Being able to work just about anywhere is a mixed blessing. If you're tired of dying batteries, lost receipts, absent files, and laptop theft paranoia, pick up on our top 10 tactics for a better life on the road.
10. Keep track of everything
Your car's parked in section H14 of the airport. Dinner with the clients has been changed to 8 p.m. Your daughter would really love that bag you saw in that little shop downtown, and you must not forget to grab your raincoat from the hotel closet, like you always do. A tool that follows you everywhere, like the brain-expanding Evernote, the very iPhone-friendlyreQall, or politely nagging/reminding to-do systems like Remember the Milk or Todoist might be perfect for your needs. Then again, you might be like so many Lifehacker readers and find that, for your task management and remember-it-or-else purposes, pen and paper is the ultimate portable tool.
9. Find your saving grace: free Wi-Fi
$12 per day airport Wi-Fi is like a $60 steak entree at a restaurant with leather seating—it only exists because expense accounts also exist. For those of us footing our own bill, there's usually a free alternative to the billing demands of coffee shops and air travel waypoints. Gina did us all a favor by rounding up the definitive guide to locating free Wi-Fi, covering the bases from free-as-in-beer offerings to hoping somebody doesn't mind you're tip-toe-ing past their very weak encryption. It's definitely worth the print-out or, more practically, a "Save Page As."
8. Tether your phone for emergency email & directions
From experience, we can tell you that even a great 3G cellphone connection feels a little slow when sent through a laptop browser. That said, Wi-Fi is sometimes an absolute no-go, and you'll need to find out exactly how to get around that parade to the conference center or dash out a long enough email that cellphone-keypad typing isn't feasible. Before your trip, or with some time in your hotel, you can enable tethering on an iPhone or your Palm Pre, or tether an Android, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, (jailbroken) iPhone, or even (older) Palm OS phone with PdaNet. Android owners can also root their phones for the easiest Wi-Fi tethering we've ever seen.
7. Protect your laptop
First things first: If your laptop and all its data access aren't tucked behind great but memorable passwords, they need to be. Beyond that, tools like Laptop Alarm for Windows can help prevent your system from being nabbed while it's running (hello coffee shop snatchers), while LaptopLock is the best post-theft data protector and thief finder we know of for Windows systems. Mac users have the similarly clever iAlertU to use the MacBook's webcam that works as a car alarm for your laptop, snapping a picture of the thief and sounding an alarm when a potential thief tries grabbing your armed laptop, then emails the pic to you so you can hopefully identify the culprit. (Original post)
6. Get set up with smart SMS services
For at least a year, I carried an iPod touch around with my "dumb" cellphone, using the iPod's Wi-Fi and apps when I could, but using text message services whenever I really needed to pull up information or send myself something important. What I learned was that a host of services can work almost entirely through SMS, but they don't all promote that fact very well. Google Calendar can send you today's or tomorrow's agenda, Amazon can price items for you, Twitter can set a timer and text you back (assuming you have direct messages sent to your phone), and many other services offer similar functionality. Even if they claim it's an email service, you can send an SMS to that email address to follow through—all great reasons to claim your constant texting is really just practice for faster productivity. (Original post)
5. Get better life from batteries
First of all, get yourself a spare battery for rechargeable devices like your laptop or other gadgets. Use your spare batteries fully when you're going to use them, then recharge them to around 50-percent full and keep them someplace cool, like wrapped in a paper towel inside the fridge, to increase their shelf life. Keep your cell phone out of your pocket if you want to extend its battery life (the extra heat decreases its battery life). Every so often, charge your battery all the way full, then run it completely down to recalibrate its sense of how much it can hold. Don't run your battery somewhere it will get very hot, and turn off Wi-Fi and fancy graphics effects when you're really just editing a Word document. Those are just a few of the take-away battery tips we've collected and dissected over years of use and discussion, but they're a pretty good beginner's course in squeezing every last bit of rare travel power from your devices. (Original post)
4. Carry an Altoids-sized "survival" kit
We're fans of Altoids tins, as they're durable, compact, inexpensive, and they come with a tasty treat. They can also fit easily in your pocket or go-bag and are perfect for carrying essential medical and mending gear, which will make you the hero of anyone who nicks themselves, or even needs to know which way is North in a strange city. If you're less of a survivalist and more of a maker, you could check out the "maker's tin," for a big dose of DIY ingenuity in a tiny metal container. Make sure to pack it in a way that lets you keep it in your laptop/to-go bag at all times, so you'll always be the guy who's surprisingly prepared on every trip.
3. Manage your travel expenses
If the back of your wallet or bottom of your purse isn't quite cutting it as a receipt management system, try out a system like Xpenser, which lets you call a free number and simply ramble out something like "dinner 58 with Albertson Associates;" alternately, you can quickly add your expense via their web site or SMS. You'll later see a $58 dinner cost neatly tagged to the right date and client. Your accountant, your tax preparer, and your former shoebox stronghold will appreciate your small efforts. If you'd rather mail copies or take digital photos or scans of your receipts post-facto, Shoeboxed has you covered. (Original post)
2. Float between online and offline files
Until I'd talked to four different people last week who didn't know that Zoho, Google's Docs, Calendar, Reader, and Gmail services, Remember the Milk tasks, and many other services could be managed offline with Google Gears, I'd though it was an old-hat piece of advice. Consider this a friendly reminder, then, that the five minutes it takes to install Gears, click the "Offline" or green check mark icon on the Gears-supporting web site, and synchronize your online life is entirely worth it. And if you haven't grabbed a free account from Dropbox, SugarSync, or another cross-platform, web-accessible synchronization service, that, too, will be a lifesaver on some rainy day when you're much too rushed to prepare all your files before you head to the airport.
1. Properly pack your laptop/go bag
We can't tell you exactly what you'll need for every trip, but we can suggest the cables, containers, notepads, spare batteries, portable Wi-Fi routers, and many other items that have saved our editors' and readers' travel-weary butts on many occasions. A week-long, ever-so-slightly-navel-gaze-y series on what our editors pack in their laptop bags culminated in a multi-bag roundup. Further back, our endlessly creative and forward-thinking readers offered their own views at their daily and long-distance travel bags in threephoto-stuffedinstallments. Peruse, poke fun, but more than anything, take them as examples of how you can make life on the road a bit more comfortable and predictable.
That's how we roll, at least when we're heading out farther than the coffee shop or coworking spot. Tell us, and your fellow weary wanderers, your most essential, trip-saving tips and tactics in the comments.
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