Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Travel Light - Trip Tips and Smart Ideas

A year ago I saw an ad from the cotton fabric manufacturers, with a young woman trying to get her suitcase closed by sitting on it. Looks like many of us on any trip - a classical case of over packing.

While ad promises your clothes look perfect even after such brutal treatment, I am not so much concerned about wrinkles, as much as about fitting all my stuff into Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and airline luggage guidelines.

Hang On, Carry-On...

TSA website offers to make my trip better by adhering to 3-1-1 rule for your carry-on:
- 3 ounce bottle or less (by volume);
- 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag;
- 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin.
In order to make the security check smooth and easy, I would not advise to deviate from that rule, unless you need your medication or baby food on board with you. TSA is very good with providing clear information, so follow the link at the end of this article to read through that.

Trip Tip: San Francisco Airport had quart-sized bags at the ready right at the security line. But I would not rely on it, if you travel later in the day, or from the different location. Bring your own.

Smart Idea: If you are frugal, it is wise to bring your own empty plastic water bottle with you, so you could fill it after the security checkpoint/ on board of the plane. Bottled water at the airport costs 3 times its retail price.

I prefer to have two carry-on items:
- Smaller over the shoulder bag for an easy access to necessities;
- Backpack for larger things.

My shoulder bag usually contains:
- Documents;
- Wallet;
- Tickets or a print-out with e-tickets numbers;
- Cell phone;
- Pen and a notebook;
- My itinerary, both ways;
- Dry and wet wipes
- Plastic bag with TSA allowed amount of toiletries;
- Moisturizing lip balm;
- Water (drink it before you reach a security check point);
- Mints.

Trip Tip: If you need any medication, make sure it is within reach, as well as in the amounts allowed by TSA.

Smart Idea: It is wise to have a note from your doctor or information on state of your health and /or special medical care needed in your wallet, so if your condition worsens during your trip, people could easily locate and use it. Carry it next to your insurance card, with your treating specialist name and number clearly marked.

In the backpack:
- Magazine of a paperback book (aim at the lightest ones);
- Laptop;
- Photo/video camera;
- Change of clothes (very important as my luggage gets lost frequently on international flights);
- Snack (nothing crumbly or perishable),

Trip Tip: Make sure you do not bring any food from abroad in your carry-on/ luggage. There are regulations, and if you have time to read through and memorize them- good for you. Otherwise, enjoy foreign delicacies abroad.

Trip Tip: Include a set of underwear, a pair of socks, a long-sleeved tee, and lightweight pants in your change. I opt for dark colors, but if you are on vacation, and planning on spending your time in a hot climate, you may think of something lighter, but still neutral (grey works best).

Smart Idea: Wear easy to slide in and out shoes with clean socks, so you could walk through security fast and with no shame.

Smart Idea: Some women spend a great deal of their vacation preparation on finding the Perfect Swim Suit. If your luggage gets lost or delayed, you are doomed to the first thing from the gift shop. Not only it will be overpriced, but also the wrong color, style and size. So, unless you plan on vacationing in Europe or other places where partial nudity is accepted, make sure you pack that precious item in your carry-on luggage.

Smart Idea: I always print out layouts of the airports I travel through. They are easily located online, and come in handy, when you are in a rush. Mark your gates, lavatory locations, currency exchange booths, and information stands. You may also read on airport food offerings, shopping, interesting sites, and WiFi hotspots, so you could use or visit them as well, if you have time.

Luggage: the Curious Case of a Suit Case

And here comes the hard part: how to fit it all?

First of all, make sure you check luggage size regulations for every air carrier you are traveling with. You will be surprised how luggage size and weight may vary based on your destination and airline.

If you have anything oversized, make sure your airline let you bring it; check what documents you may need, as well as the way it should be packaged.

When it comes to clothes and shoes, there are several Smart Ideas that can help you minimize your travel wardrobe:

- Pack only the most favorite and flattering things - you will tend to wear them often, and like your pictures later.
- Stay within on color scheme. Try black and white with some color accents thrown into. Or go with neutrals, like beige, tan, and olive colors. You may also choose cold or warm tones, and keep it at that, but make sure pieces can be combined to create number of outfits for different occasions.
- Limit number of shoes you take with you. It is possible to survive on three pairs of shoes, no matter how fashionable you are. As for a shoe addict, chances are, you will end up shopping at your destination anyway, so save some space for your new purchases.
- Jewelry, scarves and accessories should be carefully selected, but you may pack more of those, as they tend to change your outfit dramatically, and do not take that much space anyway.
- Pack with destination and your activities in mind. Make sure you have an evening number for dining out or a special occasion, comfortable weather appropriate pieces for active vacation, or proper conservative attire for business meetings. Try to keep yourself from urgent, "last chance", and pre-trip clothes shopping: thus usually translates into things in your suitcase you will never wear. Just because you have more, does not mean you will have something to wear. Just look in your closet, and compare with things going in your laundry/ dry cleaning every week. You will see 80 to 20 ratios, with 80% of your things sadly hanging there, and 20% of favorites in constant rotation.
- Do not forget underwear/ shape wear/ socks/ stockings, with the same rules in mind: follow your color scheme and your clothing needs.

Trip Tip: Things you usually store on the shelves, like tees, sweaters, workout clothes and such can be rolled for packing, leaving them less prone to wrinkles, and taking less space.

Pack socks inside your shoes - always an overlooked space. This will also help keeping your shoes in shape.

Pack delicate underwear or clothes with embellishments wrapped in one of your tees or in a special bag. Luggage gets thrown around a lot, which may damage your precious possessions.

Smart Idea:If you put any liquids or gels in tubs, make sure you squeezed extra air out of them. I also like to pack anything fluid into separate thick plastic freezer bags. Changes in aircraft pressure or rough handling may have some dramatic undesirable effect on your wardrobe. Do not risk it.

And the last tip: do not be afraid to leave with less. I always hear about over packing, but yet to come across a single under packing case. Unless you are traveling into Amazon jungles, an extra pair of socks or a tee can be easily purchased without even leaving your lodging.

Have a nice and light trip!

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