I get a lot of satisfaction from traveling well. It’s an accomplishment. I’ve been honing my packing and travel skills since moving to Guam in 2009 because now every destination is international. Travel abroad requires extra planning, but finding ways to be efficient means you have more time and energy to enjoy the journey.
The point of travel is to experience a place, so don’t be a dung beetle and carry all your crap around with you! Follow these tips so you can worry less about your stuff and focus on the inspiring experience of being in a new place.
Carry a hard copy
Print out all important reservations, maps, and travel info. You never know when your device will fail so don’t rely on electronics without a back-up. I also like to take a picture of my reservation emails for hotels, car rentals, concert tickets, etc. That way I don’t need WIFI to access the email on my phone or iPad.
iPhone, I love you, but your battery life stinks. Now that airlines offer in-flight WIFI, you’re likely to use all the juice on a movie or two (I do a lot of long-haul flights). I invested $13 for a portable battery charger in Hong Kong that works on my iPad and iPhone. Actually, I bought two. If you’re an iphonographer, you’re likely to run out of battery before you run out of photo opps, so take your battery charger with you everywhere!
Request a special meal
There’s no party card for vegetarians, so why not be one during your flight and get your meal before everyone else? I request a Hindu vegetarian meal and it is always better than nuked chicken, which I don’t eat. I make the request when I book, then call the airlines 48 hours before the flight to confirm. The special meals come out well before the regular meals, so it is to your advantage to go gluten-free, dairy-free, or meat-free for a day. I’m still waiting for a gluten-free and meatless option, but until then, I am happy with curried vegetables.
It seems obvious, but in the strongest sense of the phrase, less is more when traveling. If you’re like me, shopping is half the fun of traveling, so leaving your suitcase half empty is practical. Ideally, you should start your packing with the right suitcase. A small carry-on bag is usually sufficient for short trips, but for longer vacations or business trips, a medium one is often more convenient. Mid-size suitcases are easier to maneuver in tight spaces, such as crowded airport terminals and crowded streets. In addition, they typically have more compartments and pockets, making it easy to organize your belongings. Never bring full size bottles of anything. Scale down to travel size or buy empty bottles and transfer small amounts of beauty products.
Sometimes I’m in transit for 24 hours, so the last thing I want is to have forgotten a travel comfort accessory, but even worse is a sore back. Excluding my photography gear (1 DSLR, 2 lenses, 1 GoPro, 1 wireless mic, 1 monopod, 1 tripod, batteries and chargers, and a MacBook!), I never allow myself more than one suitcase for clothes and toiletries. And that’s one small hard body roller!
If there’s one thing I always pack, it’s hand wipes. I use them in copious amounts, especially for the kind of 24-hour travel I do from Guam to the mainland. Travel always means exposure to lots of people (and their germs), so I take care of my immune system by keeping my hands as clean as possible.
Roll, don’t fold
It really does make packing easier to roll clothes rather than fold and they get less wrinkled! It’s also easier to find a rolled garment rather than having to dig to the bottom of a folded pile. Even better, carry a wardrobe bag instead of a regular suitcase. That way clothes stay on hangers and can be easily transferred to the hotel closet.
Steam your clothes in the bathroom
I hate ironing. I pack mostly non-iron dresses, but when I have a stubborn wrinkle, I simply hang the garment in the bathroom when I’m taking a shower. It helps that I can’t live without a hot shower.
Lock it up
Another tip that seems obvious, but I learned the hard way. I’ve had a cellphone stolen in South Africa and jewelry gone missing in Manila. Buy as many TSA compliant locks as you have bags and store the key in the same place every time so you can unlock quickly.
How do you make travel more efficient? I’d love to hear your comments!