How to Prepare For a Trip
Your intrepid advice columnist has up and had herself a baby, and will be taking a couple weeks off from her bossing-around duties. In the meantime, she’s arranged a cavalcade of her favorite writers from around the Web to come and take a crack at some of your questions, share their personal style secrets and wisdom, and hopefully keep you entertained while Amy
Today’s guest columnist is none other than Holly Burns of Nothing But Bonfires. She’s also a contributer at The Window Seat for Travelocity, for she is Quite the Little World Traveler and travels everywhere and wrote this primer on preparing for travel while…preparing to travel to London and Rome. Well! One time, I took a train to New York but got off in Newark by mistake.
Hello, Smackdown Readers! This isn’t Amy, you’ll be surprised to note. Nope, Amy is off, I don’t know, having a baby or something, so she sort of has her hands full. (Uh, quite literally, I’d imagine. With sweet, squishy, smooshy baby cheeks. Oooooh, I want to pinch one of those little thighs!)
(I meant the baby’s thighs. Not Amy’s. You know, in case you had to read that sentence over a few times just to be sure.)
So yes, this isn’t Amy but instead it’s Holly. Hello! I’m not sure if we’ve met. You can normally find me at Nothing But Bonfires, but today I’m here–dispensing wisdom and scattering opinions—because Amy asked if I’d fill in on the Advice Smackdown while she’s out on maternity leave. And since I am generally a huge fan of both a) the Advice Smackdown, and b) telling people what to do, I jumped at the chance.
What I’d like to talk about today is travel. I do a lot of traveling, you see, both for work and for fun, and I am constantly getting very stressed out about it. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how many times I have to locate my passport or pack a suitcase or (ew) take my shoes off for the security line: every time I go on a trip, I’m a little flustered the week beforehand.
Actually, I’m flustered right now! I’m off to Rome and London soon — I know, try to feel sorry for me, it’s going to be ghastly — and even though this is going to be my (whoa) twelfth trip this year, I’m still freaking out about it a little because there’s so much to do before I go. So I thought I’d talk about it to make myself feel better. And hey, if you’re going anywhere anytime soon, perhaps it’ll make you feel better too.
Some Important Advice Regarding Travel: Specifically, How To Prepare For It. Because OMG, That Kind of Thing is Really Stressful:
Here is the thing, and I’m just going to give it to you straight: you are probably going to be wound a little tight the week before you leave on your trip. This is true whether you’re taking your dream vacation to Zimbabwe or just hopping a plane for the world’s most boring business trip to Anywhere, USA. It’s human nature to be nervous before you travel!
(Well, it might be human nature…or it might just be some masochistic tendency to mentally run through every pair of black pants in your wardrobe, and then to lie awake at night, weighing up the pros and cons of bringing each one on your trip.) (Oh, is that just me? Sorry. Apparently, I need fewer pairs of black pants.)
Anyway, when I’m freaking out about going out of town, and/or getting into a metal tube that will then catapult me into the skies, and/or totally forgetting to pack that strapless bra I needed, these are a few things that usually serve to make me feel a little calmer. I hope they help.
Find every single flight itinerary, car rental confirmation, and hotel booking, and print those suckers out. Compile them in a folder, and keep that folder in some sort of Very Important Place in your house. Then, right before you leave, transfer it to a Very Important Place in your carry-on bag. Not only will you feel so much better and more organized with that stuff in your sight, but it will also make it easier for you to check (and double-check, and triple-check) your flight time at least eight times before you leave. There will be no chance of you being late to gate 41A, no siree.
Make lists. I’m not kidding: make as many lists as you can. I fill post-it note after post-it note with any number of errands I need to get done before a trip, ranging from the mundane (“buy candy for the plane”) to the really-quite-important (“arrange for someone to feed the cats while I’m away.”) However, please understand that the satisfaction you get from checking these things off will only be momentary: as soon as you do so, you will likely add something completely new to the list in its place. Still, the important thing is that you are appearing to remain in control, and your brain will probably receive that message and report it straight to your hammering heart. And this means you will probably not need that emergency stash of Valium after all.
Take packing seriously. Again with the lists: I find it very useful to write out everything I’m considering bringing with me on a large piece of blank paper a few days before I go. And I’m talking specifics: “black sweater I got for 40 percent off at Banana Republic,” for instance, or “green dress that makes my collarbone look super awesome.” I even include shoes and jewelry in my lists too. Somehow, having it all laid out like that reinforces the idea that yes, it is in fact entirely ridiculous to take eight pairs of ballet flats for a weekend getaway. It also helps with that But Which Black Pants? dilemma I mentioned above.
No, I mean it. Take packing really seriously. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but before I leave on a trip, I try to carve out an hour or two to try on the different outfits I’m thinking of bringing. THERE, I SAID IT. Sure, there is something sort of ridiculous about it–my boyfriend scornfully rolls his eyes and calls it playing dress up—but it’s a marvelous tool for figuring out what goes with what (yep, that black sweater will go with everything). It also establishes in your mind some fairly put-together ensembles that you can then just throw on bleary-eyed in your hotel room when your alarm goes off at 6am, except oh my god, you’re still on Pacific time, so it’s actually THREE AM, and wait, what’s your name again? (In this kind of situation, for example, you will be so happy you’ve already tried that skirt on with that new top and figured out it clashes. TRUST ME.)
Prepare a little must-have kit for the flight. On a plane, I am never without the following things: a pair of socks, an eye mask, a tube of lip balm, and a couple of Wet Wipes. When I am feeling extra industrious, I try also to remember a sewing kit, a few band-aids, a couple of Advils, a pair of earplugs, and a small tub of moisturizer. I stuff all of this into some long-forgotten toiletry bag I never use anymore and throw it into my carry-on. Sure, I feel a little like a Girl Scout leader with all this stuff, but at least I am pleasingly prepared, say, with a needle and thread if a button suddenly pops off my shirt. Seriously: you would totally want to be sitting next to me on a plane. Because if you get a blister or a headache or a chocolate stain on your jacket? Well, then: I’m your girl.
Published October 30, 2008.
Last updated October 30, 2008.