Travel can be gloriously chaotic, but your gear doesn't have to be.
Think keeping your travel gear organized is as easy as stuffing everything into packing cubes? Think again! Cubes (and Ziploc bags, mesh bags, and packing folders) are awesome organizational tools but they’re just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to simple packing for stress free trips.
And you better believe that easy packing and worry free travel is exactly what I need. Most of my trips are a combination of business and pleasure, sometimes with a dose of family mixed in too. I imagine most of yours are similar. Life is busy, at home and on the road, so anything that reduces strain and maximizes travel fun is a winner in my books. Here’s how I keep it all together when it comes to managing my gear and gadgets on the road.
Give lists some lovin’
I live and die by lists, especially when it comes to travel. I have a master list for packing, one for roadtrip gear, one for leaving the house, and one for travel odds and ends. I hate that late night feeling of trying to remember something just before you fall asleep, only for it to vanish the next morning. Writing it all down (and editing after each trip) keeps my stress low and my enthusiasm high.
Underpack your bags
My idea of a rockin’ Friday night is to play around with my travel gear. No trip in my future? No problem! There’s just something about seeing backpacks and suitcases that gets my heart racing! I love to tinker with things so I'll be able to depend on my bag being perfectly organized… at least for the first day.
Sadly, the pack you leave with is not the pack you carry throughout your trip. Your clothing won’t be rolled as tightly, your cubes won’t be so snugly organized. Things just seem to expand overnight and you don’t want to be struggling with a bursting bag on the third day of your vacation. That’s why I recommend deliberately leaving your bag at least 25% empty. It gives you real space to be a little bit messy. And it also means that all of your miscellaneous, straggling bits of gear can more easily be stowed in one central bag. End the struggling with a wayward coat, inflatable pillow, bag of gummy bears, or stack of magazines – and no leaving them behind on the plane or train.
Leave no adapter behind!
Electronics are one of the most frequently forgotten items in hotel rooms and I have a theory why. Unless your hotel is brand new, chances are it was designed in simpler, more wholesome times when people were not ruled by their cruel overlords – er, make that cell phones! Plugs are rarely accessible in hotels that are more than 10 years old, leaving modern travelers to crawl behind dressers, chairs, and armoires in search of a charge.
It also doesn’t help that chargers and adapters are the same shade of white as many outlets and hotel walls. It’s no surprise that chargers get left behind all the time. Out of sight, out of mind! Having learned this lesson the hard way when I left part of my precious adaptor in Paris, I now travel with a bright, multi-colored adaptor that will easily catch my eye when I scan the room. (It's by Nomas, you can see it in all it's colorful glory in the pic above and you can find it here).
I also travel with aBelkin small power cord, with three regular outlets and two USB slots. That way, I only need to scrounge up one outlet to charge all my devices at the same time and there’s no chance I’ll forget something.
Corral your odds and ends.
One of the best trips Ryan and I ever took was a two week excursion to the American southwest. I was SO proud of all my planning! My passion for finding hotel sales has never reaped better rewards. Every night brought a new property, one that was perfect for our needs and was reserved at the best possible price. Did I mention how proud I was of my planning?
But while changing properties every night saved us a lot of money, it all came at a price. We spent a lot of time moving our gear around from the rental car, to the hotel room, and back to the car again – not to mention our never ending search for the right plastic hotel key. Then there was the constant hunt for spare change, museum cards, and valet slips. It was enough to drive me to distraction, to say nothing of the wasted time.
My solution was a collapsible travel tray that packs flat and transforms by attaching a series of corner snaps. It was great to know that all our important odds and ends were corralled in one spot, saving us many a fruitless search and more than a few arguments. Don’t worry if you don’t have a travel tray – there might just be one already in your hotel! The plastic tray that’s used underneath the toiletries or coffee maker will do just fine.
Keep your ducks – and papers – in a row.
I’ve only ever had one travel experience that made my heart jump into my throat with fear. It was when we came within seconds of forgetting our passports in a hotel room in Hawaii. We had done such a thorough job of reorganizing our gear in anticipation of that evening’s flight that somehow our passports got tucked between the corner of the duvet and the bed sheets as we spread out all our stuff to repack. It was only my last second impulse to straighten the bed cover (I hate the idea of the housekeeping staff thinking we’re bad guests) that revealed the navy blue edge of our passports. What are the odds we would have realized our mistake and recovered them in time? I still get nervous when I think about it!
Passports, along with all other critical papers, belong in a safe place. If that place isn’t on your body, then it should be in a secure travel wallet that keeps things clean and organized. I love this jaunty purple travel wallet from Seawhisper. The bright color adds a pop of sunshine to gear but more importantly it will pop out of the shadows of the hotel safe and reduce the odds of being left behind. Plus it will keep your boarding cards, insurance documents, extra credit cards, receipts, and a little spare money nicely organized.
Last but not least: Embrace some classic advice.
Sometimes old advice really IS the best advice! Some classic nuggets include making a copy of your passport to leave with a trusted friend (and emailing a scanned copy to yourself), digging into the fine print of your insurance to truly understand your coverage (including lost luggage provisions), and confirming all reservations a few days before your trip. Spend the time and enjoy the peace of mind. A little organization can go a long way.
Tell us: How do you organize your gear?
Everyone has a few tricks up their sleeve - what are yours? Share your favourite packing tips and organization suggestions in the comments below!
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