacks are ideal as hotel room snacks: cookies, fruits, and protein bars.

If there is an electric kettle available, a nice cup of your preferred hot beverage can make your mornings or late nights more comfortable.
I also like buying quick oats, peanut butter, and bananas for an easy breakfast or late night oatmeal.

If there is a small fridge in your room (with no automatic weight-sensors for the mini-bar), you can also keep yoghurts, milks or other chilled goods.

Returning back home


As mentioned above, unwanted guests like bedbugs can hitchhike to your home using your luggage.

Earlier, I had access to a big freezer and I would remove toiletries, electronics and other stuff that cannot handle big temperature changes and just put the rest and the bags in the freezer for a couple of nights.

This is no longer an option and I now leave the bags outside on the balcony for a couple of days so the cold Danish nights can kill potential nasty bugs.

Do a visual inspection of your luggage, looking for the tiny stains in corners and along seams.

Wash your (travel) clothes as soon as possible.