Don’t Pack Stress in Your Vacation

by Anne Schrader, Certified Travel Counselor (CTC)

Summer may not be “officially” here, but even if you’re not already experiencing the 90 + degree weather associated with the season, we’re pretty sure you’re eagerly waiting for the date you’ve circled on the calendar for the beginning of your summer vacation.

We’re hoping you’ve already booked your trip (especially if you’ve used a travel professional, like either Hank or myself) so your trip is well-planned! But even if you braved the myriad of choices available on the internet, (or just booked a place based on the conversation you overheard standing in line at the grocery store or from the booth next to yours in the restaurant), we’re pretty sure you’ll still be faced with the arduous chore of packing for the trip.

Being in the travel business for 20 + years hasn’t lessened the time I spend trying to make sure I pack what I need for a trip, no more – no less. The luggage restrictions added by the airlines hasn’t helped, but it’s really more than that. There’s the actual physical exertion required to transport an overweight suitcase (or multiple lighter ones) onto the shuttle between the parking lot and the airport. And, then after claiming them, getting to next form of transportation: taxi, coach or train.

These days, most of our travels seem to be to Europe. This requires long flights, which, for me, means I’m going to want some of my “perceived” necessities on the plane. And, it also means that I’m probably not going to want to carry-on everything I’ve decided I’ll need for the trip.

When we are in Europe, we travel between locations by train. It is the most relaxing and time efficient way to experience multiple locations.  However, because trains stop at stations for only 3 to 5 minutes to board or exit, heavy luggage can be an issue. Then, once again, it’s getting to our destination, either a hotel or a ship. Just a tip: taxis in Europe often charge extra for more than one large case and one small personal item per person. And their cars are often small, so getting more than 2 people and luggage in one automobile can be tricky.

Several years ago, Hank decided we could both travel with a 21” suitcase and one carry on. It’s true, he can! For me, that’s not so easy. Luggage is my addiction. I’ve tried all types and shapes and sizes. I think (and Hank’s hoping) that I may have finally hit on the right combination (at least for now).

And, after 4-5 big trips a year, I think I’ve pretty much established my carry-on needs and clothing needs to ease some of the packing stress. I’m still pretty bad about being packed and ready to go more than a few minutes before we walk out the door. But at least it isn’t quite as bad as the time when Hank finally figured I’d never be ready, so he packed for me. One word of advice, ladies: NEVER let your husband pack your carry‑on or purse, especially if it is important to find your lipstick and hairbrush!

Based on our last trip in May, here’s the luggage and items I carried for our 2 week trip. And, I think it will work for our upcoming trips later this year.

My Carry-On Luggage

My new carry-on is the TravelSmith Spinner360 Carry-On with Free Tote. This is available online or through HSN.com. I haven’t spent enough time to really know everything it can hold, however, on my trip, I was able to carry:

  • Camera, lens and charger
  • electronic cords & chargers (in a small case)
  • iPad
  • noise canceling head phones
  • my makeup (in a small case)
  • my jewelry roll (NEVER CHECK in your luggage) and I don’t take jewelry that is irreplaceable
  • my medications (NEVER CHECK in your luggage)
  • clothing for a day
  • sleepwear
  • cozy socks
  • disposable slippers for the plane
  • a pair of shoes (very lightweight rain skimmers from TravelSmith.com)

The last item to go in was my zippered, clear quart-size bag which is TSA approved for 3.5 oz. liquids Flight 001Clear Carry-On Quart Bag (S) from eBags.com. The zippered bag is very handy.

Inside I carry a travel-size:

  • toothpaste
  • toothbrush
  • mouthwash
  • hand lotion
  • contact lens case
  • contact solution
  • lip balm
  • mascara
  • lipstick
  • small perfume

In the accompanying (and matching) tote, I added:

  • small clutch purse (for my night time purse)
  • mobile phone
  • passports
  • paperwork for our trip
  • money belt, (which I put on upon landing at the destination)
  • the linen/flax cape/shaw (I bought it in Helsinki – maybe the best souvenir purchase ever)
  • travel pillow (inflatable with soft cover)
  • foam eye mask (It has curved indentions so it doesn’t squish my eyes and is bright red, so if I pull off in the middle of the night, I’ll see it before we the disembark plane!)
  • emergency medication bag (inhaler, nitroglycerin)
  • a small bag with nail file, pens and extra eye glasses
  • iPod and small earbuds
  • a Ditty Bag from Vera Bradley (which I fill on the plane with everything I want out during the flight, so I’m not constantly digging in my carry-on. After boarding, I’ll pull out my makeup, liquid bag and iPad out of carry-on. The Ditty Bag allows me to gather everything up, like headphone, iPods, etc. before we disembark, rather than trying to reload my carry-on. I’ll put everything back in the carry-on while waiting for our luggage to arrive at the carousel.)

My Suitcase

For my 50 lbs. of clothing (I really try to be lighter so I can shop at my destination), I have found that a 25” lightweight hard-sided case with 4 spinner wheels is best for me. The only drawback is there is no outside pocket for my rain jacket and umbrella. So I’ll put them on top inside the case so I only have to slightly unzip the luggage,  if required.

In Europe, I stick to a basic color wardrobe, black, cream, tan, gray. For clothing, here’s what I’ve found works best:

Day time:

  • 2 pairs of slacks (navy/black or black/brown)
  • 4-5 shirts to go with each

Evening:

  • Black knit wrap dress
  • one pair nice black slacks
  • a few dressy tops
  • a dressy jacket or sweater
  • and, of course, my personables
  • also, any additional sundries not in the carry on.

Here’s always my biggest challenge – shoes! I believe in being comfortable, so in winter, it’s boots with flat heels and suede shooties to wear with my evening slacks and dress. In warm weather, I will carry black pumps for night time. I’m pretty set, although I have discovered on Caribbean cruises, I’ll take sandals, espadrilles, (because I’ll substitute the slacks with crop pants). And in tropical areas I usually wear khaki, white or a bright color.

A couple of things I’ve learned to always travel with:

  • washcloth (in Europe many places don’t have them)
  • swimsuit (although I rarely use it, I’ve missed some great spas because I didn’t have it with me)
  • shaw/pashmina for the plane, restaurants and to enter religious sites

I may carry my travel hairdryer, although there is usually one in most hotels and ships. Amenities in hotels vary – some have hairdryers, magnifying mirrors, shampoo/conditioner/lotion; house slippers and robes. If your trip would be less than wonderful should any of those weren’t available, I’d recommend taking your own. Just remember, to avoid ruining your electronic gadgets, make sure they are dual-voltage (110-240 volts) and carry an adaptor for the country you will be visiting. (I  burned out a TV in England by plugging in my 110 volt power, even though I was using the correct convertor/adaptor. Needless to say, we no longer rely on the convertors.

Other items to consider:

  • Day pack (for sunscreen, water bottle, maps, etc.)
  • Plastic (foldable) tote bag with handles (or at a minimum grocery bags) for local purchases
  • TravelonMuV Digital Scale ( purchased at eBags.com). We’ve tried other luggage scales and this seems to be the most accurate.
  • Rain poncho (handy to cover your backpack or camera if caught in a quick shower)
  • Travel Valet (for dresser top with snaps at corners to corral you room key, pocket change, rings, receipts, etc. that you’ll use again the next day.)
  • piggy-back bungee cord system to securely hold a carry-on to the larger suitcase. It is made by Travelon, available from bagbungee@travelsmith.com

A quick word about prescription your medication. Never pack your medicine in your checked luggage. During your flight, if you have multiple medications that you’ll need to take at bedtime and/or early morning, put the correct dosage in a separate bottle or small zippy bag for quick retrieval.

 Remember, there are stores just about everywhere; you can always make any new purchase a great souvenir. It could end up being your most favorite purchase!

Now is the time to call Hank at 713-397-0188 to plan and book a spectacular trip! Grab your passport and go have fun! It’s not quite summer – you still have time to make those travel plans! Bon voyage!

 Savor life . . . make memories . . visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!

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