travel tips

I in no way consider myself an expert on travel, but I have figured out a few things along the way. I am usually in charge of packing and getting us out the door. Charles helps, but I am way too much of a control freak to let him be in control. I find myself much less stressed if I know, and am in charge of, what’s going on. (Don’t I sound like a treat?) Anyways, here are some tips to help ease the stress a bit and help you get ready for your trip.

  1. Start thinking about packing early. I start thinking about what I am going to pack about 3 weeks out. If I am going to a special event (like a wedding), I start thinking a little before that because I want to make sure that whatever I chose will travel well. I used to be the one with 2 oversized/overweight bags, and a huge carry on that was so stuffed that I couldn’t access anything. I was terrified that I would forget something or be without something that I needed, so I would just throw a bunch of stuff in my suitcases last minute. I now take time to plan out my outfits, and try to pare down as much as possible. I will check the weather once it is a couple of days out, and adjust accordingly. 
  2. Start packing a couple of days before your trip. This will give you time to make sure that everything is washed ahead of time, and ready to go. I check things off of my list as I go. Some things can’t be packed until the day of the trip. I put a star next to these items, so they stand out on my checklist.
  3. If you forget something, it’s probably not the end of the world. Most things can be easily and cheaply replaced, or you can figure out some way to live without them. An exception to this are medicines, contacts/glasses, and your phone.
  4. Pack crucial things in your carry on. The airline lost my luggage once, but I was lucky enough to get it back the next day. But it kinda sucked in the interim because I was without my glasses (I had worn my contacts on the plane). I can’t see at all without them, and my eyes were just tired by the end of the day of traveling. I now make sure to pack my glasses in my purse. I also like to keep simple makeup, some face cleansing cloths, my contact case, and a small thing of deodorant just in case. These can also be used to refresh yourself at the airport if you feel scuzzy after flying. I also like to bring some snack food in my purse in case I get hungry. It is much cheaper to buy it at the grocery store than at the airport. 
  5. Other carry on notes. Airplanes can be cold, so I like to bring a pashmina with me. You can wear it as a scarf, or use it as a blanket. I prefer this to an airplane blanket that probably was not washed. I enjoy reading, so I always make sure to have a couple of books on my e-reader. You can also carry on knitting needles, so I sometimes will bring a smaller project that I am working on. You can check with the TSA’s website to verify which crafting supplies can be brought aboard. If you are carrying on food, be mindful of the people sitting next to you. I took a bus from New York to Boston and was stuck next to someone who was eating something that can only be described as a seafood burrito. I’m sure that it was absolutely delicious, but it smelled something fierce. My dad frequently takes long flights for work, and swears by his noise cancelling headphones, so if you are planning on taking a long flight, they might be worth looking into.
  6. Confirm your flights/hotels/car rentals, etc before you leave. Thanks to booking online, it is easier than ever to set up your trip. I always make sure to call a couple of days before just to confirm. For this trip, I had booked our hotel room in March, so I wanted the peace of mind that my room was going to be there when we showed up. The last thing that you want to do is be scrambling to find a hotel room in an unknown location.
  7. If you are planning to rent a car, find out what your insurance/credit card covers. Check to see if your policy extends to rental cars or if you can add it to your policy. It seems like most credit cards also cover something, but it can be confusing what. By researching it ahead of time, you won’t be caught at the rental car place going “I think that I’m covered, but I’m not really sure.” It is also helpful to bring a copy of your insurance cards with you. I’ve read that some places require you to bring your entire plan, but these days most are available online, and I’ve never run into this. Also, if you are AAA member you usually can get discounts, and it also works for rental cars.
  8. Keep a hard copy of your itinerary/confirmations. Technology breaks & phones run out of batteries. I like keeping a physical copy of everything just in case something goes wrong. I usually just cut and paste the information so it is all grouped together, which also makes it much easier than trying to find an email from a couple of months ago.
  9. Let your parents or someone know where you are going. I always let my parents know if we are taking a trip in case they have to reach me for emergencies, or if we get stuck, we know that we can call them for help and it won’t be a total surprise. I also let our apartment manager know that we will be away, in case something goes wrong and they need to reach us. A trusted neighbor would also work.
  10. Try to leave your house as clean as possible. It can be tempting to just leave things messy as you are running out the door, but try to block off a little time to clean ahead of time. It makes the transition back into your everyday life that much smoother, and you don’t feel like you are already playing catch up the minute you get back. I also like to change the sheets the morning of, and make sure that we have clean towels.
  11. Check your refrigerator and prep your freezer. If there is anything that looks like it will spoil before you get back make sure to toss it before you leave. If the trip is relatively short, I’ll buy a small thing of milk that I’ll leave unopened in the fridge. That way we’ll have milk for the next morning for coffee and cereal. I also try to make sure that I’ll have some kind of freezer meal that can be easily thawed and reheated so we’ll have food to eat without having to go to the grocery store or going out to eat. I also leave an ice cube sitting by itself in the freezer. When I get home, I check to see if it looks like it melted at all. That way if the power goes out and then comes back on, I will know if any of the food has spoiled.
  12. Wash all dishes ahead of time. If you hand wash your dishes, do you really want to come home to really old dirty dishes? Yuck. If you have a dishwasher it can be tempting to throw a load in and start the machine as your walk out your door. However in the off-chance that something goes wrong and floods, you probably don’t want to come home to a flooded kitchen that has been sitting there the entire time that you’ve been gone.
  13. Research where you are going. This may seem obvious, but I find myself more and more dependent on using my smartphone to find restaurants or locations nearby. I tend to get home and realize that I’ve missed out on something that I wished that I had known ahead of time. We are both adventurous eaters, so we like to check out reviews and menus for some places to eat, and narrow it down to a couple that we would like to try. That way we aren’t completely clueless when it comes time to go out and find food, and end up a chain because we know what we will be getting, and it is easy. We like to wake-up and see what we feel like doing instead of completely planning out the trip ahead of time, but we do make sure to research the area so we have some ideas. You can also scope out some museums/attractions that you would like to see.
  14. Utilize your smartphone. I have my smartphone to push alerts based on my location, including weather alerts for major storms. Since we are traveling in the midwest, I want to be alerted in case of tornadoes. You can also use it to find places to eat, get directions, etc. But…
  15. Don’t completely rely on your smartphone. If your phone dies, or you lose it, you want to have a backup plan. Also, make sure if you are using it as a gps while driving you pay attention to road signs. A gps is only as good as its programmers and it’s important to be aware of your surroundings. For example, in New Jersey in most cases you can’t make left turns, but instead have to use a right side jug handle. It seems like a lot of GPS devices don’t take this into account and people constantly are trying to make left hand turns across highways which is dangerous for them and for other drivers.
  16. On travel days, build in extra time for things to go wrong. New Jersey traffic can be pretty terrible, so I like to schedule at least an extra half-hour. It also can take longer to park your car and get to your terminal than you originally thought. I find that it is easier to be waiting at a gate instead of panicking that you are going to miss your flight. I find that the more stressed I am, the more things seem to go wrong.
  17. Remove any trash from your car. I tend to hoard coffee cups in my car, which can smell terrible if left for too long, especially in the summer. I know that I don’t want to come back to a horrible smelling car at the end of my trip, so I always make sure to do a quick sweep to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. We usually leave our beach chairs in the car, but I also make sure to remove those as well. I find that if they are left baking in a hot car for too long, they start to smell like old, fishy ocean. Yuck.
  18. Unplug everything that you can. This will drastically reduce your electricity bill while you are gone, and it also protects your electronics.
  19. Pay any bills ahead of time. If you pay them automatically, yay, you probably don’t have to do anything special. Otherwise, take the time to make sure that you don’t miss any while you are gone.
  20. What to be aware of when traveling with other people. Everybody has their own travel style. If you are going to be traveling with friends, make sure that you talk about your expectations for the trip ahead of time. Also people may have different budgets than you do, so make sure that you take that into consideration when planning. By talking about it ahead of time, you reduce the risk of ruining the friendship during what was supposed to be a fun time. People also have different comfort levels, so make sure that you speak up if you feel uncomfortable. Also be aware that you don’t have to spend every moment together. You can always decide to do separate activities, and meet up later.
  21. Document your trip, but don’t forget to enjoy yourself. I keep a small notebook in my purse that I use for jotting down memorable meals, and other memories that I want to remember. I also have a charm bracelet from when I was younger that I still like to add charms to. I usually send out a couple of postcards to my parents and grandparents (bring stamps from home). I rarely travel with my camera, so most of my pictures are on my phone. I will sometimes set up an online photo album for my parents to follow along, and I can upload pictures as I go. Remember to have fun, and enjoy yourself. Bon voyage!

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