Travel Tips and Essentials

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A quick look at the weather across the nation and it’s easy to see why right now is one of the most popular months for planning summer travel.  Who isn’t looking for an escape from negative degree weather and snow-drifts piled higher than rooftops? Even if you’re not suffering from cold-weather blues, it’s fun to think about escaping those mundane routines we plod through every week.

Traveling, for myself and my husband, is just part of our regular lives.  We live far away from family and (many of our) friends, so it’s fairly routine for us to be buying plane tickets to NY or Europe (where the hubs’ family is spread out).  Over the years we have become sort-of experts at travelling cheaply and efficiently.Assorted-Luggage-with-Woman

My very first big trip on my own was to visit my then boyfriend (current husband) at his home in Ireland.  That was an experience for another post, but I have to say, I have learned so much about the ART of traveling since then.  And it really is an art.  Surviving the airport, the plane trip, and the ground transportation to your final destination takes practice and careful planning if it is to be done (nearly) stress-free.

The folks over at RelayRides (a peer-to-peer sharing car rental service) reached out to me to participate in their “Travel Essentials” Campaign, and it spoke to me on a few levels.

No. 1–Relay Rides is the type of company I can get behind…like airbnb (which I recommend to ANYONE who is searching for a place to stay ANYWHERE in the world!) the idea is based on a community of people sharing goods/services–in this case, their cars.  (As I write this, I am looking at the two cars we own, which we do not drive much these days since we live steps from where we work, maniacally rubbing metaphorical hands together like some sort of villain wondering how much I can rent them out for).

While Keegan and I like to have a central location while traveling, we’ve also done long road trips (ie. this past one over winter break, and a trip a few years ago to Scotland where we covered most of the country in six days…that was a whirlwind!).  Having a car while traveling can be a real plus.  It’s a great way to really experience a new culture and explore the countryside.  RelayRides also has an option for airport pick-up, which is pretty cool.  There’s nothing like getting to your destination and being able to pack your things in the trunk and start exploring right away!

No. 2–traveling has become second nature to me and I love to share ideas, especially when they can help someone else in the future.  So here’s what I know now that I wish I knew ten years ago about traveling via airplane:

for Short Flights

1. If possible, onlyvintage-holiday-nice-trip pack a carry-on…we just don’t have the luxuries of the past..with footman or fiances to lug around our baggage.

Seriously, though, I cannot emphasize enough how freeing it is to pack LIGHT (one trip to Europe dragging two heavily-laden bags through busy cobblestone streets taught me this). Plus, it’s CHEAPER…no crazy “checked luggage” fee.  Even though I love to be surrounded by my own stuff all the time, I’ve learned the value of only bringing a few essentials (the key is VERSATILITY–clothing and shoes that can be worn on more than one occasion, and that can be dressed up or down).

2. In your carry-on (if you are also packing a checked suitcase…otherwise you would probably already have these things on hand), I recommend packing an extra outfit and the essential items you need to get through the day in case the airline loses your luggage.

3. A Pair of socks.  Okay, I learned this the hard way.  Traveling in the summer, it seems simple to just head to the airport in flip flops or flats, which is fine…while you’re on the ground.  But in the air, oh how the atmosphere changes.  I once resorted to wrapping napkins around my chilly toes just to make it through a two hour flight from NYC to Atlanta.  Cold feet are no fun…and make it really hard to take a nap (which is the only thing I want to do on a plane…nap, and then wake up at my destination).

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Me in Biarritz, France. Taken by my lovely friend, Allison. (Feb. 2011)

Long/International Flights

travel essentials

1.  Some pocket money in the currency of your current country…My husband and I highly recommend using this $ for beers at the airport bar.  Trust me.  They may be over priced, but that sweet, post-alcohol slumber is really quite special (see my note on ibuprofen below).

2.  A Neck Pillow.  I don’t care how nerdy I look carrying my little pillow through the airport…Proper neck support when you’re stuck between two strangers with no wall to lean on is hard to come by, and for everyone who thinks they’re funny to look at, just try it.  Even when you’re next to the window or a loved one, a neck pillow has an immediate effect on how much ibuprofen you have to take once you land (side note: I never travel without some ibuprofen… because…traveling…and airport beers).

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Keegan and I chilling out under the ruins of Ephesus in Turkey–Aug. 2011

3. Extra socks–did I mention cold feet?  It’s TERRIBLE.  Please, save your toes, and pack some fuzzy socks if you aren’t boarding the plane wearing a pair!

4. Eye mask.  Because sleep is essential and being able to block out all light is an amazing power.

4. Hoodie or blanket (for the same reason I pack extra socks…being cold for anextended period of time is the PITS…and those tiny little blankets made out of air and synthetic fibers just don’t do it for me. I like something with a nice deep hood that I can just sink into…with my eye mask on…and veritably disappear for a few hours.

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Hanging out in the heather of the Highlands in Scotland (Aug. 2012)

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The Highlands…one of my favorite places (Aug 2012)

5. Face wipes, toothbrush and toothpaste.  I like to pack these things in a separate, easy to access make-up bag.  Something I can find when I reach up into the overhead compartment with one hand while trying not to fall into the lap of the person sitting right below me. Being able to brush your teeth and wash your face when you leave your home country at 5 pm and arrive at your destination at 8 in the morning really makes a difference in how that first day will feel.  I like to meet new countries with a fresh face and at least the illusion of a good night’s sleep.

6.  Reading Material.  This blog is named after a book, so it’s probably no surprise to most of you that books are necessary items, no matter where I’m going.  I do believe in the Kindle, and I do travel with it…but I ALWAYS have a good ol’ fashioned paperback stuck somewhere in my luggage.

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Allison and I preparing for a bike ride in Amsterdam (June 2014)

So, did I miss anything?  My husband swears by sleeping pills for long flights, but I had one bad experience (Ie. I took them a little too late into the flight and had to make an especially drowsy transfer in Copenhagen…couldn’t tell you a thing about that airport other than it vaguely reminded me of IKEA)..so those are not on this list.  What would you add to your travel essentials list?  Let me know in the comments!

Till next time!

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