Are you one of the masses heading out for summer vacation over Independence Day week? If you’re traveling by plane, train or another form of public transportation, you will be fighting for space to stow your bags and most likely carrying them a fair distance. These tips can help you keep your luggage safe and your sanity intact.
- Reduce your baggage allowance. If you plan to get around by train or another form of public transportation, be sure to pack light. Instead of heavy jeans, ladies can pack lighter skirts or dresses along with tights for cooler weather. Remember, black goes with everything. Shoes are heavy and take up a lot of room, so limit yourself to two pairs. When it’s cool, I bring a pair of flat boots and a dressier pair with low heels, and they take me everywhere. In the warmer months, I wear a pair of black Mary Janes that take me from day into night along with sandals or flip flops for the beach or pool.Toiletries are also heavy, so pack travel-size bottles of shampoo, lotions and other products that your hotel won’t provide. To help prevent wrinkles and to make more room in my suitcase, I stuff small piles of clothes in clear vacuum-pack bags that flatten to remove the air. If you can’t find them at Walmart, Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond, fold clear plastic shopping bags under for the same effect.
- Keep the weight on your back to take a load off your mind. Do you really need to be told to pack your camera, laptop, jewelry and other valuables in your hand luggage? Sure, it can get heavy, especially if your camera is as hefty as mine, but if you don’t carry it with you, just kiss it good-bye before boarding your flight. While you’re packing your carry-on, be sure to throw in any medication you will need for the entire trip, and add a little extra in case your return home is delayed. Don’t forget aspirin and over-the counter drugs you may need, such as cold and allergy medicine because foreign pharmacies aren’t always easy to navigate.
- Bag it. The type of suitcase you use makes a big difference. Since I’m petite, and I usually take the train from place to place when I travel abroad, I have learned the hard way that a standard suitcase is not easy to load on and off a train and even more difficult to drag up the steps in the many metro and train stations that don’t have an elevator. Instead, I use a duffel bag on wheels. Not only is it lighter, but it’s not as deep, so you don’t have to lift it as high off the ground when you are climbing steps. Even better, mine has handles on each end, so I can use both arms to pick it up rather than lifting from the top.
- Stand out. After many hours of exhausting travel to your destination, you will look forward to reuniting with your suitcase. Make sure it stands out, especially if it looks a lot like everyone else’s bag. Colorful luggage tags and ribbons tied around the handle can help. I credit my dad, the cleverest person I’ve ever known, with the idea of painting distinctive marks on both sides of my bag. Any kind of wall paint will do. I’ve also used acrylic paint. While you’re making your bag easy to identify, be sure to write your name and the address of the place where you’re staying along with a phone number where you can be reached on a piece of paper and place it in the bag. I include my cell phone number, along with its country code, especially when I stay at a hotel. I always lock my bag with a TSA-approved lock, so I place the sheet in an outside pocket.
- Shoot it. Just before leaving on my trip, I use my cell phone to take a picture of my suitcase. That way, if the airline loses it – yes, it’s been known to happen – I can show someone exactly what it looks like.