Thursday, February 21, 2013

Packing Tips: Part 4, The Clothes

What to wear, what to wear.  What a dilemma!  What you wear while traveling really is an important consideration.  The right clothes can affect your confidence, your comfort and, in some cases, even your safety.

Whether you’re traveling somewhere you’ve been 100 times or a place that you have previously visited only in your dreams, the considerations are the same.  When choosing your travel wardrobe, you need to know the following:
  • What is the weather prediction at your destination during the days that you will be there?
  • What activities will you be participating in?  Will you be sitting in a theater, sunning on the beach or hiking in the mountains?
  • Are there restrictions at any of the sites you will be visiting?  Some European churches forbid bare shoulders and legs.  Some restaurants dictate that gentlemen wear jackets and ties.  If you are a woman, wearing overly revealing clothing in some countries could endanger your safety.
Once you have armed yourself with knowledge of all of the above, you can narrow down the things you need to take. 
First, to get the most out of everything you pack, pick a color theme offers versatility and pack only clothes within that color scheme.  Use lots of separates that can be mixed and matched with everything else.  Each top should go with more than one bottom.  Pick sturdy, stain resistant clothing that can be worn at least twice without washing or that can be easily hand-washed in a sink and quickly air-dried. 
Next consider your comfort.  Try to select outfits that are just as comfortable as they are stylish.  You don’t want to endure a nine-hour flight to Europe in tight fighting clothes that make it impossible for you to move around easily. 
How many outfits should you take?  It depends on how many days will you be traveling and what activities you will be participating in.  The availability of laundry facilities at your destination will influence the number of pieces you need to take.  When we do our spring break trip to Florida, I take just three days of clothing for a six day stay.  We stay at my mother’s house and do laundry every third day.  Traveling light leaves plenty of room in the car for all of the mouse ears, whale-shaped lunch boxes and seashells that my grandkids want to drag home.
Today I am taking off for  a five-day trip to California to see my brother.  On this trip, I’ll be taking a little more clothing than I normally do just because of the variety of activities we have planned.  We’ll be hiking and biking, which means I’ll want my toughest, most casual jeans and tees.  We’ll also be dining out a lot, so I’ll need better jeans and nice tops.  Although I could do laundry at his house, I don’t foresee having the time to.
I usually travel with black, grey and beige or white pieces.  Each piece can easily be matched with everything else in my suitcase.  Here’s what I plan to take with me on this week’s trip:

Two pairs of jeans, one dressy and one sporty.  I love these NYDJ jeans. 


I also packed a gray turtleneck from Chico's.  The list also includes two tees, one black and one white, like these from Chico's.  I always take my black button-down shirts.  It can be worn alone or as an extra layer on top of the other shirts. 
Of course, I've pack socks, underwear, sleepwear, etc.  I'm taking my sneakers for hiking and biking and my driving mocs for sightseeing and to use as slippers. 
On the plane, I'll be wearing jeans, a black turtle neck and my Michael Kors coat that I wrote about in a previous post.  I'll top my outfit with a colorful pashmina that adds both style and warmth.
All of these pieces allow me to mix and match as my whim and our activities vary.  Each piece is lightweight, sturdy and wrinkle resistant. 
It's time for me to head to the airport now.  Come back to this site in a few days and I’ll tell you how I packed all of these things into my little carry-on bag.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Packing Tips: Part 3, The Ziploc

The biggest packing problem for me is cramming all of the liquids, creams and aerosols that I need into that darn little Ziploc bag.  I try to travel strictly carry-on, making taking along everything I need a bit of a challenge.  However, it’s not an insurmountable challenge.  There are a few tricks that can be used to allow you to have all of your lotions and potions with you, yet remain compliant with airline restrictions. 

First, be clear about what really has to go into those bags.  Make-up pencils, such as brow pencils and eyeliner pencils are solid, so they do not have to be in the Ziploc.  Powders likewise are not restricted, so consider using powered eye shadow, blush and mineral foundation when traveling.  Anything you can take in solid or powder form will free up space in the tiny plastic bag.
Second, gather up sample and travel-sized bottles of the products you use.  Estee Lauder often includes travel size mascara in its gift-with-purchase packages and those small tubes can last as long as ten days.  Several of the large cosmetic companies give away samples simply for the asking.  When you go to the cosmetic counter, be sure to ask the salesperson if they have samples available.  They nearly always do.
If you can’t find sample or travel sizes of your beloved beauty products, get creative with downsizing the original packaging.  Just because your moisturizer came in a big bottle it doesn’t mean that it has to travel in a big bottle.  For example, a contact lens case can hold a few days’ worth of foundation or a week’s worth of eye cream.  Other small container options include craft paint pots, medicine containers and film canisters.  Any small bottle with a tightly screwed on lid can work.

As you pack your plastic bag, look at it like a jigsaw puzzle.  Fitting the pieces together neatly will allow you to squeeze more in than if you just toss it all in there carelessly.  Put your large items in first with the fattest items in the middle of the bag and the thinner things in the outer corners of the bag.  After the largest items are in place, fill in the gaps with the smaller ones.  Wedge tapered tubes together by laying turning them so that the lid of one rests against the bottom of the other.
If you’re a woman traveling with a man, chances are that his Ziploc will have a little extra space in it.  See if you can sweet-talk him into carrying a couple of things for you.  If you’re on a short tip, you might be able to share some things like toothpaste and shampoo, thereby saving room in both bags.
If all else fails, think about whether or not you really need to take shampoo, conditioner or soap.  All hotels provide them these days.  You can also buy what you need at your destination.  Unless you are traveling out into the boonies somewhere, you can buy the basics just about anywhere you go.  It might be fun to try out an exotic new shampoo or soap as part of the joy of traveling.  Just buy small bottles and leave them there when you go home.

Last tip about the Ziploc – you know you’re going to have to take it out at when you go through security at the airport so put it in an easily accessible outside pocket of your carry-on, briefcase or purse.  Those travelers who are standing in line behind you will appreciate your efficiency.
Visit this site again soon.  My next post will cover the most perplexing part of traveling for so many people - wardrobe planning and packing.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Packing Tips: Part 2, Air Travel & One Personal Item

They say that necessity is the mother of invention.  Checked bag fees are inspiring a lot of us to become inventive with how we pack our carry-ons in order to avoid those extra fees.

Some creative solutions include wearing multiple layers of clothing or donning outfits with multiple pockets.  Some people tempt fate and simply overstep the size limitations regarding carry-on luggage.

What few travelers stop to consider are the possibilities of that one personal item allowed in addition to a carry-on bag.  The guidelines for that item are rather loosely defined.  The United Airlines policy states, “In addition to one carry-on item, you may bring one personal item such as a shoulder bag, backpack, laptop bag or an item of similar size.”  The rules also state that coats, reading material, cameras and things purchased in the airport (in limited amounts) can be carried on board in addition to that personal item.

Don’t overlook just how much stuff you can pack in that often overlooked but precious extra bag.  Carrying a large purse or tote might make the difference between being able to travel strictly carry-on vs. having to check a bag and pay for the privilege.

I normally carry a fairly small purse.  However, when I board a plane, I take a large purse in addition to my carry-on bag.  I put things that I might want during the flight into my big purse and make sure that it is small enough to slide underneath the seat in front of me. 

Here’s what goes into that bag:
  • A small purse.  On board the plane, I use it as a billfold for my credit cards and cash.  Once I reach my destination, it becomes my daily purse while the large purse stays stashed with my luggage.
  • The TSA dictated Ziplock bag with my cosmetics
  • My electronics (Kindle, phone, camera, etc.) and charging cords
  • A small brush & a comb
  • Gum, mints, snacks
  • Reading glasses
  • Tissues
  • Travel umbrella.  (Caveat – Pull your umbrella out and put it in plain sight when you go through security.  I once got pulled aside for an extra search due to an umbrella in my bag resembling a club.)
  • Baby wipes to clean your seat tray and armrests.  The airlines rarely clean those things between flights. 
  • Pashmina.  Pashminas can keep you warm on a cold flight, serve as a headscarf should you need to walk out on the tarmac or cover up any drink stains that you might pick up during the flight.

This strategy frees up a lot of room in my suitcase allowing me to travel strictly carry-on and avoid checked bag fees.  It also makes it easier to access the things I might need on a long flight

Visit this site again in a few days and I’ll share a few tips for making the most of your little Ziplock bag.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Packing Tips: Part 1, The Luggage

This is part one in a series of packing tips.  There are just too many factors involved in good packing to write about it all in one post.  Today we’re going to talk about how to pick the right luggage for your needs.

Contemporary luggage comes in a wide variety of materials, colors, shapes and sizes.  The choices are virtually endless.  So, how do you start your search for the perfect travel bag? 
First, consider your budget.  How much can you spend, and more importantly, how much do you want to spend?  If you travel lightly and/or infrequently, almost any cheap bag could do the job.  However, if you plan to put a lot of miles or stress on your luggage, you might want to invest a little more money and get better pieces. 

Next, think about the type of traveling you do.  Do you generally stuff duffle bags in the trunk of your car for weekend trips to visit friends?  A nylon gym bag might be all that you need.  Will you be dragging your suitcase countless miles through airport corridors?  If so, you should choose sturdy pieces of luggage that roll along smoothly.  Do you plan to cram your belongings into a backpack and hike the Appalachian Trail?  Then you will want a lightweight but durable backpack.
Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, go on-line or to a store.  When I started shopping for new luggage, I first looked on-line, arming myself with information about the various options.  After I narrowed down my choices, I went to the store so that I could personally handle and get the feel of the bags that I had in mind.

I took my time in the store.  I travel quite a bit and will be living with and relying on these bags for years to come, so picking the right ones was very important to me.  I picked up each bag in the set to check the weight.  I was pleased to find that each one could be easily lifted with one finger. 
I also tested the handles.  In the past, I’ve suffered the pain of having bags with handles that either dug painfully into my hands or, worse, came off in my hands.  The handles on these bags were fabric and woven in.  Those handles will never separate from those bags.

Next, as silly as I might have looked to other shoppers, I rolled each bag up and down the store aisles.  Testing the wheels on your luggage is step that should not be skipped.  So many bags are not balanced properly, causing them to wobble and rock as they roll.   The bags I picked soundly passed the no-wobble test. 
The last choice I had to face was color.  The set I was eyeing came in bright pink in addition to the traditional black.  I seriously considered the pretty pink but thought about how quickly it gets dirty and ultimately opted for the black.  I did, however, customize my bags with bright pink luggage tags that set them apart in the sea of black bags on the luggage carousel at the airport.  My inexpensive luggage tags can be easily cleaned or replaced when they start to show dirt.

Taking the time to do a little research and to handle my bags before buying them has really paid off.  I've already logged over 12,000 miles on them and they remain as good as new. 
Come back to this site in about four days.  The next entry will be about how to get the most mileage out of that “one personal item” for air travel.  Believe it or not, that item can make a big difference in how easily and economically you travel.