Making Plans

Travel

I’m an anxious human being. I get places thirty minutes early, I plan out walking paths and bus routes before, during, and after I’ve left the house, and I love lists. So traveling (especially alone) can sometimes be stress inducing, which is why I’ve got this whole planning thing down to a science.

My first step is a browse through Pinterest, or if all else fails a Google Search. Depending on the length of my trip and whether or not every travel blogger on the planet has visited, I can usually find enough to do. (I’ll also find things that might interest my traveling buddy, but might not be my cup of tea, just in case they aren’t the plan ahead type.)

I’ll also do a search of free walking tours in whatever city I’ll be visiting. (I loved my Sandeman’s walking tours and they’re in a good number of places through out Europe.) They’re a good starting point for where ever you are, allow you to get your bearings in the city, and they tend to point out things to do and eat that you might have otherwise missed in your planning.

The next step is to head over to Google Maps. Because Google Maps can be downloaded or used without data, I prefer it over Apple Maps or any other city specific app. A browse through the interwebs has probably left me when a thousand tabs open on my computer, all waiting for me to decide whether or not to visit. My tabs are searched on Google Maps and their location is saved either as a “Star” or a “Want to Visit”. If I’m feeling real fancy, I’ll make a separate map for the trip. I’ll also make a mental note of which things open early or late (a note I’ll revisit once I’m actually there).

I don’t like to plan out my day(s) until I have arrived, unless necessary. Exhaustion levels, weather, and the chances of finding somewhere new to explore all keep me from being that Type A. I do, however, find myself booking things I know I want to do in advance. This way, I don’t have that nagging feeling in the back of my head that something will sell out between my planning and my actual trip. (Most of the time it’s not a worry, but you never know. Better safe than sorry!)

Side note: I, personally, like printed versions of everything. From plane tickets to admissions tickets to hostel business cards to maps of the city (if I can find them for free), I’d like to have a physical copy. It means that even if my phone dies from taking too many pictures, I’ll have what I need to cope. It also means I’ll have something to stick in my travel journal when I get back home to remember my trip!

Once I’ve booked everything, starred everything in a map, and triple checked what time my bus/train/plane/car leaves, I can worry about packing. For day trips, I always empty out my purse and refill it. If it’s not essential, it’s not coming with. My Waitrose card and the twelve pens that sit at the bottom of my purse are removed. For longer trips, I pack what I think I’ll need a few days in advance, then repack the night before. That way my last minute panic of forgetting my *insert crucial item here* is done while I can still find it, rather than once I’ve already left the house.

The day of my trip, I’ll take an allergy medicine, just in case, make sure I’ve grabbed any last minute items (chargers, headphones, book or kindle, chapstick, etc.), and I can head out the door.

Packing Light

Travel

Thanks to Ryanair I have mastered the art of packing light. No matter the weather or the adventure, I can squeeze my life into a backpack and a purse, ready for takeoff. It’s a talent I’m quite proud of, developed through the years, solidified in a serious of rules. Do I break these rules every time I travel? Why, yes! But I like to think of them as guidelines for success.

Rule Number One:

Checked luggage is a sign of weakness. If it cannot fit into my two allotted cabin bags, it will not be coming with. No checked bags. (The exception to this rule is any trip longer than two weeks, like moving to a new country.)

For my recent road trip, I had to not only manage the airline requirements, but also the fact that there would be five of us stuffed into a tiny European car for long stretches of time. Excess luggage would not do. I managed to pack all of my belongings into my purple Jansport backpack. (If you want a reliable bag that’ll hold all your belongings for years to come, Jansport is your new best friend. My mom has one from her time in college; they last forever.)

Rule Number Two:

If you’re worried your bag might burst on your trip, bring an extra bag with you. Most tote bags will roll up tiny and can be used doing the trip to carry around what you need for a day or to store food in during your road trip. Just because you need to condense for the flight, doesn’t mean everything needs to be squished at your destination.

Additionally, bring along plastic grocery bags. They’re a necessity if you don’t want all of your clean clothes to smell like your dirty clothes. You can also use them to wrap dirty sneakers or wet bathing suits.

Rule Number Three:

I wear dresses just about everyday when I can, but I understand that hiking in a dress may not always be practical. For our road trip, we went from city life to chilly mountains to hot summer weather in just two weeks. So everything I brought had to be versatile.

Layers are your friend. Bring along a tee-shirt and a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt that if necessary can be worn all at once. Scarfs are also handy as blankets and neck warmers, and a winter jacket that can fold up nice and small is also convenient for inconsistent weather travel.

Everything can be worn more than one time, as well. Sure your Instagram feed may start to look like you’ve traveled the world all in one day, but you don’t need a separate shirt for each day of travel. Your plain black tee-shirt can be worn multiple times. Mix and match what you have, depending on the day.

Rule Number Four:

My grandmother follows the general rule that if a piece of clothing can’t survive a whirl through the washing machine, it won’t survive on her. My rule is that if a piece of clothing won’t look nice after being rolled and smushed in a backpack, I don’t need to bring it.

My dresses are all jersey or cotton or rayon (essentially, not silk or cashmere). If it holds a wrinkle, it ain’t coming with me. If you’re unsure if your clothing will survive the trip, squish up your shirt or your dress in your hands for a minute; does it smooth out after a shake or two? Pack it. If it’s still full of wrinkles or you’re beginning to wonder if Spain has overnight dry cleaning, leave it in the closet.

Rule Number Five:

With few exceptions, you will be able to do some shopping upon arrival. On our road trip, we skipped bringing along hotel sample shampoos and made a stop for shower essentials in a local grocery store. If you’re traveling with others, your hair can survive a few days of cheap shampoo split between the group. (Do be warned that sunscreen is not popular in many places. Thailand and Croatia, for example, were both lacking in sunscreen.)

You don’t need to bring along your medicine cabinet during travel. My personal opinion is that makeup isn’t necessary on vacation to begin with, but that’s just me. Deodorant, though, should absolutely be worn at all times, in all weather conditions. Please and thank you.