“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
For all the work-related travel and vacations I’ve clocked over the decades, I’m not a great traveler. Don’t get me wrong, once I reach my destination, I’m the first one to order a cup of English breakfast tea or a glass of full-bodied red wine, sit back and wipe the tears of gratitude from my eyes for the opportunity of some much-needed me time (or if I’m really lucky… some we time with my husband.)
Actually, it’s the build up to leaving for the airport that takes me to my knees. I’ve raised kids for almost 40 years and still feel guilty every time I leave my family. In addition, anticipating all my needs (both real and imagined) while away is always a burden. The stress over what to pack and what to leave home has the potential to turn me into a very irritable travel companion.
For example, I used to travel with multiple over-sized suitcases taking everything I might possibly need. Changes of shoes for every outfit. Multiple handbags. Fabulous accessories for each change of clothes. Half the time at least one of the suitcases never made it to my destination on the same flight I did. And most of what I packed never got taken out of the suitcases.
Only gradually did I realize that what I was trying to do was take all of the surprise and spontaneity out of travelling. I wanted to control the trip as tightly as I could. Only when the itinerary and schedule were as tight as possible, could the chance of an unwanted or unexpected event be reduced to near zero. Of course, this approach to travel was folly. All I was doing was exhausting myself and making everyone (including me) miserable.
Over time, I’ve learned to relax when traveling. You travel to discover another place and through that experience, also discover something about yourself. You can’t do this when you’re weighed down by baggage, irritability and stress.
Given these wonderfully rich travel experiences, the most important advice I can give you is to travel lightly, but comfortably as possible. In travel, as in life, less is more. You want to keep the packing ritual as simple as possible. You want to make your check-in and flight as easy and pleasant as possible. You want to arrive at your destination free of stress and ready to conduct business or pleasure with aplomb. So in order to take the travail out of travel, let’s talk about uncomplicated actions you can take to make your next trip a walk in the park.
1. Get Organized
My travel planning always begins with a comprehensive list of the days I’ll be gone and the clothing I plan on wearing each day. Include swimsuits, exercise gear, a dressy evening look and your intimate under apparel. From this point I begin to cut back and simplify. Start here and I promise that nothing will get left behind.
2. Maximize Clothing Choices
Stick with neutral clothing. By combining simple and elegant black, brown, navy or grey with neutrals or neutral prints, you’ll have a travel wardrobe that’ll stretch for miles. Remember all neutrals coordinate, and it’ll make your life a whole lot easier to not second guess your choices. Plus I never go anywhere without a great pair of jeans – the most versatile neutral.
3. Photograph Your Outfits with Accessories and Shoes
Once I’ve made my selections, I get dressed in the entire ensemble and have my husband photograph it. This ensures several things: first of all, the outfit fits, nothing is dirty, ripped or torn, and I have a record of the outfit, accessories, shoes, and any handbag choices. When I reach my destination, I can scroll through my phone and decide what I want to wear on any day. It’s a real time saver. Plus you are creating a record of great outfits for future travel.
4. Wear Things More Than Once
Make things work for you more than once. Store accessories such as jewelry, sunglasses, or electronics cords within your clothing. They won’t get tangled up in each other, and you’ll avoid packing extra organizational containers. You can separate everything when you arrive at your destination.
5. In Doubt – Leave it Home
If you haven’t worn it, used it, or touched it in the last month, (with the exception of seasonal wear like swimsuits or ski wear) it doesn’t need to go with you. Think minimal. No, even more minimal than that. This should be a travel rule with very few exceptions.
6. Avoid Checked Luggage
If at all possible, take what you need in your allotted carry-ons. Avoiding checked luggage will save you a ton of time waiting on the rotating conveyor belt, and you don’t have to stress about anything getting lost. Rely on your hotel’s laundry to clean your neutral pieces. You’ll spend on laundry what you saved by not having to check heavy luggage, so it’ll be a wash (literally and figuratively).
7. Check Ahead for Airline Weight Restrictions
If you’re going on a long trip and luggage is necessary, invest in a two-sided suitcase on wheels. Yes, it’s heavy but heaving one suitcase around is better than two. Be sure you check in advance for your airline’s checked baggage weight limits. Every time I travel, I can’t help but sympathize with travelers of all ages who are on the floor in front of the check in counter pulling the heaviest items out of their luggage and frantically stuffing it in their carry ons trying to eliminate the costly up-charge for overweight baggage.
8. Use Smart Travel Accessories
Use one of the new press-and-seal wraps to ensure you don’t lose tiny items such as jewelry or pc accessories such as your mouse dongle. Place the items on one side of the wrap, and then simply fold the wrap over onto itself. Now nothing can get lost!
9. Get Some Great Wheels
Only purchase luggage – from carry-ons to full-sized suitcases – with wheels. There’s no reason why you should be carrying anything but a handbag these days. Invest in a great set of wheeled luggage with a wide wheel base for less chance of tipping. And lo and behold, I just saw wheeled, carry on luggage with built in battery chargers for all your USB devices.
10. Avoid Spills
Any beauty care item or toiletry with a flip cap needs to have plastic wrap under the cap. Remove the cap, put a small piece of plastic wrap around the opening, and screw the cap back up. This way, if something happens to pop open in your bag, it won’t get all over everything else. As a final precaution, double zip-lock your toiletries to keep everything protected.
11. Stay Connected Without Spending a Fortune
Invest in a small, portable hot spot. Don’t pay for expensive airport internet. Bring your own hotspot and choose a pay-as-you-go plan, and you’ll only have to pay for your internet when you use it.
12. Smart Water Storage
Instead of buying water to drink at the airport, choose a refillable water bottle with a filtration system built in. You’ll find you use this a lot when you travel, and at home, too.
13. Medication Must-Haves
Keep a tiny emergency plastic bag with enough medications and supplements for two days. Even if you keep these bottles in your carry on, if anything should happen to it, you’ll still be able to keep to your medication and supplement schedule. I can’t tell you the times I’ve booked a seat in the front of coach but because of the way the airlines’ load passengers, I’m one of the last people on the plane. Overhead compartments are full and my carry-on gets taken from me and sent back down into the belly of the plane.
14. Pack Healthy Snacks
My grandparents used to regale us with stories of walking five miles to school in the snow every day. I tell my children of a time when everyone on the airplane was served a full meal on a tray! Oh those good old days! I always pack my own travel snacks – a combination of healthy nuts and seeds, and dried cranberries and raisins in a zip lock storage bag. It’s a filling alternative with both protein and fat to keep yourself fuller longer and so much healthier for you than salt-drenched airline snacks.
15. Keeping Warm
Both airports and airplanes are downright freezing and it doesn’t matter the destination. For example, Miami is one of the consistently coldest airports I’ve ever been in. So I always travel with an extra pair of warm socks and a cashmere shawl that I can wrap around myself as an extra layer. Once on board, my shoes come off and the socks keep me toasty the entire trip. My shawl doubles as a blanket if it’s really uncomfortable.
16. Carry-On Bag Smarts
My carry-on “purse” is my life saver. This is my second allowable bag, in addition to my small travel suitcase. I always pack a large, over the shoulder carry-on into which I place my purse, travel documents, two days of medications, phone with chargers and earbuds (in its own zip lock bag), reading material, snacks, warm socks, eye drops, essential oil germ killer (like Thieves oil), two pairs of reading glasses, and my noise cancellation ear phones. I tie my cashmere wrap around the shoulder straps and I’m prepared for almost any challenge.
Must-Have Travel Accessories
17. Overseas Travel
If you travel overseas frequently, or even if you’re simply making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to another country, make sure you have at least two universal adaptors on hand. You’ll regret not having a way to charge your devices when you’re away and have to pay an arm and a leg for them.
18. Disconnecting in the Most Polite Way Possible
Large, conspicuous noise canceling headphones are an absolute necessity. Especially if you travel a lot for business, there’s nothing quite like massive over-the-ear headphones to wordlessly say, “Now’s not a good time for a chat.” Even if you don’t feel like listening to music, noise-canceling headphones can help you tune out the noises of travel and focus on work, or they can help you sleep.
19. Length Matters
Whether you’re an iPhone or Android lover, before you leave on your trip, purchase a longer-than-normal charging cord. Hotels notoriously have difficult-to-reach outlets, so a six-foot-long charging cord will help you keep your phone (or device) charged and right at your bedside.
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If you’re traveling for pleasure, plan ahead, reduce what you bring with you to the very minimum, and expect the unexpected, and you can reduce your stress while being present to enjoy the moments and memories you’re creating. Enjoy the experience from the moment you begin planning all the way through the trip.
Take it from me, once you begin traveling with grace and ease the world truly becomes your oyster!
How do you manage travel? What are your favorite travel tips? Or what are some of the biggest travel gaffs you’ve encountered? I can’t wait to hear from you!