Unraveling Traveling

Ever had one of your superpowers turn around and bite you in the tush? I’ve always been good at sizing up space and figuring out how to fill it without wasting a square inch. In the past, this has served me well when it comes to loading a dishwasher, packing a car, or maximizing storage in a closet. But when it comes to packing a suitcase, not so much. 
A few years ago my work travel started to increase, and on the eve of every flight I’d find myself facing the dilemma of what to pack. I’d start with a modest pile of clothes, which grew as I considered the weather, the agenda, the company, and time zones. Don’t judge me too harshly, but the amount of time zones I was crossing became a multiplying factor for the amount of clothes needed. East coast? No problem. West coast? I pity the poor hernia-bound baggage handler in Seattle who had to get my suitcase from the plane to the baggage carousel. 
Eventually, I talked to some pros who showed me the way of the lightly packed journey, and in this upcoming season of travel, I’d like to pass along some tips in the hopes that it will reduce your travel headaches. I’m also going to share a few travel-oriented gift ideas for those on your good list, so let’s get packing.
First, if you’re flying, decide if you are going to check a bag or use a carry-on. If you’re wondering how you’ll survive four days with one carry-on, here’s a little motivation. Last year the airlines “mishandled” 26 million bags. (Mishandled being a corporate marketing term for, “Oops, where’d it go?”) Some eventually made it back home, some didn’t. No pressure, but you see where this is going. When possible, don’t check a bag. If your carry-on bag doesn’t quite fit everything, keep in mind that the additional “personal items” that the airlines let you bring onboard can include backpacks and roomy soft-sided bags. Just don’t be that guy who’s arguing at the gate that their second suitcase is just a personal item. 
Next, pick up a few things to make your job easier, and on the top of this list are packing cubes. These little wonders are inexpensive, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and make packing and unpacking a breeze. You be you and organize them the way that makes you happy, but my preference is to pack casual clothes together, dressier items in one cube, and underwear, socks, and shoes in another. Whether you are an out-of-the-suitcase or into-the-dresser kind of person, finding what you’re looking for just got a whole lot easier.
Other items to consider are small waterproof bags for liquids that may spill, and a waterproof roll-top bag for damp items on the return trip. It also seconds as a dirty clothes container on the way back. If you don’t have any waterproof bags handy, throw in a few gallon-sized Ziploc bags. They are lifesavers if you need them, and hardly take up any room if you don’t. 
Treat any containers of liquids like your mortal enemy, Sasha, from high school. When you least expect it, they will try to ruin things for you. In a bag, they go. Except Sasha, who’s fortunate they don’t make 5’ 6” Ziploc bags. 
Once you’ve got your supplies, lay out what you are planning to take on a bed, then get everything together before packing. Thin it out to the bare minimum, walk away for five minutes then come back and remove 1-2 more items. Three tops for every bottom, words to live by.  
Pack your cubes, place them in your luggage, and pack around them with the rest of your things. There is some online controversy if you are a roller versus a folder, but I’m a fan of rolling softer, less bulky items and folding the rest. If you have items like shirts and blouses that tend to wrinkle, put them in a dry-cleaning plastic bag first and it will cut your wrinkles in half. 
If you tend to be a procrastinator, just a friendly reminder that passport renewals can now take up to two and a half months to process, and that excludes shipping to and from. I highly recommend TSA PreCheck as a time saver, but keep in mind it may take two months to process your application.

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