Voyage to....Orlando (or packing hacks, part one)
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My husband hates puns, and he especially hates my puns, so he probably hates every single title of every single blog post I write. I'm well-known for singing punny songs in the morning, replacing the words of a popular song with my own, very much to my husband's dismay. To that end, I was struggling to find a title for this one, so here we go (stolen from The Isley Brothers' Voyage to Atlantis...)
Anyway, I have a complicated relationship with travel; I get antsy if I don't see the inside of an airport for a few months, but then I usually loathe the rigamarole of air travel and being away from home for several nights.
After ten years of being away from home at least 30-40 days a year, you learn to get "home in bag" down to a very specific science. I do not travel lightly; I am a surly-so-and-so without my creature comforts and require a fair amount of kit to keep happy. However, I travel smartly. I have many more one-night stays than I used to and people are baffled when I show up at a meeting that starts 30 minutes after a flight lands with a large handbag and not much else. I've got a friend who was once told that her "person-to-luggage" ratio was way off as she schlepped rolling bags, backpacks, and crossbodies across the terminal, so uh yeah, lemme save your back with a few hacks.
Most of my travel is business-oriented, which means a certain amount of gadgets are required, but I don't pack much differently for business or pleasure.
Music (and therefore headphones) are necessary - it drowns out screaming children, calms flight-weary nerves and sends a "Do Not Disturb" signal to chatty seatmates if necessary. My favorites headphones are my Yurbuds Sport Bluetooth earbuds, but while the Federal Aviation Administration says yes to short-range Bluetooth, many airlines still say no. Instead, I keep a pair of $5 cute denim over-the-ear headphones that are great for comfort and snoozing in the window seat. If I mistakenly abandon them in a hotel room, I don't feel so bad.
My mobile phone is a must, and I have two - one for work (iPhone 6) and one of my own (Sony Xperia Z3 - great camera, terrible phone). Coupled with a few Photojojo lenses, the phone doubles as a DSLR-ish camera (the Xperia has a 20MP camera with a 'background defocus' mode that realistically mimics shallow depth of field) - which means I can leave a large amount of kit (DSLR, lenses) at home and still get good pictures. My phone serves as my: boarding pass, travel manager, entertainment, wallet, newspaper, packing list and note manager, restaurant finder and reservation maker, coffee manager (hey, this is paramount when you have a 7am flight), to-do list and relaxation agent. I think you get the point.
I've long since given up on taking my laptop on trips unless I am expected to do heavy programming, presenting from my laptop, or heavy design work. My 13" MacBook Air is featherlike in comparison to some of the other monstrous machines I've lugged around, but my iPad can do what I need in a compact size with a few worthwhile tweaks. It's not perfect, but it functions as both workhorse and entertainment.
The first step to making your tablet road ready is a physical keyboard. Keyboards come in all shapes and sizes and I've had a few. I'm all about fashion and function, so i went with the Kate Spade Cedar Street iPad Bluetooth 3.0 keyboard case as pictured here, but Moko makes a good, affordable (~$27) tablet/case combo for many tablets, as do many other manufacturers. I have a folding case, but a clamshell case (very laptop-like) might be best for you. Next is functionality: A remote desktop solution could eliminate your need for any other apps to actually get things done. My remote desktop programs can connect to both my work computer and my home laptop and I can use applications natively as long as I have an internet connection. I use both GoToMyPC and Parallels Access, preferring the latter for usability and price.
In my early days of travel, you could have stamped #fail all over my forehead when it came to packing. For a one week business trip I'd have brought four pairs of shoes, five suits, and jeans and tees to wear during the evenings. I'd end up not wearing half the stuff and regretting that I brought all of it in the first place.
When to Pack...
Don't leave it to the last minute. Last minute packing = impulse packing and you'll end up carting 50 pounds of luggage to Lisbon with no room for your loot. Give yourself a minimum of two days to pack and if the trip is long, at least a week. This gives you time to make sure you have everything and to ponder and edit— the weather forecast or your heart might change.
How to Pack...
Relatively Ruthless Packing: Packing smartly requires advance planning. I start packing a week before my trip with the weather forecast, a packing list and clothing grid that you can download here. Edit this list to meet your needs; it will ensure you have everything you need and also ensure you leave nothing behind.
Miniaturize everything. At least the stuff you can. Make it compact, small, and double duty. Decant your full size toiletries into small bottles. Eliminate liquids when possible and go with solids: bar soaps, solid perfumes and all-purpose lotion bars come to mind. Shrink your gadgetry: I travel with a USB/power outlet that eliminates three chargers and one of my bracelets doubles as a charging cord. Take sleepwear that can double as workout wear or poolside loungewear.
Other important considerations are special occasions to be dressed for and the bags to pack inside your bag. What?! Bags inside your bag? What does this mean? Well TSA does like to just *randomly* search your luggage from time to time and you don't want your unmentionables being thrown about. Even when TSA has nothing to do with it, it's so much easier to pack and stay organized with (nesting) packing cubes/envelopes. When you aren't packing a ton, you can nest one cube inside another to use every square inch of space available to you. Don't forget about packing things in your shoes and wearing the bulkiest/heaviest items on your person. Depending on the situation, rolling instead of folding is often the way to go, but I often fold when I use packing cubes.
Rely on a color palette of two neutrals and an accent color and you will be good to go. I love grey, black and a splash of something bright. Count on small accessories to bring flair to your outfit and besides, I'm sure you can find some local accessories to spruce up your look.
What to Pack...
Shoes are a real pain when it comes to packing. For most circumstances, you don't need more than three pairs: the ones on your feet (flats, loafers, booties), a fancy pair (heels, smart boots), and a casual pair (sneakers, sandals). For short trips, one or two pairs will do. I typically wear a pair of low-heeled booties to the airport— they go with everything— and I might throw a pair of ballet flats in my bag for good measure.
Pack as casually as your circumstances will allow. The more formal the clothes, the more space they take up. If you have to pack a suit, roll your pants and jacket and fold your shirt department-store style to ameliorate wrinkles. I rarely wear things that need an iron, and if I need to wear more formal clothes, I pack one non-wrinkle suit jacket that I can interchange with dresses, trousers, and skirts. Sometimes a formal dress is unavoidable, so I go with a cocktail dress that I can later pair more casually with a light jacket and boots.
Depending on how long you will be away, you will need about half the number of outfits. Gone for three days? Splurge! Take two outfits and wear one, Gone six-eight days? Four outfits are plenty. You don't really need any more than five outfits while away. If you are cheap like me, you can always wash in your hotel sink. Of course, you can send out for laundry or find your nearest lavanderia to do your washing. A note on underwear: you should never pack any more than three pairs. At night, wash out dirty ones in the sink to hang and they'll be dry in two days. Nylon underwear are great for this purpose.
If you can get away with it, pack sleepwear that can double as something else. I often take a simple sundress like the peach one shown, or I sleep in workout wear. It can always be re-worn as something else later! Lastly, always carry one extra shirt. Mine is usually a striped t-shirt, and it's there for wardrobe malfunctions or unexpected spills.
I'll return next week with the second installment! This is a long post!