They say that anticipation is half the fun, and that's definitely true for travel. Chris and I have a trip to Paris coming up in the next few months, so I'm starting my preparation. After years of traveling, I have lots of favorites in terms of guidebooks, suitcases, and the many little travel items that make a trip more enjoyable.
First off, I have my favorite suitcase, a Travelpro Rollaboard, which is the correct size for European planes. That means my bag won't have to be checked because it's oversized. We always carry on our luggage because we don't want to risk losing it, and we love not having to wait at baggage claim. Bringing a small bag means I really have to pack light, but it's worth it! I also have a medium sized Travelpro tote that's twenty years old and still going strong.
The most important thing about preparation, of course, is planning what we'll do. For European travel we love the Rick Steves' guides for learning about all the important sights and the lesser-known gems that are off the beaten track. His books are well written, concise, and fun to read.
To make the guides even more portable we take Rick's advice and, before we leave, cut out the part of the book we'll be using and just bring those sections. Then we're not lugging around the whole book. Brilliant!
We also do a lot of online research to find out about museums, art exhibits, music, and other events that may be going on. We have a tradition of going to see an opera whenever possible on our travels. It makes for a really special, memorable evening.
I also plan locations where I want to take photos for my work. Of course many of my photos are spontaneous shots that I find along the way, but I do like to identify cafés, parks, and sites that might provide photo ops of people enjoying themselves in beautiful settings.
To organize all that information, I have my husband, Chris, who is a whiz at combining all the activities we've identified into a optimized hour-by-hour spreadsheet that I load onto Evernote (we really are such nerds). We try to schedule only two big things a day, morning and afternoon, then plan walks, window shopping, or cafe sitting to fill in the rest of the day.
I am a list maker, so of course I make lists for what I'm going to pack. I'm big on layering and having everything work with everything else so I have lots of options, and not much laundry. Two things I always bring are sun hats (I'm big on sun protection) and scarves (I hate to be cold).
Finding a packable good-looking hat has become something of a quest. These are my current favorites. The top left is by Wallaroo, and the one on the right is by Hatch. Both are crushable.
I have also started a tradition of buying a scarf from my favorite scarf store in Paris, Diwali on Rue St. Louis en l'Île, the ritzy main street in the center of the Parisian island. The shop is always a pleasure to visit with its hundreds of beautifully displayed brightly colored scarves and accessories, and the shopkeeper is always très gentille!
Finally I pack my collection of items that make traveling easier and more enjoyable. From top, clockwise,
- My travel pillow, which crushes to the size of a small Nurf football in its own little bag. I've tried them all and this is the best for comfort vs. bulk. A good pillow is essential for sleeping on the flight over.
- My travel blanket; it's thin but warm.
- Our sporks, a spoon, fork, and knife all in one. A green way to have an impromptu picnic from the open markets.
- A small quick-drying travel washcloth, since European hotels don't have them.
- Two rubber clotheslines that don't need clothespins. We wash underwear and shirts every other day in the hotel sink, and they dry overnight. So we never spend any time at the laundromat.
- My super-mini hair dryer. Yes, lots of hotels have them in the bathroom, but I can use this one in the bedroom while Chris showers.
- I forgot to include two essentials in the photo: earplugs and an eye mask, for when the plane or hotel room is too noisy and too bright for sleep.
So there you have it! All – well most – of my hard-earned travel secrets! But I'm always ready to learn more. How do you make travel easier and more fun?