I don’t know about you, but I absolutely dread packing and unpacking.
It becomes the biggest ordeal and I lose absolute patience with it. I want to make sure I’m prepared for my trip, but I refuse to over pack. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fashion and dress for each occasion and activity, but it is imperative that everything earns its spot in my luggage. I start with good intentions that I’ll pack the day before, but really it ends up being an all-nighter or being in complete denial and waiting until the ‘day of.’ If you’re disciplined, I beg of you to do it the day before. You’ll be organized, good to go, and just have to dress for your travel. Ideally you should get as much sleep as you can before you leave and be as Zen as possible, but all you can do is your best.
Here are some musts:
1. I stress this……… be realistic about how much luggage you bring!!!!!
Make it as easy and doable as possible. Don’t be dictated by your things! Depending on your travel plans, if you’re traveling with anyone, and what your budget is, you are going to have to drag your luggage through transportation, security at the airport, fish it off of a conveyor belt, take it to the bathroom at the airport/train station, make your way to a hotel, etc. You are responsible for your bag. If you’re traveling solo, no one is going to be there to help you lift, carry, drag, or keep track of your bags (unless you’re ready to tip or put them in storage/lockers).
- Take one main bag. The size is up to you. Keep in mind, depending on your class of ticket, you are already paying for a maximum weight. The US domestic/international max is 45 lbs. Without getting into the art of repacking at the check-in counter, a fee will be charged for any overage. If you are traveling internationally and booked into an international airline, verify what their max is and do the converstion. I found on a trip from London to Dublin my prepaid max was only for 33 lbs . The overage was outrageous, so I worked some magic at the counter to reshuffle my 45 lbs check-in into 33 lbs.
- Take one carry on bag (stashed with your in flight survival/comfort stuff).
- Take one tote bag
- Take one coat (unless you can squeeze that into your luggage.
As your moving about, the beauty of this should be that your carry-on can balance on top of your main bag and you can roll that around as one unit. Then your tote can be slung on one shoulder as you cradle your coat. That’s it……that’s enough; you’ll find that even this can be a bit burdensome. I do utilize strong men and luggage lockers. Yes your cabby will help or there seem to be endless trolleys to cart around your stuff, but get real. A little here and there is fine, but if your journey is bogged down with having to “deal” with your stuff, it’s going to be stressful and an extra expense.
2. Sturdy vs. Pliable
Make sure your luggage is strong and sturdy, but make sure all the little bags that you tuck into it (makeup, toiletries, 1st aid, jewelry, etc) are soft and pliable. These bags are easier to negotiate into tight corners or smush into awkward gaps.
3. Carry On
Depending on how you’re traveling, it’s pretty universal that you want to be as comfortable as possible.
I pack a small zippered bag (about the size of thick phonebook) and squeeze in:
- Tracksuit, a pair of socks, flip-flops, a pashmina (which can act as a blanket)
- Earplugs & a night mask
- Wisp disposable toothbrush & makeup remover wipe.
I won’t sleep, but I can at least rest and people are less inclined to engage you in all kinds of small talk.
4. Bring a small 1st aid kit
I know, I know….overkill….but honestly, you never know what may come up and at least you’ll have ‘it’ – whatever that may be. It’s a cinch to pack because typically you’ll never use it and it’s already good to go – you just have to pop it back into your luggage.
Things like Tylenol, extra lip balm, cough drops, a small pen of Benadryl, and feminine supplies – it’s better to have a small selection with you then have to seek out the basics while on your trip. I use an envelope sized Eagle Creek zip pouch that easily packs into any nook and cranny.
5. Travel boredom survival kit
It’s not all glitz and glamour.
There are plenty of lines, awkward gaps of time to kill, endless commute times, and so on. Keep yourself engaged and it will help keep you calm and less impatient. If you have plenty of time and nothing to do, you’ll be stir-crazy before you know it. Traveling is invigorating but it is also exhausting, demanding of your time and patience, and if you’re not prepared it can wear on your last nerve.
Gadgets go a long way. But for the sake of being in transit, all of your power cords should be in your luggage (except for your laptop and possibly your cell) so you have to consider the life of your battery…and we all know they lie.
My boredom survival kit is divvied up between my tote bag and my carry on. Typically it includes:
- Laptop, cell, camera, & iPod
- Book, magazine, & journal
- Water and a snack (dried fruit/cereal bar)
- Something warm to wear (pashmina or a full on track suit).
Choose easy breezy books that are light weight. I’m not saying dumb it down, but when you’re killing time, you always have one eye and ear on the ready – so bringing a book that’s hearty, deep, and demanding of your attention may only further annoy you because you’ll constantly be rereading the same paragraph. There are plenty of murder mysteries, trashy novels, and biographies that will easily keep you engaged with out you needing to be engrossed. Grab a magazine that’s light weight and small. I’ve noticed that there are travel size versions of Vogue and Elle. They are perfect to thumb through and tuck into your tote without it becoming the “September Issue”.
6. Gadget Bag
Have one small bag to stash ALL of your gadget chargers and just keep them all together. Get over it, be realistic, and be prepared. The last thing you want to do is be clear across the country or in another country and not be able to get your hands on your cell charger. Just bundle the cords with a rubber band and stash them in a large zip lock bag (which will collapse into nothing) or a smaller zip bag. These days it’s ludicrous that each device seems to have it’s own unique power cord (unless you have an Apple….jealous). You may find it a hassle to haul it all with you, but be realistic about how long the battery life is going to be…..all batteries lie to you! A way around it could be using your laptop or grabbing a mini surge protector (that has both USB ports and regular prong outlets). That way the gadgets can all pull power off the same impromptu charging station.
7. Color Theme
Go for a color theme, that way you’ll be able to mix & match the majority of your wardrobe. Try Blues/Blacks/Whites/Grays or go for Cream/Denim/Greens/Khaki or maybe summery colors. The whole point is that a huge selection of pieces should complement each other, that way you get a lot more outfit options and mileage out of your clothes.
8. Extra Unmentionables
I pack one set of undergarments per day of the trip + 1 extra…….just in case…..you never know.
9. Create a “Shell Outfit”
Depending on the nature of your trip, pack pieces that lend themselves to being dressed up or dressed down. You can have a “shell outfit” of a nice pair of well-fitting jeans and your favorite tank top and either pair it with killer heels, statement earrings, pashmina, and a clutch or you can pair it with rhinestone flip-flops, a really soft plush hoodie, colorful headband, stud earrings, and a tote. I would rather bring more accessories than more clothes and be able to tweak a “shell look.” Accessories will weigh less, take up less space, and can define the look you’re going for.
10. Comfy Clothes
Depending on where you stand with PJ’s, bring at least 1 set of “comfy clothes.” This is 1 track suit outfit (hoodie, bottoms, tank top, and flip-flops or trainers) that is soft and cozy. This is ideal for the plane, for getting up early for a coffee/buffet/newspaper, or just lounging around your room. This is a go-to outfit that you know you’ll be comfortable in and don’t have to think about. It’s not go to wrinkle, you can look decent without having to worry about impressing anyone, and it’s easy.
11. Opposite Outfit
Bring one opposite outfit. You’ve scoped out the weather for your destination & you know what activities you’ll be doing, but you never know. I hate being really cold or really hot and not prepared for it. It’s misery! If your outfits are geared toward the beach, sun, hot & humid do yourself a favor and at least bring 1 jacket or 1 pair of jeans, closed toe shoes, and thermal – or vice versa. You never really know what it’s going to be like until you get there. I’ve been surprised more often than not and at least you have something to work with.
12. Arm & Feet Candy
Your shoes and purses should be even more versatile. They take up valuable luggage real estate and can pack on the luggage pounds.
For shoes, go for:
- 1 flip-flop
- 1 nice shoe (dinner, meetings, date)
- 1 walking shoe…..and I mean walking shoe
- 1 wild card (boot, athletic, slippers, etc).
These don’t have to be clunky or frumpy. I’m a fashionista but you need to get real. DON’T take a million options. Take 1 basic in a few categories. I don’t pack my statement shoes, I pack the ones that I can count on and that will go with damn near everything in that category.
For purses, I typically will be using my tote as a stylish all-purpose bag and will pack one alternative depending on what I’ll be doing. It could be a slender clutch, or smaller hobo, but regardless what it is, it should be versatile & complement a wide array of outfits. My go-to is a thin black leather clutch that has just enough texture to keep it interesting, but goes with practically everything and is easy to pack.
13. Prep Your Cell
Its becoming more common to have a smart phone. If you have one or even if you use a pen & paper organizer like a Filofax, make sure it’s good to go. I use a Palm Treo and utilize the calendar, address book, to-do list, alarms, and upload any vital documents on .pdf. Do yourself a favor and use it as your personal assistant.
- Pre-load the calendar with departure/arrival times, layovers, meetings, events, hotel check-in/out times, etc.
- I use the alarm feature as sort of a tap on the shoulder. I’m pretty organized, but I don’t sleep in cars/planes and am usually pretty worn out in the midst of my journey. Using the alarm feature will give you a 15 min/30 min/1 hour heads up without you having to obsessively check your watch.
- Take a moment to add any contacts, hotels, US embassy to your address book. In a worst case scenario, you don’t want to be shuffling and digging around trying to find the address or phone number or website. If you make a temporary category in your address book such as “Travel” or “UK Contacts” you can pre-load your cell with pertinent info. Maybe you’ll never use it, but at least it’s at the touch of a finger.
14. Keeping in Touch
I use alternate SIM Cards and Skype.
- I have an unlocked Palm Treo which was pricey, but it allows me to pop in a SIM card (that I picked up in that country) so that I can tap into a local network and still utilize all the features of my phone.
- I also take advantage of my wi-fi at airports, hotel lobbies, internet cafes and catch up with people via Skype. They have great rates and can be free if both parties use Skype. Skype even offers Skype To Go, which acts like a calling card. Once you set up an account and buy time, you can choose a local number which you then dial from any phone (so the initial call is considered local). Then all you are really doing is accessing your Skype account and then you can dial any number (international & domestic) and it will connect you.
Make sure you have the necessities:
- Passport & drivers license
- Tickets & confirmation pages
- Area/street maps
- Any medical card/info
- AAA card, travel insurance policy, etc.
It may sound like a lot, but really the cards pop into your wallet, the maps tuck into that zipper area on the front of the luggage that no one uses, and the actual sheets of paper can slide into a manila envelop or lightweight plastic sleeve which tucks into your tote.
- Notify your bank/credit cards that you will be going on a trip. They will make a note on your account so that any purchases you do won’t trigger their fraud prevention and freeze your card.
- If you’re an AMEX card holder, I believe you get fees waived for currency exchanges at AMEX counters, but you’d have to double-check.
- Typically I carry some US traveler’s Checks and local currency. Some things such as hotel or car rental will be reserved on a credit card. You have the choice of paying in a local currency once you get there. If you do so, it will be more cost effective because your US credit card will charge you a Foreign Transaction Fee (around 3% of purchase) and you’ll be at the mercy of the currency exchange.
- In your wallet, make sure to have about $100 in US & Foreign currency. The rest, along with any travelers checks, will be in a money belt on me. You don’t want to be flashing any cash. Don’t start rummaging around trying to organize your funds. Make sure that things are tucked away and try not to draw any unnecessary attention to your finances. If I’m in a pinch and am mid-trip, I will find a restroom, go into a handicap stall (perfect with all of your luggage) and sort through the money belt. Don’t be a target!
I know that they make travel size everything now, but take a moment to see what your hotel already carries. Most hotels will provide hair dryers and an iron. But if you want to bring a flat iron, curling iron, or hot rollers there are travel sized options for sale.