When you travel, there are always mistakes you could have sidestepped, things you could have done better, stress you could have avoided. The craziness of packing and preparing can sometimes be just as chaotic as the flying or driving, but whether you’re taking a quick weekend trip or a two-year tour, consider these simple steps to traveling smarter.
Research your destination ahead of time. You might think you already know everything there is to know about your destination. But things like the weather and the state of the economy can change frequently, throwing off your initial itinerary or requiring a luggage repack. You might be traveling to Paris in the early spring and pack for sunny weather when really the forecast shows rain and snow the whole month of your trip. Or you might bring too-revealing clothing when visiting certain parts of Egypt, not really knowing the culture there is easily offended by showing skin. Sometimes there’s nothing you can change about the information you gather- like the freezing temperatures you’ll have to deal with or the high exchange rate you’ll be facing- but at least you’ll be as prepared as you can be before arriving.
Keep your travel documents together. The easiest way to lose your boarding pass or your hotel confirmation is by being disorganized. To make travel as stress-free as possible, keep all the important documents together in one location. You don’t have to be extreme about it- like those tourists who wear their passports in a pouch around their necks- but put a little extra thought into where to best stow your vital paperwork.
Roll it and stuff it. If studying abroad taught me anything, it was the art of packing a whole lot of stuff into a little bit of space. Especially if you’re traveling for a longer period of time, you’re probably going to want to bring more things than you have room for. But don’t fret. If you get creative with your packing methods, you’ll be able to fit everything you want without having to leave behind your favorite boots or your thickest sweater. Rolling your clothes and packing them in, rather than folding and stacking, will create more space and give you more room to bring your favorite things. Take advantage of every open space, including the inside of sneakers- stuff socks down in them- and the bigger insides of boots- you can roll smaller shirts and stuff them into bigger shoes. If your
favorite shampoo or the special brand of deodorant you use is something that’s available- and at a reasonable price- where you’re going, consider opting out of packing those items to free up space as well. Just keep in mind, rolling and stuffing may allow you to pack more, but consider the weight limit if you’re traveling by plane. Not to mention you’ll have to lug that thing around with you the whole trip.
Prepare for the worst. It probably won’t happen. But you need to remember things do go wrong when traveling- especially traveling internationally- and keeping this in mind will save you a lot of unnecessary frustration if you happen to run into a snag or two. Minor things, like delayed flights, are annoying but bearable, but things you weren’t expecting, like lost or damaged luggage, can easily set you off and ruin what was supposed to be a good trip.
Over-worrying about traveling is the fastest way to ruin the excitement of the trip. But whether you’re deciding last minute to backpack across Europe, or planning a Caribbean vacation a year in advance, take the extra few minutes to plan accordingly and prepare yourself for any possibility. The planning will pay off, and you’ll end up traveling easier and spending more time enjoying the destination.