Practical Travel Tips

Traveling is fun, exciting and expands your horizons in so many wonderful ways. But sometimes small details can make a huge difference in the quality of your travels. Adding a little bit of practicality in your planning and packing can reward you by reducing hassles, problems, and expenses along the way (not to mention hefty luggage to schlep around!)

I would like to share with you some of my most practical tried and true tips from my travels. Some of the items listed will find their way in other A Road Retraveled travel articles offering more specialized tips, but here are the variety as a whole that I use on each trip I take. I hope they can help your travels in some small ways.

 

Plan Your Wardrobe

Packing Clothes

Disposable clothes:

If you want to travel light yet need some extra room for souvenirs and shopping, bring some “disposable” clothes.  We all have nice clothes we get tired of that we either donate them to Good Will, or swap with friends. Such clothes, if you’re not opposed to wearing them on your trip (think of all those dusty train rides and muddy weather where you don’t want to wear your best travel clothes), are great to just leave behind or to donate to someone needy (make sure they’re clean first!!).

These disposable clothes could be socks, undergarments, T-shirts, pajamas, pants you can part with in exchange for space for latest Italian fashions, or bum-around clothes that you wear in transit or in the privacy of your hotel room. This will leave you with extra space for anything new you collect along the way!

Mix and Match:

Always bring clothes you can mix and match, are durable, don’t wrinkle easy, don’t require ironing, are hand washable and don’t require too much drying time, and as always…choose colors that conceal dirt well.  Phew!! That’s not always easy to coordinate, but with some planning surely you will find the right combination in your closet.
And don’t forget to also try on your newly paired outfits to make sure they fit properly together…sometimes garments look great on the hanger or laid down side by side, but not so great when actually worn together. I’ve made the error many times by matching the perfect tops and bottoms by how well they looked on hangers or laid out….but when I actually put them on they looked or fit terrible together!

Leave the whites at home!

White Clothing

White Clothing

I’ve seen too many tourists with white or off white pants/shorts/skirts/dresses that looked like canvases of Jackson Pollock paintings. White are natural magnets for dirt. If you are on long trips without a handy washing machine or hotel laundry service, it might be best to leave the whites behind.

I usually bring stretchy jeans, black and brown pants.  These neutral colors go with everything, the fabrics give to sit comfortably in airplanes, busses and trains, and they don’t show all the dirt a traveler may accumulate along the way. The stretchy fabric also gives if you sample too many local cuisines and you pack a few extra pounds in places other than your luggage!

Tops are lighter in weight, easier to wash (usually quicker to dry), and they’re the first thing that stands out in photographs. So my recommendation is: put more effort in what you wear on the top than the bottom.
Style on the top….comfort on the bottom.

Hand washing your laundry:

Doing a bit of handwashing in your hotel bathroom sink is part of life when traveling. Even when there are laundry mats, I don’t relish wasting my vacation time watching the laundry machine.  I normally do “my laundry” on the first night I arrive at a new destination. That way I know if something heavy takes a day or two to fully dry I won’t be worried about packing them wet. Wringing clothes inside a towel also helps absorb more water speeding up drying time.

Shoes that are made for walking

If  planning to do a lot of walking, especially on cobblestone streets (Rome, Florence…) or a rugged terrain with loose dirt and stones (Roman Forum, Pompeii…), wear comfortable footwear that also protects your feet.  I see so many people with trendy sandals or flip flops walking on the cobblestones of Italy with feet that were so cracked and blistered that I don’t know how these folks were able to walk!

I’d like to add to the list ladies with high heels that clearly have not mastered the art of walking in heels in Italy – managing to walk on the above mentioned surfaces makes them look like they are stepping in buckets and puts them in danger of tripping or twisting their ankles. I’ve seen a few falls too.

Do your feet a huge favor:  wear something very comfortable….and preferably with socks.  Keep the dainty sandals for an easy stroll and a dinner out, not a sightseeing expedition.  Your feet will thank you!

Flip Flops useful as slippers

Exception for flip flops:

Beach flip flops are great to wear in the shower, and  to use as ‘slippers’ in and out of your hotel room.   Some Bed and Breakfasts, pensions, and convents/monasteries offer communal baths for a lower room rate.  If that happens to be your choice for accommodation, wearing a pair flip flops in communal showers protects your feet and serves as slippers afterwards.

Avoid the pain and blisters: Do make sure your new shoes are well broken in before you bring them with you on your travels.

 

Packing

Packing Your Suit case

Packing Your Suit case

When packing, I place the heaviest objects on the bottom side of the suitcase. This way, when the suitcase is standing up, the heaviest items will not squish the lighter items below.  The lightest and most sensitive items should always sit on the “top” of the heavy ones.

I place my clothes that could withstand wrinkling like sweaters, scarves, socks, pajamas, robes, undergarments, etc…. in space saver travel bags that you roll the air out of. I usually take these items out of the bags upon arrival at the hotel so they can re-shape themselves, I spray wrinkle releaser on them if needed, and when I repack for my next destination, I refold them in the bags and repeat the process.  It’s a small effort that’s worth a lot in additional luggage space.

Packing bottles: I take double care with bottles of wine and olive oil. I also place the bubble wrapped bottles in ziplock bags… in case of breakage the leaks won’t spill onto other contents of my suitcase.  For added measure, I wrap some of my clothes around the sealed ziplock bag as well for added cushion and secure them with elastic bands. I’ve never had a bottle crack on me in my check in luggage.

 

No More Lost Luggage 

Aside from taking photos of your check in luggage in case they get lost in transit and you need to describe the luggage at the claims desk, insert your final destination address and phone number inside your luggage as well in case the outer tags get lost. Do this for your carry on luggage too in case you may be asked to check in a particular carry on (it happens).

I always insert a large sturdy white or colored sheet of paper with the words: FINAL DESTINATION: name, address, local phone number.  If home is your final destination and you prefer your privacy, at least include your work address or any other address your luggage can be delivered to you in case the airlines has to deliver it.  As an additional measure, include your travel itinerary inside your luggage in case your luggage arrives after you leave your initial destination address.

Don’t just rely on the flimsy airline tags at the airport check in counter. Also attach a sturdy ID tag.

Luggage Tag

Luggage Tag

Personalize your luggage (if you have a basic black one) with something that stands out on from the masses:  tie some unique brightly colored ribbons, tassels, or anything that immediately catches your eye when your luggage comes down the conveyor belt (or if someone else grabs it by mistake. It happens!). Taking a few extra measures helps eliminate your chances of having your luggage lost completely.

Personalize Your Luggage

Personalize Your Luggage

 

Obscure Items with Multiple Uses

Dental floss - also doubles as thread if something needs some quick stitching.

Ziplock Bags - the uses for these bags are endless. Be sure to bring a few in all sizes, they might come in handy!Elastic Bands - I am always in need of some, so bring the strong durable ones.

Wash cloths –  In Italy for example, you won’t find any small washcloths at hotels. I always bring one with me as I’m fond of my small washcloths, and it’s great if you’re worried about makeup getting on thew white pristine hotel towels.

Duct tape (even thin black electrical tape that has some stretch) – great for quick repairs on luggage, bags, or hemming pants if they come undone or if you want to shorten them at the hem.

Large Envelopes: perfect to store post cards, receipts, brochures, maps, etc…

Clothing pins: not only useful when you need to hang a few laundered items, but the pins hold hotel curtains shut if they don’t close properly and allow morning light in.

Bubble sheets: I bring with me a couple of bubble sheets that I wrap around my camera, laptop, and other items that I would like some added cushion for during transit. Although I’m carrying them with me on the plane in a backpack or carryon case, there’s always the chance of bumping them or dropping them.   The bubble sheets are also great for wrapping around bottles of wine or oil you might bring with you from your travels

Please check back as more practical tips will be added to this page to help make your travels easier!

Your Turn!

What are YOUR practical travel tips that you helps make your travels easier? Share your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharing is fun. Know someone who may benefit from the content of this article? If you do, please share with others.

Thank you very much and see you again on A Road Retraveled!

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2 Responses to “Practical Travel Tips”

  1. Raffaella says:

    Nice collection of basic yet clever/useful tips. My favorite item is a large, lightweight scarf. Takes up minimal space and is practical, versatile, and stylish. Huzzah,trifecta!

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