Remember the days when taking a flight included mere packing? You walked right up to the gate with, maybe, a metal detector between your car and the gate agent. You could pack huge bottles of shampoo or lotion, or take home your favorite scotch, all without any more concern than import fees.

Now it’s not that easy breezy. Today one must plan their trip in order to make the travel lower stress and without (much) incident.

Here are some tips and tricks I’ve gathered over my years, decades, of traveling… for both business and pleasure:

  • Plan your hotel first. Hotels book up faster than flights and, if forgotten until the last minute, could mean you’ll have to stay much farther from your desired location that you would like. In some places, like Seattle or San Jose, there are events that can fully book hotels in the surrounding thirty (30) mile radius. If you couple in the traffic in these particular cities, this lack of planning could cost you an hour-plus long commute. Book your hotel first… you can always cancel later.
  • Flights are cheapest several weeks from departure. If you’re flying for business, you may not be able to take advantage of this… your plans may change and the cost of reissue negates the lower cost. For pleasure though, book early. Not only will you get better rates, but you’ll also secure better seats.
  • Locate and buy a clear plastic case for your liquids. Bags are horrible. They scratch and tear, and offer little protection around movement of the contained goods. You can often find some at your local discount retailer, like Target. If you have tubes or creams, put those in a separate snack size bag… so it the get squished, they don’t make a mess. I also put small things, like my eye drops, in a small bag.
  • Carry a few essentials with you: bandages, tissue, facial/hand wipes, pain reliever, and nail trimmers. You’d be amazed at what these few items can do when you’re in a bind. Yes, these are often sold at various airport stores, but for $5-$10 each. What costs you $2 total, could cost you $25 or more.
  • Bring your device chargers and an adapter. Hotels often do not have enough ports to charge more than one device bedside. I use this one, and plug in my phone and iPad. I also recommend an extended battery for your phone. Two reasons: 1) if you’re traveling after an all-day work event you may not have enough power to ensure an emergency call, and 2) international travel now requires you to power on all devices. If your device is dead, they will like take it. This one is a favorite of mine because it can add enough juice to both an iPad and iPhone 6 to pass international needs. Most stores in the airport sell cords, but again, for huge mark-ups. Don’t forget a headset!
  • Must pack items to check before you leave your house: identification, cash, credit/debit card and cell phone. If you have these you can get everything else you need. Check before you leave home, again when you leave the car to head into the airport, whenever you get out of a cab, and when you’re checking out of the hotel. Four things… always check… never forget. Your ID can be a driver’s license, a passport, or any other government issued picture ID. If you plan on renting/hiring a car, bring your driver’s license.
  • Pack light. Really… pack light. It is not the responsibility of fellow airline passengers to help you with your luggage. If you cannot lift it above your head then you’ve packed too much. Obviously this doesn’t apply to those who have physical limitations, but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen smaller women back these HUGE bags that weigh a million pounds and just sit there until someone offers to load and unload their bag. If you cannot lift a bag above your head, I recommend using a smaller bag that can be placed under the seat in front of you. Most 18″ soft cases will fit perfectly. True, you lose some leg room, but it’s your baggage. I have a few cases, and one is 17″. I use this one most of the time, just in case overhead storage is low, I don’t have to check my bag because it fits under the seat. I can fit 3-4 days of travel needs in it. A week’s worth if I plan well.
  • Plan your pack. You should try and commit to one pair of shoes, but if that’s impossible (ha ha ha), then two at the most. Think neutral colors and styles. Black and beige/nude for women, blacks and brown (or navy) for men. One pair comfortable, one more dressy. If you can find a comfortable dressy shoe, then you’ve just opened up more packing space! For clothing, wear your most bulky or wrinkle-prone clothes. Rolling clothes takes up less space, put very few ways totally prevent wrinkles. Want to prevent wrinkles? Buy wrinkle proof clothing. I roll some, fold others. Fold along seams, roll as smoothly as possible. Put larger items in first, then fill in gaps with smaller items like socks. Anything too small? Put it in a ziplock back. I always back a few gallon size bags for wet or dirty items.
  • If you lock your bags use TSA approved locks. Do remember that regardless of who opens the bag it is prone to theft. Carry with you any item you think is very valuable. Even if your bag, or its items, are not stolen, they could be lost. Carry with you all medications, your ID/Cash/Cards/Phone, devices and chargers. Due to poor baggage handling, and the cost to check baggage, many people carry on all their bags now these days. Smart move, as long as you consider you’re not the only one traveling that day. You don’t get to place both your carry-ons overhead. One has to go by your feet. Men tend to be the worst offenders in this situation, as they put both their bags above. That’s fine, as long as everyone’s bag was placed without having to be checked… or placed several rows behind. Consideration is key, and what traveling boils down to. Everyone deserves space, quiet and a stress-free travel experience.
  • All liquids must be 100ml or less. All of them. Toothpaste, hair product, creams, eye drops, perfume and cologne, hand sanitizer, etc. Please check the TSA web site if you think you may need an exception (like a medical need).
  • Print out important documents like directions, hotel reservations (when in a different language) or boarding passes. You may not have internet access or a working phone, and you don’t want to be caught without the right information. I especially do this when traveling abroad. Japan was an excellent example in which this was very important. Giving a hotel address to a Japanese cab driver was much easier to do by handing him the printed hotel page.
  • Pack some snacks! Planes and the airport are full of options, but few are healthy. As an example, it’s unlikely you’ll find organic, grass-fed beef options. I order these sticks so I can get a healthy form of protein. A few items well planned will allow you to stay healthy and fed during your trip. You cannot pack drinks though… which is sad, since I’ve yet to find coconut milk at any airport.
  • I used to recommend the use of antihistamines as a sleep aide on long flights. Due to this article, I no longer do. Talk to your doctor if you take these. Instead, you can look to other relaxation herbs or devices to help you on longer flights.Keeping your stress low and relaxing is key to a happy travel event!
  • Dress for comfort. If you have kids traveling with you, dress them appropriately.
  • Kids: bring food and entertainment. Lots of food, lots of entertainment. If your children travel well, lucky you. If they don’t, plan ahead. Do they get sick? Do their ears hurt? They have herbs and such for both. A comfortable child will make you, and your fellow travelers, happy. As a parent, I’ve traveled with a baby, and a child that gets violently ill. I planned ahead. No crying baby, no uncomfortable neighbors. Want some more advice on this? Just ask 🙂

Traveling used to be far more fun. Now, it’s a job. You can mitigate this and make it as easy as possible. Hope my tips and tricks helped. Let me know if you have questions!