Avoid the biggest mistakes most travelers make

Avoid the biggest mistakes most travelers make

When it comes to travel, it seems simple enough. And truth be told, you can make every single one of these mistakes and have a perfectly lovely vacation. But if you’re ready to take your travel game to the next level, read on to find the ways to make travel more relaxing, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.

Mistake #1: Bulking Up

There are really, really large suitcases out there. And I have friends who could fill one for a weekend trip. After all, if you’ve got the room, why not? Right?


Because when you travel, you have to lug all your stuff with you all over the place, it makes sense to lighten the load. And there are several ways to do this, without even making a sacrifice. Which may help you drop down a suitcase size. And anyone who has ever tried to fit their bag into a small space has learned that the smaller the bag, the better. Nobody will argue with the axiom that you’re better off with the smallest bag that serves your purpose.

  1. Full-sized toiletries. Most major brands have travel sizes available. You won’t need a full bottle of shampoo for a week-long trip, and nobody uses a full deodorant stick that quickly. Even if your brand doesn’t come in travel size, you can purchase reusable travel-sized containers that can be filled with your favorite moisturizer, conditioner, or sunscreen. Besides, most full-sized containers are not TSA-compliant and can’t be carried on to the plane anyhow. But ditching the bulk doesn’t only apply to toiletries. Take a good hard look at your clothing and shoes. Jeans, sweaters/sweatshirts, and boots take up a LOT of the precious real estate in your bag. Rather than packing these items, consider wearing them on the plane. And while we’re at it, consider how many of these you need. On a short trip, you may be able to get away with only one pair of jeans. After all, at home you’d probably wear them more than once before watching.
  2. Ignoring the weather or your itinerary. We all want to look great on our trips, but make sure that what you bring will match the forecast of your destination. I pack significantly differently for trips to Costa Rica than I do for Spain. I go much more rugged in Costa Rica, with more study shoes for hiking through wilderness. In Spain I dress more like I do when I’m going to walk around my city at home. In Europe I try to look more chic, in Costa Rica, more outdoorsy. If it’s rainy season, I bring a poncho or windbreaker. In drier weather, I bring a light sweater or shawl. Knowing if you need hiking shoes or athletic wear or something more formal will help you know what to pack…because you probably don’t need all of the above.
  3. Putting the wrong thing in the wrong bag. If you’ve read my other posts, you will know that I’m a BIG fan of one bag, carry-on only travel. But I realize not everyone has been brainwashed to my way of thinking. And yeah, I sometimes check a bag also. Rarely. But it happens. The key is to be sure that you put the right things in the right bag. And most importantly, ensuring you have the right things in your carry-on. The carry-on bag is where you need to keep all vital medical items, money and valuables, and anything you can’t live without for a day or two. Because checked bags DO go missing, and even if their route is the same as yours, the bags are out of your site/control for a large portion of your trip. Of course if you’re packing larger liquids (other than those medically exempt from the 3-1-1 rules), those need to be in a checked bag. You can get more info from the TSA. Their “What can I bring?” page is incredibly helpful.
  4. Stuffing your bag full. Now, my philosophy is start with a small bag, and then as you pack if stuff doesn’t fit and you can’t winnow down the stuff, bump into a larger bag. That way you’ll always be traveling with the smallest possible bag. But this could mean that you feel the need to cram things into the smaller bag, stuffing it to the gills. Which is fine, with 2 exceptions. First, if you’re planning to buy souvenirs, you’re going to need to get them home. On a recent trip to Spain, my travel partner was in this bind. After arriving with a very full, very heavy suitcase, he had to buy another suitcase for the trip home to hold all the souvenirs. Second, if you’re not a systematic packer. Because the fact that you fit it all in there once may not mean that it will all fit again.
  5. Planning outfits or isolated items, not a wardrobe. Travel is stressful, and so many elements are very fixed. Your airline will not flex their schedule based on what you’d like. Your hotel room will not always have the view you would like. But at least you can give yourself some wardrobe flexibility if you plan before you pack. Some travelers talk about a capsule wardrobe. But regardless, packing fully interchangeable items allows you to alter your clothing plans based on weather, changes in itinerary, and other factors. If all of your items match, you don’t have to worry about having accidentally already worn the one top that matches that one bottom. I personally go with a black base, and wrap everything else in solid colors around matching with black or gray bottoms, and neutral sweaters and outer layers. That way I don’t get stuck having to wear the shirt tomorrow that I was sweating in yesterday because I have to wear the striped pants and can’t wear the patterned shirt.

Travel with Liquids…it’s kind of a big deal

Travel with Liquids…it’s kind of a big deal

First off, in order to understand this, you will need to be sure you understand the luggage allowances for your trip. If you’re traveling with me, you’re allowed ONE checked bag and ONE carry-on item, as well as a small personal item to carry-on. If you aren’t sure what all that means, PLEASE first read these other two posts:

Packing for Travel:  Step 2: Luggage

Travel Luggage Allowances

This post specifically refers to what you carry onto the plane, or more aptly through security, whether a carry-on suitcase or a personal item bag, you need to be very aware of international laws concerning liquids.  These laws are known as the 3-1-1 Liquids Rule.

Image result for 3-1-1 liquids
Image from tsa.gov

Let’s “unpack” this rule (get it? ha ha!).

3=3 ounces or smaller.

Any liquids you bring on board need to be in containers that hold 3.4 ounces (100mL) or less.  That’s right, we round to 3, but really the limit is 100mL, since the EU got on board.

Image result for liquids can't bring on airplane
Image: Daily Mail Travel

This means that a ny larger-sized container is NOT allowed to be brought through security.  Almost every time I’ve flown I’ve seen someone ahead of me who was NOT quite ready for this rule.  And airports have lovely collections of liquids that have been abandoned at the security area. This is one of the reasons why there are lovely travel-sized bottles.  Use them.

What if you REALLY need a full-sized shampoo? Do you really? How long is this trip? Do you go through a whole bottle that often at home?  Well, if you do, you’ll have to check it.

But…I want to bring my water bottle!  The great news is, YOU CAN!!  You just can’t bring water in that bottle.  The 3-1-1 rule is for liquids, not containers.  You can bring 100 gallon jugs…as long as they’re empty.

So, just what is a liquid, anyhow?

That sounds like a dumb question.  But some things you would want to bring may surprise you how they “count” according to the TSA.  It isn’t always intuitive.  Some common items are listed below.  Others can be found on the TSA website.

Liquids: (restricted by 3-1-1 to 100mL containers):

  • liquid makeup (concealer, foundation, eyeliner, mascara)
  • hair products (shampoo, conditioner, mousse, gel, pomade)
  • contact lens solution (NOTE: contact lenses w/ tiny bits of solution in lens holder don’t count)
  • liquid or aerosol deodorant (NOTE: solid deodorant doesn’t count!)
  • toothpaste
  • creamy foods (cream cheese, yogurt, hummus)

Not liquids: (not restricted in quantity or part of the 3-1-1):

  • Wet wipes/baby wipes
  • Medicines (such as insulin or epi pens) – must be declared but do not need to meet 3-1-1 rules
  • Sandwiches, even tuna salad! (But don’t bring tuna onto a plane. Too stinky.)
  • Contact lenses
  • Solid deodorant
  • Solid makeup (lipstick, lip balm, pressed powder, “solid” cream makeup)

1-1 = 1 quart bag, 1 bag/traveler

Each traveler may bring ONE, and only one, quart-sized bag with the aforementioned liquids in it. The easiest way to do this is get quart-sized zip-top bags from the grocery store and use one of those.  They are inexpensive–you don’t need a special TSA bag.  The only downside to the Ziplock style bag is that they’re flimsy, so you’d be smart to bring an extra or two with you.

That’s right, ALL your liquids have to fit into ONE quart bag if you’re going to carry it through security. This bag will need to be removed from your carry-on or purse, and set in a bin on the conveyor for x-ray inspection (along with the shoes you are wearing, jacket, and laptop computer).

Image result for tsa 3-1-1
Image: Packing Light Travel