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Top 10 Tips for Traveling Well

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I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. Too much! Well, it wouldn’t be too much if I were going on vacations with my family—preferably to warm, sunny places. But no, it’s to places for work, accompanied by semi-relentless schedules and not enough time to explore and relax.

As a result, I’ve fairly mastered the art of packing to make my trips as pleasant as possible and as healthy as possible. So here are my 10 tips. And may your trips be safe and fun!

1. Bags on wheels…CHECKED!!!!! Nothing is more annoying than waiting for people to huff, puff, and stuff their too-large bags into too-small overhead compartments. Yes, it costs 25 bucks to check a bag these days, but personally, I think it’s worth it. You will get your bag. It will find you. I take only what I need for the flight and my valuables (wallet) on the plane with me.

2. Backpack on wheels, for my carry-on. If I am traveling light, I just take a backpack. If I might be shopping or bringing home heavy stuff on the plane, I take my Patagonia backpack on wheels. It’s made to fit and slide right under a plane seat. And it makes a good footrest, too! (Confession: I am short and fairly small, so coach seats fit me just fine).

3. Something soft, preferably cashmere. Yes, I am almost 50. Yes, I am still a baby when it comes to being away from home. I want my “blankie” that smells like home! It can be a sweater, a shawl, or a scarf or a little blanket, but it comes in handy for all sorts of uses: pillow, blanket, eye wrap, general comfort, whatever.

4. Deluxe Bose headphones with my iPod. The headphones provide two purposes—blocking out that high-pitched engine sound that annoys me, and delivering beautiful music that transports me. And if I’m lucky, while I’m traveling I can find a nice safe place to run and listen to music.

5. iPhone. For leaving and checking messages to loved ones, for checking the weather, for checking into Foursquare, for taking pictures, for figuring out where I am if I get lost….

6. A tablet and pen. I use plane time for reflecting, making lists, writing blogs, writing poetry, and capturing ideas, thoughts, and observations while they are still fresh. Nothing is worse than not having a pen or pencil handy!!!! (Because even without paper, there are always things like napkins to write on.)

7. Organic snacks. I don’t overdo it. Some dried fruits and nuts. Organic beef jerky. Pretzels. But it’s good to have something just in case. I find that if I don’t think about having regular meals, and just listen to my hunger, I don’t eat as much and I eat better.

8. Bottled water. Yes, this is the time to buy bottled water, since you can’t take water from home through security. I buy a big bottle and try to drink the whole thing, and hopefully, don’t have to get up too often to pee, either. And then recycle the bottle!

9. Books (and my reading glasses!). I have not converted to the e-readers yet. So I take one serious book and one book just for fun. On my way out, I read the serious book; it’s how I got through the text of the Farm Bill, for instance! Then, on the way home…a romance novel! That’s my reward.

10. An attitude of surrender. Number 10 could have been lip gloss, or hand wipes (my favorite are the natural organic ones you can get at Whole Foods). But honestly, the most important thing for traveling well is to give up any sense that you have to be somewhere at a certain time in a certain way. The truth is, travel can be dangerous—and it certainly feels dangerous—so I find the best thing to do is just let what happens happen. Getting upset is not going to get you someplace faster. However, that has not stopped me from crying like a baby when things don’t go well. Just ask my family. They’ve seen me bawl like a baby in the Chicago airport. I mean, a 12-HOUR DELAY WITH THREE KIDS???!!!!! ARRIVING IN MONTANA AT 2 IN THE MORNING, FOLLOWED BY A THREE-HOUR DRIVE???!!! Where is that piece of cashmere??!!! But we got there. And so will you.

What do you do to travel well? I am always looking for ideas!

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12 Responses to Top 10 Tips for Traveling Well

  1. Kim May 27, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    HI and thanks for always bringing a smile to my face–no matter what you write abt! We have an even better technique for water consumption, we think! Our strategy is to bring an empty bottle through security…oftentimes it’s a bicycling water bottle from home–the kind with the pull-up sipper–and then find the nearest water fountain and fill, fill, fill. Saves lots of resources not to mention money. Of course that would be one more little thing to remember…but if you match it up with the cashmere something as your must-have (baby bottle??)…it might just find it’s way into your bag as it has into ours. Brain training!

  2. Savvy Working Gal May 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Also for those of you who have made the switch to e-readers, note they are considered an electronic device and need to be turned off at designated times during air travel. So unless you want to be stuck reading the airline’s magazine, I suggest taking paper reading material with you.

  3. Emily May 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Bottled water is handy, but you really don’t need it. I put my stainless steel water bottle into my carry-on and I’ve never been told to throw it out. I just make sure it’s empty (and sometimes I even take the top off so it’s rolling around loose in my bag so the security people don’t question that it’s empty), and then fill it up from the water fountain once I get through security.

  4. cherie May 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

    No matter what kind of shoes I wear, I always slip a pair of Thor-lo sox in my carry-on. They are thick enough I’m not grossed out if I have to use the POT-IN-A-BOX, they keep my feet warm, and allow me some wiggle room, even it is only my toes that get to move.

  5. Shira May 29, 2011 at 4:45 am #

    My annual travel includes coast-to-coast and Boston to Israel.
    I’m with Emily and the people who bring an empty bottle (I drank the water ALL down just before security). I don’t trust bacteria-laden drinking fountains. So when I board the plane I tell a flight attendant my seat number and that i need LOTS of water. Without exception they have been very accommodating.
    Besides my “blankie” (a soft scarf) I bring an inflatable cushion for my feet. It banishes all worries about pressure on the thighs from the seat edge and resulting complications.
    My noise-cancelling earphones pipe into my ears soft meditative music from the time I check in my luggage until I retrieve it. I generally sleep most of the flight and the music “holds the space” really well.
    Food (all organic) is in a small pack with ice and includes a tossed salad, a protein, and some carbs. The scare stories about unsanitary plane food have put me off it totally.
    P.S. No alcohol on the flight and earthing immediately upon arrival = total absence of jet lag.

  6. Donna in Delaware May 29, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    Just returned from a 3 and 1/2 week European vacation. Take as little as possible with you. I take 3 pairs of pants (1 pr.jeans,which I wear on the flight, 1 pr. dark dress pants, 1pr. casual), 4-6 blouses because they are lightweight and can be washed when necessary, underwear, one sleep set, 3 pairs of shoes, a comfortable walking pair, dress pumps 1 pr. of flats and 2 jackets(1 dress, 1 casual) a lightweight sweater and 2 hats, one for sun and one for rain. One umbrella and some toiletries. That’s it! Take those things that are washable and you can get other things cleaned in one of the hotels.

    I start out with a few snacks for boarding and munching in between times when I am on the road. Don’t need much on the plane because I usually travel business class and service is very good and something is always served. I don’t have much time for reading because I am too busy sight-seeing and learning. On the plane there is plenty to read and also in the flight lounge, so I don’t have to drag along books and magazines. Always drink plenty of water, especially mineral water and walk around the plane every 2 to 3 hours and stretch. Watch where you go in the evening and try to be with someone. Stay safe and happy travels.

    Maria is correct. No since in getting upset. Can’t do much about it anyway. We made it back just before the volcanic ash hit central Europe. These things happen. Listen to the news constantly to know what is going on. Something is always happening!

  7. maria (farm country kitchen) May 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

    Ok people, I am slightly annoyed! I am heading to Barcelona today, which should be a delight. EXCEPT every single peony and rose in my garden is about to burst into bloom. I’m going to miss it! Dang, dang and dangnubbit all!

    Thanks for the tips. Might try taking a pillow this time too.

  8. Sharon E. May 30, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    Firstly wet-naps – I never leave home without a pack in my carry -on not the ones for babies or the ones that are soaking wet and smell of alcohol but a thin pack of 10 available from any good drug store and the packet is re-sealable. I am a ziplock Queen !! They are fantastic and have a million uses, I always bring two sizes; a couple of each in my carry on the rest in my Suitcase. They are great for grouping stuff, putting a travel tooth brush and toooth paste in, and if you are bringing snacks they can be resealed and also they are good for the odds and ends that ‘float’ around the bottom of your bag ! I also always have a mini flash light, so if I need to dig into my carry-on when everyone is asleep and the lights are on low (trans Atlantic flights)I can see inside my bag without turning on a light. The ziplocks are also great for beach destinations to stop sand getting into stuff and keeping wet swim suits away from other stuff in the bag

  9. Candace Walsh June 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Shira, what is “earthing”? Sounds interesting.

    I take a packet of Yogi Tea and Traditional Medicinals tea bags. Peach Detox, Woman’s Energy, Vanilla Spice, Sleepytime, Tummy Soothing, and de-stressing…they’re wonderful ways to utilize the hot water option that comes alongside with the acrid coffee, sugary junk beverages, and occasionally tempting alcoholic drinks.

    I also bring medjool dates and Brazil nuts (they taste great together), prunes to offset travel constipation, a good book, a journal, and aromatherapy oils.

    You frequent travelers might like this blog post by Laura Andre on Photofixe: it has to do with the pleasurable “suspended reality” mindset of plane travel.
    http://photofixe.blogspot.com/2011/06/william-eggleston-untitled-1970-i-love.html

  10. Jenaya June 22, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    You keep it up now, undrsetnad? Really good to know.

  11. Fernanda June 30, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    I usually carry my stainless steel water bottle (empty) through security. After boarding (or in flight), I go the gallery and I ask a flight attendant to fill it up. Or I just fill it up in a water fountain.

  12. Tracy Herz May 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I travel with Chico or Wolford clothing…no wrinkles. I drink loads of water the night before to stay hydrated. I buy all my books and magazines at the airport and when I get ready to read them, I offer to share with my seatmates. ))

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