Travel Essentials: Domestic Edition

I’m flying back east tomorrow and will return on Sunday.  I’m notoriously bad at packing before travel–but this time I managed to pack my bag early, and thought I’d share what is in my bag for this trip. Because this is Milenomics–it won’t be terrible impressive stuff–but it will be very practical.

Android phone (rooted): I use this as a portable wi-fi hotspot whenever I’m away from home/work.  Wi-fi is pretty much everywhere–but I never know when I’ll need to turn on the hotspot feature and get some work done on the road.  Using this saves me from paying for a portable wi-fi hotspot.  I’ve seen dramatic improvements in battery usage with newer versions of Android, and this one gives me a few hours of wi-fi tether without plugging in.  Speed in 4G areas is very fast (Sprint), and even in 3g areas is fast enough to do real work.  Savings: $50 on not buying a dedicated device, and $15-$35 each time I use my phone instead of this device.

Starbucks App: Fortunately even Airport Starbucks’ take the app. The ability to use my phone to get my fix of Starbucks is wonderful.  Savings: none, but necessary  because, coffee.

United Club passes: While I’m generally anti domestic lounge, I keep 2 United passes in my bag.  When a long layover or a delay starts to drag hopping into the lounge will mean a quiet refuge from the gates–and some [terrible] free alcohol or coffee.  I pick mine up on ebay, and the going price for them depends on how soon they expire.  If you’re using them frequently buy close to expiration passes, like this one, which is only $10 shipped. At $10-$15 per pass you’d have to use Standard club 30-45 times before you’re better off with a real membership over these passes. Day passes are sold for $50. Savings: $35-$40 per pass.

Paper copy of boarding pass: I don’t trust anything else. I’m flying US Airways and United this week, but some ultra low cost carriers charge to print out your boarding pass.  While I hate fees, and would never really pay $10 for this “service,” I’m also a believer that relying on technology only is a good way to eventually end up in a bad position; See:2001: A Space Odyssey.

Emergency Money: Rather than hide actual paper money, come up with a good hiding place for a credit card.  Maybe the bottom of your bag, under your insole in your shoe, the small coin pocket in your jeans. Call one of your credit card providers and have a card made up for an Authorized user, but not in a real person’s name.  Name it your pet’s name, your middle name, whatever you want to name it. Then hide this card.  If you lose your wallet, or somehow are stranded and need to pay for anything, use that card.  Because the name is fake, if you ever see it used on your credit card statement you know it is either: a) proof that you got stuck in a bad spot, and the card helped you out, or b) fraud, and call it in. Savings: hard to pin down, but costs nothing, and better than being stranded with no money.

American Express Cards (11): This Saturday happens to be Small Business Saturday.  American Express has taken a lot of the fun out of the holiday this year–60% to be exact. They’ve dropped the payout from $25 per card to just $10.  Free money is still free money–so I’ve begrudgingly registered all our cards. I’ve packed them with us and will attempt to get the full $10 off each of them. Savings: $110.

Square Card Reader: Because square card readers are “small businesses” I’ll use this to charge the above Amex’s $10 in case I’m unable to spend at real small Businesses on Saturday. I’ll take a hit on this, and there’s risk that Square will shut me down–but It is in the bag just in case.  Savings: Variable, from $10 to $110.

Passport: My wife and I might drive over to Canada, so passports are coming with us this time.  It would be great to apply for a Nexus card while I’m in the area, but the timing just won’t work out.  If you don’t know about Nexus cards, and you live near the Canadian border, you can save $50 over the cost of Global Entry by instead applying for a Nexus card. Savings: Technically, $0. But NEXUS saves $50 over G.E.

That’s it–I don’t tend to pack heavy, but with temps in the Northeast starting to drop I had to pack anything so I can stay warm.  I went through my cold weather gear, and I’m debating bringing my wetsuit. 😉

I’ll end with a question: what’s your must have travel essential?  Whether it is a piece of technology or something basic, and simple, like a travel pillow, share it in the comments.

About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.


  1. iPhone with GPS app
    Credit cards from a couple different providers to mitigate risk if fraud causes locked accounts
    Paper boarding passes
    If traveling internationally- usually some foreign currency

  2. the mobile hotspot is a great way to save money that some people (myself included) occasionnaly forget about.

    Is using a fake name for a credit card also fraud? it seems like not a big deal because ultimately the same person pays the bill.

    1. As long as the credit card doesn’t ask for a SSN for the authorized user I don’t see a conflict. You agree to pay legitimate charges when you create the card. Of course if you never use it never a problem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *