Years ago, when I needed some me time, I’d fill a suitcase with books, oatmeal cookies, and doll clothes, then just get away from it all… down the street at my best friend’s house. I was six, but I’ve relished packing for adventure ever since.
They say the journey is half the fun of getting there. Well I say packing is a large part of that fun. After decades in the travel business, I’m naturally looking for ways to streamline the process. I rarely check luggage, so my suggestions are for the nimble, carry-on traveler.
Following are a few of my favorite tips:
Start the process early
A week before lift-off, I start selecting nominees for Wardrobe Most Likely to Travel. I hang the contenders out in my room so I’ll see them every day. By trip-time, I know who makes the cut and who stays home. (Sure, it hurts to be left behind, but that burnt orange ’60′s ski jacket will be there when I get back.)
Tip from Emilia: Check out the customizable Packing Pro app to streamline your details. (It’s the #1 travel app for iPad in the US!)
I pick three colors- black, white, and ? Then I ask myself, does every item at least go with one other item? If not, it stays home.
Hint: Third color options that work everywhere include khaki, denim, and tertiary or off-colors.
Rule Bending: Ok, sometimes I add a fourth color for accent, but I try not to mess up my system. Instead I use this tip: For local flair, buy it there. Seriously, it’s great fun to buy a new top or scarf on-location.
I always steer towards wrinkle-free fabrics like microfibers, Spandex, acetate, and polyester that double duty day or night. For example, black yoga pants balance perfectly between working out and going out.
Shoes can be heavy and bulky, so be extra critical here. Three pairs is my limit no matter the destination. On surf safari I could get away with just flip-flops for a whole week- a little exposed for SFO in February, but in Puerto Vallarta they fit right in.
Tip: I wear my heaviest shoes on the plane. I stuff the others with socks and underwear to keep their shape and pack them in freezer bags so they don’t share any odors.
When city-bound, I take shoes I can wear all day. If staying in a hotel with a gym or near a park, I pack lightweight cross-trainers. For a night out, black ballet flats can get a table by the window or make a mad dash for the subway.
And don’t forget to test your shoe choices against your travel wardrobe. You might not need those candy red pumps.
Tip: Never test new shoes on your trip or you could end up carrying a pair of unbearable wedges all through Europe.
Put your chargers and adapters in a clear freezer bag for easy retrieval.
I stopped packing little speakers since my iPhone plugs into the hotel clock radio. I might bring a short audio cable to plug in my phone for music, but no network cables because wi-fi is everywhere.
Important: Back up your data before you leave!
Tip: Put a sticker on your tech with your contact info in the event it gets left behind at the cafe.
I’ve hauled enough surfboards to know they’re big and bulky and the airlines have it out for them- at least $100 each way and a good chance you’ll get a serious ding. Now I just leave my board at home because I know Las Olas surf safaris has a complete rack of boards at the clubhouse.
It’s Packing Time
I love my wheelie luggage. It’s lightweight, spacious, and meets international carry-on requirements. I searched high and low before I settled on mine, but I wanted simplicity and style. I also carry an over-shoulder bag as my carry-on “purse”. It sits squarely on top of my wheelie for lengthy airport connections and waiting in lines.
I roll my clothes burrito-style to avoid wrinkles and reduce exposure to stains. If you use a wheelie, put the heaviest stuff closest to the wheels. That way it will stand up at the airport and hotel lobby.
Tip: If you turn a white shirt inside out before you roll it you just might save it from travel grime if it rubs up against something icky.
The TSA (airport security) is asking that we put our cosmetics in a separate clear plastic bag. That works for me- it’s my last line of defense against a leaky bottle of nail polish. Zippered packing cubes are becoming popular for organization, protection, and easy transfer to the hotel drawers. I use a couple for small items and toiletries.
I pack my toiletries and whatever I sleep in on top so I can grab just what I need for bed after a long journey. I’ll unpack in the morning.
Tip: Pack extra plastic zippered bags for returning home with wet swimsuits and laundry.
Most basic cosmetics and toiletries are available at your destination, so don’t fret it if you forget toothpaste. Do take a double supply of any special medications, contacts or extra eyeglasses, naturo- or homeopathic remedies, etc. and take those items with you in your carry-on.
Remember, any liquids containers over 3.4oz/100ml will be confiscated at airport security regardless of how much is left in the bottle. Get travel rated containers at the drugstore and transfer your liquids before your trip.
Don’t bring pocket knifes or multi-tools, nail clippers or files, or anything metal and pointy. If you wouldn’t run with it, it probably isn’t allowed in carry-on. Check here for a complete list of no-no items.
Tip: Pack a tiny water spritzer for a quick facial pick-me-up after that red-eye to Boston. Really refreshing.
Have some travel tips of your own? Please share in the comments below. Happy adventures!
See you in the waves,
Check back for future La Playa Post: Travel Security
Bev Sanders is founder and president of Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women and editor-in-chief of Jennifer’s Journey, online travel portal for women adventurers. She started surfing at 44 continuing her lifelong pursuit of introducing women to sports.