As someone who travels often, I am always on the lookout for travel tips that will make the travel portion of my life just a little bit easier. In 2017, with the exception of October, I managed to go out of town at least once every month for the entire year. (And that exception was only because I gave up several travel opportunities that month in order to intentionally spend a month at home.)
I said before I retired that I envisioned retirement to involve LOTS more travel and writing – and so far that’s exactly what “retirement” has been like for me. So it should come as no surprise that 2018 is shaping up to be another year with frequent trips. And since I spend a lot of time traveling, that means I also spend a lot of time preparing for those travels.
In a previous blog post, Tips for Packing Light and Traveling Smart, I shared some of my favorite travel tips (including using packing cubes, packing light, and choosing a good carry on). Today I would like to share several other tips which you may find useful in your travels.
1. Trip Specific Items
With so much time spent traveling, I own a lot of things specifically for traveling – the packing cubes I mentioned in the last post, the travel size extension cords, and a variety of European plug adapters, to name just a few. I certainly don’t want to have to go looking for those every time I need to pack. So, most of my travel specific items reside in specific drawers in my dresser. (I started with one drawer and have slowly made it up to having three of my six dresser drawers now designated to those travel items.) It’s very easy to find those things every time I need them and I make a special point of returning them after every trip.
I need an extension cord so often that one of those actually resides in the case for my CPAP machine – always ready to go, without my even thinking about it. (It resides there permanently along with a travel sleep mask.)
The second thing that has meant alot in keeping my stress level down with all the packing I do is a systematic amount of pre-packing. I have a conveniently placed horizontal surface in my room that I actually manage to keep fairly cleared off between trips. That surface becomes my collecting place for items that are joining me on my next trip. Depending on the length of the upcoming trip, at some point anywhere between two days and two weeks in advance (the longer the upcoming trip, the earlier I start), I make sure my horizontal surface is cleared of anything that has found it’s way there “temporarily.” And I start collecting items there that I know I’ll be packing, but don’t need between now and then. Maybe a book I’m taking to read, or my travel hat, or some other particular item.
Well in advance of a trip I try to pack the supplements and prescriptions I’ll be taking along (one of the most critical things to NOT forget on any trip). My first vacation out of the country, about ten years ago, resulted in a $100 mistake when I had to have a family member express mail my forgotten blood pressure medicine to Panama. I can easily replace almost anything else I might forget, but those items are critical – so the sooner they have been prepacked the better.
I usually find myself doing laundry a few days before a trip and the clean clothes that I’m going to pack from those loads go straight onto my pre-packing surface. The more decisions I can make in advance, the happier I am.
3. Using Packing Lists
Speaking of decisions, I cannot even imagine preparing for my constant trips without my ever present packing lists. I have a generic list that I have been tweaking over the last many years. For most major trips, that generic list gets copied and then modified to fit that particular, upcoming trip. If I’m I’m traveling in January, I seldom need to include any capris. If June or July, I may only need a pair of jeans. For cruises, I generally pack my preferred “dressy skirt and blouse,” and for almost any other trip, it’s just some version of casual. Because I always prefer to pack light, even the amounts don’t change much – maybe I’m only taking four tops on an upcoming four day trip instead of my usual five – but the basics are fairly standard from trip to trip.
By now I’ve packed and repacked my suitcase often enough that I can do most of it without the list, but I still find it’s a good idea to confirm that I’ve not forgotten something important. (Like the pair of pjs that were among the very last things to be packed on a recent trip to Texas!)
4. Dealing with Last Minute Stuff
In spite of my constant travels and my preference to do things in advance as much as possible, there are always things I have to do at the last minute. Things like packing the CPAP machine, and charging the electronics one last time, generally have to be done the day before or the day of departure. Because of that and my amazing ability to forget more things these days than I remember – I almost always have a list (often connected to an alarm) for the “last minute stuff” I have to pack and to do. As long as I can remember to check the list, things are generally in good shape!
I hope these suggestions are helpful. Feel free to share anything important I’ve left out of this post and the last one with travel tips.