Summer is here, which means vacation season is officially upon us!
When I was in my 20’s, prepping for a vacation meant throwing a bunch of crap in a bag twenty minutes before I left for the airport. If I forgot something, meh! No biggie. Life was so much easier back then…
Now that I am in my 30’s (i.e., now that I have developed a general anxiety about EVERYTHING), the thought of even one night away from home stresses me the hell out. In addition to tried-and-true favorites like Xanax and/or a bottle of wine, over the years I have also found a few less-mind-altering tricks to help stay organized and relatively stress-free while traveling:
Carry-on my wayward son
When we traveled as a family, my mother always told me to pack a day’s worth of clothes (and anything else I might need, like makeup, toiletries and prescription meds) in my carry-on (depending on where you’re going, this could mean a jacket, a bathing-suit, or anything in-between) in case our checked luggage got lost. Imagine landing in Hawaii after a 6-hour plane ride, only to find that your luggage ended up on a flight to Lincoln, Nebraska.
It’s not the end of the world because your luggage will probably be delivered to your hotel within 24 hours (add up to a week to that if you’re going somewhere off the grid), but you don’t want to waste a day in paradise trapped in your hotel room waiting for your clothes to arrive, and you definitely don’t want to spend your first day of vacation in your nasty airplane clothes. This is especially true if you’re traveling somewhere remote, and can’t just pop into a store and pick up some fresh skivvies.
One size does not fit all
There are a few things to consider when shopping for a carry-on. First, find a bag that has a dedicated sleeve or pocket for your laptop, and make sure it is easily accessible. One of the things I still struggle with while travelling is having to dig my laptop out of my bag while waiting in the security line. Inevitably, other shit will fall out of my bag, too, and I will hold up the line as I struggle to repack all of my stuff while still trying to wiggle my laptop out of my bag. Not a good look.
Second, make sure your bag is a style you’re comfortable with. I used to use a ratty, old North Face backpack as a carry-on, but every time I would arrive at my destination, my shoulders were killing me (not to mention the ugly welts that the straps made on my shoulders). Now I either use a rolly bag, or a messenger bag that distributes the weight a little more evenly than my backpack.
Lastly, research where you’re going. I traveled to Santorini for a few days one summer, so instead of checking a suitcase, I brought a carry-on duffel bag. Thank goodness I didn’t bring a rolly bag, because when we arrived at our hotel, I was horrified to discover that our room was at the bottom of about 100 stairs (side note: the hotel was AMAZING, and the stairs were SO WORTH IT). A good rule of thumb is the more remote the destination, the less likely they are to have creature comforts like elevators and escalators, so plan accordingly.
The travelling doctor
In addition to prescription medication, make sure to pack a healthy variety of the over-the-counter kind. The amount and variety should depend on how neurotic you are, how long your flight is, and whether you’re traveling with kids.
I have been stuck on 12-hour plane rides with surprise bouts of food poisoning, air sickness, nausea, colds, flu and strep throat. Let me tell you, it is not fun being unprepared when you’re trapped in a flying sardine can. Also, don’t forget to pack bandages and a topical antibiotic, like Neosporin, for minor scratches or cuts.
You don’t have to take the whole bottles and packages of meds with you, but rather pack a sample kit in a cute cosmetics bag. For a thorough list of what to include, check out this post from The Girl and Globe.
Make a list (and check it twice)
A few of my girlfriends make detailed packing lists whenever they travel, even if it’s only for a weekend. When I was in my 20’s, I thought it was it was neurotic, but in my 30’s I think it’s simply brilliant. Creating a packing list in advance gives you the opportunity to think about what you’re bringing and make sure you don’t forget anything. And when you’re packing for your return trip, you can tick each item off your list once you’ve packed it, so you’ll be sure not to leave anything behind.
Packing lists are also great for outfit planning. I literally can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened up my suitcase only to find that I packed 10 tops and no bottoms, or forgotten to pack any underwear at all. When making your list, try sticking to one color palette (e.g., neutrals) so you can mix and match a few items for enough looks to last your entire vacation.
Research, research research
I was raised by the most neurotic (and wonderful) woman I have ever met, so of course, I picked up some of her idiosyncrasies, like researching the shit out of a location before I travel there. I know I already mentioned researching destinations as it pertains to choosing luggage, but I also like to check for travel warnings, safety or health cautions, weather conditions, etc.
When I was researching my trip to Santorini, a few travel websites noted donkey shit as a potential danger on the island (no joke, donkey shit). I thought it was ridiculous, until I arrived on the island to find donkey shit everywhere. Luckily, we were able to avoid any donkey-shit-related injuries (and I like to think that’s because we were warned in advance of the potential danger), but we saw people slip and fall in it at least a few times a day.
Traveling doesn’t have to be stressful. With some extra planning and preparation, this year’s summer vacation can go off without a hitch!