In the air
8 Expert tips for packing better, lighter & smarter for your next trip
Since the journey is just as important as the destination, set yourself up for a stress and hassle-free travel experience when it comes to your luggage. I happened to catch up with Angel Castellanos of Angel’s Travel Lounge at a recent travel show, and he couldn’t agree more. Here are some pro tips for traveling better, lighter, and smarter.
My family and I maintain one steadfast rule when it comes to air travel, and that is, carry-ons only. I honestly can't remember the last time that I actually checked a bag. Even with kids in tow, it’s a reasonable goal. It allows you to be more mobile, avoid checking fees, save time by not having to wait for luggage after a long flight, and prevents the possibility of valuables getting lost. Of course, there are exceptions: extended stays, hauling heavy athletic/weather gear or traveling with multiple children under five; but whenever possible, it’s the way to go.
2/Divide & conquer
Castellanos advises to lay out everything you want to take on your trip for each family member and then eliminate half of it. This sounds obvious, but for someone like me who tends to pack everything but the kitchen sink, it’s a necessary reminder.
KidTripster Tip: You also may want to consider a packable tote bag for souvenirs and gifts that you can check on your flight home.
Keep your selections color-coordinated so you can mix and match easily. This way, three tops and three bottoms turn into nine different outfits. Color matching creates a versatile wardrobe while assuring that every piece you bring will actually be worn without wasting any space.
KidTripster Tip: Include a small detergent pack, in case you have to do a bit of laundry in your hotel sink.
4/When it comes to shoes, less is more
For men and kids, two pairs should do it: one pair to wear on the plane for walking/hiking/athletics and a second pair to pack for evening affairs; if nothing formal is on the agenda, pack flip flops instead. For women, three pairs, tops: walking shoes, dress shoes, and again, a pair of flip flops. Wear one and pack the other two. Stuffing two pairs of shoes into a carry-on may sound tricky, but I do it all the time without issue.
KidTripster Tip: Wear your bulkiest wardrobe items on the flight, so you don’t have to crowd them into your carry-on.
5/Use packing cubes or compression bags
Castellanos suggests the Eagle Creek brand of packing cubes, but there are a variety of options at different price points available online. They keep everything tidy, minimize wrinkles, and make it easy to get your bag through security because everything’s clearly organized and readily identifiable.
KidTripster Tip: Packing cubes also are a great way to get your kids involved. Make it a fun activity by turning it into a game of who can coordinate similar items into each sack the quickest.
Another great way to consolidate space in a carry-on is through the use of compression packing bags. While they don’t work well with items that easily wrinkle, they are terrific options for anything bulky like down jackets, fleece pullovers, pillows or my favorite, dirty laundry.
6/Make it soft-sided
Make sure your personal item is soft-sided, so it can easily squeeze under the seat in front of you. Pack important documents, electronics, liquid toiletries, sanitizing wipes, medications, and jewelry in this bag on the off-chance that your carry-on has to be checked.
KidTripster Tip: Make sure your carry-on meets the specific weight and measurement requirements of the airline(s) that you’ll be traveling on; not all airlines have the same requirements. Don’t rely on product descriptions. Also make certain you invest in a sturdy model with swivel wheels that can navigate rough surfaces with ease.
KidTripster Tip: Especially when traveling abroad, wear a wallet strapped under your clothes with your passport and credit cards safely inside. For conventional wallets, Castellanos suggests wrapping them in a wide rubber band before placing them in your pocket as the band creates resistance so it won’t slip out accidentally or be easily pick-pocketed. And make sure the wallet goes in a front pocket versus back for added security.
7/Pack important copies
Keep a copy of your credit card in a safe place, so if it gets lost, you have the number and contact information readily available. (If traveling out of the country, also contact your credit card company/bank in advance to let it know that you’ll be traveling so your funds are not held for fear of fraudulent activity.)
KidTripster Tip: When traveling abroad, get local currency at your destination rather than prior to your trip to avoid fees. Make sure you get out the maximum amount each time to reduce the need for multiple trips. And above all, avoid random cash machines; only get cash from bank-owned machines to avoid fees and ensure the best exchange rate. Depending on your destination, you may be able to largely rely on your credit cards, but make sure that you use credit cards that doesn’t charge currency exchange fees, otherwise know as foreign transaction fees.
Also carry a copy of your passport. Consider having extra passport photos with you, too, so a new passport could be processed without delay, should the need arise.
8/Jot down emergency contacts
Lastly, consider taking a document with you to be shared with your adult traveling companions that details any medical conditions, medications, and emergency contact numbers, in case an unexpected crisis occurs.
Taking a little time to organize and prepare is worth every effort to ensure that your family getaway is as streamlined and hassle-free as possible.
Marcia Carroll Burzair lives outside of Dallas with her husband and daughter. When she's not writing, she's performing in a play, planning her next trip abroad or fantasizing about buying a cottage on a cliff overlooking the ocean in some faraway land.
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