My Travel Essentials

Over the years I have developed my “must haves” when traveling. No matter where I’m going or for how long, I cannot leave without these things.

Travel Essentials

1. Travel Folder – It seems everyone I know has a particular preference for how they organize their travel documents. My dad loves the accordion folder, some people use their smartphones, and some people don’t have any kind of “system” at all. Me – I have a folder that I can’t live without.  I LOVE It. It has a “cover page pocket” in the front like binders do, and has a couple of “pages” of folders on the inside. I’ve looked for it online and the closest thing I can find is this one minus the tabs. I love the cover page slot because I typically type up a summary itinerary of the whole trip (when flights depart, flight numbers, hotel addresses, confirmation numbers, times of tours or events I definitely want to do, etc.) so having this right in the front gives me a quick look at everything. Then the folders inside can be used for all kinds of things depending on the trip. Sometimes I organize them by day, others by document type (maps, puzzles/games for the plane/downtime, articles I want to read, etc.), or some other system appropriate for the trip. It is SO helpful to me and I’d be lost with out it.

2. Ear plugs! – I cannot live without these now when I travel. I can be a light sleeper sometimes, so these have saved me on more than one occasion! I like this kind which seem to be in pretty much every pharmacy. They’re light enough that it doesn’t feel like my ears are plugged but dense enough that they really muffle a lot of sounds. They don’t completely block everything out but help reduce sound so that it’s not distracting.

3. Eye Mask – this kind of goes along the same lines as ear plugs. Sometimes I just need a little something extra to block out ambient light. When staying in hotel rooms, with family/friends, or trying to sleep on planes, sometimes there is just a bit more light than I’m used to. I really like eye masks with the part over the nose too so light doesn’t creep up under the mask either. The one I currently use is like this one; it’s not crazy fancy but does the job!

4. Face wipes – They help to refresh in a pinch. If I’m tired from flying/traveling/being out sight-seeing and just want to collapse in bed and fall asleep, I love to just swipe one of these across my face/neck quick to clean up and feel refreshed. I love the Simple brand too – clean and simple! Haha ;)

5. Scarf/pashmina – The best accessory for traveling. If planes/restaurants/venues get a little chilly, you can just wrap it around your shoulders. If it’s not too bad, it’s a nice way to jazz up an otherwise neutral traveling outfit. In a pinch they could also be used to cover your hair/face if it rained or in the event of a sand/dust storm or something if you’re traveling somewhere that could happen. The one that I have and usually bring with me looks very similar to this one by Designs by Ferdi on Etsy.

6. GUM! – As someone who has always had ear issues, I try to be very prepared when flying to make sure I can “pop my ears” so gum is a must for me.

7. Snacks – Whether I’m flying or driving, staying for one night or 10, I always pack a hoard of snacks with me. I can get really cranky when I’m hungry (and less adventurous the hungrier I get) so I like to have a variety of snacks wherever I go. If I’m flying I like to pack a sandwich, baby carrots, an apple, animal crackers, etc. (all or just some depending on the length of the flight). Especially now that flights don’t really provide “meals” it’s nice to have something relatively healthy along the way other than peanuts/pretzels or airport food.

8. Reusable Water Bottle – I love this brand and have both the Kangaroo and Madison kinds. They’re leak-proof, can be used with one hand, have a carabiner hook, and water measurement on the side. The Kangaroo also has a “pocket’ to keep an ID and/or key. I love taking an (empty if flying) water bottle with me because it helps me stay hydrated along the way – both traveling and when I get to my destination.

9. Sea-Bands – At some point in my adult-hood I developed motion sickness. I don’t think I was really affected by it as a child but I certainly am now. Not really the get sick type of motion sickness, I just get very disoriented and wobbly. Since vacations and trips bring all kinds of activities, I like to pack these just in case. They are extremely helpful for anything from a jolty cab ride to riding on ferries and cruise ships. It helps keep the whole trip MUCH more enjoyable.

10. Kindle – I was a hold out for a long time with my paper books. I LOVE books. I love the look of them, I love libraries, I love reading, I love the feeling of holding a book, browsing book stores, etc. After thinking about the Kindle for a LONG time I decided to bite the bullet. The leading reason for me was a space issue – I couldn’t keep buying oodles of books because I was running out of places to put them! Ever since I received it, I have LOVED the kindle. Now it comes with me whenever I travel and it makes things so much easier. I download a few books, a magazine issue or two, and a few games and I’m good to go.

There are probably others, but aside from the staples everyone packs, these are my go-tos. What about you? What do you always pack or what makes traveling easier for you?

Kick It To The Curb

Hi friends! I had every intention of posting this two weeks ago (yikes!) but I was leaving for San Francisco and between packing, working, and doing some last minute house and friend things the time just slipped through my fingers. I actually had a whole bunch of posts that I was going to have ready to roll while I was gone, but obviously none of those happened. C’est la vie I guess! I plan to post about that trip, but since I have a couple of posts half-drafted already I’ll get those done first and recap San Fran next week or the one after. So, without further delay…here we go!

A couple of Saturday’s ago I woke up hell-bent on cleaning and organizing pretty much everything. I think I even had a dream about it which caused me to wake up at 4am and toss and turn until I just got up and started cleaning right then! (Yes, I started cleaning my house at 4am.) I have no idea where the urge came from but I was just a clutter-busting machine all weekend. Unfortunately since I was so gung-ho I didn’t take many pictures of the process, and the ones I do have are from my phone so aren’t very good – so bear with me!

I pretty much started from top to bottom of my house. I typically focus a lot of attention on the main floor of my house because that’s the one other people see. This results in the upstairs rooms getting neglected since I don’t have time to deal with them too. I had piles of random stuff in my room since I first moved into my house (4 years ago)! I couldn’t believe it as I was going through things. My main thought throughout this whole project was – if I haven’t used/needed/looked for/looked at/wanted something in the four years that I’ve lived in this house, I won’t need it going forward so out it goes!

Fall Cleaning 2014

By the end of Saturday I had made big improvements in my bedroom. I cleared out the storage space under the built-in desk, emptied out a storage tote that had been sitting in the corner for months, moved a box of documents that need to be filed into the office where they belong, emptied out a huge basket filled with random things, and put things in their proper home that had taken up space on the built-in shelves. I threw out a ton of stuff but I also got to add a fair amount to my “donate” pile.

I also finally dealt with some clutter from my linen closet. I had a bag full of random “travel” toiletries and necessities that I collected over time. A lot of the bottles were nearly used up, old and grimy, didn’t work properly (ex: spray bottles that wouldn’t spray), or were just things I never use. I had thought about what to do with them all for MONTHS but I decided to just pitch the whole thing. I went through it and kept what I genuinely use but got rid of the rest.

I also have a set of clear storage drawers in the bathroom that had a random assortment of mish-mash so I went through each drawer, cleaned it out entirely and only put back what I use. I want to go back with my label maker and put labels on each shelf so I remember where I decided to put everything later on. I use this set of drawers as sort of an “auxiliary set” to the two drawers in the vanity in the bathroom so I want them to be organized but hold a lot of stuff. At the same time I went through the two drawers in the vanity so those now only hold things I use every day. This was a lot easier once the plastic drawers were cleaned and had room for new things.

At some point I popped down to the kitchen to grab something and while I was there I tackled my “miscellaneous” drawer and cleaned that out. After that I wiped down the stove and cleaned all of the burners. Basically as I moved throughout my house, I just started cleaning whatever I came into contact with. It was actually kind of bizarre. It worked out really well but I kind of felt like a little robot.

On Sunday I still had cleaning fever so after I mowed the lawn and weed-whacked I decided it was time to get rid of the woodpile in front of my house and do some other “tidying up”. When I first moved into my house, there were two maple trees in front of my house that weren’t in great shape. I had them cut down but decided to keep one tree’s worth of wood (that I split myself with some help from my roommate at the time) so that I could have fires in my fireplace. Well I have never once had a fire in my fireplace so after thinking about it and hemming and hawing all morning, I decided to just get rid of the wood. I put a “free” sign on them along with posting the free wood on Freecycle’s website and within a few hours a lovely couple came and took the whole pile! I was thrilled not only because I didn’t have to deal with the wood anymore (mentally – thinking about how I hadn’t had a fire, how I should probably move it because it didn’t look very attractive in its present location, etc. and physically – mowing/weed whacking around it) – but also because these people would actually use the wood!

I also managed to clean up my garage a little bit! I moved a bunch of tools that I want to keep but don’t use on a regular basis (shovels, rakes, etc.) into the shed so that my garage feels more open. (I also did some tidying in the shed while I was at it). This also freed up more space for the things I do use often. Eventually I’d like to put mounts on the wall for my bike so that’s kind of the end goal in there. The garage isn’t anywhere near done (or even done with the cleaning process) but it was definitely a huge improvement.

Overall I attacked a LOT of places around my house. I’m not entirely sure what spurred all this action – being on cold meds that act like caffeine to me, the desire to have a clean house before leaving for vacation, the fall-cleaning push, or maybe I’ve finally snapped out of my post-grad school lethargic slump – but it felt great. Even now after vacation I’m still really energized to get a lot of cleaning/organizing done and tie up all kinds of loose ends. It also helps seeing the results. Everything looks and even feels SO much better that it really makes me want to keep going.