Time has flown by, as it usually does, and you are suddenly faced with the daunting task of preparing for your upcoming journey. Hopefully this realization has hit you at least a week before the big departure and not the night before – although I must admit that I have been caught scrambling the night before, especially when I was working full time.
Packing, preparing the house for the house-sitter (if that’s your gig), and making sure all your arrangements are in order. For the person taking care of all this, it can add up to a lot of stress, and as my husband likes to say, a rather “snarky” travel companion for those traveling with you.
In this post, I’ve included a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that have made my journey preparations go so much more smoothly.
- Tip #1: Start a Packing List – This has been by far the most valuable preparation technique I’ve added to my travel arsenal. I eventually got so tired of arriving at my destination, only to realize with a slap to the forehead that I’d forgotten a crucial item. So begin with a list of items that you will need for every trip, regardless of the destination. For us, the camera is on the top of this list. Since I have four auto-immune diseases, one being MS, medication is also on this list. Sunblock (For Pete’s sake people! Wear sunblock!), sunglasses, Atm & Amex cards, and of course breathe right strips for “the snorer” are all examples of items that go on every trip, whether it’s a beach destination or one like our next trip – Japan in winter. Also, an important note: If your’re a bit compulsive like me, and do a day-by-day itinerary on your computer, make sure you add itinerary to this list. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to all that work, only to leave it behind. Guidebook is another important one for this list. It’s a real bummer to reach in your bag for your guidebook on the plane, and realize you forgot to put it back in your carry-on after looking something up the night before. Next you’ll want a list of items that are destination specific, meaning you may or may not need them depending on where you’re headed. On this list, we have items like passports, snorkeling gear, outlet converters, etc. You may have noticed that I don’t put actual everyday packing items, like socks, deodorant, shampoo, shirts, etc, on the list. But if this is something that would be helpful to you when packing, I say go for it! I would recommend making a list for beach/summer clothes packing, and another for cooler weather clothes packing, and then a general toiletries/cosmetics list. I store my packing lists in my travel folder on my computer, so I can just print out the needed lists and check off items as I go. For a neurotic Virgo who writes things down on lists after they’ve already been completed, just for the satisfaction of checking them off, this has worked out very well.
- Tip #2: Start Early – You can take it from me, this will make your departure a great deal more pleasurable. I for one, absolutely hate to fly. Most of our destinations however, require air travel, which leaves me quite on edge the day or two prior to departure. Add a last minute “pack and go,” and my husband winds up with his “snarky” travel companion until we land safe and sound. Beginning my preparations at least one week in advance makes life (and my departure) much more enjoyable. Start with the small things:
- Put all your medicines together ahead of time (this also helps ensure you will have enough for the entire trip).
- If you have a house- or pet-sitter, type up directions early. This way, you can add things as you think of them and won’t be scribbling things down at the last minute. And ALWAYS, let them know where the hide-a-key is. This may not seem important, but after having one girl climb in through the dog door, and another walk barefoot in her pajamas to my in-laws 1/2 a mile away, you realize there’s a distinct possibility they might get locked out at some point. Two different house-sitters, two different houses, by the way.
- Send someone your itinerary. You can email or print out your itinerary and give it to a neighbor or friend or family member – just flight and hotel information and where you’ll be on what days, just in case. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been trying to print this out last minute so my in-laws would know when to pick us up at the airport, and the printer has run out of ink, or just stopped working.
- Take care of anything else you can do in advance – put a hold on the mail, start setting aside clothes to pack, get cash out of the bank, water the plants, fill the oil tank, etc. Anything you might have to do before you leave and can do ahead of time – do it! You’ll be thankful when all you have to do the day of your departure is load your awaiting packing items into your suitcase!
- Tip #3: Get a Luggage Scale – This is such a blessing! Have you ever seen people at the check in counter at the airport with their suitcases open, shifting things around, or taking things out, trying to get just under the weight limit? There’s nothing worse. You know you’re holding up the line and not making any friends in the process. And as you stuff your husband’s giant heavy shoe in your pocketbook (seriously – how is it so heavy?), you wonder how you will get anything you buy home with you if you’re already overweight heading to your destination. Well, a $20 luggage scale will save you all this trouble. You can get them very easily at Amazon.com – and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can usually find one that has free 2-day shipping. You simply hook the scale around the handle of your luggage and pick it up, and it will tell you how much the bag weighs. And the best part is, the scale itself weighs less than a pound, so you can stick it in your suitcase pocket and bring it with you. That way coming home, you know you’ll be under the weight limit (usually 50 lbs), and avoiding those costly overweight baggage fees!
- Tip #4: Remember Why You’re Doing This! – When you’re preparing for your departure, always keep in mind why you’re doing this! You’re getting away! You’re going on vacation! So no need to stress about it. If you get there and realize you’ve forgotten something – it won’t be the end of the world (unless of course it’s your passport, so do remember that, won’t you?!). You can always buy what you need or do without. Just remember what you’re doing, where you’re going, and your preparation won’t seem so daunting.
- Tip #5: Ask For Help. Or Don’t – If your traveling companion is a competent travel prepper, ask for help. I spent years packing for myself and my husband, getting the house and pets ready for the sitter, and basically doing everything necessary for our departure. It was rough. So then I asked my husband for help. This is where the “Or Don’t” part comes in. If your traveling companion is like mine, and when packing for a 10 day trip will pack 3 pair of underwear, a couple of shirts…well you get the idea, it may be necessary to eliminate them from the preparation equation. Especially if when asked if they packed such and such, they respond with a cute look and a shrug. You may have to consider that this “assistance,” will only add stress to your departure preparations. Needless to say, I do everything myself once again, but when done following the tips above, I find it’s not half bad.