Summer is here and in this edition of Tips for Travelers we are pleased to share not only our own travel experiences but also travel journals and tips from friends and readers…plus important travel updates.
We report on a friend’s recent tour of Japan and tap into a conversation between Susan and one of our readers on how to pack for a trip to Vietnam. And because packing the right shoes is one of the biggest worries of travelers - particularly women - we’ve shared some of our favorites, plus those of a few of our readers.
You’ll also find tips on summer travel in the midst of hurricane season, updating your passport and visa requirements for international travel, and smart packing reminders.
Our goal is to help you pack less and be savvier than the other travelers, no matter how, where or when you are traveling. We hope you’ll tuck these ideas away for your next adventure and also share your own smart packing tips with us. We love hearing from you…and especially want to hear what you would like us to report on in the future.
Included in this newsletter:
It’s Hurricane Season – Travel Insurance Advised
As we begin the busy summer travel season it’s important to note that hurricane season is also here and it can play havoc with travel plans.
The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. That covers everywhere from the North Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. (The season began in the Eastern Pacific on May 15.) Historically, the peak season for hurricanes has been August and September. Before you take off on your trip, pay attention to the local news at your destination and points en route and understand the terminology established by the National Ocean Service:
A “hurricane watch” means that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
A “hurricane warning” is a solid indicator that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) the warning is issued 36 hours in advance.
Unfortunately, it’s too late to purchase travel insurance that close to your travel date. So prepare yourself by purchasing a policy well ahead of time if you’re planning to travel to hurricane-prone regions this season.
If you do anticipate flight plans to take you through seasonal storm areas, read "Be Prepared for Weather-Caused Travel Delays" for tips on how to make airport delays less stressful.
The Best of Japan in 22 Days
Our friends and frequent travelers Rebecca and Trevor L. of Lake Worth, FL recently returned from a 22-day tour of Japan that took them to the major cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagasaki and Sapporo, plus over 15 villages and small islands. They explored gardens, castles, markets and temples; slept in many rustic ryokans (inns); and experienced memorable cultural activities during the cherry blossom season.
This “Best of Japan” tour required a combination of air and train travel. Smart and strategic packing was critical - not only for travel ease and comfort, but also because they had to allow for the tour’s “luggage support” which meant their main luggage was often shipped ahead and they lived out of a small overnight bag for 1-3 days.
Eight weeks before departing, Rebecca discovered she had broken her foot. She was not in a cast but did have to wear a walking boot the entire trip and maintain her balance with a cane. Not only did she need to think carefully about how to travel comfortably and easily with her handicap, but also the walking boot meant styling her wardrobe differently from previous trips. To complicate things, Trevor had had recent surgery and was also walking with a cane! (See tips in the article below on how to manage such walking difficulties.)
The organized tour had a hectic schedule. They only had two days to themselves, one of which was spent in the picturesque Hatsukaichi-Miyajimacho area where they enjoyed remote, quiet and tranquil scenery as compared to the hustle of all other places they visited. Highlights included Kyoto and its beautiful Cherry Blossom Festival, and the poignant museums and monuments of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A big surprise came when they flew from Nagasaki, at the southern most tip of Japan, to Sapporo in the north; not only was it colder than expected but it also snowed.
Rebecca and Trevor are seasoned travelers who packed light, keeping their main pieces of luggage to a 25” and 28” wheeled duffle bag by Eagle Creek
. This size gave Rebecca space needed for the cold laser equipment she carried to treat her foot. Although up to 22” was allowed for an overnight bag, they traveled with much smaller backpacks (vintage Swiss Gear and Jan Sport). The backpacks freed their hands to use their canes while getting on and off trains.
The tour company provided guidelines: “Slacks, jeans or shorts are perfectly acceptable in Japan…Shrines and temples do not have dress codes. Please keep in mind that these are places of worship to the Japanese, so conservative clothing should be worn.”
Stressing the need to pack light, they provided a sample wardrobe: 2 bottoms, 5 tops, 5 sets of underwear, 1 pair of shoes, sweater, and a windbreaker – a wardrobe for a week that could be laundered as needed and repeated.
Rebecca and Trevor researched the weather and packed only conservative clothing since their tour included a shrine or temple each day, preparing themselves for temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s with rain. Cold and snow in Sapporo was their only surprise but Rebecca purchased a mink hat there to keep her warm!
Trevor followed the tour guidelines and packed 2 pair of pants from Kühl
, 3 short-sleeved and 3 long-sleeved shirts (REI
and Royal Robbins
), 2 REI
half-zip long sleeved shirts, quick drying underwear by ExOfficio®, a SCOTTeVEST
jacket, and a slip-on shoe from Keen
Rebecca adapted the guidelines to her style (and her walking boot), taking easy-care knit dresses and pants. Because of her walking challenges,
she increased her shoe allotment so she could have options:
- 3 pull over knit dresses (most often worn with leggings)
- 3 pairs of pants
- 4 tops (all longsleeved – t-shirts, half-zip pullover & a hoodie)
- 2 microfiber undershirts (ExOfficio®) (Note: rinsing these out in the evening vs always washing tops and dresses)
- 5 sets underwear (ExOfficio®)
- SCOTTeVEST travel vest
- Rain jacket with hood (REI)
- Cashmere Pashmina
- A few pieces of costume jewelry and scarves
- Shoes: She traveled in a knee-high boot on her good foot to balance her walking boot but soon left it behind (it was old and worn) because of its weight. She packed a stretchy strapped walking shoe, a sneaker, and a lace-up walking shoe. She found the stretchy strapped shoe to be the most comfortable and wore it most often.
: Rebecca’s clothing choices were mostly knits that could be rolled and packed in her luggage without wrinkling. Dresses were cotton/Modal®/spandex blends from the fall/winter line of Athleta
, and a wool/cotton blend from Title Nine
. Pants were from Lolë
. Leggings were from Ann Taylor and White House/Black Market.
Among an assortment of additional packing tips provided by the tour company, these two are worthy of mention:
1. Toiletries – Bathrooms in Japan can be small with meager counter space so a hanging kit is ideal.
2. Hand towel – Very few public restrooms provide any means to
dry hands after washing. (Japanese women always have a hanky that they use as a napkin in restaurants where often none are provided and also as a hand towel.)
Was it perfect packing?
Close to it! They both wore everything they packed. Most ryokans had laundry facilities, which they used twice. They also did hand laundry as needed.
They loved their Scottevests and Rebecca became a convert to traveling in knit dresses + leggings as they were often more comfortable than pants.
Rebecca says she could have pared down on jewelry - what she wore on the plane was all she really needed since she packed and purchased scarves along the way to vary the look of her dresses. They also took too many toiletries, which became a nuisance when packing a backpack for a night or two.
Smart Packing Note: Rather than take a whole trip’s supplies of toiletries, take just enough to get started and enjoy the adventure of shopping for toothpaste, etc. along the way!
Rebecca’s Tips for Traveling With a Foot Injury
In spite of Rebecca’s need to wear a walking boot and both she and Trevor needing a cane to maintain balance, they decided not to cancel their trip. But that meant special attention to comfort needs during the 20 hours of flying from Miami to Tokyo, plus managing the daily rigor of being part of a tour group.
This is the time you need to splurge, says Rebecca, and book first or business class seats, or at least “economy plus” for the extra legroom. They flew first class and could stretch out comfortably in their seats.
While flying, they both wore compression socks
on both feet to prevent swelling. (When touring, Rebecca wore the compression sock on her bad foot.) Rebecca also bought “instant ice” packs before they left Miami. She bought only a few to pack in her carry-on backpack since they were heavy. She used two on the 15-hour flight from JFK to Tokyo to reduce swelling of her injured foot; and she took baby aspirin to prevent blood clotting.
Both had adjustable, foldable canes
– easy-to-pack-and-use lifesavers! They took a small travel pillow for Trevor but Rebecca used it instead to elevate her foot every chance she had.
Travel Shoes - Readers’ Choice
Our most commonly ask question is “What shoes do you recommend for my trip?” – a question more women than men ask because they have more shoe styles to choose from.
I wish we could tell you exactly what shoe/s you should pack, but we can honestly only give you guidelines and share what has worked for us or travelers we’ve interviewed. Your feet are unique; what’s comfortable for us might not be for you.
Overall Support with Lace-Up Shoes
The good news this season (and hopefully for a few more to come) is the trend in wearing sneakers, as recently seen in New York, London, Paris and Milan.
The lace-up design of a sneaker provides more support than a ballet flat or loafer. There are many sleek looks to choose from (we are not talking about your standard workout shoe) but for lots of walking, consider the stylish sneaker look combined with strong walking shoe technology that a brand such as Ecco offers. Leslie's Ecco casual lace-up sneaker (similar to this one
) bought a few years ago for a trip to Egypt is now in style for walking the streets of Rome!
Susan loves her soft gold metallic sneakers and wore them daily on her Baltic cruise last summer. Hers are no longer available but similar shoes
are everywhere this year. She also wears red Converse
Chuck Taylor All Stars with an arch insert - check out the many styles in this classic and colorful shoe.
Sharon M., a reader from North Carolina wore an Ecco BIOM HybridWalker
during her 3-week spring trip through France. “Admittedly not as stylish as a Nike – and I saw a lot of those,” she says, “but with much more arch support.” According to Ecco, the Biom NATURAL MOTION® technology stabilizes and cushions every step. There are many styles for men and women. Both Susan's and Leslie's husbands own Ecco shoes for casual travel.
Another favorite lace-up shoe of Leslie's is by Ara
. She's on her second pair so admittedly they are not as substantial as she would like. As long as the tread on the sole is in tack, it's okay in the rain and she loves the combination of black patent and quilted leather.
Slip-on shoes: Ballet Flats, Loafers and Mary Janes
For most city travel Susan and Leslie pack a flat shoe that can go from day to evening, usually a ballet style flat, but you might prefer a loafer or a Mary Jane, as did Rebecca on her recent trip to Japan (see article above).
When shopping flats or loafers, look for a rubber tread that will let you pound the pavement plus a padded footbed and molded arch support. Note
: the popular pebbled driving sole on some loafers softens the step, but it won’t have the cushion you need for heavy street walking.
Leslie's current travel flat is a ballet style from Clarks
. After walking in these shoes several times before taking them on a trip, she feared they would not give her enough support for walking tours so she added arch cushions
and insole cushions
from Foot Petals.
A colleague in the travel writing business recently recommended this slip-on shoe from Walking Cradles
. She walked all over Prague and Budapest in these shoes!
Sherry M., a client Leslie helped pack for a trip to Paris and London last May, likes to wear Mary Jane styles. She purchased these Munro shoes
, wore them every day and loved them.
Our friend Diane B. doesn’t travel without her Naots. A former retail storeowner, she initially bought these to support standing on her feet all day. Although this is not Leslie's typical style she, too, now has a pair from the same Koro collection
that served her well in the Italian Cinque Terre
Newsletter contributor Lynn Benson introduced us to Vionic
sandals with Orthaheel Technology in our last issue. For a trip to Southern California and Scottsdale this past March, Leslie bought two pairs of sandals
- one white, one black – versatile enough to wear for both day street walking as well as in the evenings. More than a standard flip-flop, the midsole is designed to absorb shock. Susan bought a Vionic slide sandal
with a thicker sole. It took us both time to get used to the fit but the technology provides desirable orthotic support and stability for light summer walking.
Smart Packing Note: Your foot comfort needs might be different from anyone mentioned above so try on several different types of shoes. And, to ensure comfort, be sure you wear any new pair many times before you take it on your trip.
Passport and Visa Update
Passports: Is your U.S. passport getting full? Standard passport books are currently issued with 28 pages, 17 of which are blank to be used for visas and country entry/exit stamps. Some countries require that your passport has two to four blank visa/stamp pages. Some airlines will not allow you to board if this requirement is not met.
You can currently add additional pages to a valid passport but the State Department just issued a new rule: as of January 2016, you will no longer be able to add pages to your book when you run out of room; you’ll have to get a new passport altogether.
If you are a frequent international traveler and ready to renew your passport, you might want to request a larger 52-page now - it's available at no additional charge.
Visas: Currently, if you’re traveling for less than 90 days within a six-month period, you don’t need visas to travel to 22 countries in the European Union, and that includes countries such as Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.
Other countries may have their own policies. Recently Venezuela announced that U.S. citizens must acquire visas as a matter of security. You also need to be aware of special fees. For example, you don’t need a Visa to go to Argentina but you have to pay a $160 reciprocity fee to the country prior to arrival.
To learn about up-to-date visa requirements and other valuable travel information for your destination, use the Country Information tab on the U.S. Passports & International Travel website.
Save on both!
Traveling With a Credit Card
Traveling with a credit card can have some unintended consequences if you’re not careful. Before you embark on an international trip:
1. Alert your bank that you are going out of the country. Banks will often flag your overseas purchases as potential fraud and freeze your card. It’s much easier to give them a few days notice instead of trying to verify from a pay phone in Italy you need your debit card (guilty!).
The good news is that banks are making it easier to provide your travel information over the phone and online. Some banks even let you send the information through a text message.
2. Check your card’s expiration date. If it expires while you’re traveling, you could get stuck.
3. Keep a copy of the bank’s local number in the country you’re visiting. The 1-800 number on the back of the card is not likely to work outside of the U.S.
Destination Vietnam – Two Styles of Clothes & Travel
World traveler and newsletter reader Jan O., San Luis Obispo, CA, emailed Susan for advice on what to pack for her upcoming trip to Vietnam & Cambodia:
“We are going mid Jan. thru early Feb. I haven't been to that part of the world before. You gave me good advice in the past for my trip to East Europe and the Adriatic so I thought you might have some tips for SE Asia.”
Their email exchange became an interesting dialogue since Jan and Susan travel differently and choose very different clothing.
Susan: Weather and clothing comfort
I’ve been to Vietnam several times but not to Cambodia. The weather was always humid regardless of season or temperature. I always pack lightweight cottons for warm/hot and humid destinations and have a few pieces similar to cotton gauze (also called crinkle cotton) that wash and dry easily. I focus on shopping for thin cotton, rayon (Modal® and Tencel® are also rayon) and some linen knits since these are the most absorbent fibers and most comfortable for me.
Many people like wicking polyester for no-wrinkle, easy-care travel clothing, but I feel like I’m wearing a plastic bag in these fabrics.
I shop where many people shop — Nordstrom, Macy’s, J.Crew, Talbot’s — and choose carefully. I need to feel the fabric and crumple it in my fist to see how it feels and recovers. If I need an online resource I look at Title Nine and Garnet Hill.
I often wear a long-sleeved sun protection shirt over a thin cotton tank top or T-shirt with below-the-knee-length pants. A large-brimmed, packable hat
is important. Many hot weather clothing tips were covered in the story “How Hot is Hot?”
about packing for my Panama Canal cruise.
Jan: Safari clothes to SE Asia?
We just returned from a three-week safari in Kenya & Tanzania (preceded by a week in Amsterdam). I packed a small duffel for the entire trip (learning this from you). The lifesavers were Eddie Bauer's Travex
line of clothing. Nice looking; few wrinkles; weighs next to nothing; washes & dries overnight.
For the Vietnam trip would you recommend taking a rain jacket? I have an Eddie Bauer but it's hot to wear in humid & high temps. Travex has a cute jacket (Get Away jacket
) that is water resistant. I took it on the last trip (along with the EB waterproof) and it rolled up in my daypack with no wrinkles; worked in layers with a fleece in Amsterdam or without fleece in Africa. I like tailored multi-use clothing but from looking at your pictures we are much more casual than you are.
Take your tiny umbrella and the Travex jacket; leave the Eddie Bauer at home - it will be too hot. Sometimes air conditioning is so frigid that I’m thrilled to have a jacket or shawl for inside. We do tend to dress more formally as we’re often on business trips; Leslie and her husband are the same. But your style is your style and it works!
Jan: Shoes and socks
I have some older close-toed Earth Mary Jane shoes and some Naot sandals. My fall back shoes for anywhere we've gone are Merrill Jungle Mocs. I also have Merrill light weight walking/hiking shoes I wore on safari.
Shoes are space hogs so limit them; I wear flats for plane travel and evenings and pack a pair of covered walking shoes plus walking sandals. (Often Asia travel involves walking places where I want my toes covered.) Be prepared to remove your shoes before entering temples; socks are OK but shoes must be removed and often checked at the door for a small fee. I take socks in my bag so I don’t have to be barefooted. A lightweight tote bag with a shoulder strap or a daypack is good for daily use to carry water bottle, mini umbrella, socks, etc.
: Have you found any socks that dry overnight? Would old Peds do, especially for temples?
My husband loves socks from Tilley, and they make women’s socks
. I’ve worn these in temples where shoes aren’t allowed. Peds are fine if you don’t need socks for any other reason. Just know there will be places where your bare toes do not want to go. In India where cows roam everywhere, I wore covered shoes with socks every day.
Susan: More tips
For any tropical destination, pack lots of sunscreen and insect repellent — I like the individual packets of Naturapel
from REI as they pack small and do not contain DEET.
Jan: J. R. Liggett shampoo bar
is my latest find. It's a shampoo in solid bar form and works great. I also use Travelon soap sheets
. They work for laundry, shampoo, etc.
Jan: Post trip follow-up
We had good weather and no rain. I had all the right
clothes in a 22” suitcase and managed to get the extras I picked up along the way into the case by expanding it. I took the closed-toe Earth Mary Janes and the open-toe Naot sandals – perfect. Never used the socks. Travex jacket was perfect for cool weather (relative term as it never got below 60); took 4 pants and 8 tops. Also packed a “first aid/prevention” cube but didn't need it. We’re used to fending for ourselves but on a tour that burden is removed. Had no problem with insects but did use the Naturapel some evenings just in case. I packed inflatable hangers; with the clothesline they did the trick. Sent laundry out once in Hoi An but it came back so wrinkled I didn't do it again.
Smart Packing Tips From Frequent Travelers
- Carol W. of Portland OR - and a former flight attendant with Pan Am - keeps a “ready to go” travel bag packed. It includes all of her electronic device chargers, hair care products and tools, Starbucks Via coffee packets, make up, etc. “It's so easy and a no-brainer, says Carol, “all I have to do is pack my clothes!”
- Susan purchased four different colored packing cube sets as travel gifts for her niece’s family. Each person received a different color, making unpacking a shared suitcase easy.
- Kelley T. of Houston uses a combination of rolling and folding when packing. If she wants to pack something made of linen or another easy-to-wrinkle fabric, she puts the item on a hanger and places a plastic dry-cleaner’s bag over it. Then it’s folded into thirds on top of her other clothing.
: Are you a roller or a folder? Rolling works best for casual clothing and packing into a duffel or backpack - as Rebecca L. did for her trip to Japan (see article above).
With more structured luggage, small knit items such as t-shirts, nightgown, work out clothes can be tightly rolled to fit into the bottom or lid of the suitcase.
For items that are prone to wrinkle we fold them using the “interfolding” method of alternating layers of clothing so they cushion each other. To see how, check out Leslie’s video How to Pack a Suitcase & Travel Light
on her Smart Women On The Go
Personalized Packing Help
Would you like to avoid any stress in choosing what to wear on your next trip…or how to pack it? Leslie is available for personalized one-on-one planning and packing help, no matter where you live. Using FaceTime, Skype or phone, her expert help is available to you!
Please email Leslie
directly for more information.
That’s all for this edition of Tips for Travelers. Visit both Smart Packing
and Smart Women On The Go
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Susan & Leslie
|Susan Foster, Author, Packing Expert, Speaker, Spokesperson
Leslie Willmott, Wardrobe Consultant &
Packing Expert; founder, Smart Women On The Go
Smart Travel Press
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503.452.9384 fax 503.452.7558
Smart Packing for Today‘s Traveler
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© Susan Foster, Smart Travel Press, 2015