Travel Tech Q&A: Concur's Matthew Goss

Apparently, there's a machine in Narita Airport, Japan, that pours the perfect glass of beer.

In this week's ZDNet Travel Tech Q&A, Concur Technologies Australia managing director Matthew Goss talks about the gadgets he takes on his travels, making new friends with a smartphone battery extender, and the time he stayed in the same hotel as a US vice president.

What tech do you travel with and why?

Concur Technologies' Matthew Goss Image: Concur Technologies

Living in Australia and travelling a lot internationally, you need a particular set of travel gadgets just to get you through those horrendous long-haul flights. Aside from the usual gear (work laptop and Motorola Razr smartphone), I always take a battery extender.

You can never have too much power. Not only does it ensure I don't end up running on empty during the flight, but it comes in handy when I'm travelling and don't have easy access to a charger. Bose noise-cancelling headsets are also a must-have for the plane.

As a radio lover, another favourite gadget is a portable rechargeable speaker that lets me tune into Sydney stations while I'm away.

What tech do you miss from home?

Home theatre, more than anything! Our home theatre system is fully connected with the works: cable, Apple TV, surround sound. I love to relax and watch a show at the end of the day with my family, and I really miss the experience when I'm overseas.

What tech do you love abroad, where and why?

Lately, I have found myself downloading Android apps from Google Play every time I visit the United States. A lot of great apps aren't available in Australia, so it's good to stock up while overseas. My latest download was ETrade, a nifty trading and investing tool. MobileDay is another great one, and helps me quickly manage all my conference calls while on the go.

Most memorable travel story/experience?

My most bizarre travel experience occurred in Redmond, Washington. I was sitting in my hotel room when I noticed some movement outside the window. When I went to check it out, I saw two guys in camouflage setting up a machine gun on the ledge outside my room. Needless to say, I vacated the room pretty quickly.

It was only when I bumped into the secret service in the hallway that I found out why the security was in place; the US vice president was also staying in the hotel.

Personal travel advice/tip?

After years of forgetting to bring various things with me while travelling, I downloaded a packing list app. I can't praise it enough. It helps me to remember what items I need to take with me, and automatically tailors the list depending on the type of trip I am embarking on. Not only does it combat my forgetfulness, but it is a huge time saver when you're in a hurry.

How do you deal with jet lag?

The key to fighting jet lag is in the first night's sleep after the flight. I always avoid the tempting mid-afternoon nap, and hold out to for a proper night's rest. I also try to remember to set my phone on silent, as there will inevitably be calls in the middle of the night from people who don't realise I'm in a different time zone.

What (if any) travel websites do you use?

TripAdvisor is an oldie, but a goodie. I'm always interested in what other people have to say about where I travelling to, especially in cities where I don't know many people. It has helped me discover some great restaurants and cafes over the years.

What tech is in your briefcase?

A battery extender for my smartphone — I don't go anywhere without it. Funnily enough, more often than not, I am saving others from the dreaded flat phone syndrome. It's a great way to make friends for life!

What was your biggest travel disaster?

While travelling to the US with my family for a holiday, we were told our connecting flight to Seattle had been overbooked. Thankfully, we were offered even better seats on an alternative plane that was about to leave.

We thought this was great news, but unfortunately, what they didn't tell us was that the alternative flight was a twin-propeller aircraft that subsequently made about five stops on the west coast while on the way to Seattle. It took about three hours longer than expected. Our kids travel well, but that really tested their patience.

Is there one thing you must do before you leave home?

When I am travelling internationally, I compulsively check I have my passport. I usually check this about five times. I did forget to bring it once, and that is one experience I never want to relive.

What is the best airport you've visited and why?

I am a big fan of Sydney International Airport. It's hard to beat the ability to park the car so close to the airport, and the business lounges are great quality in comparison to other airports.

Where is the best place you've been for duty-free tech shopping?

It would be a toss-up between Hong Kong and Singapore. Both offer plenty of choice when it comes to tech purchases, and the prices are great, especially in comparison to Australia.

What tech do you expect in hotels when you are travelling?

I am constantly surprised by how many hotels have pretty poor wi-fi coverage in their rooms. For me, a strong wi-fi signal strength in the rooms is non-negotiable, especially when I'm travelling for work.

What is your dream travel tech to have on planes/in airports/at hotels?

Having so many long-haul flights, I look forward to the day when wi-fi is available on all international flights, so I can keep up to date and avoid facing a backlog of emails and voicemails after landing in my destination. Being disconnected while in transit is definitely a hassle for me.

Favourite site to use while travelling?

I am a news junkie, so I always keep a close eye on the Aussie news sites no matter where I am in the world. There is nothing worse than coming home and being completely out of the current affairs loop!

Favourite destination city to work/visit and why? (In relation to technology.)

I always enjoy the Seattle area. There is the beautiful city, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier as a backdrop. It's hard to beat a Friday afternoon in summer down on Lake Washington on a friend's boat. Visiting Washington is always a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues and keep abreast of company news, too, as our headquarters is located in Bellevue.

Name one thing you wish your iPod/phone/laptop could do that it doesn't do now?

Without a doubt, I wish there was a way to turn on data roaming on my smartphone while travelling, and not be punished with an exorbitant phone bill on my return. Surely the day will come!

Which airport would you prefer to be stranded at and why?

I am no stranger to being stranded in airports. I've been marooned at LAX, San Francisco, and Narita in Japan.

While it's never exactly pleasant to be stranded in an airport, Narita was the best of the three; the Delta lounge is really nice. I was able to take a shower, eat some delicious sushi, and the lounge also has an incredible beer machine that pours the perfect glass of beer.