I’ve been a long-time proponent of traveling light because I hate carrying a lot of stuff. I’ve gotten to the point in my work life that I never carry paper, and it bothers me when someone hands me a piece of paper. (I even scan business cards with my phone and hand the card back to the owner.)
Minimalism is the key to travel, and I’d rather do without something not-so-important than lug it along “just in case.” That’s how I keep my business backpack so light.
My family has been bitten by the minimalist bug as well, and we’ve spent the last several years shedding unwanted stuff in our lives. So it’s only natural that we adopt this approach to our travel, and we’ve gotten pretty good at it. Here are a few things we’ve learned over the years.
1. Skip the Suitcases Sometimes
Whenever we’re staying in a house or an Airbnb home, we’ll skip suitcases entirely, and pack all our clothes in a Rubbermaid tub. Then, we just carry the tub into the house and unpack. There’s more room in the back of the car, and I can even see over our stuff when I look at the rearview mirror.
But if we ever stay at a hotel, we take the smallest suitcases we can (like an Atlantic Ultra Lite 3 21″ spinner). When my family travels with suitcases, we can pack for a 7 – 10 day trip in carry-ons and a backpack or two.
The other option is to pack everyone’s clothes into one large suitcase, and take turns lugging it around. I don’t recommend this if you’re flying though, because if that suitcase gets lost, you’ve got some big problems. I also don’t recommend it, because I’m the one who ends up lugging it.
Traveling for a long period of time means planning and packing differently than you would for, say, a weeklong trip. For one thing, unless you are highly wardrobe efficient, headed somewhere incredibly warm or very tiny in stature, it is unlikely you can fit more than about a week’s worth of clothing into a carry-on suitcase
Traveling on extended trips — what I define as two weeks or more — means you need more clothes, which could mean a bigger suitcase, which means you’re probably going to have to check your bag. On the other hand, it’s possible to travel for two weeks or more on a single carry-on. It just takes careful planning, preparation, and some laundry detergent.
When my family and I go on long vacations, always by car, we not only follow these steps, we even pack our clothes into laundry baskets and plastic packing tubs. Since we usually rent a house and not a hotel, we don’t get odd looks when we carry our stuff inside. We manage to fit everything into the back of our SUV, and I can still see over the top of it all when I’m driving.
Based on my experience, here are a few ways you can pack for your extended trips without backing a moving van up to your house.
1. Check the weather AND the local standards.
Dressing for a summer in New York or Oregon is different than dressing for summer in Western Europe. In Europe, everyone dresses stylishly, which often means the “American style” of dress will get more than a few annoyed glances. That means packing your nicer clothes, which may take up a little more room than you would for an extended stay in the U.S. Plan accordingly either way. But if you follow the rest of these steps, you should still be able to manage.
As I write this, it’s the day before Hurricane Matthew is supposed to hit Central Florida, and Facebook has been abuzz with everyone preparing, making sure they have enough water, medicines, batteries and devices are powered up, and so on.
It reminds me of when we lived in Central Indiana, and were occasionally faced with impending snowstorms and blizzards. Grocery stores were wiped out, people bought water, bread, and canned food. And now, grocery stores are wiped out of water, bread, and canned food.
Thanks to Facebook, we are now very aware of when our family and friends are snowed in, rained out, stranded, marooned, or just plain stuck on their vacation, because of bad weather. And if you’re on vacation, it could be that you’re rained out of a day’s activities, or you’re stuck in a location for several days because of bad weather.
If you find you’re going to be stuck while you’re on vacation, whether you’re in a hotel, cabin, or even someone else’s house, there are a few things you should have, or plan on doing, in order to make the time go faster, as well as to keep safe.
1. Power up all batteries and devices
Make sure every electronic device you’re going to need is always charged. Plus, any non-essential devices might be good entertainment for the kids if the power goes out. Just remember, there won’t be any wifi, so don’t count on Netflix to keep you entertained.
Always make sure you have at least one battery backup “for the adults.” If you’re in a power failure, this may help you stay informed about your situation if you go too long without power.
When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader, and carried a book with me everywhere, including car trips. I was also prone to car sickness if I read too much, guaranteed if I read for more than 45 minutes while we drove.
Problem was, we lived an hour from Indianapolis, and I hated staring out the window. My solution was to read, then rest. Read, rest. Read, rest. By the time I could read for an hour without any. . . “problems,” I started driving. Then, my reading-and-riding days were over.
When you’re on a trip for any length of time, the question of what to take along for entertainment is an important one. Whether it’s something for you or for your kids, you don’t want to needlessly haul a bunch of toys, games, etc. that no one is going to use, but you also don’t want to find you’ve got several empty-handed hours with nothing to do.
So do you get them some books to keep them (and you) entertained? Or do you get them handheld games or games for their mobile phone or tablet? Do you go for the tricked-you-into-learning books, or the easy-way-out electronic games?
There are pros and cons for each, and it’s important to weigh them carefully.
If you’re headed up to the mountains for some hiking during the spring or summer, you still have to think of it as a winter vacation. That’s because while the days can be warm, it can still drop below freezing at higher elevations, which means you could even get some snow. At the very least, that single sweatshirt you brought “just in case” isn’t going to do the trick.
Don’t just fill your suitcase with shorts and t-shirts; plan accordingly. Those mountaintops are still white in June for a reason. Here are a few things to remember when planning for your mountain summer vacation.
1. Layer Up
You’ll be much warmer if you wear three or four thin layers, instead of one big bulky one. There were many Indiana winter days I would go without a heavy coat just by wearing three layers under a warm sweater or fleece pullover.
Skipping the winter parka is a great way to save space in your suitcase. It’s easier and lighter to pack thin layers — t-shirts, long-sleeve t-shirts, mock turtlenecks — and you can just take one or two sweaters for warmth. Plus, you only need to change your innermost layer(s) every day. The outer layers can be worn a few times before you toss them in the laundry.
As someone who often travels for work, or is at least away from the office for an entire day, having a fully charged iPhone is important. Unfortunately, I don’t always manage my phone use properly, and am usually near the end of the battery life before I get back home.
I read a recent article on ABC News about preserving battery life, and was surprised to learn that closing multitasking apps may actually use more battery than letting them run.
Apple says that leaving apps running doesn’t actually consume any more battery, because “Apps that are in a suspended state aren’t actively in use, open, or taking up system resources.” In other words, closing apps doesn’t help battery life.
But, Dave Burke, a vice president of engineering at Android, says that closing them may actually use more battery power. According to ABC and Burke, “closing all those apps actually activates them momentarily and may consume more battery than leaving them open in the background.”
Twenty years ago, if you wanted to be entertained, listen to music, and read, you had to pack your handheld video game, Walkman, and a book. Now, you can take just a smartphone or tablet. But if you’re traveling with family, they may get annoyed that they can’t share in the fun.
Or sometimes you need something to do in the hotel room at night, rather than watch reruns on TV for hours. Here are six family travel gadgets to consider getting for your next trip.
- Portable DVD player. Better yet, an in-dash DVD player. When my kids were young, my wife and I loved to go for long drives, but we didn’t want the kids to be bored. Luckily we had a DVD player installed in our car. We would stick the headphones on the kids, pop in a movie, and have a nice conversation while the kids watched TV in the back. We also took annual 1,000 mile drives from Indiana to Florida, and the DVD player was a life saver. If you can’t get a DVD player installed in your car, you can get a portable DVD player with headphone jacks to do the same thing.