I recently returned from a three-week trip to Europe. And I had the best time! I started in Florence, Italy and, after a few days, went to Rome to catch a ship for an amazing fifteen-night Mediterranean and Transatlantic cruise.
While this was not my first trip to Florence nor my first cruise, it was probably the longest time I’ve been out of the country. My desire was to pack something different for each day and for every dinner aboard ship. But, that’s not realistic.
As I reflect on past travels, both as a Corporate Road Warrior and during vacations, taking that much with me is hard to handle—especially if I have to manage all of it by myself!
I think the trip that taught me the most was a trip to Africa where I could only bring a TOTAL of 45 pounds of baggage; 15 pounds of which was carry-on. And I had to use a duffel bag. My favorite carry-on bag, empty, is 8 pounds. Argh. I had to do some real rethinking of my whole packing strategy.
Packing Tips and Tricks
During those past adventures, I stumbled upon a few tips and tricks for sanity and survival.
Maybe you’ll find a few of them useful as well. Most of these are common sense, but they are worth repeating!
Pack common things together: make-up, hair care, clothes care, underwear, etc. This makes it easier to locate them in your suitcase. Packing cubes are invaluable for this effort.
Plastic zip-lock baggies are a lifesaver. They save other items from spills during travel and have lots of other uses during the trip. Remember to bring a pile of spares, too!
Don’t travel with nail polish. If you need it, buy it and leave it. It is NOT fun if it leaks in your suitcase.
Pour all liquids you do take into screw-top bottles and then put them in a zip-lock baggie. Look for dry alternatives for your supplies as much as possible.
Put a small toiletries kit in your carry-on with toothpaste, toothbrush, comb, facecloth, moisturizer, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and basic make-up for use inflight or at the other end. Remember the 3-1-1 rules!
Less is better. If you forget something (which always happens to me) you can always go shopping—even in Africa.
Bring a collapsible bag for purchases. I can’t tell you how many times I bought new bags until I figured this out!
Protect Your Valuables
Put your valuables (camera, smartphone, tablet, binoculars, jewelry, computer, etc. and their chargers) in your carry-on and keep an eye on it.
Put your credit cards and identification in a safe place that is not out of your control and is accessible to you alone.
If you are going overseas, wear a money BELT which is preferable to a neck pouch, as that is more visible and easier to get to. In it place any local currency you’ve brought (beyond your day’s needs), a copy of your credit cards, and a copy of your passport— just in case.
Notify your credit card company of your travel itinerary, otherwise they may refuse those out of town purchases or cash withdrawals!
Reduce bulk. Fill smaller containers with your personal products (shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, etc.) if you don’t need the full-size of any personal product and pack in your checked bag. While it takes a little extra preparation, you have a lighter load and more room for the important things (like souvenirs).
Bring a TSA lock. This allows you to lock your suitcase at your destination as a makeshift safe, even if you don’t lock it while you fly.
Bring only what you can manage. Wheeled bags are a blessing — if there isn’t a porter or a cart immediately available, you won’t be stuck.
Bring only comfortable shoes. If they are new make certain they are broken in. If you are doing a great deal of walking, make certain you can wear them for extended period of time and they are still comfortable.
Wear your bulkiest shoes. On the plane you can always walk around in your socks, or a pair of fold-up ballet slippers, and you’ll have more room in your suitcase.
Carry on your coat and wear your extra sweater if you are going to need it at your destination. This gives you more room in your suitcase and keeps you warm on the plane.
Pack your meds in your carry-on. In the unlikely event you and your checked bags are separated for a bit, your temper may flare but your health won’t suffer.
And remember: Be prepared (yes I was a Girl Scout) — but you can ALWAYS go shopping!
Have Fun! Bring your toys—your entertainment, including the sound-reducing headset.
No matter the reason we travel, whether for work or play, after hours on the road in cramped conditions can be stressful. My hope is that in thinking about some of these things in advance, your trip will be more carefree.
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With wishes of future adventures and safe travels,