22 Jun Surviving Summer Travel, Part II
After reading last week’s post, you now know how to plan and organize what you are going to pack, and you are ready to put it in your bags. Here are my TOP FIVE PACKING TIPS, including a step-by-step guide on how to pack your checked luggage, carry-ons and personal items.
[dropcap]1[/dropcap]Tip #1: Invest in good luggage.
I have three bags that I use interchangeably depending on my trip needs: a smaller wheeled carry-on, a medium hard-case wheeled bag, and a large duffle bag on wheels. The one that always goes with me is my Samsonite carry-on roller bag (similar to this one). Some people prefer the roller bags with the wheels on the outside (like this one), but the wheels take up several inches of prime packing space. There is also the debate on soft, fabric luggage vs. hard-case luggage. Use whatever works best for you, but make sure it’s good quality because these items are thrown around and take quite a beating.
[dropcap]2[/dropcap]Tip #2: Protect your luggage.
To me this means two things: buy a TSA approved lock and make sure your bags are tagged with your location information (where you are going; not where you came from – yes, this means you have to change it each way/leg you travel). You can buy TSA approved locks at any luggage/travel store and also at stores like Walmart and Target. Read the product packaging to make sure it’s TSA approved and accepted. These locks allow TSA agents who are screening checked-luggage to open your bag and check any suspicious items, but other airport employees do not have access to the locks. Also, do not pack valuables in your checked luggage – EVER – but we’ll get to that later. Make sure each item (carry-ons too) are marked with your personal information (at the very least your name and an email or phone number). I like these luggage tags and decals, which keep your identity and information more private, and allow you to track them via your smart phone.
[dropcap]3[/dropcap]Tip 3#: Do not place your luggage on your bed – or any bed!
Do you know where that luggage has been? Would you allow the airport employees to jump on your bed in their shoes? I didn’t think so – so don’t put your luggage on your bed. If you don’t have a chair that will hold the bag and you do not want to bend over to pack on the floor, invest in a luggage rack. They are very helpful and take up no room at all when folded up. Treat the bed in your hotel room the same as you would your own bed and again, do not place your luggage on it. Most hotels have a luggage rack and if not, you can always request one from the front desk. This also helps to keep bed bugs at bay as they get into your suitcase from access to fabrics. Luggage should be stored in the hotel closet or in the bathroom away from fabrics (upholstered chairs) and the bed. Check for bed bugs before you unpack by looking at the mattress where it meets the headboard/wall. Pull the sheets off and inspect this area. If you see any black or brown spots have it inspected by the maintenance staff. In the event you find bed bugs too late (i.e. you’ve already slept in the room), use the trash bags you packed to quarantine your clothing. Bed bugs do not like heat so have all items steamed or dry-cleaned to prevent further contamination.
[dropcap]4[/dropcap]Tip #4: The right way to pack a bag.
If packing in a roller bag, start by placing the shoes at the bottom near the wheels, then place rolled items directly above. Think about it – your roller bag may be flat now but it spends a lot of time upright which means your items will shift as soon as you turn it that way; you want bulky items on the bottom. Then pack your toiletries, make up, jewelry cases and other smaller bags (electric cords) towards the top and finish by placing your folder/garment bag on top to protect them.
If packing in a larger duffle bag, place shoes along the bottom and then place rolled items in between so the contents do not shift. Next add a layer of folded clothing, and then another, and if necessary another. For checked luggage, I would recommend placing toiletries in between the layers to keep them protected. DO NOT EVER PACK the following in your checked bag: electric cords/chargers, electronics, jewelry, medication, travel documents, and make-up – even if your bag is locked. These should always go in your carry-on so make room for them there.
For all bags: avoid placing anything fragile on the very top of any luggage as baggage handlers are now placing them upside-down to load, unload and place on the baggage carousels (makes no sense to me, but this is what they do). Remember checked bags must not exceed 50lbs (you should double check with your airline). If the bags ARE overweight, you will be charged a hefty fee – more than it would cost to check a second bag. To avoid this I would suggest packing a second duffle, which you can whip out at the baggage check to re-pack. It’s worth paying $50 for a second checked bag rather than $100 for a ‘heavy’ or overweight bag. Also a second duffle bag ensures extra space for all those souvenirs you plan to buy on your trip.
[dropcap]5[/dropcap]Tip #5: Packing your personal item.
For ladies this often includes a larger purse/tote and for men a backpack/laptop bag. The larger (roller) carry-on goes in the overhead compartment, usually wheels in or wheels out (this depends on the plane), while your personal item goes under the seat in front of you. Keep this in mind when selecting the size of your bag, and do not over pack! Items that should go in your personal item (if not already in your carry-on luggage) include: medication/vitamins, jewelry, electronics, electric cords/chargers, headphones, travel documents, book or e-reader, wallet, snacks and your identification. If you have to bring your computer for work – do you really need an MP3 player and an tablet as well? Think about this and bring the fewest number of electronics that will keep you happily occupied. If your computer doesn’t allow you to watch movies/tv, play games or read books, then bring a device that will. If you’re on a red-eye flight, pack earplugs, an eye-mask, an inflatable pillow or a Bucky, and a lightweight blanket (sadly these are not always available on flights these days, and when they are, who knows when the last time they were laundered). Ladies, another tip that I found helpful was to pack in a larger tote (pack your smaller purse inside) or even invest in a diaper bag for traveling. There are many designer diaper bags (like this one that I love) that do not look like diaper bags, but can fit everything you need! Plus they have extra pockets and are usually nylon, which means spill-proof. Make sure your tote can fit everything you want accessible during the flight. My last piece of advice here is courtesy of my mother: pack an extra pair of underwear in your carry-on/personal item. I did this for years and never had an issue, but the one time I didn’t do it, my luggage went on without me and I was without (not fun).
Hopefully now you feel confident about what to pack, and how to pack it. My next Travel Series blog will include FIVE ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR SURVIVING THE AIRPORT.
Have specific questions about packing (how to pack for a weekend in one bag; how to pack for a 2 week Mediterranean cruise; how to better organize what you pack, etc.)? Let me know and I’ll be sure to answer your questions in a future Travel Series blog.