In early April I once again headed out with the intent to mix business with pleasure. This time I took a full 2 weeks in California: the first half was marked for vacation and the second half for work. But how on earth does one go about packing for that? I'm here to share tips and tricks from my own experience.
Unlike my trip to Florida back in March (which was only for one week), I decided to check a bag as well as take a carry-on and a personal item. Just like my previous trip, I decided to select my luggage options in advance to save money.
I hit a bit of a problem, as the suitcases that I already had were 1. practically beaten to death and 2. too large for current size constraints. Since I didn't want to pay extra in shipping by ordering online, I decided to hit Target. That turned out to be a great choice.
I found a wonderful 4-piece luggage set for about $50. It came complete with a large rolling suitcase, a rolling duffel, laptop bag and a toiletry bag. I was also fortunate enough to find a set that both stood out (making it easy to spot on the carousel) and fit my personal style as well.
I discovered that many luggage companies nowadays are conscious of airline requirements when it comes to size and weight, and mark their products accordingly. This is something to look for when making your next suitcase purchase. However, you should still always check your airline's website to make sure that you stay within their specific size limitations.
I found out the hard way that if you leave some beauty products in plastic travel bottles, they can corrode the plastic over time. So take a tip from me and make sure that you wash out your bottles after your trip if you want them to last.
Since I hadn't done that, I was in the market for some new ones that wouldn't leak into my suitcase. Once again, Target to the rescue.
The TSA regulations for liquids have become such a common concern for travelers of late, so it isn't too difficult to find 3 oz. containers in many stores. Even though I knew I was checking a bag—which means that you are not limited in ounces of liquids—I know that I'll be traveling again with only a carry-on... and it never hurts to save space.
[caption id="attachment_457" align="aligncenter" width="600"] If you're checking a bag, seal all liquids in plastic bags just in case. Put toiletries and personal hygiene items in your suitcase at the top.[/caption]
Being a very color-oriented person, I chose 5 bright containers with snap lids. Always check the lids to make sure that what you're putting in them will come out properly. Also, you may want to get 6 instead: 1 each for shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, face lotion and body lotion. You may be able to find travel bottles that are already labeled, but to save some money, I just labeled mine with a permanent marker.
Don't forget to pick up seal-able plastic bags to put your bottles in. It's required for carry-on luggage, but a good idea even if you're putting all your liquids in your checked bag. Better safe than a sorry suitcase of ruined clothes.
Whether you're staying in a hotel or staying with family and friends, packing well is the key to making life easier when traveling. And if you know where everything is, of course it's easier to find later.
Before I pack, I always lay everything out in piles next to my suitcase. This expedites the process and also allows me to clearly see everything that I want to take. Then I can edit out what isn't necessary before it all goes into the bag. It's much easier to add a few things if you find you have extra space than dig things out and do it all over again.
I make piles based on tops and bottoms, types of clothing (i.e. sleeveless versus t-shirts), and outer- versus underwear. Once I have assessed everything, the rolling begins.
Before anything else, I put any pairs of shoes that I am taking with me into the very bottom. I like to put them on the outside of the extendable handle bars. It tends to add stability to the bag. It also prevents my shoes from getting my clothes dirty. As a space saver, I stuff my pairs of socks inside of my shoes.
Next, I start filling in the middle of the bars with the heaviest clothing items like jeans, jackets and skirts. After that, I pay attention to color and add darker items towards the bottom. This keeps any residual dye in newer clothes from rubbing off on lighter colored clothing. I put older and medium darker clothes towards the middle and whites near the top.
I lay any items that aren't suitable for rolling on the top. Then I roll and put underwear, bras and stockings in the zippered pouch on the inside of the suitcase lid.
After the clothes are all in, I add any other items that I am taking that the TSA doesn't allow in carry-on bags. I like to make DIY jewelry which requires pliers, snips and scissors—typically not items that security would smile at you for having on a plane. I keep things like this in a plastic box with a lid...and it fits perfectly in the top of my suitcase.
I now know to wait to put my liquids and dop kit in at the very top. If you have liquids in your checked bag, it may give them cause to search it. If your liquids are buried in your clothes, you're going to end up with a complete mess when you reach your destination.
Packing your carry-on bag is just as important as your checked suitcase... as is packing your "personal item." This is especially true if you are taking a laptop or tablet. You must remove both from any bag for the security check.
Thankfully, I remembered this while luggage shopping and the 4-piece set that I bought had a bag for my laptop with an outside zippable pocket. I used that to carry the most necessary personal items that I would need while in transit. Because both a purse and a laptop bag are considered "personal items," and you are only allowed 1, I stowed my actual purse in my carry-on bag.
Remember that in current conditions, you are asked to remove any liquids from your bags when going through the security check point. Make this easy on yourself, and be prepared. I like to take hand sanitizer with me when I travel, so I make sure that I get 3 oz. or smaller containers and put them in a sealed plastic bag in an outside pocket. If you aren't checking a bag, be extra mindful of the amount of liquid that you are carrying on the flight.
"Carry-On" can be a misleading term. Yes, you carry the bag onto the plane with you, but that doesn't mean that you will have easy access to it during the flight. This is where you really have to use some forethought and edit. I reserve my carry-on for items like my camera bag, extra clothing items and, as I mentioned, my purse (minus what I need quick and easy access to like my ID and ticket).
I also make sure that any jewelry I am taking is safely tucked into my Traveler jewelry box. While I love wearing jewelry to express my personal style, I don't love the time and trouble it takes to get everything off and back on when going through security.
I love that the Traveler jewelry box has pouches and snapping loops to hold my necklaces, bracelets and rings in addition to my earrings. I know that all of my jewelry will be safe and organized when I get to where I am going.
During this last trip, I learned a few more tricks that made a huge difference for me.
I have always had trouble with extreme ear pain from flights. Sometimes it is so bad that I cannot hear properly for days afterwards. Not to mention that it just plain hurts! I discovered that there are earplugs specifically designed to help prevent this problem. You can find them at just about any drug store, often near the eye drops.
Make sure that you put them in before take off and then put them back in an hour before landing. The earplugs say that they are only good for a round-trip. So if you're making a connection flight, make sure that you spring for a couple of pairs.
Knowing now that most airlines no longer offer complimentary meals—and having discovered that the food they offer for purchase is not to my taste—I make sure that I have snacks on hand. I like to take things like dried fruit and a Lunchable. Filling and easy to carry.
I place the food that I am taking at the very top of my carry on bag. After I get through security to my gate, it's easy to get to. I like to keep it all in a plastic shopping bag. Most airlines will let you take something like that on in addition to your bags as long as it will all fit under your seat.
Even if you're not generally an avid reader, take a book just in case. Unless you're in First Class, there isn't a way to charge your laptop or tablet during the flight. And the fact of the matter is, the batteries in more portable devices lose staying power over time. I know that the battery life of my 3 year-old laptop is far from what it once was.
During this trip, I also encountered something completely new to me. On the way from my connecting flight in Chicago to LAX, there were screens on the back of every seat. You could slide your credit card and watch TV and movies the whole flight on your own personal screen. I quite liked it.
However, keep the following in mind... For the first 15 minutes or so, it is free to watch. Take that time to scroll through the program guide to find out if there are shows or movies that you actually want to watch the whole way. Otherwise, you might pay the fee only to find that there isn't anything you're in the mood to see.
Many airports have adopted designated lines for security screening based on how familiar a traveler is with the process and how long it might take them to get through. If you follow these packing tips, you will be able to get in the "Expert" line with complete confidence.
What tips and tricks do you have for plane travel with ease? Leave them in the comments below!