What’s your worst travel experience? Lost luggage…crappy hotel room…missed flights…Montezuma’s revenge? I once spent a night on a roll-away in a hotel meeting room in Hong Kong l because there were no rooms at the inn. Got so sick on Malaysian food that I lost five pounds in one day. Tagged along on a fishing trip to Alaska where nearly everything went wrong. But you know what? It all made for great stories, insight into my flexibility and my traveling companion’s ability to go with the flow. What’s your worst travel story and what did you learn from it?
Laze-about vacations are nice, no doubt about it. But a vacation that gives your thrills, takes off pounds, stretches your limits or gets adrenalin pumping is ever-so-much better. Read the article I wrote for InHealth magazine about great getaways that will have you patting yourself on the back for what you just accomplished instead of showing off your tan lines.
Read, imagine yourself there, then check out: river rafting and yoga with ROW; finding your inner cowgirl at Red Horse Mountain Ranch; hiking and soaking on the Olympic Peninsula; fine food and fitness at Mountain Trek; spinning your wheels on an Adventure Cycling trip; helping out on the farm at Sakura Ridge.
How to Pack Light
A week or so before departure, lay your clothing choices out on the bed. Do you see a rainbow of colors, a flower garden of hues, all the shades of a sunset? Enough clothes of a month of changes? Then you’re overdoing it.
Here’s a valuable lesson I’ve learned after years of not having the right stuff: if you choose well, you can wear the exact same clothes for most of the year in most places. Going to a cold climate? Add a warm jacket, wooly socks and scarf. Hot? Lighter weight everything, fewer long-sleeved tops and more short sleeved and/or tanks plus capris. The trick is layering, color coordinating and rolling.
The fact that I can pack three weeks of clothing, toiletries, a journal and a book in one carry-on suitcase plus a backpack is my personal badge of honor. I LOVE the independence of being able to transport everything myself and the security I get from knowing exactly where my belongings are at all times. And my husband is happy I can handle my own luggage when we’ve we boarded trains in Europe, wheeled along cobblestone streets in Florence or climbed long flights of stairs in ancient Monterosso.
Almost everything is wrinkle-resistant or wrinkle-free, so avoid taking clothing that needs to be ironed. Who needs to travel with the chores you normally do at home? Plus, many inns and hotels overseas don’t supply irons and ironing boards.
I’ve experimented with stacking and rolling clothes, and rolling definitely saves space. If clothes wrinkle, steam them in the bathroom during your shower. Stuff your shoes all the way to the toes with socks and underwear. Most rolling suitcases have little valleys inside because of the frame – use that half-inch deep space and pack in and around it. Snake your scarf or belt along the inside walls of your suitcase (better yet, wear them on the flight). Put heavy things along the side adjacent to the bag’s hinges. Fill spaces between clothes with tightly rolled pajamas.
Toiletries, meds and first aid supplies are covered in other blog posts. Here are some tips from my good-for-three-weeks wardrobe:
I wear this on the airplane:
Jeans (because they take up a lot of room in the suitcase)
Long sleeved top layered over a tank top
Jacket (depending on expected weather)
Necklace, earrings, watch (nothing valuable)
In the suitcase:
2 pair of neutral colored, casual slacks (active wear pants from REI, Title 9, etc are great)
3 long sleeved knit tops, colors interchange with pants
2 tank tops (wear solo or layer under other tops)
1 short sleeved plain knit shirt (also goes with the bottoms)
1 synthetic-blend lightweight jacket (matches everything)
1 pair walkabout shoes
1 pair flats
1 pair flip flops
2 lightweight scarves (these can keep your warm and change your look)
1 pair pjs
3 – 4 pair panties
3 pair regular or no-show socks (depends on your shoes)
1 pair black yoga pants (not too snug and voila, they even look dressy)
1 necklace (costume jewelry of no sentimental value)
2 pair of earrings (ditto)
1 hairdryer (with adaptors if needed)
Sweden in the winter? The tops are warmer and low-heeled boots instead of walking shoes, a warmer scarf and thicker socks, gloves and a pair of tights.
Maui, anytime? Modify with fewer long sleeved tops, more short sleeved or tank tops, a couple pair of shorts or capris and one pair of long pants, a bathing suit and cover-up. The lightweight jacket comes, too, because airplanes are notoriously chilly and I just might go to the top of Haleakala.
With obvious modifications, these lists will work for the guys, too. They are at a slight disadvantage because their clothes are usually bulkier and bigger than ours, but the same basic rules apply.
Shopping for Travel
A lot of my travel clothes are athletic wear because they mix and match so well, are quick-dry and can layer like crazy. Title 9, Athleta, REI, and Fableta carry day-to-day wear as well as gym clothes. More great finds (including quick-dry underwear) and travel supplies at: Magellan’s, The Territory Ahead, Ex Officio. For classic clothes that travel well, Land’s End, Soft Surroundings and J. Jill have great options.
Savvy travelers and road warriors have certain items they won’t leave home without. I polled my flight attendant friends, peripatetic buddies, travel writers and my own suitcase to compile this list. None of these things take up much space in your suitcase, and they all add to your comfort, safety and peace of mind.
Earplugs will drown out the chatter of the guy behind you on a long flight or muffle traffic sounds outside a noisy hotel room.
A sarong (lightweight cotton fabric) can be used as a shawl, beach cover-up, head wrap or an extra sheet. Choose a neutral color and save the Hawaiian prints for the tropics.
Dental floss has been used to secure a bag tag, loop a jacket closed, tie back a ponytail, hold down a flapping blind – oh, and floss teeth.
So has duct tape. Except for the ponytail and the flossing.
A clip-on-book light means you can read away the hours of jet lag-induced insomnia and your partner can keep sleeping. It doubles as a flashlight, too.
Re-sealing baggies, large and small, will store and segregate maps and receipts, travel documents, sandy shoes, wet bathing suits, snacks, the container you thought was leak proof, and much more.
A few safety pins and rubber bands.
Your very own, customized kit of emergency medical supplies. See Just-in-Case.
What will you never leave home without?