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Jen’s Travel Tips

August 27, 2009

Just about 24 hours from now, we’ll be leaving our home in the country and heading on a grand adventure.  We’re driving to Jersey to visit with Jason’s family, and then we’ll fly from NYC to Ireland on Sunday.

I don’t think the word “excited” adequately describes how I feel about this trip – especially after reading about some of the places we’ll be heading from others who have been or are there (here and here, for example).

So we’re packing and cleaning today, and shopping for last minute goodies for our trip, and I thought I’d share some of my favorite travel tips.  I’ve been so lucky to have been on many a fabulous vacation in my day (to Europe and otherwise), so I thought I’d share a little advice…

1. Pack lightly. Lugging a suitcase around sucks.

We had a major PACK LIGHTLY FAIL on our girls trip to Europe (there were only 3 of us).  It was painful for all shoulders involved.

2. To accomplish #1, I’ve found that it works best if you choose to bring blacks OR browns. Then you don’t need to bring both black AND brown dress shoes, black AND brown kicks, black AND brown boots, etc, etc. It almost helps to pick shoes first and work up from there. (Of course, there are some blacks you can wear with brown shoes and vice versa – the main thing to keep in mind is keeping the number of pairs of shoes to a minimum because they take up lots of space).
3. And while we’re on the topic, pack comfortable shoes. There’s nothing worse than trekking through Paris with blistered feet. (That’s a lie. There’s a million things worse than that.  But it’s still not fun.) If your vacations are anything like mine, you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so prepare for it.

La tour Eiffel, it sparkles!

4. Pack your grossest socks, undershirts, and underwear. You know, the ones where the elastic is failing and holes are starting to appear? I actually save those buggers and bring them with me on vacation (is that TMI?). Then I throw them out after use. This means that I’m not lugging around dirty underwear, and also that I’ve cleared up some space in my suitcase for souvenirs!
5. Pack a few large ziploc baggies. They always come in handy! I typically use mine to store ticket stubs, subway maps, etc as I collect them. They could also be used for wet swimsuits, dirty laundry, or toiletries.
6. Buy yourself postcards. Is there a statue you can’t seem to get a good photo of? A castle that doesn’t quite fit into your camera frame? Buy a postcard! You can even fill it out with where you’ve been and mail it to yourself (a la Sherry and John). I also like to look for vintage postcards – put them in a frame and you’ve got a cute and cheap little work of art to remember your trip by.

Church on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia

7. Bring a travel journal. In my travel journal, I keep addresses of friends and family that I plan to send postcards to (btw, any of you want a postcard from Ireland? Email me your address and I’ll gladly send you one!). I keep a full copy of my itinerary and any additional reservation/confirmation number help stored in the journal. When I went to China a few years ago, I kept a Chinese translation of some of the locations I’d be going to in my travel journal – thank goodness, too, because upon arrival at the Shanghai airport, I realized that NONE of the taxi drivers spoke English!

Basically, any important phone numbers, addresses, etc should go in your journal (and don’t forget to write your own address in there in case the journal gets lost!).  Additional memories or travel experiences can be written in the journal while you’re on vacation, and then you’ve got a quick go-to guide should you ever forget about where you went and what you did on your trip!

Wild Goose Pagoda, Xi’an, China

8. Use the roll technique. Rolling your clothes can save lots of space in your suitcase! Typically, I use folds on the way to my destination, but end up rolling on the way back to make room for things that I’ve picked up along the way. Stuffing your clothes into ziploc baggies will also do the trick!
9. Bring over-the-counter medications. I almost always bring advil/tylenol, tums/pepto, and cold medicine. (When I went to China, I pretty much bought out a pharmacy and lugged it with me. Not the best for my “pack lightly” philosophy, but when my friend, Chris, got sick he was thankful that I had packed it all!). Because I know what meds work for me here in the US, I’d rather just stick with them than try something new abroad. Also? If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s nice to just have things on hand rather than trying to chase down a pharmacy.

Footprints in Hawaiian sand

10. Pack an extra bag. Worried about picking up too many extras on your trip? Throw an additional small duffel or tote into your suitcase! On this trip, we’ll be renting a car, and staying in several B&Bs for just one or two nights, so I plan to use my small duffel to carry only what I’ll need for one night (toiletries, pjs, change of clothes) into the B&B, while my bigger suitcase will stay locked in the trunk. I think this will be especially handy when we’re staying at old castles with narrow hallways or when we’re staying on the third or fourth floor!

Well, I think that’s my short list…  What are your top travel tips?

I should also note that I signed up for Twitter, and although I am generally skeptical about it (does anyone really care to have up to the minute updates about what I’m doing?), I thought it would be a fun way for you to check in while I’m on holiday (I’m looking at you, mom).  So, if you’d like to follow along, you can sign up to follow me on Twitter, or you can check the blog – my “tweets” are posted in the left sidebar.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2009 8:58 am

    dont forget to pack an extra bag to bring home all your gifts and memorabilia!!
    Can’t wait to see pictures of your trip – have a wonderful time
    I am so jealous!!!
    I will email you my address so you can send a post – card, than I can frame it and hang it in our Pub!!

  2. August 27, 2009 10:13 am

    Jen, I’ve just found your blog through Monica at Happy Nester and her “Project under $15” on Maman Tattoo. So excited for your trip! Another tip: Space Bags. They are amazing. I keep turning my friends onto them. They can’t pack without them now! I’ve never met you, but I’d love to get a postcard from Ireland! 🙂

  3. janmary permalink
    August 27, 2009 10:37 am

    So will you be dressed head-to-toe in black or brown? Just wondering so I can spot you!

    Great tips. Not sure I could be disciplined enough to only bring in a smaller bag to a B&B. I know it makes sense, but I would be bound to be looking for something that was in the boot of the car!

    Following you on twitter so we can keep track of you 🙂

    So, as if I need to ask, are you excited yet?

  4. Aunt Tami permalink
    August 27, 2009 12:47 pm

    Have fun…can’t wait to hear all about it when you get back!
    PS what does Barley think of being left behind? 🙂

  5. August 27, 2009 5:07 pm

    I was just going to ask who is watching Barley while you’re gone?

    • August 27, 2009 7:29 pm

      We’re bringing Barley with us to New Jersey so that his grammy and poppy or aunt and uncle can watch him! We’re so thankful that they agreed to spend the 2 weeks with him!

  6. mom permalink
    August 28, 2009 12:32 am

    Yikes! Did we really take all that along??? And walked the streets of Paris to the car with all those bags? Embarrassing to say the least! I want to see these SMALL bags you are taking to Ireland and which shoes you took along:)

    • August 28, 2009 7:57 am

      Am only taking tennis shoes, canvas loafers, and black ballet flats. Jason made me pack the big suitcase, but it’s only half full. Kind of ridiculous to take that huge of a suitcase, but I don’t have a smaller one and think my rolling duffel bag will be too small. Plus, I need room to bring things home! 🙂

  7. September 8, 2009 2:43 am

    On our trip to Italy we packed two giant suitcases only to wear the same things over and over again. On our trip to Paris we made due with one carry one each by following most of the rules posted above. Some additional tweaks we’ve made over the years include using bar soaps instead of liquids (you can even get shampoo in bar form) and only bringing two pairs of shoes. Finally, I wear/bring all my bulky items (Uggs, big coat) on the plane so it’s not in my luggage. I’m really struggling with how I’m going to pack lightly for winter in Ireland though …

  8. September 11, 2009 3:38 pm

    We lost our luggage so many times that we decided one does not need all one packs! We now use a small carryon and what does not fit does not go along. If you are staying in one place for two weeks you need more stuff. It you are moving every day no one knows that you are wearing the same thing three days in a row. Of course you take things that can easily be washed and hung to dry. I take a fold up bag in case I buy something. And, like someone said, take things that mix and match. I’ve been around the world with my little drag-a-long! Hope you had a great time!

  9. September 18, 2009 12:23 pm

    We also bring 1-2 small boxes of powder detergent (depending on how long we’re going) so if you do pack light you can wash your clothes in you room.

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