Travel is on my mind these days, mainly because I’m leaving on a cruise in a couple of weeks. I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at packing, so I thought I’d share some of my best travel tips with you.
My Top 10 Travel Tips
1. Teach your kids how to pack. My kids have been packing for themselves since they were about seven years old. Naturally, I’d have to supervise somewhat, but they did the bulk of it.
What I taught them to do is to them lay out a “Clothes Kid” on the floor. A Clothes Kid is like the Flat Stanley version of a kids outfit. They start with the shoes, then lay out the clothes all the way up including underthings. It’s easy for kids to visualize that way.
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. Now they have a perfectly organized outfit to wear for each day! All they have to do is add in a bathing suit, a jacket, something to sleep in, and a toothbrush and they are travel ready. This is totally one of my BEST travel tips!
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 any time I’m taking a trip, I grab my prescription meds and a little jewelry and I’m good to go.
4. Plan for the unexpected. Both for the weather and for anything else. Nothing is worse than being freezing or roasting to death, so I pack layers to plan for any type of weather. Whatever is the most bulky – jacket, walking shoes, etc. I end up wearing on the plane to save suitcase space.
I always have a little bag 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. My Boy Scouts also use Tic-Tac containers for the spices in their mess kits – those little things are handy!
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 exactly 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. I’ve got some velcro handle covers in bright dayglo orange so I can instantly identify all my bags.
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. Have a good security strategy. If you’re flying, that security screening can be so invasive. Now you can sign up for that TSA Pre-Check thing and that’s not a bad idea. My strategy is to wear minimal jewelry, double check my purse for no-no items (like embroidery scissors, or my son’s Scout knife), and choose shoes that are easy to slip on and off. I don’t usually carry much in the way of lotions or liquids, but once in a while, I forget about that 3 oz rule.
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 also did that when 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. Get Your Paperwork Together. Before I even go out the door, I have printed up copies of my full itinerary and hotel confirmation and any other info I need. You never know when your phone is going to get lost of broken.
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 travel tips: 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!