Summer and Fall were filled with rewarding travel for us both and it’s our pleasure to share our trips in this issue of Tips for Travelers. We take you on a Baltic Cruise and a train trip through Northern Italy. And because the holiday season is upon us, we share tips to help you survive the travel stress it can cause.
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!
Included in this newsletter:
How to Survive Holiday Travel
The year-end holiday periods are among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Not only are airports overly crowded, they are also full of people who don’t travel often. On top of that we have already had snowstorms across the country. This all adds up to potential delays, stress and frustration. Here are some tips and reminders to help you survive your air travel experience:
1. Apply for PreCheck, TSA’s expedited security program, now available in over 100 airports; or Global Entry, part of US Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler program, giving you fast-track lanes at US customs, plus all the benefits of PreCheck. Both will reduce your wait time at the airport.
2. If you don’t have PreCheck or Global Entry status, allow more time at the airport. Security procedures plus the general chaos of holiday travel involving many infrequent flyers equals delay. If your airport normally suggests arriving 2 hours before departure, add to that time.
3. Each time a TSA officer stops to physically screen a carry-on bag it slows down the line. Remembering the TSA 3-1-1 ruling for liquids/gels/lotions will ease the checkpoint experience.
4. Wear clothing that is “screening friendly”: slip on-shoes, jewelry removed and pockets emptied into a zip-top baggie and tucked into a carry-on before entering the security line, coat removed and placed into a bin. In the US it is still required that travelers remove their shoes and place them in a bin for screening. All countries require removal of coats, jackets and heavy sweaters for screening. (Trusted Travelers enrolled in the PreCheck program are an exception.)
5. Do not wrap gifts until you reach your final destination. If security officers need to inspect a package, they may have to unwrap it. Check out TSA's post on traveling with food or gifts for more details.
6. Oversized electronics, such as laptop computers, video game consoles, DVD players and video cameras must be removed from their cases and placed in a separate bin for screening. Small electronics, such as e-readers and tablets, do not.
7. Pack a carry-on bag with survival snacks that are NOT liquid or gel, and that don’t require refrigeration. Crackers, granola bars, trail mix, raisins, fresh fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, grapes) all can pass through airport TSA security screening. Don’t forget reading materials and patience!
8. If traveling with an infant, be sure to pack extra diapers, baby food and supplies to accommodate a possible delay. Baby formula and breast milk may exceed the 3-ounce limit (see 3-1-1 rule above), as well as other infant/toddler foods.
9. Make a packing list to be sure you don’t leave anything behind (a recent survey found that 46% of travelers do when they travel for the holidays). You’ll find timesaving packing lists on our website. If you prefer technology, check out Packing Pro, a comprehensive list making tool and one of the most highly rated packing apps available.
16-day Day Baltic Trip with One Bag Each
In June 2014, Susan and her husband took a 16-day trip in the Baltics, starting in Stockholm and ending in Copenhagen with a 7-night cruise in the middle, and each packed into one 25” bag plus a carryon (a rolling tote for Susan and a backpack for David). This may not seem like “packing light” but considering the cold and rainy weather and formality of the cruise, it took some planning. Susan and David were joined by his sister and niece, who packed in similar bags. Note that friends of theirs took the same trip in August and had hot weather so following forecasts and packing smart is essential. Here are some trip notes from Susan:
Stockholm, a city of 14 islands that looks out to the Baltic Sea, was a fascinating combination of old and new where hop-on, hop-off boats gave an interesting overview. Weather changed from cold and wet to sunny and slightly warmer, a raincoat or jacket and umbrella were daily standard issue.
We boarded our ship in Stockholm and our first stop was Tallinn, Estonia, with its stunning hilltop old town. That night we experienced the longest night of the year aboard the ship - midnight sun in the land of “White Nights” from our balcony.
Our ship next docked for three days at the English Embankment of the Neva River in the heart of St. Petersburg, Russia within walking distance of the Hermitage. Our driver and guide (booked through Exeter International
) showed us fabulous sights of this historic city filled with culture and we all highly recommend this expensive but valuable service. We saw more and at a better pace than if we had used ship-provided shore excursions, including bypassing very long lines at every venue.
Note the repeat performance of our Patagonia "ultralight down jackets"
again packed into a Ziploc® Space Bag®
that takes up less than 1/2” of space. We find these essential for cool to cold weather travel as they weigh next to nothing and are cozy in a wide range of temperatures. The jackets come with a stuff sack but the flat pack worked best for this trip.
from photos. A highlight was seeing the best of the
The umbrellas came out as we visited the Catherine Palace
(no photos allowed), where we toured the famous Amber Rooms
, which were lost during WWII and recreated
best - the Kirov ballet at the Mariinsky Theater.
Departing Russia for Helsinki, Finland and then on to Copenhagen was simply gorgeous — so many beautiful islands and charming waterside villages too picturesque for words. This is one of the reasons having a balcony on a cruise ship can be so worthwhile. We even had lunch on the pool deck in the cold so we could watch!
On this cruise, the dress code specified semi-formal dress for dinner on three nights plus one formal night so packing included these items. I wore the same black pants for each dress-up event with different tops, and for the Mariinsky Theater I added a black blazer to the top/shawl/pants shown in the photo at left.
Our cruise ended in Copenhagen but not the fun. Founded as a Viking fishing village in the10th century, Copenhagen is another city of old and new and has earned the title of the 2014 “European Green Capital.” Note the photo below of a Copenhagen “parking lot”- it seemed that bicycles outnumbered cars by a wide margin. We finally had warmer weather and enjoyed our last days in sun!
Travel with Back-ups of Your Key Documents
If you have ever lost an ID or credit card while traveling, you know the stress of reporting its loss. Take copies of all ID and credit cards with you when you travel. If anything gets lost or stolen, you'll know your account number and telephone numbers to call to report the theft.
･ Scan the fronts and backs of all credit cards and other important documents (passport, driver's license, etc.) you'll be taking with you; print a hard copy and tuck it into your carryon bag.
･ Even easier: use your smartphone to take high-resolution pictures of all your credit cards and documents.
New Customs Timesaver: Automated Passport Control
Getting home from an international trip is becoming easier and quicker, thanks to Automated Passport Control (APC)
kiosks, which have been installed in 25 airports to date in the U.S. and Canada. Returning from Italy in October on United Airlines, Leslie and her husband went through customs at Newark Liberty Airport for their first experience with APC and what a timesaver it was:
APC self-service kiosks expedite the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) entry process by enabling customers to scan their passport and complete their customs declaration before proceeding to a CBP officer. The system allows people in one family to be processed together and significantly reduces customs wait times.
Entering the customs area, we were directed to one of 20 machines, where we were prompted to scan our passports, take our photos, and answer a series of questions verifying biographic and flight information. Once completed, a receipt for each of us was issued. We took our passports and receipts to a CBP Officer and on we went – less congestion and faster processing than ever before!
APC does not require pre-approval to participate and is free to use. Note: Travelers with Global Entry
bypass this process as they have their own fast-track lanes.
Save on both!
Checking Your Bag – Make Sure It isn’t Lost or Delayed
According to the most recent stats released by the Department of Transportation, lost-luggage claims have jumped nearly 15 percent so far this year. The good news is baggage is delayed more often than it is lost, and usually arrives on the very next flight.
To prevent your bags from straying off the planned route it’s essential to develop good habits. Read Susan’s article “10 Ways to Avoid or Survive Lost Luggage”
Leslie’s Fall Train Travels in Italy
My husband and I took a 16-day trip to Italy in October traveling to Milan for business and pleasure, then south to Genoa, the Cinque Terre, and back north to Lake Como for cultural enlightenment and fun! It was a return visit to Milan and Como for me but so many years had passed that it felt like my first visit. Here are some highlights with tips on what and how we packed for our train adventure:
Milan is a pedestrian city, making good walking shoes a must. The lace-up shoes I packed
served me well every day. We started our walks each day from the piazza at the Duomo, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. The rooftop terrace is now open and on a clear day you can see the Dolomites. We enjoyed window shopping along the fashionable Via della Spiga and Via Montenapoleone; devoured the art housed in churches, art galleries and palazzos; and strolled through the Parco Sempione to see the Triennele Design Museum
, Milan’s showcase for cutting-edge Italian design, and the Castello Sforzesco
, a 15th
century castle which houses 13 museums of art covering seven centuries of Italian history. A tour through the museums ends with the Rondanini Pietà, Michelangelo’s final work, never completed due to his death – breathtaking!
From Milan we took the train to Genoa,
the largest seaport in Italy with a solid financial sector that dates back to the Middle Ages. On the palazzo-lined Via Garibaldi in the Old Town the Musei di Strada Nuova
, a trio of art galleries - Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso, and Pallazo Tursi - houses an incredible collection of furniture, tapestries and paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Caravaggio.
Genoa tested our packing, as it was warm and sunny on one day (we shed our sweaters) and pouring down rain the next (lucky we had our trench coats). The rain was so hard that flooding caused serious train delays and cancellations so we had to hire a car to drive us to our next destination, Sestri Levante, only 45 minutes south on the Ligurian coast. Train delays in Italy are not uncommon any day so we’ve learned to always have a Plan B.
With a plan to tour the Cinque Terre, we chose to stay away from the crowds just north in Sestri Levante, which is located on two bays with hills all around, protecting it from stormy weather north and south. We took a local train to Vernazza, one of the five towns making up the Cinque Terre, and boarded a boat to cruise by Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, then down to Portovenere where we had lunch. Many tourists will hike between towns but we preferred the boat trip, which provided spectacular views of the towns and also allowed us to disembark to tour a town then take the next boat.
We then headed back north, taking the train to Como. We were fortunate with the weather the day we took the ferry ride on Lake Como, stopping to see the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo
and lunching in beautiful Bellagio. Wanting a clear view of the lake and its scenery, we sat on the outside deck of the ferry and were smart to dress in layers for the chilly ride.
From Como we returned to Milan for our flight home out of Malpensa Airport the following morning. We booked a gem for our last night - Hotel Villa Malpensa
, the home of a former count and only 5 minutes from the airport. That’s the perfect way to end a vacation!
We needed to pack for the city, the casual coast, and seasonal weather, plus frequent hotel changes and boarding trains. We each packed one 22-inch roller bag and a carry-on tote, following favorite rules for packing light:
1. Limit wardrobe colors
. We planned everything around black, tan and grey, choosing versatile pieces that could mix and match and be worn more than once. I added splashes of color with scarves.
2. Pack more tops than bottoms and every top goes with every bottom. We each had four pairs of pants but since we would only be able to do hand laundry in a hotel bathroom, we packed several tops (10 no-iron shirts for him; 14 tops for me, including short- and long-sleeved tees in microfibers, and no-iron shirts).
3. Pack lightweight items that can be layered
for warmth. In addition to a wool knit cardigan jacket, I took two lightweight cardigan sweaters; Jeff packed three cotton pullover sweaters. For chilly weather, we both had lightweight packable nylon/polyester water repellant jackets (his
); for heavy rain, we carried our trench coats.
4. Exercise shoe control.
Jeff took two pairs and I took three, traveling in one and packing the others. He had a casual, rubber-soled loafer
for day touring and a dressy loafer for business/evening. In addition to my lace-up sneaker for day in the city, I took a sturdy walking shoe
for touring hillside towns and a dressy flat
Note: Italian women of all ages were wearing fashionable sneakers and store windows featured high-tops at every price!
5. Travel in your heaviest clothes, which we did on both the plane and on trains (wearing or carrying our coats), keeping our luggage as light as possible to hoist into the overhead racks.
Packing Light for Many Hotel Stays & Train Travel:
I rolled all of my knit tops and packed them tightly together in the lid portion of my suitcase. Cosmetics and toiletries were divided between a few zip-top baggies and tucked into the “valleys” created inside the main part of bag by the handle assembly. I “interfolded” my pants, cardigans and shirts on top of this layer. I could easily lift this layer out of my bag, unfold and hang. Toiletries moved easily from suitcase to bathroom and back again from hotel to hotel.
Jeff’s bag was packed like mine with the suitcase lid holding his shirts, folded and in plastic as they came from the laundry – no need to hang them up; once worn they were folded flat at the bottom of the pack.
To see exactly how we packed, watch my video
on packing clothes by rolling vs folding on my website smartwomenonthego.com
Travel Wardrobe “Hit”: Black pant from Talbots
- the slimming cotton bi-stretch ankle pant
, a cotton/spandex blend available in different fits. I practically lived in these pants as the weight was best for most days.
Travel Wardrobe “Miss”: No-iron shirts
are staples for us both but they can be uncomfortable in humid weather because they don’t “breathe”. I was glad I had packed extra microfiber tops to wear under my cotton sweater (saving my no-iron shirts for cooler weather) but Jeff wished he’d packed a couple of short-sleeved cotton polo shirts.
Note: Always travel with one top that works for the opposite weather anticipated, i.e. a t-shirt in winter or a turtleneck in summer, so you can manage dramatic shifts in weather.
How to Handle Luggage on a Train
Many tourists avoid trains when they travel within Europe fearing they won’t be able to handle their luggage to quickly get on and off or lift it into an overhead rack. On our recent visit to Italy, I discovered techniques to help even the over-packed enjoy a train ride:
･ Start right by packing light - One suitcase plus one carryon (preferably a tote with a shoulder strap or backpack) is all that can be easily loaded on or off trains with only 2- to 3-minute stops.
･ First-class on Italian trains is a reserved seat in a cabin with five other passengers. The last to arrive may find the overhead racks filled, which happened to a passenger on our train from Milan to Genoa. She stowed her tote under her seat then moved her large 25” roller bag into the hallway. To keep it in place she tied the bag to the handrail.
･ An even easier solution: On the next train ride we watched as our cabin mate placed his large roller bag out into the hallway, pulled up the handle and slipped it under the handrail. Brilliant! I put mine next to his to give us even more room in the cabin.
･ Train designs and luggage storage differ from country to country. We did not have cabins on our 1st class car in France last year, nor did we store our luggage in an overhead rack. Before sitting, scan the car for the baggage area, which is typically at the front or back of each car. If you plan to sit in the upper deck, store your bags in this area on the lower deck.
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Smart Packing for Today's Traveler
, the book and the DVD, are available in bookstores, travel and luggage retailers online, in catalogs, and in shops, and from our website, click here
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Pack smart and travel easy!
Susan Foster, Author, Packing Expert, Speaker, Spokesperson
Leslie Willmott, Director of Marketing
Smart Travel Press,
PO Box 25514 Portland, OR 97298-0514
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 2012