1. Are you tired of catching colds while traveling?
Take along a travel-sized package of Clorox wipes. Disinfect the tray table and armrests on the airplane, and the telephone and TV remote in your hotel room.
2. Keep your passport information handy
On international flights I used to fumble through my belongings—often having to retrieve them from the overhead bin—after a flight attendant appeared with the landing card, (I don’t know of many people who have their passport number and date of issue memorized.) Now I write all my information on the bookmark of whatever I plan to read on the long flights, so I don’t have to dig out my passport. I can then fill out the card quickly—giving me more time to loan my pen to people who never seem to carry one.
3. Don’t toss out old prescription glasses
Whenever my husband and I get a new set of eyeglasses, we relegate the old ones to our luggage, along with an inexpensive repair kit from the drugstore. If something happens while we’re away from home, we can hopefully fix the glasses ourselves. If they’re beyond saving, we have the backup pairs to get us through the rest of the trip.
4. Secure any small electronics to a bag
I’m a gadget freak, and I don’t like to travel without things like my digital camera and my iPod. On one trip though, I put my camera down in a crowded restaurant and then, distracted, forget to put it back in my bag. By the time I remembered where I’d left it, the camera was long gone. Now, I attach those kinds of items to my daypack with a lanyard. They’re still easily pull out and use, and they never get left behind.
5. Pack separately for different parts of your trip
When I travel for business, I usually tack on a few extra days to do something active like the hike in a nearby national park. I find that by taking two small suitcases instead of a single large one, I stay better organized and less burdened. I keep my business clothes, papers, and laptop in one bag, and my hiking gear in another. I leave the suitcase I’m not using at the time in the rental car and easily carry the lightweight case with the equipment and clothes I need into my hotel room.
6. There are lots of uses for wet wipes
I don’t go anywhere without individual packets of antibacterial wipes. I slip some in my carry-on or daypack, and shirt pocket. They’re very convenient when you can’t find any running water with which to wash your hands. And because they’re antibacterial, they’re also great for cleaning cuts, and the alcohol from the wipes helps stop the itching when you rub them on insect bites.
7. Pack a scale
Few hotel rooms are equipped with scales. So bring your own—the portable kind that fisherman use—and you can weigh luggage before you get to the airport.
8. Kids can have fun and learn on long road trips
To keep my children entertained on a long journey, I bought each of them a plastic pencil box and a clipboard to stick in the seat pouches of our car. Before we left home, I filled the boxes with machine washable markers and attached games and puzzles (all free online), to the clipboard related to where we were traveling.
9. Socks protect fragile items in luggage
Put your perfume or cologne bottles inside pairs of rolled-up socks to keep them cushioned during your trip.
10. Concierges are full of good advice
When I’m planning a trip, I almost always call the hotel concierge before I arrive (and if my hotel doesn’t have one I call one that does). Recently, I asked for advice on what to see since I had only four days in a new city. After I told the concierge what I thought I should try to do, she said I had too many things packed into four days. She gave me a list of hotspots to visit and places to avoid. With her help, my trip was much more enjoyable.
11. Follow the crowds for safe street food
If you are looking for authentic street food, don’t buy from the pitifully lonely vendor who has no customers. Head to the cart with the longest line in front of it. Locals know which vendors serve the best (and safest) food. Even if you have to wait a while, your stomach will thank you.
12. Line your suitcase with a plastic bag
On a trip to Molokai, the plane we were on was small, and luggage was crammed in every which way. At baggage claim, we noticed that someone had packed a bottle of something and it had broken and leaked everywhere. Now we line our suitcases with garbage bags to protect our clothes, just in case.
13. Hit the gym for free water
Before you buy expensive bottled water from your hotel room minibar, head to the fitness center. You’ll be able to fill up an empty bottle at the gym fountain for free… and you don’t need to break a sweat.
14. Leave damaged dollar bills at home
We’ve traveled to Mexico and China in the last year and had the same experience in both countries: When we tried to exchange dollars to local currency, the banks wouldn’t take any bills with graffiti or that were ripped or damaged in any way. Make sure any money you want to exchange are crisp and clean.
15. Tie a bell to your luggage to thwart thieves
In order to keep track on my bags, I use small metal bells and tie them to my carry-on. If anyone touches my bag after I set it down, the bell chimes. It’s not a very obtrusive sound but is distinctive enough for me to notice if a thief is trying to get my things. You can do the same to the doorknob of your hotel room if you’re worried about security.
16. Be nice to hotel house-keepers and they’ll be nice to you
Depending on the hotel, checkout time is usually around noon. On the last day of my last vacation, I tried to arrange a late checkout, but was told it wasn’t possible. The hotel offered a day room but it was used by other guests with a long queue for the shower. Instead, I went upstairs and noticed that someone was about to clean my room. I asked her if it was possible to have a quick shower before she started. She said she could do something even better, she would start the room next door first and give me even more time.
17. Use carabineers to free up your hands
Buy a couple of carabineers—the kind that rock climbers use—and attach them to the top of your wheeled suitcase. Purses, cameras, and shopping bags can be clipped to your suitcase, giving your hands and shoulders a rest while you’re walking around the airport.
18. Ziploc now makes extra-large bags with handles
They’re nearly 2’ by 2’, and although Ziploc advertises them as being good for storage, they’re even more useful when you’re traveling. Use one on long shopping excursions and then as an extra carry-on for all your souvenirs.
19. Take photos of what you pack
In order to provide any reimbursement for a lost suitcase, most airlines and insurance companies require an itemized list of exactly what was inside it. Unfortunately, remembering everything you packed after the fact is virtually impossible. To avoid the headache, take pictures of the items you’re going to put in your suitcase with your digital camera or cell phone. The photos will make creating the lost a breeze, and in the event of a dispute with the airline or insurance agent, you will have some visual evidence of the ownership.
20. Accidentally reformat your camera’s memory card?
As long as you don’t overwrite the disk by taking more photos, those original pictures are still there. Buy another card to use in the meantime, and then, when you get home, either purchase a file-recovery software program (about $35) or take the card to a camera shop.
21. Keep travel numbers handy
I have the words hotel and taxi on my Mobal World Phone speed dial. On a trip, I change the numbers, but leave the pre-programmed titles the same—instant access and no more little slips of paper everywhere.
22. Consider bringing your bike on a cruise
We decided to take along our bikes on our last Caribbean cruise. It was a little crowded in the cabin, so we asked the steward if we could store them down the gall with the wheelchairs. We were last off the ship when we docked in Bermuda, but in less than 5 minutes we were far away from the busy port, enjoying a beautiful, deserted snorkeling beach.
23. Water-bottle holsters are good for holding more than water
I own several Water Bottle Totes by Outdoor Research. With their Velcro-like straps, I can fasten them anywhere to my belt, camera strap, airplane seat, etc. In addition to holding water, I’ve used them at various times to carry binoculars, snacks, umbrella, fan, flashlight, sunglasses, windbreaker and a rain poncho.
24. A beach ball can replace many expensive in-flight gadgets
Depending on how much you inflate it, a beach ball can function very comfortably as a footrest, back support, or as a lap pillow to support your book.
25. Put your bathing suit in your carry-on
There’s nothing worse than not being able to swim because you made it to your hotel, but your luggage didn’t. If your suit is still damp for the flight home, again, put it in your carry-on so it won’t get moldy if your bags are delayed.
26. The ideal toiletry bag is a lunch box
After years of looking for years for the perfect toiletries bag and being frustrated by many that were less than ideal, I’ve finally discovered one that is right: a soft-sided lunch box I bought at the supermarket. It has an outer-zipped pocket with small compartments and lots perfect for often-used items like toothbrush and toothpaste. There’s a small removable zipper pouch inside for those smaller hard-to-find items like nail files and pill bottles. The remaining space inside is just the right size for larger items like shampoo and hand lotion. Other helpful features include both a small handle and shoulder strap, and a waterproof, easy-to-clean interior. This lunch box was designed for children, so I know it’s going to last.
27. Stock up on crosswords
About a month before leaving on vacation, I started clipping the crossword puzzles from the daily newspaper and pasting them into a blank notebook. The puzzles keep me occupied during my trip. The newspaper’s crosswords are so much more interesting than those generic books of crosswords that you can purchase at the airport.
28. Pack a homemade medicine kit
When traveling with my kids, I always bring a Ziploc bag that includes four things: a bottle of Benadryl, a bottle of my children’s ibuprofen, one of those little medicine cups, and a thermometer. This all-purpose kit can help with minor ailments, or treat a more serious flu until you can get to a doctor. Best of all, it beat driving around at 2 am looking for an all-night pharmacy.
29. Share your travel stories online
By starting a blog for each trip, you can keep your friends and family, and the world updated on your adventures. All you need is an Internet café to add entries and photos while you’re on the road.
30. Don’t waste time waiting for your luggage on the first day of a cruise
Instead of packing your swimsuit away with the rest of your clothes, put it in a small bag and carry it with you. Once you board the ship, you’ll be able to enjoy the pool long before your suitcases are delivered to your cabin.
31. Dress like a local
When my husband and I visit places like India and Thailand, we pack only one extra change of clothes. When we arrive, we hit a local market and buy native attire—woven shirts, saris, sarongs, etc. Not only does this make packing easier, but we get a better cultural experience and end up with lots of wearable souvenirs.
32. Witch hazel has multiple uses
Witch hazel can kill odor-causing bacteria, relieve sunburn, stop bleeding, act as a facial astringent, and even be used as the mouthwash (just don’t swallow). It can be put in a travel-sized spray bottle.
33. Make instant memories
Carry a Polaroid camera when traveling to third-world countries. In Cambodia, several village children gathered around us, posed enthusiastically for pictures, and were fascinated by their images in our digital cameras. We wanted to send them pictures, but they were unable to tell us their addresses. Polaroids would have solved the problem.
34. Organize your receipts
If you have to save receipts while traveling, purchase a plastic coupon holder to help you keep track of them (it’ll also protect them). You can label each section of the coupon holder by category (hotel, rental car, gas, food, etc.); or you can label it by day of the week. The coupon holders are compact and easily fit into a laptop case, purse, or travel bag.
35.Take a bus tour
Many big cities around the world have tourist buses that run circuits of the most popular sites. Spending a day on one us a great way to get the lay of the land in an unfamiliar place. It’s much cheaper than riding in a cab, takes less time than walking, and gives you a better view of the city than the subway.
36. Ship snacks ahead
Before our trip to Disney World, we skipped ahead a box of juices and snacks. When we arrived at our time-share with tired and whiny children, the package was waiting, and we were able to change their moods with the goodies. The supplies lasted all week, and we ended up saving quite a bit of money by not purchasing the items at the local stores with their inflated prices.
37. Getting the right maps
For road trips on the Continent, European maps are much more helpful when it comes to reading road signs. They’ll say Roma instead of Rome, Firenze rather than Florence. I could spend all day waiting for a road sign for Munich and miss the exit for München.
38. Make a travel journal for your kids
Before we went to London, I created a personalized booklet on our computer with fill-in pages like “the new foods I tried”, “best candy”, “words I learned” and the “most fun/boring museums”. Instead of being daunted by lots of blank journal pages, my daughter had a blast answering the questions and filling in all the details.
39. Enjoy your coffee anywhere on the cruise ship
Bring a travel mug for early-morning coffee fill-ups at the buffet. Your coffee stays warm, and travels well around the ship—the mug specifically designed to stop spillage—and you don’t have to linger in the restaurant after you’ve finished eating breakfast. When you return to your room or your favourite deck chair, you’ll have a fresh cup.
40. Pack your own picnic gear
A company called Orikaso makes brightly colored polypropylene sheets that can be folded to form a dish or a bowl or a cup. The sheets are lightweight and reusable. You simply flatten them when you’re finished.
41. Wax can free a stuck zipper
If the zipper on your luggage or clothing is giving you trouble, rub some lip balm or candle wax onto the teeth to loosen it.
42. Tally spending at the end of a trip
Last year I traveled to Greece with three friends. We knew we didn’t want to spend time calculating proportionate shares of the dinner bills, so we kept a running tab of all expenses in a little notebook. Whoever was up for it would pay a bill, so only one person at a time fussed with money, and this way we all kept pretty close to even. At the end of the trip, the total expense amount was divided evenly, and those who’d paid less reimbursed those who had paid more.
43 A hotel pool is hours of free fun
No matter where we traveled with our kids, the hotel pool was always a big plus. I used to pack a bag of items that made the pool even better, including a small flexible pool Frisbee, an inflatable beach ball, a few colourful plastic items, and last but not least, goggles to protect the kids’ eyes from the chlorine. I also brought along a few suction-cup hooks for hanging the wet suites inside the hotel tub for drip-drying.
44. Save your airline socks
My husband and I keep the stretchy slipper-socks some airlines provide. (We’ve gotten them on Virgin airlines economy class and on almost all airlines in business class.) They’re great to use when packing shoes: Just slip each shoe into a sock and you’ll prevent clothes getting marked by the soles. As a bonus, you’ll have slippers to wear when you’re away from home. The socks are machine washable and can last for many years.
45. “No early check-in” shouldn’t deter you
If you take an overnight flight to Europe and early check-in at your hotel isn’t an option, ask the concierge if you can store your luggage until later in the day and use the hotel gym’s shower. You’ll be refreshed and ready for a day of sightseeing. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on.