Top travel tips for organizing itineraries, carry-ons, packing, and unpacking to keep you organized, sane and safe before, during and after traveling. Cut the stress by following some simple organizing steps.
1. Use a (Simple) Travel Planning Checklist
I get laughed at by friends and family for using too many checklists, but I truly believe in checklists to ensure I don't forget anything. This sample travel planning checklist can be used for big or small journeys and is flexible if you're planning really far ahead or spur-of-the-moment. In other words, whether you are planning a trip 6 months out or two days ahead, you can use this to check off what you need to get done ahead of time.
2. Create an Itinerary
Keep an itinerary with the following:
- Flight numbers and times.
- Phone numbers of travel agents, rental car companies airlines and hotels.
- Address(es) of hotels and any place you plan to visit.
- When out of the country, the address and phone number of your country's embassy.
My friend Tom writes the times and numbers of his flights and hotels on an index card he keeps in the breast pocket of his blazer. I like to keep mine in a clear plastic folder. There's no great mystery here: having all of this information written down will save you from wondering where you're supposed to be and how you're getting there.
3. Pack Lightly and Bring Layers
In brief, my top tips for packing:
- Make a list before you begin. It doesn't have to be overly detailed, but a general outline of what you'll need.
- Roll your clothes. You'll fit more into your suitcase.
- Bring extra Ziploc bags and be amazed at how often they come in handy (think: leaky shampoo bottles, snacks, wet clothes, laundry, etc.)
- When in doubt, choose a rolling suitcase over a shoulder bag. Your back will thank you.
- Pare down shoes. They are heavy! Choose a few pairs that can multitask.
- Always pack layered clothing. Chances are you'll be going between indoor and outdoor venues. You will want to vary your clothes by temperature possibly several times a day.
- Consider complementary colors.
4. Bring a (Small) Travel Journal
Bring a small journal on the road as a catch all. Travel journals aren't just for writing; they are a great way to capture, store and display those little mementos and keepsakes you collect on a trip that may be just as meaningful as your gift shop purchases. Think: address cards, matchbooks, receipts from memorable meals, museum tickets, etc. You can also jot down notes you'd like to remember.
5. Decide Ahead Of Your Trip How to Deal with the TSA
I'm not an expert on this by any means, but I think it's wise to decide before you go to the airport if you're picked for a screening which route you're going to go. I typically fly out of JFK and I can't imagine the response from a bunch of angry New Yorkers if I held up the security line, stalling them while I decided between body scan and pat down. It would get ugly. Do your research and decide ahead of arriving at the airport or train station.
Airport Security Resources:
6. Make Sure Someone Has Your Itinerary
File this in the "This will never happen to me, whoops now it just did" folder. Chances are you are not going to have any issues on your trip but just in case, make sure a responsible adult whom you trust knows your general whereabouts.
7. Think Twice Before Posting About Your Trip on Facebook
Unless you know everyone on your friends list very well, it's not a good idea to have your whereabouts posted online anywhere. Chances are you've accepted a "friend" request from a former work colleague or someone you met briefly at a party, etc. It's best to keep the details of your trip private until you've returned.
And on a personal note, I find those "I'm lounging poolside. How's the office, suckers?!?" status updates to be plain old obnoxious.
Internet Security Resources:
8. Pack An Adult Diaper Bag
I am not kidding (pun intended). Just like kids, adults can get cranky traveling. Make sure you pack yourself snacks, drinks and something you enjoy -- books, magazines, soduku or crossword puzzles, knitting, music, audio books, DVDs, playing cards, brain teasers, a travel guide of your destination--whatever your pleasure. Traveling should be an adventure; think about the time as a break from work, tasks and email to indulge in some hobbies you love.
9. Organize Your Home While You Travel
If you're off for the holidays and plan to travel, think about some of the home organization tasks you can accomplish while you're out of town:
- Before you leave, drop your shoes off at the cobbler to have them weather-proofed, re-soled or polished.
- Drop your knives off to be sharpened. They should be sharpened by a pro twice a year.
- Have your window treatments professionally cleaned. If you're worried about people being able to see into your home while you're away, stick to the treatments hanging in the top floors only.
- Drop off any heavy use items at the dry cleaner for a good cleaning, like a winter coat you're not bringing on your trip or your comforter.
10. Unpack Immediately After A Trip
Believe me, I feel your pain on this one. There's nothing worse than unpacking. First you have to separate your clothes, then wash, dry, re-fold and finally, put away. It's a process, but that un-packed suitcase in the corner will haunt you as long as you don't tackle it. Do this as soon as you arrive home from your travels.
Here's a mind game I play with myself: Think about how the action of unpacking will make you feel immediately, 10 minutes from now and then the next day. It's a little immediate pain to feel better 10 minutes from now and tomorrow. Do it now!
11. Back to Work After Travel
Share your favorite travel tips
- How do you keep your kids occupied on long car trips or a flight?
- Do you pack everything you own or pack too little?
- How do you keep your toiletries from leaking all over your suitcase?
- What's the best way to fit more into a carry on bag?
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