What better way to kick off 2017 than to talk about the tools I find to be most useful? I wrote a post back in 2012 that outlined many of the tools I used back then. As many of you know, I travel a lot. Just about every week I am on a plane going somewhere in the world. Compared to many of my fellow corporate executives, it ranks in the excessive category for a CIO.
Considering the amount of travel, I am often asked what tools I find to be most useful. First, it is important to understand that I work under a minimalist perspective. That means, I try to travel with the least amount that I can. The lighter the load, the happier the experience.
First rule of travel: Carry-on, do not check luggage unless you absolutely must. There are many reasons for this. If you travel a lot, you need to invest in good-quality luggage. While I have a full collection of Tumi luggage, which I swear by, there are two pieces that I use most frequently:
Tumi Alpha 2: International Expandable 2 Wheeled Carry-On
Tumi Alpha 2: Compact Laptop Brief Pack
These two pieces offer the most flexibility when traveling both domestically and internationally and fit my technology needs very well.
Ok, on to the technology part of the post. There are two fundamental components that I have used for years now; an iPhone and an iPad. With rare exceptions, these are the only two devices I travel with. Here are the details of what I am currently using:
iPhone 6s Plus: The iPhone offers the ability to make calls while traveling internationally. It also syncs with the iPad. The 6s Plus is the first time I am using the larger screen. In hindsight, the smaller screen size is probably a better choice for me. While the larger size is nice from a real estate perspective, the size is excessive for most things. In addition, it is almost impossible to do anything on the phone with only one hand.
iPad Pro 9.7”: This is an upgrade from the iPad Air, iPad 3 and original iPad I used previously. The iPad platform offers the ability to do a myriad of things using a single device (see software below). The physical size is both compact and not obtrusive when sitting on a desk or table in a meeting. I use the version with Wi-Fi & Cellular. I find that most Wi-Fi networks at hotels, airports, train stations, conventions are simply unreliable. Not to mention the security of those networks. Cellular access allows bypassing many of the issues and LTE is plenty fast.
Apple Pencil: This is a new, and welcome addition to the list. The Apple Pencil finally provides the ability to take detailed handwritten notes and drawing without the relatively crude capabilities that stylus’ offered.
Logitech Create Keyboard: The new Logitech Create keyboard for the iPad Pro not only offers a nice, protective keyboard plus case, but also integrates with the Pro’s Smart Connector and has a spot to hold the Apple Pencil. A good keyboard is a must if you write while on the road. By using the Pro’s Smart Connector, there is no need to use Bluetooth, or charge the keyboard. The keyboard itself is both backlit and has large keys suitable for larger hands. One side note, if you are flying economy, the keyboard and iPad combination is usable, unlike many laptops.
Bose SoundTrue Headphones: These are some of the most comfortable headphones you will find! The do not rely on putting pressure on the ear canal…which can lead to headaches and ear aches. While not noise-cancelling, they are the next best thing. I can wear these all day without ear fatigue.
Bose QuietComfort 25 Noise-Cancelling Headphones: These are a must for long-haul flights. I typically do not travel with them unless traveling across the country or internationally. If you have not experienced noise-cancelling headphones, I find that they dramatically reduce fatigue from long flights. One side note, I have found that the Airbus A380 is the quietest commercial airplane flying today…even more so than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The A380 is so quiet that you almost do not need noise-cancelling headphones.
Tumi 4-Port USB Travel Adapter: It offers (2) 2A USB ports and (2) 1A USB ports plus includes the different international plug adapters in a nice small package. The Tumi adapter is fused and a perfect addition to eliminate all the different bricks and adapters.
Mophie Powerstation XL: Battery packs are pretty much a necessity these days. However, I find that both the iPhone and iPad offer full-day coverage. The exception is when I travel to conferences and/ or am on the phone and/or iPad non-stop all-day. Or if I am going from breakfast meetings to evening events non-stop. Unlike finding a power outlet which then ties you to that spot while charging, the Mophie provides on-the-go charging.
Apple Airport Express: Traveling Internationally brings on a new set of issues. There are still hotels that offer Wi-Fi in the lobby, but wired connections in the room. This creates a problem when only traveling with an iPad. To combat the issue, I throw this small, self-contained, router in the suitcase when traveling internationally. Note that this is becoming less of an issue. As a side note, when traveling with the family, I use this router to connect all our devices without having to connect each device directly to the hotel Wi-Fi. Each of the phones and tablets are already configured to use the secure Wi-Fi setup on the router. Plus, it gets around many hotels that limit the number of devices connected in a room.
Apple Lightning Adapters: When presenting, you never know which interface you will need. Thankfully, both the iPhone and iPad use the same Lightning adapters. I travel with both VGA and HDMI adapters. I can then choose whether I present off the iPhone or iPad. Note that when presenting, it will quickly drain the battery…so plan accordingly.
Now on to the applications…
Microsoft Office for iOS: The first versions of the Microsoft Office apps for iOS were incredibly limited in functionality. However, the more current versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are both feature-rich and integrate well with Box.
Box: Box provides an enterprise-grade solution that syncs well with both desktop and mobile devices. The iOS app allows me to choose which files and/or folders I wish to sync for off-line use. This is great for working on documents while on an airplane. The application also allows me to share file/ folder access with others to collaborate.
iThoughts: When creating a presentation, or brainstorming an idea, iThoughts provides a great mind-mapping tool.
Notability: Notability is one of the best note-taking tools I have used. The combination of Notability with the Apple Pencil has practically replaced the need for paper & pencil. When meeting with folks and needing to draw, it makes for a great whiteboard solution. I can take notes, draw pictures and quickly send copies via a myriad of ways including email and text.
Twitter/ Tweetbot: If you are on Twitter, one of these two apps is a necessity. I find that Tweetbot offers several features not available in the native application. However, they are getting closer with each release.
LinkedIn: Connecting via LinkedIn is key to engaging with others. The app, while not perfect, is a good companion while on the road.
WordPress: If you post to blogs based on WordPress, the app is a must. For my post workflow, I still write and edit posts in Word and then cut/ past into WordPress. This provides a backup and place to search across posts locally.
Skype: Skype makes it much easier to work with parties in different countries. Skype provides the ability to call and video-conference across geographies.
Slack: There are a myriad of different communication tools on the market today. Different teams use different tools. However, I find that several of the groups I work with prefer to use Slack.
Kayak: Kayak recently discontinued their Pro product by centralizing everything into their base app. I use Kayak as a single point to manage all travel (air, hotel, car, etc). You simply forward the email with your travel information and Kayak parses the details into ‘trips’. I then sync this information into my calendar to see everything in one place.
United: As a United Million Mile Flyer, and based from SFO or LAX, United provides some of the best flight choices to the locations I travel most. The app allows me to change flights, change seats, book flights and get status updates on-the-go.
Miscellaneous iOS Apps: In addition to the third-party apps listed above, I also use the native iOS apps including Mail, Safari, Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Music, Messages, Photos, Maps, Contacts, etc. One thing I value with the iOS platform is the ability to sync data and settings across devices.
Miscellaneous Apps: There are several other apps that I use, but they are less for business and more for personal uses. The iPad platform gives me the ability to work, play, read news, watch movies, read books all on one device. Again, less is more.
Hopefully that provides a glimpse of what I found to be most useful when traveling. I welcome your suggestions and recommendations too!