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On The Road Again

These three items make trips less painful Add to ...

When you are, as Willie Nelson sings, “on the road again,” every bit of cargo you're hauling around has to count. It needs to add value while not adding much weight to your already overburdened shoulder, and it shouldn’t slow security clearance at the airport. Here are a few items to make business travel a less painful experience.

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Checkpoint-friendly laptop bag

Clearing airport security can be a real pain. Removing your laptop from its protective case while juggling shoes and jackets and other flotsam is not only a nuisance, it can result in potentially devastating bobbles between case and bin.

But if you travel within the U.S. (and sometimes elsewhere – it depends on the screener), your laptop can remain snuggled in a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag as it passes through the X-ray.

Since mid-2008, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has allowed laptops to remain in bags with specific characteristics. These bags must have a separate compartment for the laptop, with no metal buckles, snaps, zippers or wires inside, above or underneath the laptop compartment. It must also open flat; that allows the screeners to get a good X-ray image of the computer while it's still safely in its bag.

Most bag vendors now offer checkpoint-friendly bags; one such product is the Mobile Edge ScanFast Checkpoint Friendly backpack, for $99 (U.S.). Closed, it looks like a perfectly normal backpack, with a rear compartment for the computer pocket, a full-sized front compartment with file pocket and several smaller ones for accessories. There's even a small pouch for your MP3 player or smart phone, with pass-through for the headphone cable.

But all you need do is unfasten the central zipper and the bag opens flat for scanning. After test-driving one across several continents, I can attest that it is, as expected, acknowledged throughout the U.S., as well as being allowed by some screeners elsewhere (Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, or CATSA, is evaluating the concept for use in our airports). And newer models are constructed with DuPont Sorona corn-based fabric, making them eco-friendly as well as practical.







RFID-blocking gear

As more credit cards, driver’s licences and passports store personal information using RFID chips, concerns have emerged that the chips can be surreptitiously read by identity thieves (concerns validated at DefCon, a recent hacker conference).

It’s enough of a worry that the U.S. government has developed standards for RFID-blocking sleeves to guard the data on federal employee ID cards.

For the rest of us, several vendors have created RFID-blocking passport and credit card cases such as the one offered by Day-Timer. Its $21 (Canadian) boarding pass holder has three interior pockets for passports and other documents.

To protect credit cards and other items day-to-day, Travelon offers several RFID-blocking wallets for both men and women that let you stash both cash and cards with confidence. The company also sells an RFID-blocking purse organizer.





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Jackets and vests

We've looked at ways to safely carry laptops and ID. Continuing the theme, here's a way to keep those bits and pieces that often must be decanted into the bin at the security checkpoint in one location, where nothing gets forgotten: a travel garment.

For those with relatively modest needs, Tilley Endurables has a five-pocket travel vest. Packrats may prefer its $350 Vest of Many Pockets (VOMP), which has sixteen, including a built-in backpack.

For even more capacity, SCOTTEVEST has designed jackets and vests around its TravelSmartSystem, a series of pockets and cable paths that holds and connects everything from iPods to sunglasses. For example, its travel vest (available in men's and women's styles for $100 U.S.), has 22 pockets, one big enough for a Kindle e-reader or a magazine. And when you hit the security checkpoint, all you need to do is drop the garment into the bin and retrieve it on the other side – no mad gathering up of small items while the person behind you fumes.

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