Thursday, June 24, 2010

Traveling with Steve

I don’t travel a lot, but with the success of SQL Saturday, I find myself heading out on the road more than I have in the past. I’m not what you’d call an experienced traveler, and Brad McGehee, who travels a lot, constantly tells me I’m doing it wrong when he sees what I’ve brought.

I read through Buck Woody’s travel tips (blog | Twitter), Brent Ozar’s (blog | Twitter), and Paul Randal’s (blog | Twitter), and I’m definitely not like any of them. My wife travels a lot and I’m not like her at all, though I have learned a few things over the years.


My trips are a strange mix of 1 day events like SQL Saturday, and long conferences, often with a meeting before/after. No real schedule for me, but I do tend to travel 6-7 times a year sporadically.

I use Expedia to book travel almost exclusively. They have returned great prices for me and the iPhone app works great now that I can add in notes. The SQL Saturdays tend to get deals with local hotels, so I use their rates to support them, and book that separately.

I try to fly United as much as I can. It adds up for my wife and I, and we can usually get some free tickets for family travel each year. My wife is almost always a Premier flyer, and sometimes Premier Exec. She nominated me as a “guest” last year and I got the Premier perks for a year.

They were cool, but if you ask me, it’s not worth it. I’d rather not travel. If you are forced to travel, you probably want Paul or Brad’s tips instead, but I have found it worthwhile to stick with one airline. It has helped with better seats or upgrades a few times. Not often, but all airlines suck to a large degree, so every little bit helps. I actually just checked my miles, and with my trip to London, I actually have 23k miles this year, so I’ll likely end up with Premier status for next year (very small Yea).

I try not to rent cars since it’s a hassle, costs money, one more thing to deal with, but I look at my trip. If I’ll have an uneven schedule, and need to be on my own, I’ll get one. I got one in Charlotte since I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get a ride to the SQL Sentry offices, and I wanted to hit a Bobcats/Laker game on my schedule. I didn’t get one in Pensacola since I hitched a ride with Brad McGehee to New Orleans and then cabbed to the airport. Depending on the trip, I weigh the cost. It can cost more with cabs at times, so if I’m going 2-3 places on a trip, I’ll usually get a car.


I don’t pack light. I don’t roll my clothes like the military does, and I don’t like doing laundry. As much as I dislike being on the road, I do try to take advantage of my time and spend it out of the hotel room and with people. That’s why I go to these places, to meet and talk to people.

I also run, 650+ days in a row when you read this.. Unlike most of these other travelers, that’s important to me. So I need a change of clothes for working out. I have tried to wash a shirt in the sink and letting it dry, but since I tend to keep my room cool, it doesn’t dry well. While a smelly shirt doesn’t usually bother me, I try to respect the person trying to work out with me. They might not like it.

I do think about what each day will entail from a clothing perspective. I pack a shirt for each day, usually a pair of shorts or pants for every 2-3 days, socks and underwear for every day. I can re-wear lots of stuff, but I like clean whites each day. I try to use some t-shirts for conferences that I can also run in. That adds up to a decent amount of clothes, but a medium rolling case usually works for me. I add in a pair of shoes, travel pillow for my neck to prevent issues and a toiletries bag and that’s done.

I’ve learned to wear my running shoes on the plane as I have had luggage issues a couple times. However wearing running shoes while walking around an event, after you’ve run in them, sucks. Second pair of shoes needed. I usually just check this bag and take my full size containers of contact lens solution and shaving cream. Just easier to clean off the shelf in my bathroom and drop stuff in my bag.

I check this so I don’t have to hassle with space on the plane, carrying two bags through the airport, and dealing with my shaving/contact stuff. With a smartphone, I can usually call someone, check email, tweet, etc. while waiting for a bag. Not a big deal for me, and I usually have spare clothes. I’d rather have extra than be short.

Plus I can take a couple of Friday shirts to wear around ;)


I used to carry a lot of crap. I mean a lot, laptop, Kindle, camera, video camera, iPod, chargers, cables, yada, yada. I stuffed a laptop bag pretty well.

A couple years ago I saw Kalen Delaney wheel a laptop bag around with a lot of stuff and liked it. So I got Patriot wheeled laptop bag. It’s big, and I’ve even used it on an overnight trip as the only bag I took. In it I know carry:

  • Lenovo laptop
  • Acer tablet as a spare
  • Flip HD Camera
  • Two laptop chargers
  • Spare iPod battery
  • iPod Nano for running
  • 2 iPod charge/sync cables
  • running headphones
  • noise cancelling headphones (over ear)

It’s less than I used to have, but this allows me to work on the plane if I like (Acer tablet). I have my iPhone, on which I read lots of books and listen to music.

I use Live Mesh and Drop Box to sync my home desktop with both laptops for presentations, SQL scripts, Live Writer blog posts, and my writing. They work great, and it ensures that if a laptop dies, I do have a spare copy I can get to. I had a laptop die last year and bought a netbook on the road. It was too slow for me, so I invested in an 11” tablet that runs SQL Server and Powerpoint much better than the netbook.

I have tended to standardize on Apple iPod-type products. That means I share chargers, cables, etc. My apps are on my iTouch and iPhone. I have my travel plans on there, email, teleprompter, and more available to me. I am tempted to try and iPad as a spare instead of the iTouch, but we’ll see.

I have started keeping a spare toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and socks in my laptop bag. Those things mean a lot if you miss a connection or get stuck somewhere late at night. That’s happened a few times and the hotel did not have the latter two.

Busy Days and Nights

Unlike Brad and Buck, I enjoy a few adult beverages from time to time. Unlike Brent, I don’t go to bed early each night on the road since the main reason I travel is to see people, meet the community, and find out what’s on their mind.

Twitter and Facebook are great, but they’re no substitute for face to face time. So I’m out and about. Not as crazy as some of the #sqlkaraoke folks, but I’ll have a couple drinks and stay out. I have to balance some fun with the idea that I need to get up early to run and work the next day.

I don’t want to hassle with laundry. I don’t want to worry about searching for clothes. I don’t want to worry about power. I charge up both laptops, the iPods and the spare battery in the hotel each day. I carry them all around at many events in my wheeled bag, switching to a new device when I need more power.

I try to make the trips as fun as I can, and while I might go to see a museum or a game, but try to remember that most of this is business travel and my business is meeting and talking to people.

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