39 Tips for Simple and Efficient Travel Prep
“Trip enjoyment is inversely proportionate to the amount of crap (re: distractions) you bring with you,” according to Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek.
I love to travel. I love the excitement of the journey and the fun of the destination. But, I do not enjoy travel preparation. Recently my frequency of travel has increased, spurring me to research ways to reduce the stress and time it takes to prepare. This is obviously a popular and passionate topic among many of you because when I asked my friends and followers on Facebook for their top travel tips, I was blown away by the response.
Individuals responding to my request for “top travel tips and tools” include those who travel frequently for business, with large families, internationally and more. Below I have gathered and organized all of these amazing tips along with a few of my own. You will learn what to do before you go, what to pack, and how to pack efficiently. Credit has been given for those tips that were submitted. Thanks to all who took the time to share!
Before You Travel
- Scan your important documents in case you lose the paper. Better yet, use a travel app to store frequent flier numbers, boarding passes and other travel information. Most apps allow you to email confirmations directly to the app and to receive notifications of delayed or cancelled flights. TripIt comes highly recommended by Billi Hunt and Grace Van Cleave, while Ingrid Guttin recommends using Tripcase or your airline’s unique app.
- Call ahead to your hotel to make sure they have internet access. Ask that they put you near the router for a stronger signal (from Your Social Success).
- Create a contact list for those at home so everyone knows where you are and who to contact in case of an emergency. In addition, be sure to have important numbers with you while you travel, e.g. vet, doctor, pharmacy, neighbor and plumber (from Athenée Mastrangelo, Action Chaos).
- If you have children at home, complete a Child Care Authorization Form which authorizes named persons to provide medical care while you are away (from Ann Dieleman). Becky Ackerson Stark recommends having it notarized, sealed in an envelope, along with the doctor’s and dentist’s business cards and an insurance card, and labeled “EMERGENCY.”
- Stop your newspaper delivery and use the Hold Mail Service offered by the United States Postal Service (from Regina Lark, A Clear Path).
- I’m almost afraid to let this one out of the bag, but…Apply for TSA Pre-Check! For $85, you can avoid the long security lines, keep your shoes on and your laptop can remain in its bag. After receiving your Known Traveler Number, it is good for five years. It’s amazing!
There seems to be two camps in the packing arena – either “Yah, I check a bag. Is there another option?” or “ABSOLUTELY DONT CHECK A BAG”. Those that don’t check bags feel it saves time at the airport and minimizes the risk of a lost or delayed bag. I recently challenged myself to travel without checking a bag for the first time. The key is packing efficiently, and many of the tips I used are shared below. While I do agree that having only two carry-on bags saved time at the airport, I was cursing that extra carry-on as I ran from a delayed flight, across the airport, to catch my connection. There are pros and cons to each option, so you need to decide which works best for you. Below is a list of packing tips that covers both options.
What to bring:
- Invest in good quality, lightweight luggage. If you check it, be prepared for it to get wet and/or dirty. Tie on a bright or unique luggage tag or ribbon to easily spot your bag on the carousel.
- Research the bag and weight requirements for your airline. Be prepared to remove items from a checked bag to avoid the additional charge for overweight bags. Smaller planes will require you to check your carry-on bag when boarding, so also be prepared to remove any items you will need on the plane. Consider sticking a soft, foldable bag in your purse or briefcase for this reason. (from Lori Rubin, South Bay Closet Lady, and Kim Oser, Need Another You)
- Wear slip-on shoes (from Herb Wamboldt). Or, Lisa Montanaro from Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises recommends bringing a pair of booties or small socks to slip on before going through security. Then, you don’t have to step barefoot onto the dirty floor. You can also avoid taking your shoes off with TSA Precheck (see suggestion above). Wear your heaviest shoes and pack the rest.
- If your electronic requires a 3-pronged outlet, bring an adapter in case there is not a 3-pronged outlet available in a convenient location (from Your Social Success). (Note that this will disable the safety feature that protects you from electric shock if a wire comes loose.) In addition, a universal adapter may be needed if traveling out of the country (from Lori Rubin).
- Choose a simple color scheme for clothing. For example, pack black pants, skirt or suit with any color tops. Then, you can mix and match different outfits and require less shoes and accessories (from Athenée Mastrangelo and Ann Dieleman).
- For the ladies, pack a light pashmina in a neutral color in case it gets chilly on the plane or in the terminal (from Natalie Conrad, Organized Habits).
- Pack a long extension cord so you can have access to electronics anywhere in the room (from Monica K. Cogger). Kim Oser recommends a multi-outlet extension cord for even more flexibility.
- Ellen Faye from Ellen Faye Organizer recommends packing a couple of medium Command Hooks and Command Strips in your travel kit. Then, you can hang your travel kit in the bathroom if there isn’t a logical hook. This is also a great idea when traveling with a larger group as there never seems to be enough hooks for towels and wet swimsuits.
- Consider small gum or candy containers for storing smaller items such as Q-tips and bobby pins (from Anjeanette Newville).
- Bring a list of your prescription medication, including dosage, and a copy of the prescription. Also, pack a few extra days worth for delays and emergencies (from Lori Rubin).
- Free up luggage space by packing a travel multi-outlet like the Belkin SurgePlus 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger Surge Protector with Dual USB Ports. You can recharge your electronics with the USB ports and leave the charger adapters behind. In addition, if you are at the airport and the outlets are full, ask someone if you can plug in your multi-outlet and it gives three more people a place to charge (from Kim Oser).
- Pack ear plugs in your carry on for the plane. Lisa Montanaro recommends EarPlanes to not only block out noise, but to help equalize the air pressure upon takeoff and landing.
- Ladies: Bring a smaller, cross-body purse for safety and lighter walking. Once at your destination, keep your wallet and passport in your hotel safe. Carry only one credit card, a bit of cash and a copy of your passport (from Lori Rubin).
- Use a checklist app on your mobile device to check off packed items while preparing to travel, uncheck them as you unpack upon arrival, then check them off again as you prepare to return home. You might have different checklists for different types of travel. Judith Guertin, All Ways Organized, recommends the Wunderlist app.
- Stock and restock your toiletry bag after every trip so there’s no last minute scramble (from Nicole Chamblin, Visions Productivity Solutions). Billi Hunt also keeps her make-up bags fully loaded with personal beauty needs. She recommends putting any new cosmetics in your travel bags. Then when you run out at home, you can use the packed items to replace, restock with new and know that your stored travel products will not get old.
- Store all chargers, cords, jump drives and other technology in zipper bags or pouches in your carry on (from Ann Dieleman and Ellen Rubin Delap, Professional-Organizer.com).
- If you check a bag, be sure you have important items in your carry-on bag, such as a change of clothes, medications, electronics and valuables (from Lori Rubin). You may also want to pack a swimsuit, cover-up, flip flops and a trial sized sunscreen if heading to a warm weather destination. Then if your checked luggage is lost or delayed, you can still enjoy the beach or pool while waiting for it to arrive (from Kim Oser).
- Use shower caps on shoes to protect clothing from any dirt on the soles.
- Avoid tangled necklaces by putting them through plastic straws and clasping them.
- Put a dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep your clothes smelling fresh.
- If you check bags, unscrew bottle caps, put saran wrap over bottle openings and replace lids to prevent leaks from change in air pressure.
- Pack for each day. For example, use a large Ziploc bag for each complete outfit. After wearing, put it back in the bag to store the dirty clothes. It’s easy to “file” the outfit bags in your suitcase and can save space. (from Regina Lark and Athenée Mastrangelo)
- Put small amounts of select toiletries (such as lotions, gels and creams) in small carrying containers to minimize the space needed in the required quart-sized baggie for carry-ons. Typically, only a very small amount of the bottle or jar is needed. Consider using snack-sized baggies that are rolled or folded. Kristie Roehr Sigler also recommends contact cases as a small storage solution.
- Ask your hairstylist for samples of your favorites (one sample typically has 2 uses in it). Look for makeup, lotion and perfume/cologne samples at a makeup counter. You can easily fit 1+ week of sample packets in your liquids bag.
- Never pack a bulky blow dryer as most hotels have them available.
- Fill a straw with toothpaste using a syringe. Cut the straw into sections and burn the ends closed.
- Pack belts and socks and other small items inside shoes that is otherwise dead space.
- Count out medications and put them in a baggie. Leave the bulky bottles at home.
- Scale back your toiletry bag. Do you have items there that you don’t use daily?
- Some believe that rolling clothes when packing results in fewer wrinkles and a better use of space (from Ann Dieleman and Becky Ackerson Stark) while others prefer the bundling method as shown in this must-see video sent by David Jackson.
- Pack a lightweight, absorbant, quick drying towel such as this one from Waves.
- To avoid checking a bag, consider purchasing some of the larger items when reaching your destination. This will likely be less expensive than paying the fee to check a bag.
- If you are a very frequent traveller, Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek, shares some unique tips for travelling light in his blog: How to Never Check Luggage Again. Thanks to Tyler Osby for sharing.
Which of these tips will you try next time you travel? What additional travel tricks have you used? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below or get it touch at email@example.com.
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