A friend recently referred me to a Tim Ferriss post about travel caching, something I had never heard of before. Mr. Ferriss used the Jason Borne movies as his reference point but the method might just work, depending on who you are and how frequently you stay at a hotel. I tried travel caching myself to see if I really could avoid checking a bag, and here is what I found.
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What Is Travel Caching?
For guests that frequent the same hotels in the same cities, those properties can feel like a home away from home. Travel caching makes it a more formal arrangement. As Tim Ferriss describes it:
Remember the first Jason Bourne movie, when various agents are “activated” to kill Jason? One of them lands in Rome, where he accesses a hidden locker that contains everything he needs: a few passports, a gun, ammo, cash in small denominations, etc. That is an example of a single “cache.” (Yes, I’m somewhat obsessed with Jason Bourne)
Doomsday preppers (not derogatory) will often have multiple caches at various distances from a “bug out” departure point like a home or office. In the case of disaster — tornado, terrorism, zombies, Sharknado, etc. — they can set off walking empty-handed, if needed, and find everything they need waiting for them. Here’s a good intro to this controversial craft.
Travel caching is leaving yourself a “cache” of essentials in a location you often travel. While Jason Bourne and the like use lockers and self-storage sheds, Tim proposes using hotels he frequents. This saves him from ever having to check a bag by leaving his belongings for storage with the hotel in a crate at the property.
What Should I Leave in My Cache?
Packing clothes specific for that environment (Tim is packing heavy coats for New York City for example) are a help. I leave clothes at my parent’s house in Florida so I don’t have to pack anything other than a backpack. Tim is leaving cans of beans and other things he doesn’t want to have to shop for when he lands – that’s not me. Here are my essentials:
- Phone charger
- Power strip
- Preferred toiletries
- Clothes for the location
- Work out gear
I can get on a plane with just my backpack which has freed me and my family from flying on more expensive airlines where I have status and don’t have to pay for checked or (eek) even carry-on bags. I live in a mid-sized air market, Pittsburgh. There are direct flights to Florida on Spirit, Allegiant, Southwest and Frontier that allow me hop on a cheap flight without having to worry about getting hit with fees.
Travel caching eliminates so much time and process in planning. I won’t have to think about what I need or what I have, it will already be there. When I want to change it up, I can wear new clothes out and bring the old clothes back. Tim refers to this as a Steve Jobs-ian trait, personally, I prefer to think of it more as Doug Funny choosing his outfits. With less to think about, I get more time back in my day. Granted, I don’t do this at home, but I pack for a trip at least once a week and at least 26 of those trips are to the same hotel, in the same city. If I spend 10 minutes packing and five minutes unpacking every time I take that one trip alone that’s 6.5 hours/year I get back without having to do anything.
Trying It Out
My travel needs vary from place to place but there is one hotel that I frequent enough to be able to get away with this. For this to really work for me, I need it to be in business destinations and hotels. I have safety equipment that I need to carry for site visits and it would be nice to leave one these cases at my same-old, same-old hotel to lighten my load.
I recently tried it out and got a wide eye from the front desk staff that took the bag into the back. On my next visit I will see how long it takes them to search for it in the back and then work on some of the conditioning. I am sure that some of that will involve we working with the manager to have the bag in my room waiting, with the clothes laundered.
Hotels should jump at the chance for this connection with their customers. This creates intense brand loyalty and hotel-specific affection. While I am sure some managers will be concerned about liability and customers overloading them with their goods, for others, like the manager I encountered it will solidify me as a customer. It will also increase their revenue as I will stay with them every time more or less regardless of rate. Further, they will make money off of my laundering services which I don’t usually do at hotels for short trips.
Have you ever tried travel caching? Do you have a hotel you frequent enough to make this possible?
been doing this for years, never heard it called caching until now.
@Mike Murphy – Any tips I might have missed? I’d love to hear what’s in your “trunk” at your favorite properties.
I manage to travel lite, a weeks worth of basic stuff in my carry on ( clothes too) stuff I “cach” is seasonal items like heavy outer wear ( Ankara winter)
and swim wear ( Phuket)
Interesting concept. I would totally consider this if I traveled frequently enough to the same place.
That’s the trouble, you have to be pretty consistent. But I know an awful lot of consultants that find themselves in the same cities, same hotels, every other week – still packing on Sunday afternoons. Maybe now they don’t have to.
In addition to location caching I also do suitcase caching for all my other travel destinations: I have underwear, toiletries, first aid kit etc always in my suitcase. So all I have to add are the shirts and pants that I want to wear and I am good to go. Everything else is already in the suitcase.
My wife did this when she was a traveling consultant. She still travelled back and forth with clothes every week, but left a bag with her preferred full-sized toiletries and leftover snacks at the hotel or client site over teh weekend.
If you’re traveling often enough you can sometimes save money by talking to the sales manager and getting a monthly rate and swap out unused weeks as well. This ties into the loyalty aspect you raised, and gives the hotel incentive to hold your cache.
Warren, I don’t travel enough to the same hotels for this to be an option but I think it makes a lot of sense for both the traveler and the hotel.
A monthly rate is what I do for several employees that spend 12-16 nights a month at a particular hotel. We get a nice break on the cost and Doing a 30 day “rental” comes at a decent cost savings. The employees are allowed to keep things in the room while,they are away and it makes it easy for them to spend 4 nights a week.
Consultants traveling to same client location do this regularly. On Thursday drop all clothes at cleaners on way to office. Non-clothing stored in suitcase at hotel front desk. Travel out and back with just briefcase. Monday pick up clothes from cleaners on way to hotel. As long as you have a standard “uniform” no one notices, and you can rotate one different outfit each week.
That is definitely a travel rhythm. I love it.
Keeping clothes at your parents house is a lifehack now?
Haha, no of course not. It’s just the sole exposure I had prior to discovering this from Tim Ferriss.
This is a “new concept”?
We have done this for like 20 years and just now find out it gets a fancy name.
It is called COMMON SENSE. You find ways to simplify your travel.
Even on a single trip if we would return to the same hotel with a gap of one to three days where we went off to different city, we left our main bags at the hotel and just packed enough for the excursion. You do not need to be a frequent guest to the hotel, you just need to be a guest who would return to the hotel for another stay. Some hotels do it casually some do it very formally – at Westin Palace in Milan they made us signed a relief form and when we returned we signed a formal receipt. At Park Hyatt Tokyo we actually asked them to return the bag to Century Hyatt, now Hyatt Regency. Park Hyatt did not request any form but at Century Hyatt they had us signed a formal receipt. At Hyatt Regency Hong Kong, just left the bags. They later found out we forgot a camcorder and some miscellaneous items in the safe, and then they put the stuff in a bag and secured it with our bags. The FD manager sent us an email to that effect.
We sometimes left our bags to a hotel we would check in a couple days later because we changed hotel from one to another but in between we went to another city. That, can be done too.
Seriously, this is not some new discovery.
Your use of the concept is pretty in-depth and I am happy to hear that managers are even forwarding your belongings to other properties. I would be curious to see if they were amenable when transferring to a different brand.
And it may not be a new discovery, I’m sure this has been going on for longer than even 20 years – it was simply new to me. The article I reference is not recent.
Isn’t this just packing? I do this every trip (I fly on the average two to three roundtrips a month) and when I notice i’m running out of cotton balls I replenish my stash. I also empty and start laundry and repack stuff within five minutes of getting home.
My spouse is a biweekly commuter to the East Coast from Seattle, she has it down to an art including having an extra set of clothes in her office, in case of inclement weather or having to brief visiting scientists.
Nazila – Most people pack for trips each time, so this would be more along the lines of what your wife is doing, but different from what you are doing. In this model, your clothes really never come back home, there is no packing, just the initial load and then the clothes are laundered automatically on your behalf, they never come home.