If you know me and Jen, you know that we may be a little bit on the type A, high-strung side. Actually, that is probably a bit of an understatement, but just go with me here. As much as we love traveling, the actual prospect of getting from Point A to Point B can be more than a little bit stressful. What if the first leg of your multi-part flight is delayed or canceled? What if your car leaving Manhattan is mere feet away from Newark, but you're stuck in gridlock? (This happened when Jen and I went to Paris and Barca, and I was the one calming Jen down, and you *know* that's a bad sign, Jen.) What if you forget to pack something crucial? It's great once you're there, but the fact stands -- a lot can go wrong.
Thusly, I've thought of some of my top tips for a stress-free trip, whether it be a nearby long weekend or an extended trip abroad. Since you're here on HTJL, I know you know not to expect the standard and dull yet tried-and-true travel tips. Not that they're not good; obviously a standard is a standard for a reason. But I mean. You already know them. Remember your power converter for international travel (but just know that even if you *can* plug in your device and the wattage says it'll be fine, your expensive Chi flat iron will probably explode and set you back 100 bucks; just cross your fingers you don't set the hotel on fire while you're at it). Wear layers on the plane (but just know that if you're flying domestic, you're going to be uncomfortable and there's nothing you can do about it; you will think of me now when you ask for an extra blanket on Delta, American, or United, and a bitchy flight attendant looks at you like you just asked her for millions in gold bullion). Call your credit and debit card companies before you go (but just know that one of them will fuck up anyway and freeze your card suspecting that the charge in Tokyo was fraudulent even though you have a better chance of having your credit card info stolen at the Target across the street).
OK, so the title of this post is a little bit deceptive, because these will probably not eliminate ALL your stress. Traveling is all about the unexpected. But behold, a few of my favorite tips for reducing the stress:
Specifically, treat yourself to a gel or shellac manicure. Yep, this one is for the ladies. I almost never pay to get my nails done because I have a compulsion, and I do my own nails like twice a week. Stores like Ulta LOVE me. When gel manicures became all the rage, I was intrigued, but I had no reason to shell out 40 bucks to get it done. Until Jen and I were about to go to Paris and Barcelona.
Despite popular opinion (you know who you are), I am not judgmental about nails. I don't particularly think everyone should have their nails done or whatever.
But for me, I feel much more put-together and in control when my hands are in good shape, and that includes my nails. When my nails start to chip, I start to peel them and it's a downward spiral from there. And regular polish stands no chance against travel with its nail biting-inducing stress and lugging suitcases everywhere. So I sprung for the gel mani.
I heard it can be bad for your nails because it's so hard to remove, but if you peel your nail polish off, it's bad for your nails anyway, unless you are sixth-grade Staci and purchasing peelable lime green nail polish from Claire's. Actually, I think it's good for your nails because it doesn't chip, it's hard as fuck to peel off, and it lasts a minimum of two weeks, which is a long time for your nails to grow undisturbed. That photo is of my nails a few days after I got them done, but they looked THAT good two weeks later after traveling with me by train to NYC, car to Newark, plane to Paris, to Barca, and all the way back. The gel is unstoppable. Even when you use you hands to break a fall.
I used to be the world's worst packer. First of all, I put it off until the last minute because I think it is the shittiest. Second of all, because I hate packing so much, I used to never plan. I used to panic and think, "I DON'T KNOW WHAT I AM GOING TO WANT TO WEAR UNTIL I AM THERE," and then I would stuff literally as much as possible into my biggest suitcase. Probably half my wardrobe. And then I'd get wherever I was going, wear *maybe* half of it, and curse myself that I couldn't fit any souvenirs on the way back.
Several months before Jen and I left for Europe, I invested in some new luggage because my old stuff was pretty beat up from my college-plus years.
I got this sweet red hard-side Heys set, but my biggest one wasn't that big. I searched frantically for a big one to match because OMG 10 WHOLE DAYS, PARTLY IN THE FASHION CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! Could. Not. Deal.
Then Jen told me she was only packing a carry-on, and I was like...oh. Well that would save me from the MASSIVE stress I have every time I worry about a shitty airline (*cough*::American::*cough*) losing my luggage. She sent me her visual packing list for the trip, not unlike the ones you see on our Packing List posts, and I got to work laying out my outfits on my bed, everything in the same color family to match. (That wasn't hard since when I want to add a pop of color to my standard black and white outfits, I just add gray.)
Aside from wanting to burn your clothes after the trip, there is really no downside to packing light. It's easy to roll a little carry-on around, you don't have to worry about your luggage getting lost since it inevitably will if you have a layover somewhere (or if you're flying domestic), and it's easier to repack if some overzealous TSA agent decides he or she needs to fish through your stuff.
LISTS ARE EVERYTHING
Jen and I are both compulsive list-makers. I'm pretty sure that it has actually been proven that making lists is a great way to reduce stress and help you sleep, because it's like once you've written something down you know you won't have to spaz about forgetting it the next day. I love lists. I have a to-do list app on my phone, and I make color-coded to-do lists every day for work (I also love highlighters).
My roommate Rhi travels a ton for work, and so she's a pro at packing. But somewhere along the way she acquired the notepad you see pictured above. I used to make my own packing lists, but now I borrow a sheet from this pad every time I have to pack, and it is BEYOND helpful because whoever wrote it has legit thought of everything and organized it into basics, miscellaneous, clothing, and hygiene.
I've seen these lists from Knock Knock in stationery stores like Papyrus and a ton of other random places, but you can also get it online here. Not all their stuff is practical either; some of it is downright hilarious. I personally really enjoy this and this in case you want to buy me a belated birthday gift.
KNOCK YOURSELF OUT
And by this I mean find a way to get some sleep en route, especially if you're traveling overnight or overseas. Traveling is exhausting for many a reason; the stress, the sheer physical burden of making it through certain airports and train stations, and of course, #jetlag. So it's advisable to get some sleep when you can.
Easier said than done, right? Which is why I say knock yourself out. Literally. For me, Zquil does the trick. A couple of those babies, and I could probably fall asleep standing up. But you have to figure out what works. When I flew eight hours to Israel, I took a couple of Tylenol PMs and never fell asleep but was groggy as fuck the entire flight and started my trip hiking in the desert with a migraine.
And not that I condone drug use and mixing it with alcohol, and not that I'm saying this even happened, but Jen *may* have found success with some Benadryl and a couple glasses of free British Airways wine.
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
I highly recommend Lonely Planet travel guides. And don't forget to take them with you. Jen and I used the shit out of the foldout maps that each book comes with, and in Tokyo, Rhi and I used my LP book for all of its amazing restaurant recommendations. Jen does a ton of research online, so I'll let her speak to that, but I am old school and really love having these books. The other thing I really like about the LP books is that they plan top itineraries for four days. This is really helpful because it gives you a good idea of what sights are closest to each other for grouping purposes and lets you know what the must-sees are.
GET A TRAVEL BUDDY
No really. Everyone needs a travel buddy like Jen. Except I guess...Jen. Aside from being a truly awesome friend who I can giggle my ass off with around the world, she is a lady of many talents. She runs (don't forget to donate!), she hoards, she is a crazy talented designer who makes this site look so gorg, and last but never least, she could be a travel agent.
Back to the whole type A thing, she is crazy organized and her pre-trip Google spreadsheets make sure we never miss anything wherever we are. She's crazy good at keeping things affordable, and she's basically just always on point. I highly recommend you find a friend like her to with whom to travel. But not her. She's mine.