My Favorite Travel Tips & Tricks…. and My Biggest Mistakes

  • August 28, 2017
flying on american airlines

Through all the traveling I’ve done this year, I’ve learned an extensive amount by trial and error when it comes to packing, and preparing to travel. Here are some of my travel tips. (I’ll keep adding to these as I think of more).

Tips for Packing

Create a capsule wardrobe — the majority of travelers overpack. One way to ensure you feel well-dressed and don’t overpack is to create a capsule wardrobe. Depending on the length of time and type of travel (business vs. beach or city)  pack a limited amount of clothing that can be interchanged to create new outfits.  This concept is really well aligned with minimalism and Project 333 that I’ve posted about before (read about it here).  Here’s a good example of a capsule wardrobe  from The Golden Girl Blog. 

capsule clothing

Create a packing checklist — Another travel tip is to spend some time writing down everything you need in a checklist on your mobile phone. I use the notes section. Before you leave the house, go through your list to make sure you have everything. This helps you remember small but important items like phone chargers and ear buds.

packing checklist for traveling

Avoid last minute packing — I tend to be a procrastinator but not when it comes to packing. Learning from past mistakes, I’ve found that last minute packing leads to overpacking because I haven’t thought things through and/or bringing the wrong clothing. It also leads to forgetting items. When possible, try to start packing several days before the trip to get the majority of your items packed. It helps you narrow down, and figure out what needs to be washed or replaced. Plus it minimizes stress and goodness knows, we could all use a little stress reduction in our lives, right??

Put day-of items on the counter — For items like toiletries/makeup and medication that you need to use the day you travel, set them all out on the bathroom counter or a place where you can see them easily.  Once you use the items immediately pack them so they are not forgotten.

Easier Check In Process and Transportation

Avoid paper — Use the mobile check-in feature offered by airlines so you don’t have to print anything or dig around in your bag. Also, its really quick and easy to sign up for the TSA Precheck which lets you skip the line, and keep your shoes and belt on and your laptop in your bag.   Its 85$ for five years. Go to the TSA Precheck website  and fill out an application. After you fill it out, you’ll need to do a quick in-person appointment to get fingerprinted and pay the 85$. We found this took literally 10 minutes to do. Also, though I haven’t tried it yet, friends have raved about Mobile Passport, which is an app that allows you to go through customs more quickly.

Ensure a good seat on the plane — Have you ever booked a seat on a plane and ended up near the stinky bathroom, or had a seat that didn’t recline? I have, and it definitely makes the travel experience less comfortable. One way to find the best seat is a free website called It has all of the airplane types, airlines and seats so that you can find the best seat on your flight.

Uber — I highly recommend using Uber vs. airport taxis. Not only are they cheaper but generally the experience is much more pleasant. Even though its convenient to pop outside and have a line of taxis waiting, after two really bad experiences with airport taxis over the past couple of months, I’m all Uber for my ride from the airport to the hotel

Eating & Drinking

Don’t succumb to the high cost of airport concessions — Bring healthy snacks, and a refillable water bottle (empty when going through security of course). Also, be sure to pick up your magazine, book or other entertainment anywhere other than the airport to avoid the hefty additional expense. But if you’re going to eat a meal, make it good…. see the next recommendation.

Airport restaurant research— If you travel often you’ve noticed how many celebrity chefs have opened up airport restaurants. Far from the fast food courts of old, airports have stepped up their game and are catering to travelers who want a better dining experience. If you know that you’re going to have a layover and will need to eat a meal at the airport, do some research beforehand so you know your options and can save some time. When I go to Chicago for work I always stop at Rick Bayless’sTortas Frontera restaurant inside O’Hare International Airport. The restaurant has local ingredients as well as a guacamole bar, Mexican sandwiches and fresh tortilla chips with salsa. Yum!

mararita at Frontera
Enjoying a pre-flight margarita from Frontera in the O’Hare airport
My Biggest Travel Blunders

I don’t always make good decisions. here are a few of my biggest mistakes.

Booking the wrong dates with autofilled sections — Be careful about travel sites that autofill dates based on previous searches. This was a  really costly mistake. I used Orbitz to look up some different travel options for both a work trip and a vacation a few months after the work trip. When I booked my work trip, Orbitz  autofilled the month for April instead of January. I didn’t notice the incorrect travel dates until the day before I was supposed to travel. I had to pay the change fees and the increased fare amount, and I seriously wanted to cry. Now every time I book a ticket I check and double check to make sure the dates are correct.

Forgetting to cancel a hotel — Another financial hit happened when I booked a “just in case” hotel for a recent work trip knowing I could cancel with 24 hours notice. I didn’t end up needing the hotel, but completely forgot to cancel it — I had to pay for the night.

Not checking the weather — Usually I am a total weather geek and check the weather before I travel. But for some reason on a trip to Chicago last May I didn’t.  I figured it was May and that means spring and spring means sandals. However, when I arrived in Chicago the temperature was in the 40’s and I only brought heels and a pair of Birkinstock sandals for sightseeing. I walked several miles and found my feet completely numb from the cold. It was miserable. I ended up in a Whole Foods just to warm my tootsies. I won’t make that mistake again. Note to myself and anyone else— in places where weather can change quickly make sure you have some options.

What are some of your travel tips? I would love to hear from you!








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