How To Travel Like A Pro

IMG_2231Millions of people travel by plane during the December holidays. If you’re one of them, you know it can be stressful and overwhelming.

Planning transportation in advance can reduce anxiety about keeping your perfect itinerary. Any easy option is renting a car at the airport using a rideshare rental service (which can often be cheaper than a large corporation). If public transportation is more your style, familiarize yourself with the schedule ahead of time. Knowing how often the bus comes means the difference between sprinting through the airport (if it comes hourly) or taking your time to enjoy its architecture (if it comes every ten minutes).

Below are more tips to minimize your holiday stress. For me, these tips have become second nature (that’s what happens when you’ve been to almost as many countries as you are years old), and they’ve made my trips infinitely smoother over the years.

Note: These tips are sorted into “checked luggage” and “carry-on luggage” but they extend beyond packing.

Checked Luggage


If your suitcase can fit a person inside, it’s probably too big for your 2-week vacation.

1. Size matters. Bring a suitcase that is small and light enough for you to carry on your own without grunting too much, but make sure it’s big enough to leave room for bags of dirty laundry or a few souvenirs. Use your space wisely by packing socks in your shoes and slipping flat items into zippered pockets. As much as possible, pack multi-purpose items of clothing that you can dress up/dress down or that easily adapt to different weather conditions.

2. Bags on bags on bags. Bring LOTS of plastic shopping bags. They’re awesome for separating things in your suitcase: keeping wet/dirty clothes away from clean ones, bagging different types of clothing together for easier access (no more fishing around for the last pair of socks!), and protecting fragile souvenirs from getting jostled. You’d be surprised how many times you’ll find your plastic bags randomly coming in handy.

Psst. Double-bag anything that may leak. You don’t want your silk dress getting covered in shampoo or gooey local delicacies. Trust me.


IMG_27593. Your suitcase is not a medicine cabinet. Okay, a small bottle of Advil and a few Band-Aids are essentials, but you don’t need to bring the entire contents of your medicine cabinet. Skip the huge bottles of NyQuil and Pepto-Bismol, and leave your EMT-sized first aid kit at home. If you do get sick, you’ll almost always be near a drugstore.

Fun fact: ailments are easy to communicate, even with a language barrier. Point to what hurts you or mimic your symptoms and you’ll usually get what you need. And brand names go a long way. In Spain my sister explained to the pharmacist in Spanish what type of cold medicine she wanted, and he simply responded, “NyQuil?”

Carry-On Luggage

IMG_05011. NOM NOM NOM. There is nothing worse than traveling on an empty stomach. Adding meal time into short layovers can be difficult or even impossible (on my 9-minute layover, there was no dinner happening, thank you very much). Pack yourself a sandwich–PB&J is basically nonperishable, meat/cheese is okay in a pinch but forego the mayo to avoid food poisoning–and a bunch of snacks. My favorites are fruit, nuts, baby carrots with hummus (bonus: dip your airline-issued pretzels into it), crackers, and granola bars. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it whenever possible.

2. Cover your bases. If you check your suitcase, make sure to bring a mini pack of essentials in your carry-on. A change of clothes, prescription medicines, and a phone charger are a must. Always pack your valuables on you–camera, laptop, etc. Those are more hassle to replace, and it isn’t worth missing photo opportunities to avoid lugging the DSLR from plane to plane.

FullSizeRender-53. Are you not entertained? On my latest flight from Ithaca to Detroit my seatmate didn’t do anything during the flight. She didn’t read, listen to music, use a laptop…she didn’t even attempt to sleep. Apparently my terribly messy sandwich-eating became her only entertainment, and I felt as uncomfortable about it as I’m sure she did.

I, on the other hand, powered through part of Native Son. I always pack two books in my carry-on. If I start one and it turns out to be awful, I have a backup. Or if it’s so deliciously good that I finish it, I have another source of entertainment. That’s worth the extra few pounds on my back during long travel days.

All seasoned travelers have an arsenal of advice that has become second nature to them but remains a mystery to the rest of us. Tell me your tips in a comment below, and happy trails! 

This post is part of the RelayRides Vacation Must-Haves campaign. It is not a sponsored post and all ideas, content, and images are my own. 

5 thoughts on “How To Travel Like A Pro

  1. Great advice. I like you gave advice for both carry on and checked luggage. I hate when the only advice about luggage is, “carry on you luggage!” Bah. We all roll differently.

    With all the hassle of so many people now carrying their luggage on a flight, I almost always check my luggage. It makes the whole flight experience so much easier and I don’t have to deal with anxiety of worrying if I will be able to find a space for my luggage, lugging that luggage around through the airport between connections, or it just getting in my way. I no longer care about when I get on the plane. No hurry for me because it’s just me, my huge airport purse, and backpack. I’ll wait 10-15 minutes I get off the plane. I’m usually securing ground travel or using the bathroom anyway so I don’t wait very long.


    • I pretty much always check a bag–it’s SO much less hassle, especially with all the TSA rules about liquids these days. It makes everything so much simpler, and I just carry my backpack with everything in it. Last time I carried on a suitcase I almost forgot it at the gate when I went to board. It’s just not worth it to me to lug it around.


  2. Pingback: What Happens When…? | Victim to Charm

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