Fall has arrived and it's a popular time to travel to places around the U.S. and also internationally. In the northern hemisphere fall means mild weather, colorful foliage, and less crowds than there are in the summer. In this edition of Tips for Travelers we share our most recent travel experiences, including to a few places that are also perfect for fall vacations.
Susan takes us on her cruise to Alaska and also to a guest ranch in Idaho. Leslie drives us to the Finger Lakes region of New York for wine-tasting and golf, and also hustles us into New York City for a quick visit. You'll also find an assortment of packing tips and resources, including a few just for men, plus travel industry updates.
Our goal is to help you pack smart...and be savvier than many other travelers, no matter how, where or when you are traveling. We hope our ideas help you prepare for your next trip and that you will share your own smart packing tips with us. We love hearing from you…and especially want to know what you would like us to report on in the future.
Please note: We only write about places we - or our readers - have personally visited and we accept no compensation or favors for our comments.
Included in this newsletter:
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry Update
Leslie and her husband have enjoyed the TSA PreCheck security lines at domestic airports without being members of the program. With other “low-risk” travelers, they were filtered into these lines by the TSA to balance wait time among all lines. However, this strategy of “managed inclusion” frustrated travelers who had paid for quick lines that were becoming jammed.
The TSA recently announced that the PreCheck security lines would only be accessible to travelers who sign up for this “trusted traveler” program. The reward is faster security screening with no need to remove shoes, belts, laptops, light jackets or 3-1-1 liquids. The fee is $85 for five years.
If you travel internationally, consider paying only a few dollars more to apply for Global Entry approval that expedites the U.S. Customs process. The fee is $100 for five years and includes TSA PreCheck. Susan and her husband already have Global Entry; Leslie and spouse recently applied and share these tips:
1. Forms are easy to fill out online but have your passport handy to list every country visited in the last five years.
2. Schedule an interview at a participating enrollment center as soon as you receive “conditional approval”.
3. Be prepared for a delay. Customs and Border Patrol, who do interviews when they aren’t handling incoming planes, operate the interview program. Greater participation has increased wait times considerably since Susan applied.
4. Be flexible. In order to meet a travel deadline, Leslie and her husband scheduled their interviews in Atlanta, a 3-hour drive from their home, although they had expected to be able to go to much closer Charlotte. Friends of Susan’s hoped to have Global Entry in time for a fall trip to Europe but the first interview they could get in Portland OR is in January.
Susan’s Alaska Cruise: Vancouver, BC to Seward, Alaska
Mid-June 2015 turned out to be the perfect time for a 7-night cruise through the Inland Passage to Alaska - there was not a drop of rain for the entire trip including 4 days in Vancouver pre-cruise. This area is called a "rain forest" so even the locals were amazed!
My husband and I have traveled worldwide, and I had been on business trips to Alaska a few times, but cruising Alaska exceeded our expectations. Listening to the sharp gunshot-like sound and watching the Sawyer Glacier “calve” — when a huge chunk of the ice cracks off and falls into the water — right next to our ship was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We flew from our home in Portland OR to the cruise departure city of Vancouver BC, a beautiful international city with superb restaurants reflecting cuisines of the world. It’s also a popular gateway to Alaska with glorious sail-aways through the busy harbor into the setting sun. We crammed many tourist activities into our visit, ate well, and enjoyed a wonderful concert with Andrea Bocelli. Excitement was high in the city as the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer matches were taking place and the city was filled with fans from all over the world.
We packed more heavily for this cruise than for others due to needing both cold weather and rain gear. Lucky for us some gear wasn’t used at all since temperatures were much warmer and drier this year than average.
We each packed into a 25” rolling bag plus a backpack for him and a tote bag for me. Alaska cruises are generally more casual than other itineraries with no formal nights. My favorite travel outfit – an oversized shirt from Chico’s (similar to this one
) worn over a bateau neck, ¾-length sleeve tee-shirt and skinny knit pants
) – became my ship-boarding and first night dinner outfit. It was also appropriate for an “elegant casual” dress night. Each piece mixed with other items creating a variety of outfits.
Casual day clothes included 3 pairs of jeans for me (tan, blue, black) and 2 pairs (tan, blue) for my husband. A selection of easy-care shirts, tee-shirts and sweaters completed our daytime wardrobes. I exceeded my usual “3 pairs of shoes” rule and packed 3 pairs of comfortable walking shoes plus simple black flats; he packed 2 pairs of walking shoes plus a dressier loafer. For nightly dinners, I added black pants
, a few coordinating tops, a sweater jacket, and some scarves and shawls. My husband wore khaki pants and a sport coat with a polo shirt or long sleeved dress shirt without a tie.
When packing for an Alaska cruise, it’s important to consider shore
excursions. Rain gear and warm clothing that can be layered as needed are essential. (We were delighted our rain gear stayed in the suitcase!) Will you need hiking boots/shoes for an adventure hike? Fishing gear or clothes? Extra jeans in case yours become mud-caked? Some special activities provide gear as we learned when we arrived for our helicopter trip to the Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau and were fitted into “glacier boots” and a small parachute. We were fooled by the warm temperatures in town and left our warmest accessories and long underwear on the ship – a bad decision; it was freezing up on the glacier!
It was cold standing on the ship deck to watch the stunning scenery pass by but it was also sunny, with the sun reflected from the ice, snow and ocean water increasing the need for protection. I packed a sun hat and a baseball cap and wore both, and also liberally applied sunscreen.
Note the frequent appearance of the jackets — we both have ultralight down jackets
that pack down to about 1/4” thick in a Ziploc
space bag (or into their own small stuff sack) and are warm and comfortable. We both wore our zip-neck polar fleece tops
under the down jackets and silk long underwear under jeans on the sunny deck while glacier watching, keeping us perfectly warm.
Must-pack items for an Alaska cruise:
• Gloves, hat, ear muffs, warm scarf
• Long underwear, warm socks
• Hiking boots if needed
• Rain gear (to be worn when glacier watching in rainy weather, or on shore excursions)
• Insect repellent (for shore excursions outside the ports - the mosquito is known as the “Alaska state bird”)
• Small binoculars (most ships provide one set in the stateroom; for two travelers two sets are great)
If you’ve ever thought you would like to visit Alaska and cruise the glaciers, do it sooner not later. The glaciers are melting at an increasingly rapid rate and of the 616 officially named glaciers, only a few are growing. Our experience of a beautiful week without rain is no longer unusual — what is good for travelers, is not always good for the destination. Make a plan, pack your rain gear, and be wowed by the glaciers while they are still one of the most awesome sights in the world.
48 Hours in Manhattan in August
Leslie lived in New York City for several years and tries to get back twice a year. During an August trip by car to visit family in Annapolis MD, she decided to go up to Manhattan for 48 hours. Her main objective was to see “China: Through the Looking Glass” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, which would soon close, and a little shopping, of course! She shares her travel tips and trip highlights:
Mid-August in New York means hot, humid weather and crowds of people. I used to drive into Manhattan, but now dislike the traffic and expensive parking. I could have taken an Amtrak train from Baltimore but the price of a round-trip ticket was more than I wanted to spend. My brilliant compromise was to drive to the MetroPark train station in New Jersey (a 3-hour drive from Annapolis), inexpensively park my car in overnight parking, and take a local New Jersey Transit train into Manhattan – only 50 minutes – and I was also able to rendezvous on the train with the friend who was joining me. I left Annapolis at 7:30 am and we were at our hotel in time for lunch before heading to the Met Museum for the afternoon!
: For easy maneuvering on and off the train I packed my smallest, lightest rolling bag
. I limited my wardrobe to two outfits in wrinkle-resistant cotton and rayon blend separates. Each went from museums to casual dinners with friends:
– Tan rayon/poly/spandex pant
with a non-iron cotton shirt
*; closed-toe ballerina shoes for traveling, switched to sandals upon arrival.
– Black washable silk knit pull-on culottes (no longer available but these
are similar) and matching tank top worn under an open black/white check cotton shirt
- the extra layer was ideal for air-conditioned museums and stores. I wore a cushy black slip-on shoe
and carried sandals in my tote to switch to for dinner.
- Tan pants again with a clean white cotton shirt.
* I love my Chico’s non-iron shirts for a polished city look and accessorize with a folded silk scarf wrapped around my waist. Non-iron shirts can be uncomfortable in a hot subway station, but I took cabs during my stay so did not have to suffer through much heat.
“China: Through the Looking Glass” was an extraordinary mix of historic Asian costumes, sculpture and film with American fashions. Being fans of the artist, we also went to the New York Historical Society Museum to see “The Hirschfeld Century: The Art of Al Hirschfeld”
. This museum also has a fabulous gift shop and restaurant
where we had lunch. To complete our study of fashion, we
also caught two exhibitions at the Museum at FIT
– a little gem that is free to the public. A window-shopping walk on Fifth Ave. was greatly enhanced when I looked up and saw St. Patrick's Cathedral (photo at right) finally sand-blasted to its shining splendor!
I always shop Uniglo for new travel wardrobe pieces because of the leading edge fiber and fabric technology featured in many items. I purchased a merino wool pullover sweater
- ideal for travel as it provides warmth but packs small - and one of their popular Ultra Light Down jackets
. The jacket packs very small into its own 9” long drawstring pouch!
Editor's note: If you would like help with planning a trip to New York, don't hesitate to contact Leslie - she loves to provide shopping guidance!
Increased Fees: Airlines Increase Ticket Change Fees & Amtrak Charging Excess Baggage Fee
Airline fees for ticket changes and luggage are increasing so it’s important to not only pack smart but to book flights carefully. And if you are traveling by train in the U.S., the time has come to learn to pack light!
• United Airlines increased ticket change fees from $150 to $200. In some cases, that’s more than the airfare itself. On Delta Air Lines, a change fee could get as high as $400. The average domestic airfare in the U.S. is approximately $375. If a ticket at that fare had to be changed, the change fee plus any increase in airfare for a new ticket could add up to a very expensive trip.
• Amtrak is now charging passengers extra baggage fees. You can carry on two 50 lb. bags plus two 25 lb. personal items (purse, laptop) but if you exceed that, Amtrak will charge a $20 excess baggage fee for every bag over that limit
. Yes, the baggage limit is generous compared to the airlines, but if your budget is tight, learn to pack light!
Historic Hotels, the Finger Lakes & Fallingwater — Leslie’s Road Trip
My husband and I took a week-long road trip earlier in the summer to the Finger Lakes region, clocking 1800 miles on our car as we drove from our home in Asheville NC through five states to and from upstate New York. We planned overnight stops to enjoy interesting lodging and historic sights along the way.
The George Washington Hotel in Winchester, VA is a lovely hotel originally built in 1924 that enjoyed a $30 million renovation a few years ago. We felt very smart having made this choice instead of staying in a roadside hotel. It was only a few minutes off the Interstate and within walking distance of several historic Civil War sites, shops and restaurants.
We woke to heavy rain the next day that did not let up as we drove into Pennsylvania and New York. Our destination was the Bristol Harbour Resort, which is perched on top of a hill just south of the town of Canandaigua. This is a year-round resort with an 18-hole golf course that overlooks Lake Canandaigua. Our room had a mountain lodge feel and provided beautiful views of the lake – when the skies weren’t grey with rain!
The rain plus chilly weather prevented us from boating,
but neither stopped us from wine tasting! The Finger Lakes is the largest winemaking region in the Eastern U.S. and has a unique beauty. Steep slopes surrounding the lakes provide a natural means for rainwater and air drainage during the spring/summer growing season, and the depth of the lakes creates a gentle, warming fog in the autumn to extend the growing season. Local wineries produce several wines but the region is best known for its cool-grape Rieslings.
We have relatives in the area who gave us a tour of wineries on Keuka Lake. Another day was spent with friends touring wineries on Seneca Lake. And lucky for us, the skies cleared for a day between wine tasting excursions for a round of golf at the resort.
We took a different route home, driving west to Lake Erie then south through Pennsylvania. We had reservations to tour Fallingwater, the vacation house architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. Built in the ‘30s in the mountains southeast of Pittsburgh, and stretching out over a 30’ waterfall, Fallingwater is now a National Historic Landmark.
We stayed at the nearest inn to Fallingwater - the Summit Inn Resort. The popular inn offered a quiet deck on which we enjoyed cocktails and one of the most beautiful sunsets we’d ever seen (see below). It was a short drive the next morning to Fallingwater where we had an outstanding tour of this breathtaking and “timeless monument to organic architecture” before returning to Asheville.
(Note: Reservations are essential for Fallingwater; we booked the first morning tour and allowed for a two-hour visit.)
Packing for the trip
We had the luxury of traveling by car, but packed our 22” rolling bags to make checking in and out of hotels easier. Our golf bags claimed most of the luggage space in our small sedan, but they also held golf shoes, extra sweaters and rain jackets.
Shoes – No more than 3 pairs is our standard rule but we both needed to have choices since activities – boating, wine tasting, country walking – would depend on changing weather. For me, hot weather meant sandals; rain and chilly weather meant closed-toed shoes, maybe even waterproof! And we both like to work out in hotel gyms so wanted to pack workout shoes, too. Solution: a tote tucked into a corner of the car trunk with extra shoes – the luxury of traveling by car.
Clothing – The forecast showed changing weather and fluctuating temperatures so we packed accordingly:
• Jeans, 2 pairs of cropped cotton pants (white for day, black for evening); 2 pairs of shorts, including one for golf
• 3 non-iron shirts; two ¾-sleeved cotton/stretch tee-shirts; golf shirt
Note: I had a choice of blouses to wear with my black pants for evenings and a choice of jeans, cotton pants, or shorts for day.
• Workout tights, tank, jacket, socks
• Cardigan sweater
• Rain jacket w/hood
Note: I love the versatility of golf attire for travel. Many styles can go from the golf course to casual daywear and because they are in microfiber fabrics, they are lightweight and pack wrinkle-free.
• 2 pairs each of cotton pants and shorts (flexible choices for day, evening & golf)
• 4 polo shirts (for day & evening, depending on activity); 2 long-sleeved non-iron shirts (for evenings)
• Workout microfiber tee-shirt & shorts, socks
• Pullover cotton sweater
• Golf jacket
Save on both!
While visiting Rancho Santa Fe, CA this past March, Leslie and her husband enjoyed a walk through the local farmers market. Amid the spices, veggies and plants, her eye caught EcoCork Handbags, a collection of items styled in soft cork, a natural sustainable renewable resource, and handmade in Portugal. The handbags and accessories were extremely lightweight and water and stain resistant - perfect travel pieces!
Travel Light with Cork
EcoCork designer and owner Taciana de Agular, who is from Portugal, explained her line of bags. Leslie focused on the envelope clutch as something that fit her style and could tuck into a suitcase. However, the travel sling would be so practical for daytime use while traveling.
Leslie had the chance to speak with one of Taciana’s customers, Diana H., who travels over 100,000 miles a year. She owns several EcoCork items and loves them for travel as they are so lightweight, durable and one of a kind. If you are looking for unusual travel bags for yourself, or as a gift, we suggest you take a look at the full line of products available online.
Susan’s Idaho Mountain Getaway
At the end of a vacation in Idaho, my husband and I were lucky to book a last minute 2-night stay at the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch located about 60 miles north of Ketchum/Sun Valley. This stunning 900-acre ranch was originally built by a Frigidare executive who began construction in 1929 and opened as the Idaho Rocky Mountain Club in June 1930; it has been thrilling guests ever since. The rustic historic lodge and cabins have been beautifully refurbished and redecorated, yet maintain the history and the integrity of the original structures.
Our room was in the lodge and the only one available for our time period; we were told at the time of booking that it was the smallest room on the property. It was cozy for our short stay; for a longer visit it would have felt cramped for two people. We enjoyed the expansive front porch and used it as our own to full advantage, something we might not have done in one of the “duplex cabins” that are far more spacious with individual porches, rock fireplaces, comfortable beds, updated private baths; several can be connected to accommodate families.
The setting is beautiful! The view from the lodge front porch where we read our books seated in comfy rocking chairs is of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and National Forest, with 57 peaks over 10,000 feet in elevation. At the base of this range is the Salmon River — the “River of No Return” — named back in the early days when boats could navigate down the river but could not get back up through the fast water and rapids.
What’s the allure? Start with 3 excellent meals a day — a hearty ranch breakfast made to order, a creative take-away box lunch because everyone is out doing something interesting at lunch time, followed by cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a delicious sit-down dinner. For a lodge that is open only 3 months in summer, the chef is so valued that he’s a year-around employee! This is a casual yet skillfully run resort that caters to families and couples alike. The staff is an eclectic group of interesting, friendly young people, including a few professionals who quit their day jobs to live the good life in the mountains for the summer. They are all eager to help guests with itineraries and activities in addition to their daily tasks.
What is there to do? Horseback riding with a guide on a stunning mountain trail, river rafting on the Salmon River, wind surfing on Redfish Lake, kayaking, canoeing, fly fishing, hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kids activities, soaking in the hot springs-fed pool, or just relaxing. Surrounded by more wilderness than anywhere else in the continental U.S., the Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch is the ideal home base to explore the adventure-rich, largely undiscovered, majestic Idaho Rocky Mountains – without the crowds.
Packing for Idaho should include sunscreen and a large brimmed hat, insect repellent (although I did not see a single mosquito), and very casual clothing — jeans and shorts for day and jackets for early morning and evening. Add special clothing needed for activities such as a swimsuit, hiking shoes/boots, biking clothes and you’re packed.
Packing Tips for Men
We've often heard a rumor that many men pack at the last minute. Not to confirm this rumor, but we do encourage any man who struggles with packing or frequently forgets something essential - like socks - to read these tips:
1. Make a list
: Leslie’s husband makes a list well ahead of packing day that includes the number and type of pants, shirts and shoes. He also lists underwear, socks, ties and belts. Follow his lead and take a copy of your list with you; keep it with important papers for a checklist to make sure all items are repacked at each stop. In case bags are lost or damaged, this is an accurate list for insurance claims.
2. Do laundry three days ahead
of departure so you can plan your wardrobe with ready-to-pack items. Ditto for any dry cleaning needs. If you send your shirts out, do this a week ahead. Leslie's husband works from his list and then makes sure he has enough shirts laundered, folded and ready to pack. If returned to him in plastic, that’s just how he packs them.
3. Pack one extra of any essential item
because “things happen.” An essential for many businessmen is a white shirt - always pack two in case of a spill.
4. Leave shoetrees at home and use your shoes for smart packing
. Roll up socks and stuff them into the toes of shoes. This saves space and protects your shoes. Protect your clothing from dirty shoes - Leslie uses veggie bags from the market and slips each shoe into a bag.
5. Pack versatile clothing.
A blue business suit gives you a blue jacket that can be worn with grey trousers for a relaxed look; or pair the suit pants with a button-down shirt and lightweight sweater for a more casual situation. A polo shirt can be worn alone for day and under a blazer for evenings.
6. Pack non-iron shirts
that are wrinkle resistant and you’ll always look polished. Leslie’s husband favors Brooks Brothers shirts.
7. Roll your ties
; folding can cause creasing. Roll your tie up as if it were a spool of tape and tuck it into your suitcase where it won’t get crushed, or gently into your carry-on case.
8. Don’t forget to pack your belt
, which is easy to do if you’re not wearing a belt on the plane. A reversible belt - one side brown and the other black - is a smart belt for travel.
9. Traveling with a suit bag?
- Watch Leslie's video
for tips on how to pack it.
Smart Travel tip: Don’t dress down when you travel.
Even if you’re casually dressed, being smartly dressed helps. We find that that the treatment we get when we travel corresponds closely to how well we are dressed.
Choose Smart Travel Fabrics
The first step to traveling comfortably and wrinkle-free is to plan a wardrobe in the right fabrics. Wouldn’t you love to roll up a blouse, pant or dress, tuck it into the corner of your suitcase, and know that it will look presentable upon arrival?
A little fiber and fabric knowledge will help you select the best clothes for your travel destination to keep you warm or cool, plus wrinkle-free. Click here
for Leslie’s tips on how to test fabrics and choose the best ones for travel.
That’s all for this edition of Tips for Travelers. Visit both Smart Packing
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Pack smart and travel well!
Susan & Leslie
||Susan Foster, Author, Packing Expert, Speaker, Spokesperson
Leslie Willmott, Wardrobe Consultant &
Packing Expert; founder,
Smart Women On The Go
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
“Smart Packing – It’s a Suitcase, Not Your Closet!” DVD, pack for a week or more in one carry-on bag.
© Susan Foster, Smart Travel Press, 2015