We've been lucky over the last few months and have had the opportunity to travel to both Vancouver, British Columbia and to the Florida Panhandle. Although the types of travel we've done are different (business vs. pleasure), we've followed the same strategy to settle in and make ourselves comfortable. I've found that with a little effort to up front (ideally as soon as you arrive), that you can avoid headaches, frustration and meltdowns (both for the kids and the grownups) later on down the road. Here are my best tips for spending less time finding your stuff and more time enjoying yourself.
1. When you arrive, immediately assess how much storage you have and decide where your stuff should go. Remember: like goes with like. Books, pens, notepads, brochures, maps etc.. go together nicely. If you have a desk, put them there. If you don't, just keep them together in a drawer, tote bag or even a designated spot on the floor. Each time you use one of those things be sure to return it to its designated spot when you are done. In terms of clothes, bedclothes go with bedclothes, tops with tops, bottoms with bottoms and socks with socks. Just like you do at home! If you are travelling with kids, give them the bottom drawers so they can take care of keeping up with their own clothes. Keep everyone’s shoes in the bottom of the closet or lined up by the door.
The same is true for all your gear. We go to the beach a couple of times each year so we have a beach bag that contains sunscreen, hats, goggles, sunglasses, towels, snacks and water bottles. We can just grab the bag and go with minimal stress.
2. Create activity bags. Depending on what type of trip you are taking, you will be doing a number of types of activities. They tend to fall into a few categories: business (you'll need a travelling office in a bag), shopping, touring, hiking/swimming/outdoors. In each bag put the things you'll need together and then replenish your supplies at the end of each day. For instance, if we were planning on hiking in the country side I'd put together a bag that had maps, tour books, water bottles, granola bars, Band-Aids, pain relievers,sunscreen, hats and a handkerchief. At the end of the day, I'd dump everything out, sort it, throw away the trash, rinse out the water bottles and refresh the snack selection. Hindsight is 20/20, so the evening after you've done your activity is the best time to add whatever item you forgot to add to your sack for the next day. About 50% I forget some little item that I wish I had like lip balm or eye drops. You can't win 'em all.
3. Decide where home base is. Pick a spot where you can keep your keys, wallet, passport, travel documents, phones, gadgets and important medications you might need. If you can contain them somehow either in a bowl or a basket, fantastic. If not, no worries. Just designating a spot will make things easier for you.
Bonus points if this spot has some plugs for your electronics to charge in.
4. Make a laundry hamper for yourself. Where should your dirty clothes go? You can hang a plastic bag on a doorknob, find a corner of a closet or maybe you will luck out and actually have a laundry basket or bin to use. Designating a spot for your dirty duds early on help you figure out what is clean and when it's time to do a load of laundry!
5. Bring a bit of home with you. Getting enough rest on your trip is super important if you want to have a great time. My husband and I honeymooned in Florence, Italy and we managed to have a hotel room directly above an ambulance dispatch. Let's just say it was less than romantic having sirens go off all night long right under our window. We learned from that experience to never leave home without a small noise machine (there are also some great free apps that do the same thing) and earplugs. My must have bedtime list of stuff duplicates what I do at home. I bring my favorite pjs, hand cream, eye drops and eye mask. Those little rituals trick my brain into thinking I'm home and to quiet down and go to sleep.
5. Figure out your garbage situation. Sometimes there simply aren't enough waste baskets where you're staying. Plastic grocerybags are perfect for this. You can use multiple bags to sort your recyclables too. I like to toss 3-4 bags in my suitcase for bagging garbage, keeping dirty shoes off of clean clothes and for wet clothes and bathing suits. When I'm done with them I recycle them if I can.
Putting a bit of thought into where your stuff should go so it can serve you instead of hinder you is a great way to make yourself comfortable wherever you go.
Now I want to hear from you. What sort of travel tips do you have up your sleeve? Do you have a favorite thing (or things) you always travel with? I love learning from other travellers!