Last year after my London trip, I posted some travel tips. I feel like I learn new things after every trip. I just got back from Alaska and Seattle (post coming soon) and thought I might share some more of my learnings...these are a few more logistical sort of things to think about if you're planning on a trip this summer. You don't want to be what the French call les incompetents, do you?
1. Packing--bring the good stuff. I love dressing up on my vacations. Obviously, your wardrobe will be determined by what type of trip you are taking and you need to pack what's appropriate. But, listen...I have pictures in Pisa wearing a Green Day shirt and Birkenstocks. And I have pictures in front of Buckingham Palace in a pretty dress. Bring nice stuff! Trust me...that T-shirt with the hippo on it that says "hip" shouldn't be worn in front of the Eiffel Tower. (I would know.)
2. Mentally prepare yourself now for Starbucks stores in airports, and remember that not only are the prices jacked up, but your Gold Card is not accepted. It's such a shame, I know. I was very disconcerted at LAX when I was forced to pay full price for my latte. It's not even about saving the thirty-five cents...it's the rejection of the belonging to the establishment that is kind of spirit-crushing. So, just be ready for that in advance so you won't be as crestfallen when purchasing your delicious beverages in airports.
3. Footwear--the white exercise sneaker look is unecessary while traveling, unless you're planning on running a marathon or something. I know when you're packing, you think, "I need comfortable shoes...I'll be walking a lot." This is true; however, "comfortable" and "not ugly" are not mutually exclusive concepts. Also, Tevas are only appropriate when climbing rocks; don't wear them in airports (You're outdoorsy. You have a North Face backpack and a Nalgene. I get it.). Lastly, Crocs are not okay. Anywhere.
4. Toiletries--There are so many incredible products that come in travel sizes! Check out Target--they have travel tissues, mouth rinse, deodorant, hairspray, medicine, shave gel, toothpaste, even mini lint rollers. And everything's a buck. I love buying new toiletries and lotions for trips. So treat yourself to some new products and save some packing space.
5. Don't buy crap on your vacation. Of course you want souvenirs, but don't buy lame stuff that loses its cool as soon as you leave the place of purchase. My pal Hayley comes from a family of serious cribbage players (a game I will never understand), and she bought a wooden cribbage board in Alaska. I collect books from museums and Starbucks mugs, so I look for them when I travel. Buy souvenirs that are things you like or use at home. And remember...it's nicer to have one or two pricier but higher quality souvenirs than a bunch of cheap junk that you won't even have in a year.
6. Pack a few Power bars or Luna bars on your trip. In Europe, I'd eat half a bar almost every mid-day--walking and exploring takes a lot of energy. I've found myself in many places (stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel for three hours, on a train in the middle of nowhere, on buses, etc.) where food wasn't available but I was able to tide myself over with a Luna bar. Plus...I mean, have you had a Luna bar? They're delicious!
7. Things to do before a trip:
Get a manicure and/or pedicure. So, you're going on vacation and stressed out about all the stuff you need to do before you leave, right? Calm down and get your nails done the day before you go. I swim and type all the time, so I love getting a manicure before a vacation because it actually lasts!
Update your iPod. Make playlists for the places you're going and make sure your iPod is charged.
Think of which books to bring. This is always one of the most difficult packing decisions for me. A trip is a chance for me to dive into a book I haven't been able to get to yet. Be bold...pick a big book!
8. Things you should pack but might not think to pack:
Souvenirs from your hometown, to give to friends you make on the trip...something small and simple like postcards or keychains. In Ireland, I made friends with Debbi from Australia and she gave me a stuffed kangaroo that I still have...what a fun idea. In Alaska I gave postcards to our dinner servers thanking them for taking care of us. People will appreciate these!
Phone, iPod, and camera battery chargers. These are kind of "duh" things to pack, but they're easy to forget.
Umbrella. I'm only suggesting this because when I don't pack one, I am caught in a downpour and have to buy one in the street for $5. And when I bring one, I never need it. So bring an umbrella...because then you won't need it.
Extra-strength Tylenol. Throw a few pills inside the inner pocket of every purse/bag you bring; don't worry about the bottle.
9. When packing, put nicer/more delicate clothes (blouses, cardigans, dresses) in freezer bags. They'll protect your clothes and also help keep them wrinkle-free (less friction). I LOVE packing my stuff in plastic bags...the stuff in my suitcase is always clean, compact, and organized.
10. Relax. All this stuff about packing and preparing...it's fun! An important part of trips for me is the anticipating. I love thinking of what to wear and pack, researching where I'm going, and making iPod playlists for museums and airports and cities. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by details, but remember to have fun now, and you will.