You have your TDY orders, and you’re trying to figure out what to pack. You don’t get to lay your head on your own pillow and don’t have access to your ever-growing guitar collection, but there’s no reason you can’t be comfortable and entertained on your next TDY trip. Here are six things to toss in your suitcase or sea bag next time you report for duty away from home.
Some assignments keep you busier than others, but there is always downtime. Bring something to fill it so you don’t spend those off-work hours staring at the walls of your hotel room. If you enjoy reading, a Kindle or other reader takes up almost no space and offers endless hours of reading. Bonus points if you sign up with your base, local library, or both before you leave so you can access free content.
Or maybe you want to use the time away to catch up on new shows, watch a few movies, or re-binge your old favorites. With more great content available via Netflix, Amazon Prime, or other streaming services, you can fill the time between PT and catching Zs with whatever you want to watch. But you need something to watch it on, and a tiny phone screen isn’t ideal. A tablet or laptop is great to have not only for watching shows and movies but also for games, checking the weather, keeping up with the news, etc.
And speaking of games, if you are staying at a place with access to game tables and other great equipment, that can also help pass the time. If you have a choice in your lodging, some research into amenities can go a long way toward keeping boredom at bay.
2. Comfy clothing
You’ll want something comfortable for lounging around and, even more importantly, to be prepared for whatever the local weather sends you. You likely won’t be familiar with the climate in your temporary location, so do a little research. Pack options so that if the weather at Ramstein AFB serves up something that wasn’t in the forecast, you aren’t shivering as you walk to the U-Bahn station, or if Randolph, Texas, gets hit with the remnants of a hurricane when you expected it to be 90 degrees, you aren’t stuck inside. But just to be safe, toss that umbrella into your suitcase, too.
3. Workout gear
Weigh-ins and fitness assessments wait for no one. Physical Readiness standards don’t care that you’ve spent the last month enjoying the local beers during your time off. You’ve still got to make weight and meet standards. So pack workout clothing, but don’t stop there. Consider investing in one of the many versatile but space-saving workout systems on the market that can allow you to get a good workout in without ever having to leave your room. Your waistline and your push-up count will thank you.
4. School Supplies
If you are traveling to attend school, bring a notebook. You know your study style better than anyone, so consider what else might make your sessions easier. Pack highlighters, extra pens, blank note cards, a small recorder so you can relisten to lectures if allowed, or anything else you need to ensure you get the most out of your training.
5. Cables and Cords
We covered tablets, laptops, and e-readers; of course, you will have your phone. You may also bring external batteries or other electronic devices. But those won’t do much good if you stare at a blank screen. Few things are more frustrating than moving into your temporary quarters and realizing you cannot charge everything.
You may also want to throw a small power strip into your suitcase. Too many hotel rooms have too few plugs or force you to contort between the headboard and nightstand to reach an outlet. A power strip can ensure everything is fully charged when needed and in a location that doesn’t require advanced yoga moves to access it…
6. Comfort items
If your trip lasts over a few days, you will want to make space in your bag for some items that make you feel more at home. Maybe you have a favorite pair of slippers, or perhaps this means packing your shampoo instead of using whatever the lodging facility provides. Some people like to put a nightlight in their hotel room to make navigating to the bathroom in the middle of the night in a strange room easier. Throw some in the suitcase if you have a favorite snack you can’t get locally. Save some packing space for whatever makes Away feel a bit more like Home.
As a bonus item, make sure you have some extra funds available. Uncle Sam is sending you to a new place, and while much of your time will be spent working, you want to be able to enjoy the local sights, sounds, and tastes. Taking full advantage of free travel means having enough money to play tourist and hit up a local attraction or go to a music venue to see a local band.
Temporary duty assignments allow you to get out and see a part of the country or world you’ve never experienced. It’s a free vacation on the government’s tab, even if you must work for much of the trip. Even if it isn’t an exciting location, get the most you can out of the time. If you are ill-prepared or spend extra money buying things you should have thought to pack, that’s harder to do. So take a few minutes to think about what you need for the specific location, job, or training, weather conditions, and what will make you comfortable while away from home.
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