Traveling is a frustrating experience for many. Add in time delays, airport security demands, crowds, the tiny metal carry-on luggage box, and frustration levels skyrocket. Even the most Zen of us can fall victim to the stressors of traveling.
So, how do you organize your travels so you experience an enjoyable and peaceful time? Let’s start with the most obvious: organized packing. Five friends and I just returned from a 10 day trip to Norway and Iceland. Can you say bulky cold weather clothes? Thankfully, we booked an amazing deal on American Airlines (hint: check out flight deals the Tuesday after Black Friday). Maybe not so thankfully, we were allowed only 1 personal item and 1 carry-on (although Spirit flyer that I am, I’m thankful for that additional carry-on!). So, we had three options. Option 1: pay $120 to check a bag, but after achieving such great savings on the flight booking….no, thank you! Option 2: toss everything into our bags haphazardly (or even folded), use our body weight to squeeze it shut so it latches, then pray it doesn’t pop open or that security requires us to open it prior to arriving at our destination. Or Option 3 (and this is my personal favorite): roll and zip-tie our clothes.
I roll all my clothes when traveling, winter, summer, Solstices, every time, no matter the items or the season. This condenses my clothing and also maximizes my space. Happy bonus: it keeps the clothes wrinkle free! This was the first time I’d ever zip-tied any of my clothes, but when traveling in winter, I discovered it’s a must. So, I ventured into my organizer’s bag of tricks, saw the zip ties, and did a mental happy dance. I used these on my puffy ski pants (old school type that are huge and won’t stay rolled) and my two winter jackets. If I didn’t zip-tie these 3 items, my carry-on suitcase would have only fit my boots, the two jackets, and the ski pants. There you have it. Done. You’re ready to pack for your travels.
I kid. I kid. I have a few more pieces of advice for organized travel…such as:
- Stuffing socks, underwear, bras, and other items inside your boots or tennis shoes.
- Buying a zippered clear quart sized pouch. I love these reusable ones because they’re sturdy, I can see all my items, and it’s easy to pull out for security. Any of your Marshall’s, Target’s, etc. will carry these items. I keep mine either in my backpack, on the top or in the front pocket of my carry-on. Easy access for security. (Also, sometimes I don’t take it out and security has never asked about it. I assume because it’s towards the surface of the bag, it suffices.).
- Knowing your itinerary. If you have to catch another flight, or take a tram to a different terminal, or find the car rental place, research ahead of time. Knowing what steps you have to take throughout the day and how long you have to take those steps will minimize your stressors (and impress your traveling companions when you take them exactly where you need to go with minimal fuss).
- Bringing snacks and a refillable water bottle. Again, traveling is exhausting. Save yourself some money and bring your own snacks. Also, I’ve noticed that most airports have installed refillable water bottle machines. Once you make it past airport security, utilize these to stay hydrated.
- Signing up for text alerts relating to your flight, bus, etc. When our DFW to LHR flight was delayed, we were alerted via our phones before they announced it at the terminal. As we went to a restaurant to relax a bit, the alerts kept us up to date for the next two hours (aside advice: accept that there will be delays, so when it happens, you aren’t upset or stressed. Allow yourself to be (pleasantly) surprised when you arrive at your destination exactly on time (another aside: Norway transportation left exactly on time for every mode of travel we experienced: plane, train, bus, cruise…high five, Norway!)).
- Calling your bank to set up a travel alert. This prevents them from freezing your account on day 1 of your vacation.
- Holding your mail and newspapers. No need to alert the neighborhood that you’re away from home.
- Figuring out plans for the pets and plants (or kids if they aren’t joining you).
- Letting someone who isn’t traveling with you know your itinerary. It’s a safety precaution you hope is never needed, but sometimes life happens during your travels, and it’ll be great if someone knows where to start looking for you.
- Prior to trip: asking for time off from work; making sure your passport is up-to-date (some countries require that your passport won’t expire for 6 months); any required visas; the best place to exchange money or if your credit card can be utilized everywhere (we did not need any cash in Iceland or Norway, and the cheapest place to exchange was at a cash machine once we landed.); checking for any travel alerts issued by the US government.
- Planning: personally, I love to research and plan the details of a trip. I want to know everything about the country or city we’re visiting, so that I don’t miss something and have to go back. For Iceland, I attempted to sit back and just go along with the itinerary that was planned by anyone else. But no planning was done, so I opened my laptop and found the magical sights that were awaiting us. After creating an organized and detailed excel sheet of possibilities for each day, I could relax and know our trip would be phenomenal. Others are more laid back, and as long as the flights and first few nights of accommodations are booked, they are good to go. Figure out which way causes less stress for you (although I do recommend doing general research to discover if there are any activities or locations that call to you). You can also hire someone else to create an itinerary for you (such as Noken). Or if it’s a place I’ve been, send me an email! I most likely have a detailed excel I can send you! 🙂
- Entertainment: some airlines offer internet on the flights and the longer flights offer free movies, TV, music, etc. But you’ll experience a lot of downtime while traveling, so it’s best to be prepared. Download Podcasts, books/audiobooks from Overdrive (my fav app), games, your TV subscription may allow downloading of episodes, etc. Or bring your laptop and do work in your downtime. Or go old school and bring paperback books that you’ll leave at your hotel, or jigsaw puzzles, or a newspaper.
- Expectations: if traveling with others, discuss the budget ahead of time as well as expectations for the trip. Are there attractions or cities someone has been dreaming about visiting for years? Are there food restrictions? Can they not walk a certain distance? It’s always best to know everyone’s expectations prior to the trip, including verbalizing your own. Also, nothing says that everyone has to remain together. If your SO’s ideal vacation is relaxing on the hotel bed watching sports, let him. You can visit the city or take a tour.
- Travel with people you like (and hopefully someone that enjoys organizing trips!). Obviously, sometimes you are unlucky and sit next to ________ (fill in the blank) on the plane or your family member (kids, parents, spouse) is the worst, but if you get to choose, choose wisely. Pick someone who makes you forget the exhaustion of travel, who doesn’t stress easily, or who just makes you happy.
- Lastly, this has nothing to do with organizing your actual trip, but I love to clean my apartment before I leave. All my clothes are washed (mainly for packing, but also for the organized aspect), the dishes are put away, the food eaten or frozen (if I’m gone for a while), the floors swept and mopped, and my sheets washed. The best feeling is coming home from an Adventure Vacation (only way we travel), feeling exhausted from __ days of go-go-go, and not having to do a single thing but plop onto the couch and relax a bit (before doing the laundry, putting away the luggage, and answering the emails that have piled up…hah!).
Where ever you decide to travel, I hope this article has given you a few ideas on how to organize it and hopefully reduce your stress. Also, no matter how much planning you complete prior to the trip, once you actually leave, the best mental approach is just to let happen what’s going to happen. Don’t worry about schedules and if you booked the perfect hotel, or what will happen if it rains. Just taken each moment and enjoy the people you’re with in the scenery you’re traveling through!