3.7.18 1

Five Game-Changing Travel Tips

Two consecutive days of travel posts this week! As I’ve mentioned in passing, I’m currently in the midst of a lot of travel–a weekend at the Greenbrier, a couple days at my alma mater, skiing near Charlottesville, three days in Amsterdam, a long weekend in Boston/Maine, and NYC this weekend plus a trip home to Dallas for a wedding next weekend…all within 10 weeks–and as such, haven’t been shooting much content beyond travel content. This is also a funny time of the year for clothing, plus I haven’t really been shopping much so it’s been easier to take a few weeks off from outfit posts. Stay tuned for some content related to the somewhat healthy recipes we’ve been trying and the long overdue post on my Mason Pearson hairbrush!

Anyway, in light of overbooking myself my self-imposed “travel season,” here are a few travel tips that have saved me time/stress/etc.

Pack a lacrosse ball. 

This is seemingly the most random thing ever but if you suffer from tight muscles when you travel (or any time, really), rolling around on a lacrosse ball helps alleviate some of the tightness. It’s a small thing to pack but can make a world of difference…painful at first like a foam roller, but worth it in the end. I use one from my high school lacrosse days, but there are actually a ton of massage/muscle-specific ones on Amazon!

Be prepared to unpack.

Hopefully this never happens to you, but there’s always a chance your carry-on gets flagged while going through security (as an aside, it blows my mind how many people try and get full-sized liquids through…I feel like I see at least two people being stopped every time!) J randomly got stopped when we were coming back from Switzerland in 2016 and the poor security agent had to rifle through our combined laundry from the week, but if he’d had a meticulously packed bag–which is bound to happen when you’re living the carry-on life for an international trip–unpacking would have been a huge pain.

On the subject of such inconveniences, on our way back from Amsterdam, I got flagged with SSSS. It sounded familiar but I didn’t know too much about it, but J had read this post from TPG so I was simultaneously stressed and super annoyed because we’d gotten to the airport extra early and were planning to have a leisurely pre-flight breakfast. Luckily the United staff was incredibly kind and helpful (perhaps compassion training started earlier for some? hmmm), and they explained that J could wait with me during the extra screening and we’d just need to get to the gate about an hour before boarding. There were probably 12 of us selected for SSSS and as soon as the flight attendants boarded, the designated agents called us over to these individual stations to swab our hands, shoes, etc. It seemed like if your swab didn’t raise any red flags after being analyzed by some wonky machine, you were in the clear, but of course mine set off an alert (they suspected it was because I had hand cream on…because of course!). The woman conducting my screening was incredibly kind but the process that followed was, simply put, so annoying. She had unpack both my carry-on and personal item, down to taking every electronic out of its case and swabbing it, and meanwhile the entire plane was boarding and I was getting really worried about overhead space because J had an antique vase in his bag so we didn’t want to gate-check. I think one other person’s swab set off this “alert” but everyone else seemed to have a quick screening and was able to board.

Luckily my suitcase wasn’t that full because it was such a short trip, meaning repacking it in 30 seconds was feasible (key, because at this point the process had already took about 20 minutes and we were among the last on the plane); still, I’m a really OCD packer and had all our stroopwafels and cookies perfectly arranged (the same was not said post-30 second repack) and having someone rifle through your stuff, no matter how nice they are, just sucks. All I can say is I’m glad this happened when it did—fingers crossed the scarlet letters don’t strike again—and that the agent was so nice (she kept saying “I’m so sorry, luck is not on your side today!” and I told her to be grateful she got my bag and not J’s, since it was filled with all our dirty laundry + toiletries) because it’s truly a huge pain when all you want to do is get on the plane (with your carefully self-packed bags).

Point being, be prepared to unpack if you have to. Luckily with SSSS, you’d likely have an inkling ahead of time…when we went to check-in 24 hours before departure, J was able to download his boarding pass but it told me I had to go to the counter at the airport. Not being able to download your boarding documents early does happen sometimes (on our way to AMS, we were both told to go to the ticket counter and aren’t totally sure why), so it’s not a sure bet…just something to keep in mind as you get ready to travel.

Find the bathrooms by the baggage claim.

Everyone seemingly beelines for the bathroom immediately after deplaning and the terminal bathrooms are usually the most squeamish. The ones by the baggage claims (or even in the direction of the baggage claim) tend to be so much better and depending on what airport you’re at, getting to one only takes five minutes longer. They’re significantly less crowded, too–a huge plus if you’re traveling solo and schlepping your luggage.

Buy a smaller carry-on, if you can. 

A lot of people swear by getting the largest rolling carry on bag as possible, but I’d argue the opposite. Unfortunately my exact 19″ bag is sold out (it’s this one, just a little smaller) but after taking it on several smaller planes with unreasonably tiny overhead bins, I’ve noticed that it fits in nearly all of them (except those insanely tiny puddle-jumper like things that don’t accommodate anything) vs. my old carry-on that’s a very bulky 21″—still within US carriers and most international carriers’ height restrictions—that J currently uses. On our trip to and from Amsterdam, that bag only fit in on side of the overhead bins. The internal capacity isn’t significantly smaller and it’s really nice not to worry about whether it’ll need to get gate-checked on international flights, as many non-American carriers also tend to be sticklers about their bag size restrictions. The standard for most carry-on bags seems to be around 21″, but don’t forget to check with the airline you’re flying or refer to a chart like this. Also consider the weight of your bag…I once had a Qatar gate agent weigh my bag and say it exceeded the maximum weight, and I was forced to check it on my 24+ hour trip to Thailand. Great not to have to lug something around through the Doha airport, not great to have to pull random things out of what was supposed to be my carry-on and stuff it into my personal item. Also not great for someone who hates checking bags. Apparently this was very rare, but similar to the “be prepared to unpack” risk, there’s always a chance you get a ~pleasant~ ticket agent like I did.

Pack your own (empty) water bottle. 

I’ve done this for years–just BYOWB (ha) as long as it’s empty before you go through security. I typically chug what’s left or pour it out in one of the nearby trashcans…viola, $4 saved and now you have a water bottle for the rest of your trip. A basic Nalgene is my fav!

Do you have any go-to travel tips or recent discoveries? Share ’em below!

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  1. katie wrote:

    Such a great post on travel tips! I need to be better about bringing my own water bottle. I always take a little first aid kit of Advil, bandaids, allergy meds, etc. so that I don’t have to buy those things expensively on the go!

    ​xx katie // a touch of teal

    Published 3.7.18