50 Must Have Travel Tips from Experienced CRAs
October 25, 2017
Recently, I sat down with Clinical Team Leads Caitlin Hirschman and Jamie Christensen who have a combined 25 years of monitoring experience to learn more about the travel tips they’ve acquired over the years. Here’s what they had to share:
1. Expect the unexpected. Things will go wrong, so you just have to be patient and stay calm when you are traveling. Going in with the expectation that everything will go according to plan is a recipe for dissatisfaction.
2. Get loyal with an airline and hotel chain so you can reap the benefits of their rewards systems (when it isn’t cost prohibitive). You’ll appreciate the free upgrades and other goodies that you’ll collect over time.
3. Have cash. It comes in handy for tips and other small items.
4. Invest in comfortable shoes. Wear flats and bring sneakers.
Luggage & Packing
5. Travel with a backpack and a carry-on. Using a backpack rather than a purse or tote bag leaves your hands free which will make things much easier. The backpack can also serve as the go to bag while you are on-site.
6. Invest in a good carry-on. Consider one that is small enough to fit under the seat if you’ll be going on lots of overnight trips. That way you won’t have to gate check your bag if they run out of room in the overhead compartments or if you are on a small regional flight that doesn’t accommodate roller boards.
7. Keep a ready-to-go toiletry kit that you don’t have to repack each time that contains carry-on size liquids.
8. Aveeno makes face wipes that work well as a non-liquid facial cleanser.
9. Pack light. A good rule is to pack two shirts for each pair of pants and re-wear the pants.
10. Pack clothes that don’t require ironing.
11. Bring some candy. It can make a good pick me up when you are feeling worn down.
12. Gum can come in handy too.
13. Don’t forget your chargers.
14. De-clutter your wallet so you are only carrying what you really need.
15. TSA pre-check is totally worth it. Not only does it provide the convenience of not needing to take off your shoes and take things out of your bags at airport security, but the shorter lines can save you a lot of time especially at larger airports. (Rho pays for TSA pre-check for frequent travelers).
16. Delta and Southwest are favorites for airlines. If you take Southwest, it’s worth it to pay for the early bird check-in so you get a better seat assignment. The cost will be offset by what you might have spent checking your bag.
17. Consider joining an airline club. It can provide a really nice break during a long layover or if you get stuck because of a flight cancellation. (Rho pays for airline club membership for frequent travelers).
18. In general, aisle seats are preferred, but window seats may be better for a redeye.
19. Make sure to get a seat close to the front of the plane if you have a close connection, even if it means taking a middle seat. A middle seat is definitely preferable to a missed connection.
20. Don’t bring fish or beef jerky to eat on the plane. Your fellow passengers will appreciate it.
21. Avoid connecting flights through New York area airports. Atlanta is a good airport for transfers.
Ground Transportation & Parking
22. Consider using Uber to get from home to the airport depending on how long you will be gone and what time your flights are departing and arriving. It can be substantially cheaper than parking and you get dropped off close to the terminal at most airports.
23. If you do need to park, consider using an off-site parking service. You can earn points, they provide amenities like coffee and newspapers, and drop you off right by the terminal and your car. It can also feel safer than walking through a parking garage late at night.
24. Consider using Uber or other ride-sharing services in cities where parking can be a problem. This may also be a good plan if your visit is at an academic site. University parking is notoriously problematic.
25. If you have a good taxi driver, get their card so you can use them for the rest of the trip or future trips to the same city. It also allows you to call ahead for a ride.
26. Download a noise machine app. It can help you sleep better in new places—particularly noisy ones.
27. Don’t sleep naked. You never know when there will be an unexpected hotel fire alarm.
28. When visiting a new site, ask them for hotel and restaurant recommendations.
29. Ask for a higher level hotel floor (never ground floor).
Health and Wellness
30. Bring an empty refillable water bottle and then fill it once you are on the other side of airport security. It’s easy to get dehydrated while you are traveling, and this is an easy, cheap, and environmentally-friendly solution.
31. Bring snacks. You never know when you are going to be stuck somewhere that it isn’t convenient to get food or where food options aren’t great. You can also choose healthier snack foods when you pack them yourself rather than purchasing them at the airport.
32. Make a plan to get in a workout wherever you go. It is easy to ignore your health when you are traveling frequently. Bring workout clothes and sneakers.
33. Check with your gym to find out if they have satellite locations in areas where you frequently travel.
34. Some hotels offer workout clothes and shoes that you can rent.
35. Keep your sneakers in your backpack, so you can take a walk and explore the city after work.
36. Keep hand sanitizer or baby wipes handy. Planes and airports are germy places.
37. Look under the mattress to check for bedbugs.
38. Beach Body Workouts is super cheap for a year membership. Just log onto the app and choose a workout like yoga or T25, which is a super quick great workout.
39. Make sure someone has your contact information and also knows your travel plans. Make sure to give the airline an emergency contact number. This is especially important for single folks who aren’t necessarily checking in with anyone regularly.
40. When the hotel asks you how many keys you want, always tell them two so that no one overhears that you are traveling alone.
41. Do a safety check of the hotel room before settling in. Check behind doors and in closets where someone could be hiding and make sure windows and sliding glass doors are locked.
42. If you are traveling to a new place, try to arrive when it is still light outside.
Food & Entertainment
43. Headphones for the plane are a must. You can use them to listen to music or movies, and to drown out the noise of the plane (or unruly passengers).
44. Before you leave on your next trip, download movies, books, or audiobooks to entertain yourself on the plane or when you have some free time back at your room.
45. Learn to enjoy travel by exploring each place you go. There are a number of “Best of” apps that tell you the best sandwich, beer, dessert, etc. in each state. It can be fun to see how many you can collect.
46. Some restaurant and hotel chains have happy hours which can save you some money if you are traveling on a per diem reimbursement plan. In some cases, hotel happy hours provide free food that make for a decent light dinner.
47. Bring a bathing suit. If you have free time you can get some exercise in the pool or some relaxation time beside it.
48. Go see landmarks in new cities you visit—the Seattle Space Needle, Millennium Park in Chicago, Duck Tours in Boston, Riverwalk in San Antonio.
49. Baseball games are a great way to take in some local flavor at a reasonable cost.
50. Check out some local restaurants.
What are your best travel tips?