We all travel, and some of us are on the road or in the air more than others. Whether you travel once a week or once a year, you still need to be organized when you set off on your journey. As one who travels at least once a week, I would like to share tips for a successful journey every time.
First, gather all documentation in advance. Tickets, a passport, keys and a map … yes, I said map. You never know when your mobile GPS is not going to work. Documentation often overlooked is key contacts. This is a must. On a Sunday, when a flight is disrupted, do you have the right phone numbers to make changes to your trip? Besides the airline’s main number, you also want the number for your hotel, any pre-arranged ground transportation such as shuttle van or car, and any business contacts who may be waiting for you at your destination.
Second, determine what you need to pack. Always check the weather forecast for your destination as your travel date gets closer. That will help you better plan what attire to pack. Also, gather special items you’ll need. These can include materials for meetings, gifts for people at your destination, travel tools such as headphones for the plane, special clothing needs such as scarves and gloves, and personal items such as medications, sunblock, cosmetics and travel-size toiletries. After you determine what you need, evaluate which luggage is best to pack for the trip.
Third, begin the packing process. This can be a challenge for a lot of us. Why? Because it requires time and planning. Do you take your clothes off their hangers right before you leave to avoid wrinkles? Or do you put clothing on hangers into plastic dry cleaner bags and fold them into your luggage? Will you use a carry-on bag or check your luggage at the airport? Whatever your plan, there is a set process to packing no matter how many days the journey will be. This process takes time, but staying organized helps me avoid forgetting something. The process is as follows:
Go day by day and place what you need on a dresser, on a bed or in a closet.
Plan to use each major clothing item on at least two different days. Mix and match, especially on a long trip.
Choose accessories day by day. Start with undergarments, socks and ties. Then finish with jewelry or cufflinks. Again, use pieces multiple days.
Remember to pack pajamas, workout clothes, bathing suit, winter outerwear or anything else for the specific trip.
The night before you leave, set out personal hygiene items on the bathroom counter.
On the day of travel, place the selected clothing items and accessories into your luggage. Pack your toiletries last. Remember, liquids and lotions of no more than 3 ounces each go into a see-through plastic quart-size bag for any luggage carried onto a plane.
Fourth, follow a preplanned schedule. When do you need to leave for the journey? If you are flying, taking a cab or catching a train or bus, when do you need to be at the departure site? When flying, be aware of special events that may cause an airport surge and prevent you from getting to your gate quickly. The rule of thumb is to arrive two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours for international travel. If you travel often, I highly recommend Clear, TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry to speed your process through security lines. When driving or taking ground transportation, is there road construction on your path? You do not want to discover at the last minute via the Waze app that hours have been added to your journey.
Last and very critical, conduct an inventory at every step of your journey. Every time you go through a checkpoint or make a stop, take a physical audit of your personal items: driver’s license, passport, credit card, tickets, jacket, cell phone. When you stop for fuel or quickly visit a shop, did you leave anything behind? When you go through airport security, did you leave a bracelet or watch? It is easy to do because of the lines and the sense of urgency to move people along.
Traveling can be daunting, so following a process can help. I am not perfect, oh no. I have the most trouble with “conduct an inventory.” I thought I was doing well, and then recently left a pile of items in a hotel room safe. I did get the items back, thankfully. So, as you see, I still have work to do on the tips I shared.