Being on the road 14-26 days a month has given me a *wee* bit of insight on how to travel, and travel well. For instance, your #1 travel accessory is a Delsey hard case internationally-sized carry on with built in computer sleeve (I bought mine at Zappos.com). What's #2? A computer backpack to store your electronics, related cords, and of course, the essential quart-size bag of sprays, lotions and gels for easy airport removal. But when it comes to extended hotel stays, my priority is S. L. E. E. P. And, when the elderly couple in the room next to yours has two lap dogs yipping at 5am, or, their TV mercilessly blares as Joseph Prince rants about how to save your soul by dialing the number at the bottom of the screen, you'll want to have these ESSENTIALS handy. And if they're not handy, go find them...and fast!
-800 Thread Count Sheets: Don't laugh. The difference between hotel linens and a set of 800-thread count sheets from the local Target is HUGE. Everything from temperature regulation to breathability matters when it comes to sleep. Especially if you're living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time. Besides, you might get lucky.... ;)
-A Portable Keurig: Make everything from tea, to your favorite Starbucks blend, to cocoa (Swiss Miss or Dunkin' Donuts are my picks!) and you'll find that going to sleep after your nightly cup of Earl Grey, hot, a la Captain Picard or the childhood fav, Swiss Miss, will make heading to dreamland that much easier, even if your neighbors are going at it like rabbits. Sigh.
-Glade Plug Ins: Oh yeah, I'm going there. Let's be honest, hotel rooms can have *funky* smells. Even the ritzier joints. I always bring a Joe Malone votive ("Red Roses" makes the room smell like 7 of the rarest roses on the planet!), and a Glade Plug In Oil Warmer from the "Customizables" collection. It's actually pretty, and you can use dual scents. My favorite combo is Hawaiian Breeze and Vanilla Passion Fruit. Buy one for the bathroom, one for the main living space, and every time you walk back into your room, you're greeted by a light, pleasant scent instead of that stale hotel room odor (if you're lucky). The candle is great but can only be used when you're in the room; besides, a Joe Malone votive is *cough, cough* $60 (sorry...). The Glad Plug Ins work round-the-clock, whether you're there or not. And did I mention they're cheap??? Try less than $8 for the whole kit-and-caboodle...and that will last more than a month!
-Framed Pics of Loved Ones: Sure, we all have a *bajillion* photos on our smartphones, but nothing makes a stark hotel room feel more like home than a few well-placed pics of family and friends. It takes up almost no space and is well-worth the cubic inches in your Delsey.
-A Bose Bluetooth Speaker and Noise-Cancelling Earbuds: Expensive? Yes. But well worth every penny, especially if you're a frequent traveler. I have a "Sleep" playlist on my smartphone that I softly run at night to crowd out the hotel/white noise, including noisy guests and the inevitable hotel maid knocking on my door at 8am on a Sunday, despite the "Do Not Disturb" sign. Use the noise-cancelling headphones on the plane, to talk on the phone, at the hotel gym, to work on your laptop...the possibilities are endless. Given the practicality of both products, the high-cost averages out to mere pennies per use. Now that's what I call SAVVY, savvy??? Pirates of the Caribbean humor? No? Well, don't say I didn't try....
-Join a Local Gym & Hire a Trainer: For reals? Hells yes. Do it! It's easy to get into a bad routine while on the road, especially for weeks at a time. Most gyms have 1-2 week memberships. A personal trainer can help you maximize the equipment at their gym while encouraging you to stick to your regular wellness routine. Plus, trainers are usually very friendly folks; you can not only work out those triceps, but have fun while you do it. Win-win!
-Eat In, Not Out: Find the local whole foods or farmer's market and get things like bananas, apples, oranges, almonds, pumpkin seeds, the highly portable KIND bars, and your favorite bottled water. If you have a mini-fridge in your room, ask the bakery to pre-slice a whole-grain baguette and buy hummus, baby carrots, and maybe splurge on Camembert or Brie for a delicious and healthy mini-meal. You can use the bottled water in your Keurig, too, in case the stuff coming out of the hotel faucet is, well, questionable.
-Get Back to Nature: Even when staying in an urban hub like Chicago (see picture insert above; Hyatt Place at Hyde Park, UChicago), you can find plenty of green space. Wherever you may be, track down the local park and make it a point to get out in nature, even if you're just sitting on a park bench watching the birds. If you can find local hiking trails, all the better! Nothing brings down the stress of travel (or life!) better than reconnecting with nature. If there's nature near water where you are, go there. Soak up some sun (while wearing SPF, of course...) and you'll be shining, too!
-Smile! No, really. Your best travel essential is your beaming smile. People will be nicer to you, friendlier, more helpful, and unless you travel with an entourage, you may need those people to help you. Like the time I was working in New Orleans and was sick-as-a-dog. I had five hours of back-to-back shows to perform with a high fever, runny nose, sore throat...it was brutal. But the hotel staff was very kind to me. And so was a friendly local who assisted by bringing me fever meds. No matter what, the show must go on, and thanks to my smile, it did. Sure, money talks, too--but, believe it or not, people don't have to help you just because you have the cash to pay for said help. That smile is the one thing on this list of essentials that is totally *free* and very easy to use...so use it! And use it often.
Whether you're on the road again for work or play, I hope these hard-learned travel tips help you make the most of yours. After all, no one wants to get stuck in the Hotel California...or worse, Bates Motel! Yikes!!! Travel safe, not scary, and get lots of coveted sleep while you're at it.