THE ART OF TRAVEL PREPARATION ~ PART 1
Behind-the-scenes tips on Efficient Organization for Packing and Departure
Aaah, that big trip is coming up. You are going to one of the top destinations on your “bucket list”, but “how” will you decide what to bring? From extra chargers for your devices or a Tens Unit for tired muscles to a hot spot for internet access … you want to be able to fully and comfortably enjoy your trip with state-of-the-art support.
After years of traveling the world, Denis and I have developed some efficient techniques for organizing and planning which we find very reliable and we have acquired some essential travel items we always bring with us. Let me introduce you to both the techniques and the travel items …
Going right to the heart of the matter, if you don’t already have a Travel Packing List, I suggest you draw one up. Make the list as complete and well-organized as possible and save it. I print out my Travel Packing List for each trip I take, and I edit it whenever I have a travel experience which inspires me to add another item … such as when my trusty carry-on was redirected upon boarding to the inner recesses of the plane’s belly and I wished I had had an extra TSA lock so I could have secured the bag before handing it over.
I swear by this Travel Packing List since I know the contents are tried and true. It empowers my brain to go on auto-pilot and reduces any stress I feel as I’m racing down the finish line to close that suitcase before departing home. It also enables me to attain a lovely state of calm once the packing is completed and I am out the door. No worries about whether I forgot something. Plus, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time I travel!
My infamous “Travel Packing List” is designed around a list of “categories” which I find very easy and efficient to navigate. Here they are along with their prime contents …
Last Minute … everything which I will potentially use right up until suitcase closing time, such as my hair brushes and makeup.
The Art of Travel Preparation ~ Yangshuo and the Li River Cruise in China Carry-On … my valuables as well as absolutely anything I can’t live without during the trip if my suitcase were not to turn up. Prime examples would be an extra pair of glasses, jewelry, wills & living wills, prescription meds and supplements. In addition to the carry-on, I also bring a medium-size nylon tote bag with a zipper closure which I generally keep under the seat in front of me and use for storing any items from my carry-on which I will need during the flight. I sometimes use this tote for carrying valuables while en route to and from our destinations, and it also comes in very handy at our destinations while we are out and about touring.
Suitcase … For sure the meat & potatoes of the packing, my “suitcase” contains everything from the little black cocktail dress and toiletries to the exercise clothes and lingerie needed for every occasion. Each item is carefully delineated by sub-category. Make sure this list is utterly complete, including the layering pieces you invariably almost always need. But keep the list generic. I pull items from this list each time I travel and select them based upon the weather at our travel destination and the type of travel we’re doing.
Here are the 7 Suitcase Sub-Categories that work for me:
1. Seasonal … from warm winter boots, hats and gloves to bathing suits, a kaftan and sun hats plus a portable umbrella for all seasons.
2. Travel Med Kit with Non-Prescription Travel Meds & Antibiotics as needed … I have a list of non-prescription meds – yes another list! – which I keep in my travel med kit so I can always quickly confirm if any of these meds are missing in action … perhaps sitting on a bedroom night-table … and round them up as needed. You can find a standard recommended list of travel meds on sites like https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/pack-smart and then personalize it according to your preferred brands and generics, your destination points, and your particular preferences. As I’m sure you already know, vaccinations are required for travel to some destinations, and it’s always wise to up the strength of medication you bring for intestinal illness when you travel to these countries as well as to others where hygiene is not up to first-world standards.
I recommend packing this travel med kit for all international travel as well as for domestic travel that will take you off the beaten path and out of range of metropolitan areas. I always make sure I have a state-of-the-art thermometer as well as Biofreeze or the equivalent for muscle aches, band aids and moleskin. Plus, Denis and I subscribe to a holistic approach to wellness that includes taking zinc and/or tablets such as Airborne or the local generic to strengthen our immune system before and while traveling.
3. Skincare, Haircare & Makeup … Definitely personal preferences but all must be in in the right size container for the length of trip we are taking, as I wouldn’t dream of taking a full-size bottle of shampoo on a 4-day getaway. In addition to actual toiletries & makeup, this category includes a lightweight, portable ionic bi-voltage (220-120) hairdryer, hair styling brushes, nail scissors, a nail file, disposable shower caps, several pairs of ear plugs, q-tips, cotton pads for taking off makeup and feminine hygiene items. Plus, I regularly have sun protection with me, and I vary the strength of the insect repellent I pack depending upon the strength of the insects we may meet up with at our destinations. And another tip … I always pop in an extra mascara or any other makeup item that I suspect may possibly run out on me during the trip.
4. Clothing Care … including a bi-voltage portable clothes steamer, lint roller, laundry bag, stain remover, delicate hand wash, and mini sewing kit.
5. My clothing … Daytime clothes, day-to-evening clothes, outfits for the evening, exercise clothes, coordinating shoes & boots, and coordinating accessories including scarves, pashminas, hats, jewelry, stockings, knee-highs & socks. Of course this list also includes lingerie, sleepwear and sometimes travel slippers. And I always have the all-important “layering” pieces. If you are interested in reading more specifically about layering clothes, and what brands and types of clothing I find ideal for traveling, please look for the sequel to this article … THE ART OF TRAVEL PREPARATION Part 2.
6. Gifts and Reading Material … I try to put all my reading on the Kindle app.
7. Devices and Supporting Chargers … My husband, Denis, coordinates this category along with a myriad of other “essential” travel items for our trips. Many of these he puts in his travel vest, and others he puts in either his daypack or his carry-on. For specific information on the essential state-of-the-art devices and items to ensure that we are well prepared for 21st century travel, please see some of Denis’ articles :
Not too surprisingly, we have 2 other lists we swear by … a “Pre-Travel To Do List”, one for Denis and one for me. These lists, like the Suitcase Packing List, are also saved in our word docs and edited as we encounter necessary changes. We find dividing the responsibilities for travel very practical. From checking the batteries in our suitcases to planning for our pet care, we each have our areas of expertise.
Set up in a timeline format, our 2 “Pre-Travel To Do Lists” manage us impeccably from “two weeks prior” to “one-week prior”, to the “day before departure” and finally, the “day of departure”. No asking ourselves … have we stopped the mail? If it’s not crossed off the list, it very likely has not been done. So, as long as we regularly refer to our respective lists, our planning goes smoothly. And thankfully, the list gives us the necessary discipline we need to pull it all together, every trip, without fail.
Some of the key items on the Pre-Travel To Do Lists are booking our pet-sitter for our cat, Beaudelaire, doing research and reading for the trip, checking the AccuWeather forecast to plan the specific clothes & outerwear to bring, ensuring that all the clothes we need to pack are clean and ready to go, cancelling newspaper delivery, making sure our major credit cards are alerted to our upcoming foreign travel, and getting any cash we need from the ATM.
Here’s another tip for efficient travel packing organization … keep a travel drawer where you store the items specifically reserved for your travel needs. For example, bi-voltage hairdryer, bi-voltage steamer, extension cords, dyna-bands for stretching packed in a zip lock baggie along with a small portable timer to time the stretch, the med kit to which I referred above, a toiletry bag containing travel sizes of all your favorites toiletries, and portable chargers for your devices. Make sure to include a copy of your will and your living will in this drawer.
Health and Security: This topic is evolving constantly these days, so if you are planning to travel abroad, do remember to keep an eye on the U.S. State Department advisories for your travel destinations: Alerts and Warnings. Only bring the credit cards you definitely will need, and do remember to bring your driver’s license as well as all medical & insurance cards. Make sure you also have a copy of these cards with you – in a totally different location than the cards themselves — in case of theft or loss. I also recommend a copy of your eyeglass prescription and a List of your Prescription Meds. These days, even if you are traveling domestically, it is also a good idea to bring your passport with you … you never know when “security measures” will tighten up.
Why would you want to take the time to make these lists? Or re-organize your wallet? All this “organization” sounds like a lot of work. Perhaps you think it’s just not worth the time. Well, if you are a frequent traveler, I can guarantee you the end justifies the means. Plus, I would respond that Denis and I travel much more enjoyably when we have the peace of mind that we have everything we need to be safe and comfortable, and that all is in order on the home front as well.
Travel organized & travel well … Safe travels & Bon Voyage!!
Stay tuned to BonVoyageurs.com for our writings about other Countries of the World as we share our joie de vivre from around the world. Luxury escapes, cruises and city breaks to Québec City, New York, Washington, Buenos Aires. In Europe and the Mediterranean, places like Paris and Nice in France, Florence, Rome, Napoli and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel. In Asia, countries like China, India, Nepal and so much more!