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!