Travel is on my mind these days, mainly because I’m leaving on a cruise in a couple of weeks. I’m like to think that I’m pretty good at packing, so I thought I’d share some of my tips with you.
1. Teach your kids how to pack. My kids have been packing for themselves since they were about seven years old. Which means, they should probably have the hang of it by now! However, I still end up having to supervise to some degree or other. What I do is to have them lay out a “clothes kid” on the floor. A clothes kid is like the Flat Stanley version of a kids outfit, all the way from the shoes clear up to the shirt, including the underthings. So if we are going for a 5 day trip, they make 5 clothes kids. Then I inspect them for appropriateness for the weather and the occasion. Once they pass muster, we roll each one up and secure it with a rubber band. Instant outfit for each day! Then they just add in a bathing suit, a jacket, something to sleep in, and a toothbrush and they are travel ready.
2. Coordinate and multi-purpose your outfits. For simplicity of packing, stick with a color theme, such as black and white with grey. That way you can pack fewer clothes and pair them up in different ways. I have several lightweight cardigans that I can wear for warmth, or to dress up an outfit and also some lightweight cotton shirts that I can wear over a tee for extra sun protection, or dress up with an embellished tank or T-shirt for dinner. I try to make my shoes do double duty also – I like fancy ballet flats that can go with jeans or a shirt and are comfortable enough if I’m doing some walking.
3. Simplify your toiletries. I keep my toiletries bag permanently packed with a lot of the items I know I will need for a trip – comb, extra toothbrush & toothpaste, 3 oz. bottles filled with my preferred brand of shampoo and body wash. Then I can mostly grab and go and just add in some jewelry and a few other odds and ends at the last minute.
|Photo credit: Stock.xchg by PurdyWurdy|
4. Plan for the unexpected. I throw together a little mini medical kit with a variety of common over the counter remedies – Tylenol, Imodium, Tylenol PM, bandaids for blisters, Neosporin, some anti-itch cream, etc. I put them in Tic-Tac containers (labeled), or their own blister pack, or cello-wrap and fit them into a ziplock bag.
|Photo credit: Stock.xhcg by lcs9|
5. Properly label your bags. Be sure your address and cell phone number (your home phone isn’t as helpful in this case) is both inside and outside your suitcase. If you have the stereotypical black bag that looks like every other black bag, you’ll want to add a bright ribbon or something to help you find it instantly on the baggage carousel. Then snap a picture of it with your cell phone camera. If your bag is misplaced, you can show the baggage claim people exactly what it looks like.
6. Manage your weight. No, not that weight, the weight of your luggage. In this day of luggage charges, you’ve got to pay attention to how you pack your suitcases. If you’re traveling with a spouse, you want to balance your items between the two suitcases. If necessary, you can wear some of your heavier things, such as your coat, and your bulkier shoes, like tennis shoes, even though it’s a nuisance during the security screen.
7. Speaking of the security screen (assuming you’re flying – it’s not as big a problem when you are driving!), we all have our own strategies for that. I wear minimal jewelry, double check my purse for no-no items, like embroidery scissors, or my son’s Scout knife. I don’t usually carry much in the way of lotions or liquids, but once in a while, I forget.
One important tip – double check the dates on your driver’s license or passport. My husband had an accident the day after my birthday, and I went to the airport to rent a car. Guess what – my license had just expired. I ended up spending the day at DMV instead – ugh. My son did that the last time we were on vacation for his birthday. We realized his license had just expired. Fortunately, we were driving, or we would have been stranded in California.
8. Pre-plan and pre-pack. I learned this lesson on my last trip. I messed up on setting my cell phone alarm and woke up an hour later than I expected. Fortunately, I had every single item packed up and waiting by the front door, including my laptop, cords, and toiletries, and I had already laid out my outfit for the plane. I still completely missed my plane, but I was dressed and out the front door in ten minutes flat without overlooking a single item!
9. Also in the pre-planning area, print copies of your itinerary and hotel confirmation, Mapquest your route from the airport to your hotel and anywhere else you plan to go. Leave emergency contact info with your neighbors and pet sitters, and make sure you have phone numbers and addresses for anyone you might want to visit, or might need to call in an emergency. You never know when you might have an accident, or when a natural disaster might occur. If someone is watching your kids, make sure they have a medical release for in case of an unexpected injury or illness.
10. Have fun. Just enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about getting the perfect picture, or having the perfectly planned and arranged vacation, just let the fun happen. And if something bad happens, shrug it off if you can. If your vacation is 90% good, and 10% bad, it can still be a pretty good vacation if you keep a positive attitude and do your part to keep things upbeat.
Bonus tip: Grab one of those large recyclable grocery bags. The kind that fold flat, so it won’t take up any room. Toss it in your suitcase or carry-on. It can be used as a dirty clothes bag, a beach bag, or as an extra carry on, if you overdo it on the souvenirs (as I’ve been known to do on occasion!)
PS: I got on YouTube last night and learned how to “ranger roll” my T-shirts. It’s supposed to take a lot less room and leave them without wrinkles. Go look it up!