To check, or not to check…

Your luggage when traveling.

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Galway, Ireland. Summer 2012.

 

So I’m sure we’ve all read many (and probably have talked through/written plenty) how to pack for your vacation posts; we’ve seen the pins on pintrest and followed links to unrelated posts or pictures or, sometimes, when we are lucky, we get a walk through article on how such and such person picked their travel wardrobe. Trust me, I’ve read more than my fare share.

That being said, here’s mine:

Start with a few basic questions: where am I going and how long will I be there? If it’s cold, you’ll need warmer and, therefore, thicker layers which will take up more room. If you’re going for longer span of time, you may want a few extra pieces or up your bag size (maybe, but we’ll get into that). Are you going for a specific event and does this require specific clothes/items? Sometimes a professional meeting means a set of clothes in a garment bag which will have specific travel criteria or a ski trip for a few days may require packing your full gear which takes more space than a week or twos worth of beach vacation clothes. How are you traveling and how often will you be moving your “home base”? If you are going to be walking to each place, you need to consider if you will be able to carry around a duffel (weight wise) or if wheels are a better choice. But, then again, depending on the floors you’ll be traveling over, wheels can be a really, really bad idea—not to mention what happens when they break. But, again, we’ll get into that.

Once you have your answers, you’ll have a jumping off point.

Let’s start with your carry on.

We’ve all heard it before: pack a full second outfit in your carry on, just in case. I’m serious: Do it. In fact, pack a full outfit, light pjs (like shorts and a tank that takes very little room), about a week’s worth of underwear and wear good, useful layers on the plane. When it comes to anything else you may want to pack in your carry on, think about anything you won’t be able to travel without; electronic chargers, your travel book (one or two depending on size; personal reading and/or guide books), your travel folder and/or notebook, your camera, and any other necessities. Basically (and this really goes double if you have an event or something), if you’ll need it right away, carry it with you and never pack (carry on or check in) anything you cannot replace.

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Here’s some packing math. Above is a picture of the clothing my sister and I each wore and had for the first four days of our vacation a year ago. We (despite all the advice and the passing thoughts) did not pack spare clothes in our carry on. So all we had for those first few days were one pair of light jeans, one pair of dark jeans, a light red v-neck, a grey undershirt/tank top, a off white baggy sweater, a jean jacket, a plaid jacket, two hats, a belt, a pair of ankle boots and a pair of tennis shoes. We were lucky enough that we are about the same size in everything but shoes so this was like having a second outfit except that there was only one night (rather than a day and night) to air everything out. So basically we had two bottoms, three tops (tank, tee, and sweater), two pieces of outerwear (which we could wear as shirts (and did) as needed), and accessories to mix in. When we did the math, it turned out that we could mix and match what we had to make about 36 outfits, more if you get creative with layers (72 and more if you can switch shoes and we’re not even getting into belting options!).

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Flipping Coins into River Corrib, Galway, Ireland. Summer 2012.

So now, seeing that 12 items got us so many options, the question begs an answer: to check or not to check?

Remember, most airlines allow you to bring a carry on and a personal bag as long as one fits under the chair in front of you (and you aren’t in the front row where there is no other chair). This means that you can really bring a good amount on your plane with you. You should also layer up for the plane ride. You can always take heavy layers off once you are seated but wearing the layers allows you to keep your bags smaller and more likely to fit as a carry on.

My basic clothes (for both carry on and check in) packing list consists of:

one or two pairs of pants

five tops

a sweater

a jacket

two pairs of shoes

an easy dress

one or two pairs of shorts (balance this with your trip length and weather conditions)

a pair or two tights or leggings

a few accessories

All these pieces should be easy to wear together and can be layered in many different ways to keep your clothes interesting. I like putting in a dress as an easy outfit or a skirt choice if you layer it up and something you can grab and (literally) dress up if you end up going somewhere nicer than you originally planned. The numbers can change a bit depending on your suspected weather, ie double up on sweaters if you are expecting to be cold. Make these pieces as versatile as you can and only pack what you know you’ll wear (so the pieces that you wear on a weekly basis (not including your work wear unless this is a work trip) and that you have experience in styling, are the pieces you should be putting in your luggage), and you won’t have to pack all that much.

Everywhere has laundromats or places where you can do a load or two of laundry, so you don’t have to bring your whole closet or pack enough clothes for every day you are gone. I’m not joking; one night (and I mean ONE night), we met a girl who roomed with us as a pit stop on her European vacation (she was basically doing the speed tour, one country every two days tour) and she had 4 bags: two large oversized and stuffed tope bags, a backpack and a wheeled bag that could fit an entire human being in it. This is so much that she was not able to ride public transportation with all her stuff. This is never a good option; stick to keeping things small and you’ll be fine.

When my sister and I packed, we didn’t think these things through and ended up dragging 18 pound bags all over the UK. We knew we were going to walk so we went with duffle bags (a really good choice) so there wasn’t any issues with broken wheels (which my mother did end up having to deal with) and bags we couldn’t lift or bags flipping and causing havoc on bad roads. If you’re not planning to walk or using public transportation—for example, if you are renting a car—this isn’t really an issue and you can really over pack as much as you want. Just remember, too many choices can be just as much of a problem as not enough.

So to check or not to check? This is something you’ll have to consider for yourself, but for now on, I’ll be avoiding the hassle of the check in.

If you have any questions or any other advice, comment below.

And until next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

To check, or not to check…

Smooth Sailing…

Or as smooth as we can make it.

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Bridge across the River Ness, Inverness, Scotland. Summer, 2013.

It all really comes down to identifying the hurdles you will most likely face and what you can do when you come across them. Last week, we covered lost luggage of all kinds and your options when it happens to you. This week we’ll tackle the other hurdles I’ve come up with (if anyone has anything else, comment below!).

The first “hurdle,” if this can really be called one, has a lot to do with planning before your trip and continuing to work at it while you are traveling; namely, sudden closures and openings. Each of these can reek havoc on your pre-trip schedule but, as long as you haven’t really over or under booked, you should still be fine. Basically, when you are planning before your trip, keep your options open and know your order of preference—what you are and aren’t willing to skip if it comes down to time, place, or money.

As you get closer to the time of your trip—or visit to a specific location if you are continuing your research while you are traveling—you should look back at each of these locations for hours and any listed reasons they may close suddenly. Some places can’t open during bad or rainy weather; knowing this before allows you to look up the weather on your way there to see when and if you’ll be able to do what you want. As I said before, this research should continue on trip as you near your locations as sudden closures of your predetermined sites can happen. My sister and I were supposed to travel a bit further than our lodging one of our days in the northern part of the UK but, because we looked up the castle we were bound for early, we discovered that the whole place was rented out for an event so no one else was being admitted. We were able to save ourselves a few hours of exploring the city we were sleeping in rather than a back and forth train (and possible cab) ride to not see what we wanted. Having options at each locations mean that you will have something to do or see even if a few things do shut down on you.

Generally, more things being open is a blessing rather than a problem. It can, however, in cases like festivals, make an area you thought would give you a small rest a lot more hectic than you planned for, as well as making the sites you wanted to visit more crowded or harder to get to. Then, of course, new things being opens also tends to add to your own list of things to see which can mean more schedule shuffling in your future. That is fine, breathe and look at your lists. Do you have time to add new things? If not, does anything new sound more interesting than what you had planned? It’s really a game of judging as these interruptions—unless you are really good at finding and navigating the cities local cites or blogs—tend to be discovered once your feet hit the floor of you main location so planning off the cuff is key here. Spontaneity is the spice of travel, so when unexpected openings happen look into it; going for it may become the highlight of your trip.

One of the really big hurtles that can through a wrench into your plans is missed transportation. From big transport to small, missing your connections between places really slows you down.

When it comes to large scale travel, the chance of something going wrong and you missing you plane or ship is the reason why travel insurance is offered and why you should really buy some. This insurance makes it possible to get back on your feet and get where you are going without starting from scratch. They’ll get you there as quick as they can but, the truth of the matter is, you will loose some time. So what to do? Call ahead. Anywhere you are staying, if you pre-rent your car/ have a service picking you up, or if you are meeting up with anyone once you get there. Let these groups know you’ve been delayed and when you think you will be getting in.

If it’s smaller level travel—buses, trains, ect—the real only choice there is to wait it out. You can look into other forms that will get you there but usually they will take longer once you figure them out or cost a lot more (again, you should balance out your options). If you do have to wait it out, pay attention to your schedules. Some trains you pick can be direct and others will stop at EVERY stop. This means you may get on your next train and get to your final destination an hour after the train that picked up after the one you got on. I mean it, really read the schedules. And of course, when in doubt, ASK FOR HELP! Something to remember as well (that people don’t always think about), when you travel further from densely populated areas (like cities at the top of countries with few other cities) the less stops will be made there so the time between train or bus pick ups can grow rapidly. I’ve missed a train before by a few minutes and had to wait around for three hours waiting. Just like in large scale travel, you should look into calling ahead to work out any of your arrangement. And something I didn’t mention before, in both large and small travel (just like sudden openings and closings), you’ll have to look into juggling the various sites you will or won’t have time for.

One of the largest issues people can run into while traveling are money issues. Again, this is a really important reason for having travel insurance and a friend who can get you money quickly in the mean time. We talked about this a bit in the last post so if you are worried about lost money, look there first. If there is a different issue, like withdrawal issues, here are some ideas. In my last trip, we found out when trying to get money from the ATM, our cards wouldn’t give us the requested money. As it turned out, despite our ages, our cards had a minors’ level access. It took my parents taking to the bank to up our limits to be able to get out the money we needed to pay the hostel.  Check things like your limits before you go as well as alerting your ban to your plans so they don’t shut your cards down for travels in places you aren’t normally in.

Another hiccup that happens is a sudden need to extend your stay on either large or small scales. Just like every other hiccup, the best thing to do is start making calls. Call your next night booking, travel booking or really anything that ends in booking and let them know you won’t be there when they expect. Some places will give you some money back if you let them know 48 to 24 hours before hand, so do your research. Basically, call anyone who is going to be affected. Then jump to finding a roof to cover your head and a bed to rest it on. Changing plans like this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you do it right but I definitely suggest doing some quick research and math to see what will and won’t mess up the rest of your travel plans.

And of course, have some fun. Trouble comes and goes but if you’ve every watched an Olsen twin movie, you know these can be the main ingredients to making the best adventures

Until next time and a clothing math problem to solve,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Smooth Sailing…

Because we all know trouble is a rule, not a possibility…

Always plan for the unplanned adventure…. The lost luggage edition.

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Street sign near our hostel. Edinburgh, Scotland. Summer 2013.

Whether it happens on your trip or during the later parts of planning, it’s an almost unavoidable rule that somewhere, something is going to go wrong—I don’t care how well prepared and calculated your plans are. So let’s look at a few possible bumps in the road to be a bit more prepared and smooth out issues before they arise (as much as we can at least).

Probably the biggest obstacle most travelers come across and the hurtle they face the fastest is lost luggage. Anyone who has traveled by sea or sky has probably faced the panic of not seeing their check-in bag(s) on the conveyor belt as quickly as they expect, or, for the unlucky few, at all.

So how do you prepare?

Well first off, you can ask yourself if you even need a check in or if you can make due with a carry on. If you find that a check in is necessary, it’s all about correctly packing your carry on with as much emergency gear as you can. Most airlines allow you to carry one carry on and one personal bag on board, and using both of these to your advantage will give you the best chance of not letting travel-lost luggage disrupt your trip to badly (though you’ll seriously need to be ready at security—the more you carry in, the longer it can take; we’ll cover this and all your packing needs in a later post).

If your bags are lost or temporarily misplaced by the airline/cruise line/ ferry line/ect, there are a few key things to have prepared to quickly and easily get the important information to the parties that need it to quickly and reliably find your bags:

First, always have a well organized file or folder with all your travel information clearly organized and accessible in you carry on. This includes the luggage tag sticker you are given at bag check (really important because they can scan this to see where you bag was last scan right away), flight numbers and any lay over locations, the address and contact information for where you are staying (the first place if you are planning on moving around and how long you plan to be there), written and detailed description(s) of your bag(s) (size, style, brand, color, distinguishing features) and something (or a few things) inside that makes it easily recognizable as yours.

Next, always have your check in baggage tagged with the information tags you get at the check in counter or those you can buy and fill in at home. If your name is on your bag, along with your contact information, there is a lot less guess-and-check on the finders end.

If you can schedule it, plan to stay in your first location for a few days. If you are constantly changing your baggage’s destination, you are just making it harder for them to keep track of where to go or, worse, your bags will get to your earlier location after you have already left it. On that note, however, always remember to call, email or contact those in charge of looking for your bags if you change where your luggage is supposed to end up.

Contact your insurance (and it’s a good idea to pay for travel insurance for this exact reason). Letting them know is important because (at the very least) they can reimburse you for at least some, if not all, the money you may spend replacing emergency items from toothpaste and bathroom essentials to replacement clothes.

Finally, be polite to those trying to help you. It’s not their fault your baggage didn’t make it and they do the best they can to find it as quickly as possible. It’s okay to be flustered or frustrated but being a dick to those trying to help doesn’t do anyone any favors. Plus, if you’re nice, they sometimes give you some money to grab food while you wait and see if your bags are on the next flight in!

It’s not always during major travel that things get lost, however. Being human, it’s possible and even common to forget your bag somewhere or, worse, have something stolen. It’s a little harder (or much harder in most cases) to recover from these incidences, but here’s a few ways to try:

If you leave a bag in a restaurant or an attraction you were visiting, your best bet is to either call or back track to where you think it is. Talk to security or lost and found and hopefully that’s all you’ll need.

If you were out in an open area, again, backtrack, but the chances of finding what has been lost diminishes quickly, so go quickly. I mean run. Now.

If you move onto a new city and on the way or once you are unpacked you notice you’ve left something behind, call and see if your former housing has found it. Then see if they can forward it to your new location. If not, consider whether or not your lost item(s) is/are worth it—and you are close enough—see if they’ll hold it for you to make a quick return trip. If they aren’t worth the trouble, see if the place will donate them to other travelers that can find a use for them (this is something hostels do a lot with books—take one, leave on).

If the problem is you’ve been pick pocketed or had something stolen, all you can do is report it to the authorities (whether at the location or official local/city police). If it’s something like charge cards or money, report it to your insurance and your bank right away. They’ll close any of your cards down before anything can happen and should be able to help you come up with a game plan on how to move forward. Also, have an emergency contact that can forward you some money; you’ll owe them but at least you’ll have a plan.

My biggest tip for lost luggage (no matter how it gets lost) is to never pack anything that can’t be replaced. It’s simple. If you can’t live your day to day life at home without it, give it a break and keep it safe at home. It’ll be there when you get back. Double this if you can’t replace it.

Travel smart; it’s a lot more fun, I promise.

More travel battle plans for common hurdles to come, but until next time,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Because we all know trouble is a rule, not a possibility…

Walk in the Sun…

Safely.

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Will Rodgers State Beach, Santa Monica, California. April 2014.

Whether or not one believes that the climate is changing to extremes, I am pretty sure we all agree that summer temperatures are getting a bit crazy. From news stories to magazine articles, this fact seems to be everywhere. I’m a SoCal girl, so I’m pretty much programmed to be all about the sun all the time. However, as temperatures skyrocket and the sunshine beats hard all over the world for longer and longer periods, the plain and simple fact comes down to one fact: sun exposure is way, way up.

But what does this have to do with travel?

Well simply, traveling usually makes people be outside for more than their normal amount, so not only is the sun out more but, as a traveler, you are out in it for a longer period of time.

So, what is the best way to protect yourself?

A few easy steps to add to your daily travel to-dos will save you the worst of what happens when you are over exposed:

First, I don’t care what you are doing, where you are going, or what the weather is like when you get there: WEAR SUNSCREEN! I’m talking everyday. To cover a person’s entire body, you should use approximately a shot glass worth of sunscreen, reapplied every few hours, especially if you have been sweating or are in and out of water. My best advice is to put on your first layer before you even get dressed in the morning, this way you cover everything and it has time to set before you are running out the door.

The sun does not need to be beating down on you 24/7 for you to get burned. More people get burned and with higher intensity when it’s overcast, not necessarily because of higher intensity but the heightened chance that people are not protecting themselves! There are tons of brands, levels of protection, and methods of applications. I like real lotion over sprays; sprays tend to layer over each other and then peel oddly but are easier to apply while lotions take longer and are heavier but have the added bonus of being lotions—they sink into your skin and keep your moisture up.

Wearing sunscreen goes double for your face. Makeup, no matter the amount of SPF it says it has, is not enough coverage for all day wear. There are light sunscreens made specifically for the sensitive skin on people’s faces and they layer very nicely under most foundations. If you are prone to oily skin, I suggest looking for oil free versions and carrying a few napkins in your bag as easily disposable blotting cloths.

Second bit of advice is to wear protective gear, specifically hats and sunglasses. You can’t apply sunscreen to every part of your scalp or your eyes so the best protection is to cover them. This can be really fun when traveling; pick fun styles in neutral colors and you can really amp up your travel wardrobe for both glasses and hats (but we’ll get into that when we talk about packing). Also having light longer layers that can block the sun from direct contact (especially if you have a paler complexion and are easily burned) will help, especially if you have still healing burns. This is also a great time to add the benefit of Aloe Vera; it’ll help heal any burns that you may accidentally acquire and hydrate your skin (fresh is better but not really practical for travel needs)

Third, stay hydrated. This has a bit to do with skin care—full hydration means less chance of your skin drying out—but more to do with overall health. If you aren’t hydrating, you are increasing your chances of getting heat stroke or any number of problems that can seriously screw up your travel plans. I mean, do you really want to miss a few days of travel all because you refused to drink enough water?

I really mean these tips, too. When my mom was traveling in her late teens, early twenties with her best friend, all they packed were shorts, tank tops, and tanning oil. Most of their trip centered on the Sydney coast of Australia which is a really lovely part of the world but also the home to a slowly growing hole in the ozone—not a great addition to sunbathers. As the stories go, the traveling besties sent day after day running around seeing the sights but always ended on a beach or poolside soaking up the lovely rays. Then they spent one day entirely in the sun, just getting a little pink before they had to jump on a bus to their next stop and a concert and festival that awaited them. Half way there a little old lady pointed out that the girls were sunburned and that it was looking pretty bad. That night, the girls poured themselves into bed, miserable with sun poisoning. They not only had to miss a few days of their vacation and the events there because later. Today my mom still has scars and sun spots from a trip she took two decades ago, all of which could have been avoided with proper clothes, skin care, and some of today’s knowledge.

So be safe, until next time,

I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Walk in the Sun…