Learning the Ropes of Business Travel

Yesterday I got back from snowy New York (so glad Amtrak came through for me!), and it got me thinking about how travel is becoming a significant part of my professional life. It's also one of the most annoying parts. For instance, this week I was invited to come to Illinois at the end of March so I scrambled to get tickets--only to find out the following day that my presentation had been rescheduled for May. (Note: If you book through Expedia and cancel by the end of the next business day, there's no penalty. Good to know!) Such is the life of a grassroots organizer who depends on the willingness and generosity of her constituencies. I'm learning to be flexible and say, "Oh no, that's totally fine! I don't mind that I spent three hours yesterday making arrangements to come all the way to Illinois and now I have to spend another hour on the phone to Expedia canceling them. No biggie!"

But, I'll be honest. Traveling makes me feel pretty cool. Getting to go to new places and old places, seeing old friends, and trying new things on someone else's dime is a sweet deal. During my trip to New York, I discovered that living in a city makes me much more comfortable being in ANY city. I've been to New York a good number of times in the past, but I always felt a little intimidated by it because I just didn't know my way around. The subway seemed daunting, andI had this strange fear of cabs--I didn't know the etiquette, or how to tip, or what to say or not say. (So glad that you can use a credit card now.) This sounds silly, I know, but to a small town Southern girl, the city was an scary place to navigate. But now that SCL and I live in a big city ourselves, I found NY to be a different place to visit this time. Despite the ridiculous snow, I got myself around just fine and didn't freak out even once--even when I fell on my ass right outside of my hotel because I didn't have proper shoes for a snowstorm.

While traveling itself a bit less daunting, I still want to become generally better at it. To help me along, I've decided that investing in some travel accessories could make things a lot less stressful.

Here are some things I want to add to my travel toolkit:
  • A netbook (I just ordered this one today from NewEgg.com). Lugging around my old PowerBook was a pain in the butt this trip. Even with the generous trays on Amtrak, it all was too cumbersome to do any real work. I had the computer, the power cord (my battery lasts approximately 5 seconds without it), my USB drive, my phone and USB cable (for tethering internet), and headphones all plugged in, and it was just too many damn wires. The netbook will be lighter, have better battery life, and more totable. And I'll be able to use it on a plane, too.
  • A professional looking tote. I ended up using my backpack for this trip, and the whole time I felt like a student it rather than the professional woman I am. It's covered in political buttons that say things like "I love Pro-Choice Boys." Cute, but not exactly chic. I may have a bag that'll do the trick, depending on how big the netbook is. But, regardless, when I travel, I want a good looking bag that's big enough to hold all of stuff.
  • A ready-to-go toiletries bag. Traveling is uncomfortable enough without having to use bad hotel shampoo, so I'm going to invest in a smaller versions of all of my favorite products that I can pack up in a toiletries bag and not have to think about next time I hit the road. I'm a big products person, and I find that packing up this part takes up more time than picking out outfits. I'd feel much more panicked about forgetting to pack my oil-blocking face lotion than my favorite pair of shoes.
What's your best travel accessory?

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