5 think-ahead strategies that make travel easier

Written by admin on May 22, 2009 – 5:42 pm -

There are ways of minimizing stress when taking to the skies but sometimes, it takes imagination in addition to organization.

Think ahead about packing
Pack the day before or even earlier, then take everything out of your suitcase and whittle down your possessions. Unless you’re going to be seeing the same people for two solid weeks (and who cares) and have to attend a black tie event, travelers can do with half of what they think they need to bring.

For city travel, black is always safe for women. Bring a skirt, a pair or two of pants, a jacket, some wash and wear tops, one dressy blouse and different accessories. Scarves, shawls, costume jewelry and a silk flower to pin on your jacket or place in your hair can give women an entirely different look.

Men have always had it easy. Unless they have business meetings that require a suit, a navy blazer and gray pants with a shirt and a tie is usually as dressy as they need to get. Add some khaki pants and knit shirts and most men are on their way.

Assemble a plastic bag containing pills and copies of the prescriptions (generic please) that you need to pack in your carry-on bag even if you’re checking a suitcase.

And give careful thought to electronic accoutrements. All the many cords, converter plugs, chargers, camera apparatus such as a memory card reader or extra camera batteries are some of them. Separate the cords with rubber bands or twist-em’s so you’re not confronted with having to untangle everything.

Whether or not you check a bag is up to you. I try to avoid doing so since I’ve arrived at a destination too many times without my luggage — or have had to wait longer than I care to for the carousel to cough it up.

One caveat — don’t try dragging such a large carry-on that your back hurts before boarding the flight, or you’ve alienated your fellow passengers and the flight crew before getting your suitcase into the overhead compartment.

Think ahead about clearing airport security
Some frequent flyers are opting to become members of CLEAR where they’re on an immediate fast-track to be waved through security.

The most challenging items are electronics and personal items that require screening. Clear plastic zip-lock bags are godsends.

Have your computer ready for inspection as well as your cell phone, camera, keys and anything that might set off alarms. This sometimes includes coins and sometimes not.

Then there’s the make-up, toothpaste, etc. etc. bag, which invariably contains liquids and has to be removed from the suitcase to be screened.

They should be placed on the top of the bag for easy removal. I place all of these items together in a cloth bag so I can pull everything out in one easy swoop.

Clearing security is stressful at best. But take your time while being as efficient as possible and don’t let people push you. Airport lost and found areas are treasure troves and there’s nothing worse than realizing you’ve lost an essential.

I never wear a belt, shoes that aren’t slip-off or heavy jewelry. If I had any “important” jewelry pieces, there no point in traveling with them and being worried about robbery. Also, there’s less to take off in line.

I also have succumbed (inelegant as it is) to wearing a neck pouch containing my passport and boarding pass. This isn’t high fashion. But after leaving these essential papers in a tray, I’ve come to the conclusion there are times to be chic and other time when being secure is more appropriate.

Think ahead about waiting at the airport
I’m a great believer in belonging to an airline club because I travel enough to justify the cost. Plus, it’s not unheard of when one of the employees is able to wangle a better seat or possibly an upgrade. There are occasions when you can buy a last-minute upgrade for substantially less money than it would have cost if you’d bought a business class ticket.

One-time passes can be purchased for airline clubs if you find you’re going to be delayed. As crowded as some may be, it’s more comfortable waiting in a club and if you want or need to work, you can get on line. Be certain that if you’re not flying internationally you keep track of time because many clubs don’t announce domestic departures.

Many people go to the bar, or in some airports where there are decent restaurants, eat before the flight leaves and thus avoid eating (or buying) mediocre airline food.

Think ahead about your seat on the plane:
Some airlines aren’t permitting passengers to pre-select their seats, while others save advanced booking for premium clients. If you’ve bought your ticket though a travel agency, they can arrange for a seat to be assigned. If you’re flying United or some other carriers, opt to pay the extra money for somewhat more legroom. Five inches can make a big difference.

Consult Seat Guru and you’ll be able to tell the seating configuration of specific planes. If you can pick and choose and there isn’t a plane change, you’ll have an advantage when selecting your seat.

There are different theories and if you’re flying coach (and most of us are these days) hope the flight isn’t full and you can stake out five middle seats and the armrests go all the way up. One of the best transatlantic flights I recall was when I lucked out and slept across the ocean.

Think ahead about getting from the airport to your hotel
This tip, passed along to me by a wise traveler, has saved me time and aggravation countless times. Take a clear folder with your itinerary. Access Mappy.com or Mapquest.com and print out a map of your destination including the directions from the airport. This will put a stop to a lack a communication or a joy ride should you encounter a cabbie with whom you don’t share a common language. And even if you do, some streets are difficult to locate.

Please add your hints for making trips easier. These are just a few.

Karen Fawcett is president BonjourParis.


Tags: , , ,
Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Yes, you can fit all of your clothes into one bag — here’s how

Written by admin on October 21, 2008 – 1:23 pm -

When it comes to airline baggage, less is more. Airlines have not only begun charging for the first bag, but also cracking down on carry-ons.

So how do you downsize?

Smart packing takes substantially more planning. If you’re able to survive with a carry-on suitcase, traveling is, hands down, easier.

Consider the following scenarios:

•    Your baggage is lost.
•    Air-handlers are on strike.
•    You have a tight connection.
•    It’s impossible to get a porter or a cart.
•    Hopping on and off trains is much easier if you’re not overburdened. Hearing the conductor announce that when you stop you have only two minutes to disembark can strike fear in loaded-down travelers’ hearts. It can look like a Marx Brothers’ replay as passengers toss suitcases from the train onto the platform in a race against time.

Here’s what to do:

Unless Weather.com guarantees perfection, assume you may be in for some climate surprises. With the exception of summer months, pack a set of silk underwear that can be worn under everything. It takes no space in suitcases and is often a blessing should the chill factor set in.

Assemble a “mix and match” wardrobe. Each item should coordinate with the others, to be dressed up and down. Squelch the urge to pack a knockout dress that can only be worn once.

Select clothes you know and love and ones that don’t wrinkle. Although you can always borrow an iron (or have items pressed), there are so many “travel-perfect” clothes being manufactured these days. If you’re a frequent traveler, they’re worth the investment.

Color coordination is essential. For women, it means wearing the same shade of clothes with a few accents. I’m always comfortable in black or beige. A city wardrobe can consist of two skirts or dressy pants, a pair of casual pants, a jacket to be worn with all of the above, and three shirts or sweaters which can be made to look dressy with different costume jewelry or patterned silk scarves. I always wear a colored shawl over the coat that I wear on the plane.

Pack a small fold-up umbrella. More than likely, it will come in handy.

Men are less “packing challenged.” If they’re traveling on business, one dark suit is invariably enough. Add a navy blazer, a pair or two of gray pants, three dress shirts, plus a couple of casual ones, and call it a day.

Shoes present a challenge. it’s not a good idea to buy new ones unless you’ve had sufficient time to break them in. There’s nothing more miserable than not being able to walk. Bring a maximum of three pairs: a pair of casual ones, good walking shoes and a dressy pair for evenings. Wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

Many people pack more underwear than they’ll ever need. Bring three pairs of light ones that dry quickly. You can wash them and hang them in your bathroom overnight. You don’t need to sport detergent. The hotel bath gels do the job. Ditto when it comes to nightgowns, robes and pajamas. If you’re staying in hotels, check to see whether or not they offer robes.

Another suggestion: Invest in a selection of different colored plastic or mesh bags. Pack your “essentials” here. They can be squeezed into a suitcase and identified at a moment’s notice. If you’re running short, use every-day plastic kitchen bags as extras. Not having to grope for socks and/or stockings, underwear, ties or scarves, medications, bathroom amenities, etc., facilitates unpacking and makes life more orderly.

The choice of a suitcase is another consideration. Hard-sided ones with rollers have been extremely popular. But they’re not as flexible. Recently, a new variety of duffle bag with rollers has come out, and it’s definitely worth a look-see. It is more pliable when it comes to fitting into an airline’s overhead bin. But do clothes end up more wrinkled?

Some people swear that rolling clothes is the way to go. Others, most especially men, say that spells disaster.

For serious packers, pack two days before your departure and resist the urge to stuff anything more in the suitcase.  That’s the real challenge!

Anyone who has any packing tips, please share them. Travelers need all the help they can get.

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.


Tags: , , ,
Posted in Consumer Traveler |

The Art of Packing Light

Written by admin on March 13, 2006 – 4:05 pm -

One of the most frequent questions Bonjour Paris readers pose is what they should pack when traveling. There are no hard and fast rules except that less is better. And that takes substantially more planning. If you’re able to survive with a carry-on suitcase, (and do check the airline’s specific regulations), traveling is, hands down, easier. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. Your baggage is lost;
  2. Air-handlers are on strike;
  3. You have a tight connection;
  4. It’s impossible to get a porter or even a chariot (cart);
  5. Hopping on and off trains is much easier if you’re not overburdened;
  6. Hearing the conductor announce that when you stop you have only two minutes to disembark, can strike fear in a loaded-down travelers’ heart. It can look like a Marx Brothers’ replay as passengers toss suitcases from the train onto the quai in a race against time.

In order to be efficient, you need to plan ahead:

If you’re Paris-bound, don’t count on the weather. With the exception of summer months, pack a set of silk underwear that can be worn under everything. It takes no space in suitcases, and is often a blessing when the chill factor sets in.

Assemble a “mix and match” wardrobe. Each item should coordinate with the others, to be dressed up and down. Squelch the urge to pack a knockout dress that can only be worn once.

Select clothes you know and love and ones that don’t wrinkle. Although you can always borrow an iron (or have items pressed), there are so many “travel-perfect” clothes being manufactured these days. If you’re a frequent traveler, they’re worth the investment.  Bonjour Paris highly recommends the clothes offered from Magellan.

Color coordination is essential. For women, it means wearing the same shade of clothes with a few accents. I’m always comfortable in black or beige. A city wardrobe can consist of two skirts or dressy pants, a pair of casual pants, a jacket to be worn with all of the above, and three shirts or sweaters which can be made to look dressy with different costume jewelry or patterned silk scarves.

I always wear a colored shawl over the coat that I wear on the plane.

Pack a small fold-up umbrella. More than likely, it will come in handy.

Men are less “packing challenged.” If they’re traveling on business, one dark suit is invariably enough. Add a navy blazer, a pair or two of gray pants, three dress shirts, plus a couple of casual ones, and call it a day.

When it comes to shoes, it’s not a good idea to buy new ones unless you’ve had sufficient time to break them in. There’s nothing more miserable than not being able to walk.  Bring a maximum of three pairs: a pair of casual ones, good walking shoes and a dressy pair for evenings.  Wear the heaviest ones on the plane.

Many people pack more underwear than they’ll ever need. Bring three pairs of light ones that dry quickly. You can wash them and hang them in your bathroom overnight. You don’t need to sport detergent. The hotel bath gels do the job. Ditto when it comes to nightgowns, robes and pajamas. If you’re staying in hotels, check to see whether or not they offer robes.

Another suggestion:  Invest in a selection of different colored plastic bags. Pack your “essentials” here.  They can be squeezed into a suitcase and identified at a moment’s notice. If you’re running short, use every-day plastic kitchen bags as a supplement.

Not having to grope for socks and/or stockings, underwear, ties or scarves, medications, bathroom amenities, etc., facilitates unpacking and makes life more orderly.

The choice of a suitcase is another consideration. Hard-sided ones with rollers have been extremely popular. But they’re not as flexible and weigh more before placing an item inside them. Recently a new variety of duffle bags with rollers has come out, and they are definitely worth a look-see.  They are more pliable when it comes to fitting into an airline’s overhead bin.  But do clothes end up more wrinkled?

Some people swear rolling clothes is the way to go. Others, most especially men, swear that method spells disaster.  You might want to include a (light) travel iron in your suitcase to be on the safe side.

For serious packers, pack two days before your departure and resist the urge to stuff anything more in the suitcase.  That’s the real challenge!


Tags: ,
Posted in Around the World |