Everyday Hacks

Travel Hacks

Great tips for easier travels

When I was a kid, my father’s parents traveled from Benton Harbor to Cadillac every few months. My paternal grandmother was a woman with a great sense of occasion and was prepared for every single one of them. This was never more obvious than when we helped them unpack their car for their two-day visits: two full-sized hard suitcases, two traincases, a garment bag, several coats for each of them, a cloth book bag of reading material, bags of food and surprises, and — my favorite thing — one paper grocery bag full of my grandmother’s shoes. All this for a 36-hour visit because one never knew what the occasion or weather would require.

Unfortunately, I absorbed my grandmother’s “be prepared for all things” travel mindset, and it made me, and my own family, crazy. So I have found ways to tame my inner vacation worrywart.

What to pack?

For yourself: Discover the wonder of the Capsule Wardrobe — a wardrobe that consists of a set number of pieces that all coordinate well together (a quick Internet search will prove enlightening). For traveling, create a mini-capsule wardrobe by picking clothing pieces that can be layered all in the same color palette (I go with black, white and red year-round). From your capsule, pick two pairs of pants, a skirt, three tops, a layering piece (think jacket or blazer), and two pairs of shoes — this gives you multiple options for a week’s worth of outfits, no matter the occasion or weather.

For younger kids: Say hello to our old friend, the gallon-size zip-top plastic bag. One outfit (underwear, socks, shirts, shorts) gets packed in a single bag, with enough bags to cover each day of your trip plus one extra. Bigger items, like jeans and sweatshirts go in the suitcase and get handed out daily. There’s also a bag for swimsuits and goggles. Make sure to press out the extra air in the bags before sealing to reduce the space they take up.

At the end of each day of the trip the dirty clothes go back into the bag from whence they came and that bag goes in a separate part of the suitcase with other dirty clothes.

That’s entertainment

Use this simple rule when determining how much to bring along to entertain your kids on a car or plane trip: If it doesn’t fit in a backpack they can carry on their back, it stays home.

Your children have to be able to carry and keep track of their own entertainment items. To make sure they — or you — haven’t over-packed, have your kids take a trial walk around the house wearing their backpack of stuff. If they’re tipping over after a few minutes, something should come out.

If they lose something they bring, will it be the end of the world? This may not be the time to bring ALL of the most treasured stuffed friends; stick to one per kid.

Novelty is good and this is a great time to dig out toys or coloring books your kids haven’t seen in a while to add to the backpack. Everything old can be new again. And never underestimate the power of a new box of crayons or markers.

Choose multipurpose items like toy cars, packs of playing cards, blank pads of paper: the more flexible the item, the longer it will hold their interest. Brush up your skills on card games from your childhood and teach them to the next generation.

Go heavy

We live in Michigan, so no matter where we travel to, we never know what glorious weather we’ll find upon our return (can you say “late spring blizzard”?). Whether driving or flying, wear your heaviest shoes and coats. This saves space in your suitcases and coats can double as pillows or blankets in the car or on the plane. Coat pockets can come in handy for carrying extras that you need to have close at hand.

Suitcase smarts

  • Your clothes will arrive at your destination with fewer wrinkles — and you’ll be able to fit more into your suitcase — if you fold each piece in half and roll it tightly
    before placing it in the suitcase. For blazers, turn them inside out first, then roll.
  • If you travel with a curling iron or flat iron, store it in an oven mitt in your suitcase; this will keep your clothes safe if you have to pack the iron before it has cooled.
  • Have items pull double duty. A pill organizer can hold medications as well as small jewelry items. A case for sunglasses is the perfect size for a phone charger.
  • Tuck some dryer sheets in your suitcase among your clothes. Clothes will smell fresher and you can run the drier sheets over clothes to reduce static electricity.

These hacks won’t solve all your travel woes; there will still be delays, missed turns, and cases of sunburns, but those are the things that turn into stories in years to come.

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