In the last 2 months I have gone on 3 trips (2 domestic, 1 international) for either workshops or conferences. I have to say it has caused me to get fairly efficient at traveling and packing. I thought I would share my top 10 travel trips in case they are helpful for others.
- Make a packing list. This may seem a bit intense but this is my top tip out of all my tips that has helped me the most when it comes to staying organized and ensuring I bring just the right amount of needed items. For past trips I will write out my packing list ahead of time. After the trip I make notes of the items I did not use and any items I wish I would have brought. This helps me to customize my list a bit better for next time. Each trip is slightly different. Items I brought on my Europe trip are different than my Austin trip. However, for my Austin trip I was able to quickly scan over some past lists from Omaha and other similar locations to see what I might want to include. Besides bringing the basics (clothes, shoes, toiletries) you will want to think through the items related to what you will be doing on the particular trip. For my Europe trip I knew I would be doing a lot of walking and that it would be cold. For my Austin trip I knew I wouldn’t have much free time and it would be warm. When you write your packing list break the list apart into 2 sections: A) “to pack” B) “to pack day of”. An example of items on my “day of” list are: cell phone charger, packed lunch, empty water bottle, and make-up.
- Use suitcase organizers. I have been traveling 2-4 times a year for awhile now and I only just recently decided to purchase suitcase organizers. It is amazing! Especially for longer trips, like my Europe trip. For business trips I was able to organize my clothes by day. For personal/family trips I organize my clothes by type (casual clothes vs nice clothes). With the organizers it makes it easier to find everything without unfolding all your clothes.
- Pack your own lunch and snacks. There are two reasons I always do this. A) There is not usually healthy options at the airport/on planes B) The options they do have are overpriced and expensive. Some ideas for packing your lunch/snacks: Salami/Cheese/Cracker box (I use simple mills gluten free tomato basil crackers and then my little cracker sandwich taste like a mini pizza), Nuts, Fruit that keeps well (mandarins, apples, grapes), Meat sticks (I like Nick’s sticks which have super clean ingredients), and I always pack a couple of squares of dark chocolate. I put a freezer pack in a lunch box with my food and put it in my carry on and it keeps really well. You will be so happy when you pull out your delicious lunch on the airplane that you didn’t have to pay for!
- Bring an empty water bottle. Almost every airport has a filtered water station where you can refill your water bottle after you go through security. Don’t fall into the trap of spending $5 on a plastic water bottle. I try to avoid drinking out of plastic water bottles in general because they one-time-use plastics which are very bad for the environment and also they contain all kinds of estrogen disrupting chemicals that are bad for your health. If you forget to bring your water bottle or are unable to fill it then by all means by a plastic water bottle or whatever you need to do to hydrate yourself! But if you plan ahead and bring an empty water bottle you will have better tasting, healthy water and will spend a lot less money! If I can’t find a filtered water station then you can always try buying a coffee and asking them to fill it up. Whenever I am traveling with my family, we each bring our own empty water bottles. It’s also very useful for when you get on the plane because then when you are thirsty you don’t have to wait for the aircrew to bring you some in a super small plastic cup.
- Bring your sleep aid kit. Most people don’t sleep as well in a different place than they sleep in their own beds. Think through the items that will help you to sleep and bring those as part of your “sleep aid kit”. If I am traveling internationally and when I am not pregnant then I always bring melatonin and valerian root. On my last few trips I brought a natural sleep aid spray that was safe to use during pregnancy. Some additional items I like to keep in my sleep aid kit are: sleep right nose strips (in case I have any congestion) and black tape. I know you are thinking what in the world is black tape for. I sleep the best when the room is completely dark. Sometimes hotel rooms have all sorts of bright lights shining from clocks, microwaves, smoke detecters, etc. I just use a tiny piece of black tape to cover the light and it improve my sleep a ton. While I personally don’t do this, I have heard of others bringing their own pillow case cover or sheet that has familiars smells to help them sleep. Whatever items will help you get the best nights sleep you will want to bring, so you can enjoy your trip.
- Pack ahead of time. If you have an early morning flight, don’t trip and pack late at night the night before. This will stress you out and you will likely get less sleep because you are up late packing. Also, this doesn’t allow any flexibility if you find out you need some clothing article washed. If possible I will try to pack earlier in the day before I am leaving. If I am leaving during the week and am working during the day then I will try to start packing on an evening a full day before I am leaving and just leave the last minute items for the night before. Remember to leave a short list out for your “day of” items to grab at the last minute.
- Don’t overpack. If you check the weather ahead of time and plan out your outfits for each day, then there is no reason to overpack. Be reasonable with what shoes you actually need, as those are heavy and take up a lot of room usually. If you pack your suitcase 90% full, then you will have 10% room for any goodies you may end up bringing back. I always save a little room when we go on vacations or visiting family. For business trips I pack it full, knowing I won’t be bringing anything back.
- Bring plane entertainment. Don’t rely on the airplane having movies you will like or buying magazines from the airport. Think through ahead of time what your favorite entertainment is and then pack accordingly. I personally prefer to read, so I bring 1 book in my carry on and then I pack another book in my suitcase for the flight back. My husband prefers to watch movies, so he will download one the day before on his phone. Packing for kids could be a post all on its own, but for when I have my son with me, we will put activities in his backpack that he carries including: coloring books, crayons, threading activity, stencils, kids nature magazines, and small toy cars. While I am not a big fan of ipads for kids, airplane rides are the only times we allow our son to use one. We download a couple of pre-approved movies for him in addition to puzzle building apps.
- Research the food situation. If you are planning a family vacation you will likely be doing more research in addition to food including all the fun places you will be visiting. Even for the shortest business trips, I try to think through the food situation ahead of time. Will the hotel have complimentary breakfast? If they do, will there be items I can eat? I will google “best rated restaurants in ___city” and ‘gluten free friendly restaurants” and will check out the menu ahead of time and make a quick list of the different options. If we have an extended stay somewhere and our hotel or air bnb has a kitchen, then I will research where the closest grocery store is so that we can make some of our own items on some days to save some money and time.
- Research the transportation situation. Every city is different. What is the most used transportation service? How long do you have to wait for it? How much does it cost? When I was in London, I was able to take the tubes everywhere. When we were in Dublin we did a mix of walking, taxi’s, and for adventures across the island we bought bus and train tickets. When I was in Austin, it was a better value to get a rental car instead of relying on uber. However, the company for the rental car place highly matters in the service and headache, so do your research!
I hope this was helpful. Do you have any travel tips? Share below in the comments!