I want to apologize in advance that this blog may or may not be helpful for every traveler. I admit, I see so many families in the airport packing strollers, diaper bags, kids suitcases (oh, and actual kids) and all sorts of other things that Chris and I haven’t had to worry about personally. Our travel advices thus far are simple, but these simple things have changed the actual traveling parts of our trips dramatically. So, two people or twenty-two people, we hope that one or more of our advices make your vacations a little lighter!
The first thing I recommend is one of these. When Chris and I went to Europe last year, our friends generously offered their hiking backpacks for us to borrow and we wondered what use we would have for them unless we were going camping. When we walked through the first airport hands-free and had about a dozen compartments to make things more accessible like snacks, batteries, first aid stuff, a book, passport, tablet, etc., we were sold. Chris and I can usually pack everything we need for a week in a single hiking backpack (each) and easily fit them in airplane overhead compartments as a carry-on. Why haul around a smaller backpack AND a suitcase when you can fit everything you need in this single backpack? Also, if you’re a non-hiker and unaware, the straps tighten around your hips and across your chest, so NONE of the weight is on your shoulders. We could literally zip all over Europe from stop to stop without having our hands full while we’re trying to carry a coffee or look at a map. It’s kind of like having no luggage at all. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but seriously. If you love to travel, get one.
The second thing we recommend (if you follow recommendation #1) are packing cubes. Despite having packing compartments in the top and bottom, front and sides of these backpacks, they are still deep, and packing all of your clothes in there would be a nightmare every time you want to change shirts, so packing cubes are a must. These are just a few examples of the cubes we have where you can keep all your shirts together, all your toiletries together, etc. Rolling clothing items in these saves tons of space, and for the family of 22 I was talking about earlier, a travel hack to replace these bad boys are gallon ziplock bags, brought to you by a former patient of mine who has 5 children. They recommended gallon bags as cheap packing cubes, and while it doesn’t work quite as well, it gets the job done for about $3.
Advice #3, a battery pack charger thing. I have no idea what this is called because Chris and I call it “the cube.” Our “cube” will charge two phones at once or charge one phone twice when there’s no access to an electrical outlet. This comes in handy for us during long flights and when we’re camping so we’re never without our sacred devices that tell us what time it is, what the weather is and stores all our memories for us.
Realistically, this should probably come before #3, but my next advice is to INVEST in a GOOD pair of shoes. Chris and I usually get more exercise on vacation than we do in our day-to-day lives. This fact also depends on how you like to vacation, but we typically hoof it about 2-10 miles a day on vacation. We each have a pair of ugly sandals (ours are Tevas, but I know Chacos are another great brand) and a pair of hikers (his are Columbia, mine are Merrell) and pretty much don’t wear any other shoes on vacation. In Alaska, I didn’t pack a single pair of shoes except the ones on my feet – a pair of waterproof hiking/walking boots (Timberland) that are multipurpose, especially in winter months. Every time I have packed “pretty” shoes on vacation, they stay in the suitcase and wasted precious space. Get a comfortable, amazingly perfect, best pair of shoes you’ve ever had and just wear them. Comfort trumps fashion, always in my book. Don’t skimp on this one.
Advice #5, pack layers. I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve packed 3 sweaters and only worn one. Or the time I packed for both hot and cold weather and wore half of the items I packed. Take light layers. 1-2 pair of jeans, 1-2 pair of shorts, 1 dress (if you want), 2 light cardigans, 5-10 light tanks, 2-3 short sleeve shirts and 2-3 long sleeve shirts. I usually pack ONE light waterproof jacket (Carhart because I’m super fashionable) but this trip I took one sweatshirt because there was no rain in our forecast in the desert. (You can always tuck a poncho in your luggage if you aren’t sure about a low chance of rain.) Even in Alaska, I kept warm layering a tank and a couple of long-sleeve shirts under a jacket and could easily peel down when I was indoors. I also personally pack a lot of what I’ve heard referred to as “ath-leisure” – black stretchy shorts, capris (usually two pair of capris) and pants (usually two of those as well). Some may refer to these as leggings. They are comfortable in the airport and for hiking/biking and other activities Chris and I enjoy on vacation or good for layering under jeans if you’re encountering snowy weather. If you work out on vacation, you already have workout clothes and you also have something you can sleep in. We try to give ourselves a laundry day in the middle of our trip, so don’t freak out. It’s perfectly okay to wear your clothes more than once if there wasn’t stink, sweat, campfire, mud or dirt involved. Outer layers, anyway.
These. I’m sure these come in handy for the moms and dads out there cleaning up after little ones, but we always pack these to clean our hands, faces, underarms or whatever needs it when we can’t get to a shower as soon as we’d like. It’s kind of like having your toothbrush accessible when you’ve been traveling for 10 hours. Especially when camping with no running water. Everyone feels better when they shower, but even a splash to the face with bottled water can make you feel new again on a long or outdoorsy trip. We’ve been glad we had these on hand when we start to feel yuck.
Last but not least, this guy who we lovingly refer to as Gene. We get thirsty a lot on vacation and hydrating ranks pretty high on the list of important things. Airports are always gonna make you pour out whatever you have and buy new drinks on the other side of security. Every time you buy a new water bottle and throw it away, it makes the earth and your wallet sad. We fill up our Nalgene at every stop, refrigerate at night when we can and hook it through the velcro loop on the outside of our backpack so we never have to carry it, but it’s always there. We love Gene. You may find another bottle you love, but I recommend having one.
And that’s it. Our lucky seven things we find useful on every vacation. We consider ourselves amateur campers, but have some future advice on packing for both camping and the airport in one trip. Ask us anything. We’d love to hear from you.
-Chris and Kristie