It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, and that means vacation season. If you’re planning to hit the road this summer, here are a few things I recommend to make your travel adventures a little more pleasant and stress free.
1. Create the mother of all packing lists.
I have a master list of things I might want to pack for any situation, whether it’s a weekend road trip or a month in India. It includes everything from beach umbrellas to underwear to my passport. Whenever I have a trip pending, I can just cross out the items I won’t need and the remainder becomes my packing list.
I’ve created a printable packing list that you can download, complete with blank spots to add your own items. Cross out any you won’t need, then check off the rest as you pack them.
2. If you’re driving, get an E-ZPass
(or whatever they call it where you live)
If you’ve ever driven toll roads in the US, you know the pain of waiting in line behind that person who inexplicably takes 5 whole minutes to make it through the tollbooth. Most states in the Eastern and Northeastern US participate in EZPass, and many other places have a similar system.
Here’s a list of electronic tolls collection systems around the world.
This delightful program will provide you with a little transponder with velcro tabs that you mount inside your windshield just above the mirror. You pre-pay some money into your account, and every time you go through a tollbooth you just slow down and coast through (no stopping!) while your transponder is read automatically. You also get a discount on those tolls. It is so, so worth it for road-rage prone leadfoots like me.
3. If you’re flying, get cozy with TSA regulations.
No one loves the security line at the airport, but you can make it a little less painful. The TSA provides an exhaustive list of everything it doesn’t allow you to carry onto a plane. Spend 30 minutes reading over it. Most people are aware of the liquid rules but there are other things you might not think of.
It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with this list so you can advocate for yourself if you’re asked to do something you shouldn’t have to do.
For instance, infant formula and breast milk are exemptions to the 3.4 ounce rule, as are ice or gel packs to keep it cold. And, if you opt out of machine screening they have to provide a TSA agent of the same gender to pat you down, give you a private room if you want and let you bring a companion of your choice. This is all good info to have in your pocket in case things get weird.
4. Bring a few compact reusable bags.
I have a whole mess of these Ikea Knalla bags that they sell for the ridiculously low price of $1.49, and Chicobag sells a similar tote in a few more colors for $6.99. I always throw one or two of these in my purse when I travel. They’re great for impulsive souvenir purchases, trips to the grocery store or toting your sandy, wet beach clothes back to the hotel.
5. The charging of the gadgets.
Charge everything at home before you leave, sure. But for when you get there, a USB charging brick is really worth the money. I like this one from Belkin. You can charge two devices simultaneously, plus it has three regular outlets and swivels so it can be used in any position. Perfect for those stupidly placed hotel outlets.
6. Pack a few good (free) books.
True fact about me: I have not purchased a physical book in over a decade.
Everything I’ve ever wanted to read is either available via my local Library and it’s network, or I get it on my Kindle.
Library cards are free and I have no idea why anyone wouldn’t have one, but a shocking number of people haven’t set foot in a library since high school. If you’re a tax-payer, those are your dollars at work, my friend. Get in there and pick out a couple of free reads for your next trip.
If weight is a concern, the Kindle was literally made for travel. I have this version and this case. For longer trips where I would normally need to sock away several books in my bag, the Kindle weighs in at a mere 7.2 ounces. Amazon has a pretty extensive collection of free and incredibly cheap Kindle books to choose from. If your local library does eBook rentals, you might even be able to checkout books directly from their catalog to your Kindle. I do this all the time and it’s amazing.
Already on the road and forgot your book? Find a Little Free Library on the road or at your destination.
Have any good tips for taking the hassle out of travel? Share!