What are the most pressing travel questions of 2015? Stephanie Rosenbloom, travel writer for the New York Times, asked trend researchers at Google to disclose the top travel inquiries that Internet users had googled since the New Year - “How to pack a suitcase” and “How to pack for a cruise” were in the Top 10. We are proud to have a newsletter devoted to helping you pack smart for every trip, from a weekend getaway by car to a month-long cruise!
In this issue we feature lucky travelers who were able to leave the dreary winter behind for warmer climates, a weekend escape to Nashville, and an interview with a very savvy cruise packer. You’ll also find a potpourri of smart travel and packing tips, travel wardrobe ideas for men and women, and links to helpful packing videos.
We hope you will tuck these ideas away for your next adventure and also continue to share your own smart packing tips with us.
Included in this newsletter:
Frequent Flyer Miles - Not So Easy to Earn or Use
Leslie has been accumulating frequent flyer miles on United for many years, using them for trips from New York on both domestic and international flights. When she moved to Asheville, NC she could use United miles on their partner US Airways, who had many connections in and out of her convenient regional airport. Since American and US Airways merged and her United miles became invalid on their combined routes, she either must choose 2-3 stop routings or drive to Charlotte for best flights.
But that’s not the only issue - another is the changing rules among all airlines’ mileage programs. United Airlines recently switched its rewards program – now the miles you earn is based on the fare, not the distance flown. Delta made a similar change earlier this year and Southwest Airlines just followed suit. Understandably - airlines are now flying at 80 percent capacity so there is no incentive for them to lose revenue seats for rewards redemptions.
Our advice regarding frequent flyer miles is to “earn and burn”; they lose value rather than gain, so do not accumulate for the “trip of a lifetime”.
Smart travel reward planning tips:
1. Plan your trip far in advance and be flexible with travel dates.
2. Be willing to purchase an inexpensive short segment to a major hub: Susan is often able to find reward seats from Seattle but not from her home airport of Portland, which is only a short hop away, and Leslie from Charlotte instead of Asheville, NC. Think this way about your departure and arrival city for best results.
3. Be aware of “partner” airlines; they may offer options not available on your miles carrier. Susan has had her best luck using frequent flyer miles by paying the booking fee to talk with a representative (usually $25) as they see seats available on partners that are not visible in an online search.
Only One Carry-on Bag for a Month in Puerto Vallarta
by Lynn Benson, Guest Contributor
My husband Michael and I spent a memorable week in Puerto Vallarta last year, staying in a beautiful hotel on the ocean. When we decided to return this year for the month of January to escape the cold of our home in Bellingham, WA, we wanted a deeper experience so we rented an ocean view condo in the charming old town area called the Romantic Zone.
What to pack for a one-month stay versus a week? Could I get it all into one carry-on bag since I don’t like to check luggage? The answer was “yes” because the same wardrobe needed for a week works for a month. The secret: I chose basic items in coordinating colors so I could create many different wardrobe combinations. All clothing was made of quick drying fabrics - cool, lightweight cotton or wicking synthetics - because even January is hot and humid in the tropics. My husband also only packed lightweight, quick drying clothing.
The clothes you choose to pack will depend on where you are staying and the activities you plan. Very casual dress is the PV norm for all but the few finest restaurants. Unlike last year, this vacation was casual from morning to night. The closest I came to “dressy” was changing from shorts to capri pants and knit top or to a sundress! My husband lived in shorts, T-shirts; occasionally a sport shirt.
We took public buses, walked everywhere and shopped in the Mercado with locals. Most days began with exploring and shopping in walking shoes, cool nylon shorts
tank, visor and backpack
. Afternoons were spent at the beach in a swimsuit, cover-up and flip-flops. Our condo was on a hillside where cobblestone streets, dusty paths or rugged sidewalks and stairways prevailed. We both had sturdy, vented walking shoes, a must to safely navigate the terrain.
For strolls along the Malecon, the wide walkway along the water, I wore a thong sandal from Vionic
in black patent; they are versatile yet can survive a sudden tropical storm. Michael’s are from Mephisto.
Lynn’s Packing List (and it all fit into a 20” carry-on)
- 2 pairs Supplex® nylon shorts
- 3 pairs of capri length pants: 1 polyester spandex + 2 cotton
- 3 cotton tank tops + 4 tank tops in wicking fabrics + 1 cotton T-shirt + 2 dressier tops
- Knit cardigan in a wicking fabric (makes twin set with one of the tanks)
- 5 sundresses
- Long knit skirt (can also be worn as a swim cover-up by pulling the wide elastic band up over tankini top)
- 3 swimsuits
- 4 pairs sandals
- 2 pairs walking socks (Wrightsock
- 3 sets of undies (pack 2, wear 1); nightgown & slippers
- Accessories: kept to a minimum (earrings, necklace, bangle bracelets) due to the hot tropical weather.
- Other essentials: sunscreen, sunglasses, visor, umbrella, and insect spray for sand fleas on remote beaches, plus anti-itch cream in case the spray fails!
: I dressed for comfort: Cotton spandex pants, half-zip polar fleece shirt over a cotton tee, heavy socks and my lightweight, vented trail runner shoes
that became my sturdy walking shoes in PV. I wrapped a large rayon scarf, cowl-style around my neck for warmth (and was happy to have it for the one cool evening we had in PV). I didn’t see the clothes again until the day we traveled home!
: I packed more than I needed and could have left these at home:
Smart packing tips
- 1 swimsuit, 2 sundresses, 2 pairs of sandals
- 3 cotton tanks, 1 cotton T-shirt, 2 pairs cotton capris – 100% cottons are too hot, get wet and clammy in tropical climate, and don't dry quickly after washing
Editor’s Note: If you live on the East Coast your warm weather getaway might be the Caribbean. As with Puerto Vallarta, you’ll want your clothes to be comfortable above all else. Check out Leslie’s video “Clothes to Wear in the Caribbean” on her Smart Women On The Go website.
- Pack various sizes of zip-loc bags for kitchen use in a condo.
- Keep cosmetics basic because make-up just melts in tropical weather.
- Pack a sturdy walking shoe or sandal that can withstand a tropical downpour and cobblestones. A waterproof sandal or flip flop with a thick sole will be comfortable and acceptable. Leave platform and delicate sandals at home!
- An umbrella for wet weather can replace a raincoat, which is too hot to wear in hot weather.
- Backpacks are ideal for shopping and beach going. And they free up your hands making using public transportation easier. (See Lynn’s backpack review below.)
New Luggage for the PV Vacation – Lynn’s Review
Lynn purchased new luggage prior to her trip to PV and although they’ve only taken one trip with her, her thoughts are important to share:
1. The New Rolling Carry-On from Rick Steves
“Weight is most important to me and this is one of the lightest at just over 6 pounds. With international travel in our short-term plans the size meets international carry-on size limits (13 ½” x 20” X 9”). This is a roll-aboard, not a spinner, so the wheels are recessed and less likely to be damaged if ever checked. It rolls with ease and has four outside pockets and an expandable gusset (always welcomed on the return trip!).
This bag packed easily because the lid is soft-sided while the main compartment is a molded shell. The zippered mesh lid compartment helps organize interior contents. A clip-in document pouch was useful upon arrival – we locked it in the safe, organizing passports, extra credit card and document copies – and the bonus drawstring mesh bags were handy for miscellaneous small items.“
Note: Rick Steves has sales several times a year and Lynn saved 20%.
2. The Flash 18 backpack from REI
was small but mighty in meeting Lynn’s needs. It served as a carry-on bag for her iPad, phone, makeup, medications, blanket, blowup pillow, snacks, and smaller purse. It became a beach bag for her towel, book, water bottle, iPod, snacks and sundries. And it was her grocery shopping bag. She tucked her ID, credit card and cash in the zippered pockets. The vented shoulder straps are cooler than most and there is a waist belt option if it gets heavy. On future trips it can be tucked flat in a suitcase.
Leslie’s Winter Weekend in Nashville
My husband and I took a four-day trip to Nashville, TN at the end of January to visit friends and attend the annual Antiques & Garden Show
. It’s an easy 4-hour drive from our home in Asheville, NC through the Great Smoky Mountains and west across Eastern Tennessee. Weather can be mixed at this time of year but traveling by car enables us to toss in rain or snow gear depending upon the forecast. Luckily we had sunshine, but it was quite windy and chilly so my plan to dress in layers and carry a heavy wool coat was a good one.
I wanted to be comfortable walking around the show and I also wanted to be dressed appropriately to mingle with the locals when dining or attending a music event. I planned my wardrobe around my new leather jacket
, a versatile style that can be dressed up or down. And although I don’t usually travel with knee-high boots, they were perfect for the Nashville scene and fit easily in my suitcase. I also packed leather booties as a dressier alternative and cushy black flats for navigating the show halls.
(See my packing list below.)
My husband’s wardrobe included two pairs of corduroy pants, one pair of brown wool slacks, two merino wool turtleneck sweaters, one non-iron white shirt
and one pair of leather loafers. He also took a camel hair blazer and topped it all with a ¾ length wool & cashmere coat.
: Diane Keaton was the keynote speaker and what a delight she was, reading from her new book and telling many stories about the 30 homes she’s renovated. We stayed at the Union Station Hotel
, a beautifully
transformed 100-year-old railway station in downtown Nashville. Its Romanesque architecture is stunning and we loved the blend of modern convenience with warm, historic elegance (see photo at left
). We also spent a day in the country enjoying a traditional Southern brunch at the converted Readyville Mill
, which dates from 1812.
: My leather jacket went from day to evening with a change in jewelry and scarf. And it was also perfect when worn with jeans and boots to music venues. I packed a casual sweater jacket
to switch to for our country brunch. All fit into my 22” spinner bag for easy in and out of the hotel.
Leslie’s Packing list
(including what I wore for travel*):
- Leather jacket*
- Black jeans*
- Gray rayon/lycra turtleneck*
- Black flats
- Gray wool pants & matching sleeveless top
- Dark-wash blue jeggings
- Non-iron white shirt
- Sweater jacket
- Two silk scarves; gold-tone lariat necklace
- Black leather booties & brown leather knee-high boots
Smart packing tip: I sprayed my boots and our shoes, including the soles, with a leather protector/water repellant spray at the beginning of the season so they are safe to take where rain or snow might fall.
Did You Know? – Timely Travel Tips
1. Keep your clothes smelling fresh in your suitcase by tucking a clothes dryer sheet into the bag’s mesh pocket or between layers of folded clothing.
2. Lining a man’s shirt collar with a belt keeps the collar crisp while packed.
3. The plastic bags that hold your newspapers are ideal for covering shoes before tucking them into your suitcase. One shoe per bag separates them for easier packing while keeping the shoes from touching clothing.
4. Ziploc® brand plastic storage bags are now available with an expandable bottom that opens into a flat base. This makes the 1-quart size ideal for meeting the 3-1-1 TSA rule when you carry on liquids, and the bag can also stand up on your bathroom sink like a real cosmetic bag!
Save on both!
Travel-ready Solutions for Wrinkles & Stains
1. Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus, available in a 3-ounce spray, removes creases from any garment.
2. A spritz of plain water on washable fabrics can calm packing wrinkles. The trick is to spritz the hanging item lightly, then smooth gently and allow it to dry. (Susan packs a 2 oz. refillable bottle to spritz her hair; now it has dual use!)
3. Tide® to Go is a discreet spot-treatment pen that lifts stains instantly. I keep it in my carry-on bag.
Packing for a Cruise – An Expert Speaks
Our past newsletters have featured cruise packing stories by Susan. This time we asked cruise expert Rosemary Barnhart to share her knowledge. Rosemary spent 10 years working for three major cruise lines, first as a cruise consultant then as a cruise sales manager and cruise hostess, living aboard the ship. Her work took her to all seven continents and most seaports of the world.
Now retired, Rosemary and her partner Lee have taken 31 cruise segments on 13 different ships over the past 10 years. They are usually gone for about a month as they combine cruise segments. Rosemary has packing down to a science. You and I may not have the luxury of spending this much time cruising but we can learn lots from this cruising maven! Here’s Leslie’s recent interview with Rosemary:
Q: Since most of your cruises are long, how many and what size suitcases do you take?
A: We travel with five soft-sided, expandable bags. We check four and carry one on the plane:
I also carry a large tote bag into which I tuck a smaller handbag, small laptop, Kindle, notebook with all cruise and important paperwork, magazines, and a Pashmina.
- Two 28x18x10 – these hold all of our clothing
- Two 22x14x9 – one holds our shoes; the other holds cosmetics, bottled products and personal grooming tools (scissors, clippers, etc.)
- One 20x15x8 - this is a rolling carry-on bag for jewelry, prescription drugs, electrical cords and paperwork.
Q: How far in advance do you plan your wardrobe?
A: Two to three weeks before the trip I chart out the first 10 days of our cruise on a calendar, writing down what I could wear each day and evening. This helps me begin laying out clothes. We store two collapsible clothes racks in the garage, then move them inside for packing planning. These racks make coordination of separates easier (four tops can hang by one pair of pants; shoes go on the floor below, matching up with the selected clothes). This allows me to see all I’m taking before packing. Lee's planning is easier: He hangs out pants (casual and dress) and shorts, then selects enough shirts and polo/T-shirts to coordinate.
Q: What are your wardrobe tips – and personal favorites - for day and evening wear?
A: So many fashions today are lightweight and pack easily so I can take more than if I try to mix and match. I start with a foundation of pants in black, white and cream and work my wardrobe around these neutrals, packing a variety of tops that will go with all three colors.
For a 25-30 day cruise, I pack 5 pairs of evening pants and 6-7 pairs of daywear bottoms (pants and shorts). I also take along 2-3 light colored jean-type pants that go with any white top or T-shirt. In addition to my travel flats and a comfortable walking shoe I take 2 pairs of 1”-2” heels – an open-toe pair and a closed-toe pair.
Most everything I take is washable. I often shop Chico’s and Soft Surroundings catalogs for ideas; favorite lines for pants (in both narrow-leg ankle length and straight-legged regular length) are Renuar, Frank Lyman and Joseph Ribkoff, which I purchase in a local boutique. Ribkoff also has great tops. (Editors' note: We googled each clothing line to provide readers with online options.)
Most ships that offer longer cruises have self-serve laundry facilities, which I use once a week. Lee’s shirts are all wash-and-wear but I like to touch up some of my tops and pants with the iron, which is in the laundry room when needed.
Evening attire: Cruise lines are becoming more casual. Cunard is the only line now with true formal nights. All luxury lines require or suggest a suit or sport jacket with tie for men for formal nights – a man can now take a blazer and this will suffice. Women have it easier – just look nice! But don't wear jeans or shorts. If this is your preference, book with a cruise line that offers only casual wear day and evening.
I love to wear pants with fancy, beautiful or simple tops. Many can roll up and tuck into a corner of my luggage. I also have an ankle-length skirt that rolls up into a ball that I wear with a multi-colored knit top. I add a knit cardigan or jacket that can be worn alone or with a sleeveless top. My favorite pieces are two black knit jackets. Both zip up, one with a diamond zipper – so simple but it looks like a million dollars!
Accessories: A colorful Pashmina and pretty earrings worn with simple pants and matching sweater makes a fashion statement. Jewelry is key to extending my wardrobe. I pair a very simple top with a "statement" faux-jewelry piece. I switch the jewelry and no one knows I've worn the top more than once.
Before going to bed, I always plan what I’m going to wear the next day. My planning calendar helps with this. I also keep track of what Lee and I have or have not worn. If not worn, we don't take it the next time.
Q: What does Lee pack for a cruise?
A: For a 25-30 day cruise (cruise length dictates quantities) he packs 3-4 pairs of cotton long pants, 2 pairs Bermuda shorts, 3 pairs dress pants and 1 dark suit. He also takes 2 blazers and 2 cardigan sweaters. Tops include 5-6 short sleeve shirts or polo shirts for day; 5-7 long sleeve shirts for day or night; and 1 white shirt to go with the suit for formal night. Shoes include 2 pairs of loafers, 1 pair casual tie shoes and 1 pair sneakers. He also packs an assortment of ties, which don’t take much room, and 2 sets of gym clothes.
Q: River cruises are growing in popularity. Do you pack differently for a river cruise than for an ocean cruise?
A: River cruises promote very casual dress and you can get by with fewer clothes. Typically one is visiting villages with cobblestone streets, riding bicycles or doing lots of walking so day dress is hiking-type apparel. Nice, simple separates are fine for evenings. Many of these cruises, however, take place in rainy parts of the world and variant seasons so you must pack rain gear, sometimes a warmer coat, and more than one pair of sneakers or walking shoes. You pack fewer items for a river cruise but in total they may take up more luggage space.
Q: What clothing do you travel in?
A: I travel in pants that have stretch, a nice T-shirt under a pullover cotton or cashmere sweater. I wear simple jewelry and ballet-style flats. If our bags don’t arrive at our destination, I can wear the clothes a second day. Lee wears easy cotton pants and a long-sleeved dress shirt and cardigan sweater and could wear his clothes a second day. He wears loafers that are easy to take off and on.
Q: Have you ever used a luggage forwarder?
A: No, but on two occasions we had the cruise line ship bags home. This is very expensive to do, but relieved us of two large bags when traveling for a few weeks following the cruises.
Q: Are there any issues with storing your luggage on board?
A: Luggage is usually stored under your bed but cruise lines may be able to store your large bags in a storage room if they don't fit under the bed. For clothes storage, some cruise accommodations can seem limited. Look around the cabin; there are usually drawers that can be used for storage.
Q: What items do you ALWAYS pack (aside from medications)?
A: A multi-plug power strip - there is usually only one AC/DC plug in a stateroom. This works for all the electronics we take. (Note: All ships have U.S. plugs--no adapter necessary.)
- 2 small fold-up umbrellas
- Shoe polish (we care!)
- Bathroom spray
- Office bag with pens, paper clips, highlighter pen, post-it notes, scotch tape, small stapler.
- 3-ring notebook with plastic sleeves--this holds all cruise and personal documents separated by the sleeves.
Thank you, Rosemary, and Bon voyage!
How to Pack Light for a Cruise
If your air travel mantra is “pack light and carry-on” and you have a shorter 1-2 week cruise in your future, you can pack your wardrobe into a 22” inch roll-aboard bag. Your luggage will arrive with you at your port of embarkation and you’ll applaud yourself for packing light. And if your cabin is limited in space, you’ll have minimal luggage to store.
Learn how to choose versatile clothing that can mix and match, do double-duty and be dressed up or down, plus how to pack wrinkle-free in Leslie’s video on her website, Smart Women On The Go.
Do you feel you need personalized, one-on-one help with packing for your next trip? Leslie is available for planning and packing help, no matter where you live. Using FaceTime, Skype or phone with help from emailed photos, expert help is now available to you! Please email Leslie directly for fees and more information.
That’s all for this edition of Tips for Travelers. Visit both Smart Packing and Smart Women On The Go on Facebook - "Like" and follow us for ongoing travel tips and updates!
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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
, Third Edition, the most complete guide for what to take and how to pack
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© Susan Foster, Smart Travel Press, 2015