Traveling is one of my favorite pastimes. I love trips to the beach, and I love seeing new places. Visiting sites with historic significance makes the events from the past seem so much more real, and is the best history lesson for my kids.
I also travel for my job on a regular basis, so between business travel, personal travel, and visits to family, I am on the road a lot.
Along the way I’ve learned some lessons about how to travel while still striving for a capsule lifestyle, which for me means packing light but having everything I need. Here are my top three tips:
Plan a mini-capsule wardrobe for the trip
My capsule wardrobe has really simplified my life, while also improving it. But when traveling, I often adjust my capsule a bit.
First, I try to pack about the same number items as number of days of travel, approximately. For example, when traveling for a week, I’ll look to find 7 pieces from my capsule wardrobe that combine to make seven (or more) outfit combinations. You’d be surprised how easy this is. For some examples, check out this and this.
If you will have laundry facilities available, you can consider packing even less. If you are going to the beach or a special occasion, you might need a few extra items like swimsuits or nicer dresses.
I also strongly recommend taking an extra outfit – you never know when your sons will spill their drinks all over you (not that this has happened to me or anything).
Layers are also a good idea. The weather can always surprise you. If you don’t pack some layers you may be tempted to buy a jacket or sweatshirt that will end up not fitting into the wardrobe later.
These are the outfits I wore on my last business trip of 5 days total, including travel time. You can see more about the individual pieces here.
Pack the items you may be most tempted to buy
When I travel I want to enjoy the new sights and experiences. I don’t want to spend my vacation money on STUFF.
This means when I travel, I want to bring certain items with me from home. Since clothing has always been my number one shopping temptation, I try to always dress extra well when I travel to avoid feeling like I should go find something better to wear.
I bring a stainless mug (we have a Yeti mug we received as a gift, but there are less expensive options – like this one – that work really well too). A water bottle may also be sufficient depending on your drink preferences.
Books are my other temptation, particularly if I run out of reading material with 5 hours of car time still to go! Books are one item I intentionally pack more than I think I will need just in case, but if possible, I go with e-books – because there is only so much room in the car/plane/etc.
Personal items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, band-aids, and sunscreen are items you may need and have to purchase if you don’t bring them with you. Since these are all consumable, that may not be the end of the world, but you aren’t likely to get the best deal (for those of us that hate to pay more than necessary). If you are staying in a hotel, they often have some personal items they will provide on a complimentary basis.
One tip I have to share is this travel toothbrush.
My sister had one on a recent family trip to Gettysburg, PA (which is a fantastic vacation destination). Until now, I had always used those cylinder toothbrush holders, one for each of our toothbrushes, but they would get moldy inside and I’d forget which one belonged to which person (not that it would be hard to label them, I just don’t keep a Sharpie handy on in the bathroom or on trips). I ordered these while I was still on that trip, and they were at my house when we got home. I tested it out on a business trip to California a week later, and I’m 100% sold, never going back. I love that the case is clear so you can see that it looks clean, and there are lots of colors so I will quickly know which one is mine.
The last item I always pack are some snacks. Vending machines and gas station snacks are way overpriced and never healthy, so having an option handy when the munchies strike is a lifesaver.
FINAL PACKING TIP – using a packing checklist to help ensure you don’t miss anything. I prefer to make my own and reuse from trip to trip, but there are lots of templates out there (here is a basic example and another specific to a beach vacation).
Make a plan for what you will do and buy
The extent of planning depends on the type of trip. For a business trip, my days are usually pretty well planned for me, so I might make some evening plans but not much otherwise; I usually try to take something to do with me for any evenings spent in a hotel. I’ve found this can be a great time to work on digital email clutter; I also like to read.
For personal trips, I develop a daily plan, but stay flexible in case the weather (either the real weather or my family’s moods) prompt changes. For us, a beach vacation requires the least amount of planning. Once we select a place to stay, we don’t usually do too much. If we stay a week, we may spend one day sightseeing away from the beach. For extended family trips (like our recent trip to Gettysburg), someone else may be doing most of the activity planning, and you just need to go with the flow.
The rest of the time, I use sites like TripAdvisor and Roadtrippers to help me plan our activities. If you take car trips and haven’t used Roadtrippers, you have to check it out. I use it to find fun stops to break up a long drive.
So why is planning important? For one thing, it ensures that the activities you most want to do fit into the schedule and the budget. I like to know in advance about what the trip should cost; as much as i like to travel, it isn’t worth going into debt.
Planning is also an opportunity to make sure that I’ve included activities that each member of the family will enjoy. And planning helps protect us from finding we are bored one day and ending up in the local shopping district to window shop – because if clothes are involved, I have a really hard time with window shopping.
Before we head out on our trip, our family will talk about what we have planned. I make sure to let the kids know what they will or won’t be allowed to purchase on the trip. My boys sometimes will save their money to spend on vacation, so we talk about how much is reasonable to spend and what types of purchases would make sense, and how that Octopus hat in the zoo gift shop may look fun at the time, but will probably never be touched again once they get home.
I don’t buy souvenirs anymore as a general rule. With some family trips, we select a Christmas ornament commemorating the area we visited. Since we decorate our tree as a family, each year we then have the opportunity to share memories of past travels together.
So there they are, my best travel tips I use to travel light be still be prepared and relaxed. If you have any great tips, I’d love to hear them in the comments.