Ultimate cheat codes for healthier travel


Alyss Noland

Alyss Noland

Travel has been a significant part of the life of many dev rel practitioners. In this talk from DevRelCon London 2019, Alyss Noland shares her advice on how to stay healthy and happy while travelling.

Alyss: Thank you. Well, as Joe just said, my name is Alyss Noland and I’m not going to stand in the light. I have done an extensive amount of travel, and I’m imagining since you’re here and you’re in DevRel, you probably do a lot of business travel as well. Is that fair? I thought about when I was originally thinking about that particular intro doing the parliament, yay, nay. And then not hearing any nays saying that’s good, there’s no horses here, ’cause I didn’t think they could be employed by DevRel, but I tried to just, yeah.

So to start us off, what’s one that we all hope we don’t run into and I have very rarely encountered. What happens when you have a canceled and delayed flight? Within the EU, if you land here, if you get delayed here, you end up getting compensation of some kind. How many of us are from either the UK or EU here? Yeah, okay, most of y’all. So y’all may have encountered this before, but once you end up in the U.S., our regulations aren’t as good. You basically will get screwed to one degree or another because, if there’s mechanical issues, if there’s weather delays, not entitled to any compensation. You could be compensated with delayed bags plenty of people have. But unless the delay is due to them not assigning planes correctly you’re probably SOL. So in this instance credit card insurance is actually gonna be one of your best bets.

Okay, packing. For me, I have so many clothes in my bag right now, which is why I’m wearing a crushed velvet shirt, that I don’t think I could fit any chocolates from, from London, much less like an additional toothbrush. So the way that I actually get away with that is by using packing cubes. And the thing I love about packing cubes is that once I get to my hotel, I can take them out of my bag and set them out. Or if I’m at an airport, which, how many of you have needed to change clothes after like nine hours of travel because you’re just disgusting? Yeah. I can go directly into my bag in a changing room in LAX and I have my clothes right there. It’s easily one of the first things that I started doing and one of the best things that I started doing. And as soon as most of my friends have started using them, they’ve just been delighted. Because it’s an easy way to keep track of what’s dirty, what’s clean. and you can even get some that are more specific for dress wear.

So you have pressed pants, you have a nice jacket, you can get some packing cube styles that will not crush your clothes so you don’t have to re-iron it once you get to the hotel. But this is often complemented by having a suitcase with some zippered compartments. Again, it’s just about being able to keep things tight and needy because, tidy and neat, thank you. I’ve had coffee today. because at the end of the day, I have seven different cables on me. I have seven different outlets. I have a laptop, might have another personal device. How am I going to keep track of all that without having something that’s literally organizing it and not just jumping around everywhere. Also makeup, it gets crushed very easily. Some of you may not be able to empathize, but I’m telling you now.

Okay, how many of you are jet lagged? Definitely me, yup. That said, I probably don’t need to tell you why it’s important. This makes us feel functional. We’re in events a lot where we may be expected to drink. we maybe in instances a lot where we, there may be a lot of coffee. And between the long distance travel, we’re already dehydrated. We’re already caffeinated and it can be extremely hard to manage sleeping well. Yeah. Super not fun for anybody. Sleep deprivation is literally torture. It is not allowed under the Geneva Convention. So some of the things that I personally do, I’m not gonna tell you anything about the medications that I take. ‘Cause I’ve definitely had my fair share of trying out Melatonin and what not. But you should talk to your doctor if for some reason you need additional assistance. I use an app called Time Shifter. So what Time Shifter does is I enter in my airline flight numbers and it will let me know, hey, this is when you should get some sun. This is when you should wear sunglasses. This is when you should avoid sunlight, and this is when you should avoid caffeine. It is configurable so you can say, hey, I do consume caffeine or no I don’t. I do take Melatonin or no I don’t.

I will say one criticism is that it doesn’t really understand the concept of once you board the plane you can’t fall asleep. ’cause there’s takeoff and they turn on bright lights in your face but it is a really good guide for me. So that’s been something that I found particularly useful on my last few international trips. Planes, I have a neck pillow, I have a scarf. I literally just put the scarf over my face. I don’t care that I look ridiculous. You shouldn’t care if you look ridiculous, I’ve worn a sheet mask on a plane before. I really don’t care. I’m not gonna see any of those people again. The thing that’s most important to me is my health and my happiness. Screw the rest. So earplugs, if you have the AirPods Pro, great, they have noise canceling. Do whatever it takes based off of what you know you need in order to sleep. You know how you sleep best.

The other things that I haven’t included on here are, most of us probably stay in a hotel room. Once you get in a hotel, it is a weird foreign place that you have not slept in before and your body says, oh shit, I’m vulnerable. Okay, well there’s nothing trying to attack me, but I’m gonna like kind of keep my brain on while I sleep so that no predators attack me. That’s just your monkey brain that’s doing that. So that first night, first couple of nights in a hotel room, you’re really going to struggle to sleep. at least I do and many others do.

The first thing I do when I get in a hotel is I untuck the sheets from the bed. I don’t like my feet trapped. I don’t like having to kick that out. Is there a pillow menu? I love pillow menus because I have neck problems and those flat ass pillows ain’t gonna work for me. So I try to figure all of those things out before I actually need to sleep. so that way when I do go to bed, I can actively relax and I’m not laying there like, the Ibuprofen or the Paracetamol is like all the way in my bag, and I have a headache now because I’m laying like this. so just something to think about once you get into those spaces. I find Airbnb’s can be a little bit more comfortable, but it’s because they don’t have quite the same level of use of the pillows. They don’t seem to replace those quite so often.

Hydration, planes, extremely dehydrating. They’re dryer on average than the Sahara. Yeah, the average house is expected to be, and this is for some U.S. guidelines. But the average house is expected to be between 30 to 50%, humidity in order to be relatively comfortable. So you sit on a plane and you’re like, I have contacts, my contacts are now dry, or I have some drink tickets and I’m gonna have a couple of these vodka sodas or I’m going to have five cups of coffee. Well, okay, now you’re extremely dehydrated and if you have no water bottle, which most of us do, then you’re gonna come off the plane basically looking like you’re hung over even though you’re not.

Most planes have humidity levels around 20%. There are some planes and Cristiano can probably tell you more, he’s sitting up here. About which, there are a couple of planes that can have slightly higher humidity levels. but that’s because some of the newer planes have been able to be made with fewer metal parts because the thing that, Boeing and whatnot are really trying to achieve is they’re trying to prevent the parts of the plane from rusting faster. Especially with how often they go into the air.

Staying hydrated on planes. Bring a water bottle and refill it. Hey, guess what? Chicago O’Hare, if you want to buy a water bottle, it’s like four bucks, it’s ridiculous. That’s most of the U.S., three bucks, four bucks. and honestly, this one folds down. I was about to grab it out, but I don’t know what pocket it’s in, ’cause I have so many pockets in my bag. Refill it before the flight. If it’s more than like a four hour flight, buy an additional water bottle. You are going to need like two liters of water There’s an event that occurs with your skin called transepidermal water loss. And that sounds like a really boring word, but it’s like your skin is one of the biggest organs and it causes you to lose water while you’re in that really low humidity space. And also consider, I don’t avoid caffeine. I’m telling you to avoid caffeine, I’m a hypocrite. So those are some of the like really high level, things that I try to do whenever I am traveling. It tends to make me happier. I’m well rested, I’m hydrated. But I also carry around sheet masks that I wear in my hotel room once I’m done. But I already told you about sheet mask on a plane.

So, and also moisturize your face on the planes. I don’t wear makeup on planes. Sarah V. is a fairly good brand, but it is animal tested. So if you’re vegan I wouldn’t recommend that. Aquifer petroleum jelly can be some other good ones. Those are just good to help create a barrier so that you aren’t losing quite as much water and you’re also just helping re-moisturize that skin. Again so you’re not looking like you went on a binge drinking spree the night before. Yeah, this is basically what I look like on planes. Yeah, yeah. And that’s it, I honestly wanted to leave more time because I have traveled so much for you to ask questions. So if anyone has particular problems that they have had while traveling and you want to learn more. Either from me or from the group, this is the time for it.

Joe: And I have a microphone to run to you if you would like to ask a question. Please wave out to me. Coming to you.

Audience member: Thank you, one thing that I struggle with is when I travel, I travel mostly to the U.S., ’cause most of my team is there and it’s gonna be three days and I’ll pack in as many things as I can for meetings, conferences, et cetera. And I end up just sleeping or sitting down all day. Do you tend to add an exercise routine or do something to get yourself moving as well?

Alyss: Yeah, so, I don’t do quite as much exercise as I would like. And part of that is I’m actually wearing barefoot shoes. and I walk a lot of places. I live in Texas. Texas is not a particularly walkable city. I try to use whatever public transit is available. I grabbed an Oyster card once I arrived here, walk between places, maybe get off a stop early. otherwise I may see is there an exercise class available? But that’s pretty limiting because of schedule. So that’s some of what I would recommend.

But the other limitation I have in particular and as I disappear down here, well I can’t find it, I actually have lower back issues as well. So I have a little strap that holds my body together so it doesn’t fall apart. That’s another thing if you’re finding body aches and pains, and working out helps, great. If you’re finding body aches and pains and working out doesn’t help, go see your doctor. Go find out, hey, this seems unusual. They may be able to give you something to not just cover up the pain but also actually, actively address it.

Joe: Anyone else question?

Audience member: Yeah. So you were talking about, you asked the question about working out and stuff. One of the things that I find that keeps me going is I force myself every day or as much as I can to workout in the morning. I try to keep my routine the same as I would regardless of what time zone I’m in.

So every day I’ve got a little kid at home, so I workout between six and seven and she comes in the room when I’m working out and it’s fine. I have online, a subscription to an online workout program. So even if my hotel room is really small, I can modify what I’m doing. The problem I have is really sweaty, gross clothes. So, you know, rinsing them out in the sink. There’s an enzyme spray that I spray on them so they’re not super rancid when I get home I use dry bags to pack. When you go to the beach you can put wet clothes in them. So that way it, like you were saying cubes and stuff.

It keeps my disgusting workout clothes away from my other stuff until I can find a proper washroom, and if I’m on a two week trip, I always try to research if there are coin laundries where I’m going so that I can make sure that I’m not just being super disgusting all the time and get a good wash in. So, those are my things that I do to keep myself settled.

Joe: Anyone else? Want more of that.

Audience member: Just wanted to share one that I found about a year ago for fighting the dehydration on the planes, saline nasal spray.

Alyss: Yes, I have some.

Audience member: The best thing on planet earth.

Alyss: I actually have an exposed capillary in my nose as well, so I get nose bleeds pretty frequently and some of those saline nasal sprays can actually help stop those nosebleeds as well. Again, not making medical recommendations, but excellent.

Audience member: Supposedly also supposed to help prevent catching colds. So viruses attached to dry surfaces, apparently that’s a thing.

Alyss: Yeah, I also wear surgical mask on planes, but I get sick very easily. That’s a part of the recycled air in planes. It causes a cough cloud instead of it being like three feet from a person or one meter from a person to go a much further distance. I’ve heard people say there’s a trick to pointing air behind you. I don’t trust that, it doesn’t sound like science to me. But if you find that you’re getting sick a lot, I mean, I carry basically a med pack of, Strepsils and Pseudoephedrine, and surgical mask, and hand sanitizer. So do what you need to, to protect your energy, and protect your time for sure.

Audience member: Well, the Japanese airlines give you surgical masks with little moisturizing pouches to moisturize the air.

Alyss: They’re so good. And you can’t buy them in the U.S.

Joe: Nightmare. Anyone else with comments or questions? Got one here, anyone else picked?

Audience member: So I’m curious, I’m not a frequent international traveler for conferences. I’ve been traveling through the U.S. for years, and years, and years. One of the best things that I did over the last year was get Global Entry and Clear. I’m curious whether there’s a program like that, that works outside the U.S. as well as in. I’d love to hear anybody’s experiences.

Alyss: So, Clear is a little funny. And for those that don’t travel to the U.S. a lot, Clear is an expedited traveler program. You give this private company some biometric identification information and then you can go through this quick line and they will then put you to the front of either the regular line and you have to take off your shoes, and jacket and what not. Or you go to the front of what’s called the TSA pre-check, which again is a known traveler program for the Travel Security Administration. Again, biometric information. Clear as a company purchased some existing IP and hardware from another company that had not succeeded, which is also why they’re in so few locations versus how many total airports there are in the U.S., and they are expanding but they’re not outside of the U.S. And I’m not currently aware of a program outside the U.S. Does anyone? Joe?

Joe: There’s one highly specific one if you fly through Schiphol Airport, which is the retinal scanny thing. Looking at Don who lives in Amsterdam. So in the Amsterdam airport, they run their own retinal scan one, What’s that? Yeah, anyway, it’s marvellous, and super magic, and Schiphol also doesn’t make you empty your bag. So fly through Amsterdam whenever you can. It’s a magic input. Okay, I’ve lied to you in entirely. Amsterdam magic place.

Audience member: One of the things that I use, it’s not specific to any country other than the U.S. but Mobile Pass is an app that you can use that expedites things through customs when you get back to the US, you can go through a separate line and it speeds things up. You can fill it out on the plane.

Alyss: Only for U.S. citizens?

Audience member: Yeah only for U.S. citizens.

Alyss: And I think they recently changed part of Mobile Passport so that you have to subscribe in order to store information as well.

Audience member: Yeah, there’s a free app, the Premium App.

Alyss: Okay.

Audience member: So the only difference is that the free app, you need to fill all the information all over again. Which is okay anyway, you don’t have anything better to do in the plane. You can very well do that.

Alyss: Yeah, I’m definitely on Global Entry. Global Entry is also really nice for U.S. citizens because it will also auto opt you into pre-check. Pre-check is normally $85 for every five years, and Global Entry is $100 for every five years, and there are some credit cards depending on the travel credit cards that you have that will reimburse you for that.

Audience member: And most of them, they’re U.S., then there are other countries mostly in the EU who are reliable for Global Entry.

Alyss: Yes, Global Entry is not exclusive to U.S. citizens, and you can go, you can schedule an interview to become a participant in Global Entry as you’re passing through an airport if it’s available. Like DFW has it, so, yes?

Audience member: So a little tip for again the Americans in the room, but I think a lot of Europeans don’t necessarily notice either, is the flight conversation rules, they’re kind of quite complicated. They apply to anyone who flies in or out of a European airport. So it doesn’t really matter what airline you’re on necessarily, it depends on whether you fly into Europe, or out of Europe. And so this even applies to American passengers who are flying back to the U.S. but on a European airline. But it also applies to European airlines within but outside of the EU to some degree.

Alyss: It does, however because of certain rules that we have within the U.S, there can be no… It’s basically in order to protect the U.S. Airline interests. No, non U.S. based airline can do domestic flights within the U.S.

Audience member:Yeah, but I’m not saying in the U.S, I’m saying if you flying in Asia or something. On this topic, two more comments. First of all, use an app. There is one of them is called AOL-mail. There are many others for a small fee. They do all the communication and well.

Alyss: They take a lot of money.

Audience member: They take compensation, but then basically you don’t need to do anything yourself or if you have more times than money, do it yourself. And the other thing is, although there is no regulation that requires Americans going through that, they will usually match the compensation that European Airlines provide if you approach them and ask. And they meet the same rules, so you have like four hours of delay and $80 of compensation, and they compensate more or less in the same money. Now I can really shout.

Joe: If you do want to speak, please grab the microphone from me for the video.

Alyss: I think we’re close to time. So probably one more. Otherwise, this has been for me really great. Oh yeah, another person.

Audience member: I’m coming. The Dutch, I think by the way it’s called Peruvian. I found the card.

Alyss: Nice.

Audience member: Thank you. Thank you so much for your suggestions. I travel about 80% of the time and there was some new stuff here for me. You’re right about the water, the alcohol is easy, the water is harder. I just have to say that I belong to this really interesting Facebook group called, Let’s Fix Business Travel for Women. Number one complaint, hairdryers in hotels.

Alyss: Oh my God! Yeah.

Audience member: Number two complaint is that the curtains never close properly, and so a lot of women travel with those hair bands that are plastic and you clip the curtain together, and that’s really helpful.

Alyss: So if your hotel has hangers and it has clips on the hangers, you can use that, especially if you’re like Cristiano and don’t have hair.

Audience member: Yes, brilliant.

Alyss: Sorry, okay, so Cristiano is my teammate, which is why I keep bragging on him. Our boss is also bald. Our skip level boss is bald and our skip level, skip level is bald.

Audience member: Our CEO is has hair so–

Alyss: I actually had to compensate for the rest of my team, so I just keep growing it. I’m not sure it’ll stop.

Audience member: The last thing I would say is that one of the things that I’ve tried to incorporate in my travel this year is to try and do one fun thing when I’m at the particular location. Even if it’s something ridiculous or just going outside for a stroll or popping into a local museum, try and carve out some time because you can just turn into a proper road warrior and it gets really, you start losing your humanity a little bit. So try and maintain that by doing something just for yourself.

Alyss: Yeah, and on that note, I don’t know, there seems to be quite a few experienced business travelers here. But something that I had to learn was I wished buying the cheapest, I was booking the cheapest flights for business travel. And the cheapest flights for business travel are 6:00 and 7:00 AM. Don’t do that. Be kind to yourself, find the options that are kind to you, find the option that’s close to where you’re gonna be, even if it’s a little bit pricier as long as it’s in policy. Because honestly, you’re doing something for the business, and you’re benefiting the business. You are not a drain on their resources, they’re a big ass corporation. They can afford it, you’re gonna be fine, but you deserve that, especially if it’s on someone else’s time. So that’s it, thank you so much.

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