Planning Perfect Multi-Generational Trips

Planning Perfect Multi-Generational Trips

A multi-generational trip is an amazing way to create authentic, long lasting memories with your friends and family. But coordinating a multitude of individual needs and desires can overwhelm even the most intrepid traveler. Here are some tips to help make your vacation planning stress-free:

plan ahead:
The larger the group, the farther ahead the planning. Start at least a year in advance to give everyone ample time to arrange for vacation time away from work or school.

choose a leader:
Assign a point person who can represent the group, coordinate its needs and wants, and present vacation options based on an agreed upon set of parameters including price per person and length of trip.

call your travel agent:
Sure, there’s lots of travel advice online, but it’s so easy to experience information overload and wind up down the “internet rabbit hole.”  A travel agent (that’s me!) is a valuable resource and can suggest destinations, negotiate group rates, arrange complimentary amenities or upgrades, and organize your entire itinerary door to door. Need more convincing? Read my recent article “Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent.”

Grand Cayman

Resorts offer plenty of water-sports and beach activities to keep groups of all sizes happy

narrow the choices:
Discuss the needs of each traveler, including the kids and the teens, who usually have some genuine input and ideas. Do they favor city tours or country pursuits? Are they “Harry Potter” fans or “Beatlemaniacs”? Beach bums or adventure junkies? Foodies or fitness freaks? Remember, their opinions matter.

Maui, Hawaii

Woodcarving in Bali, Indonesia

Hands-on activities like wood-carving in Bali, will keep curious kids engaged

Guided group tours geared towards families (like Tauck’s Bridges Program) are a great option.  Or, consider a cruise or all-inclusive resort. Many offer children complimentary accommodations or at a reduced rate, and both offer plenty of activities that appeal to a wide range of age groups.  Private guided excursions in a van or minibus will bring everyone together and allow you to tailor sightseeing to everyone’s wishes, especially if individuals have physical limitations that need to be accommodated. Look for unique activities that will keep everyone engaged: a cooking class – think, pastries in Paris or pizza in Pisa; a Segway session in Seville; or London MINI-Cooper tour.

include some downtime:
Alone time is important – don’t expect family members to spend every waking moment together. Everyone can use a good afternoon nap no matter his or her age.

purchase trip insurance:
Comprehensive cancellation and medical coverage is crucial in the event of an emergency or unforeseen situation while away or back home, either prior to or during travel.

London, England

Book a MINI Cooper Tour and visit hidden gems of London in these classic cars

keep it fun!
Remember, the goal is being together with friends and family and taking time off from the busy lives we all live to enjoy some real (and electronic-free!) time together. Make it an unforgettable experience, and everyone will sign up for another trip, even before the first one has ended!

For more travel advice, check out my recent article: “Smart Traveler Tips” 

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?
Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

What to Pack for an Alaska Cruise

Packing for a trip to Alaska can be a challenge: its northern reaches and varied geography means traveling through several microclimates. From mild to extreme, the temperatures will fluctuate.  Summer is the best time to visit though, which is why most cruises are scheduled June through September: the odds of spotting wildlife are high, salmon are swimming upstream, hiking trails are free from snow, and the weather is as good at it gets.  For some cruising basics, check out my previous articles: Journey through Alaska’s inside Passage and Fish & Feast in Ketchikan.

Alaska Cruise
Alaskan cruises sail through the inside passage – the coastal route that weaves through the thousands of islands, coves, and bays that dot the Pacific Coast of this northernmost state. Cruises will either travel southbound (Anchorage to Vancouver, Canada) or northbound (Vancouver to Anchorage) or roundtrip from Seattle, Washington (this itinerary may include more days at sea and less ports depending on the length of the trip).
Alaska Cruise. Vancouver
Alaska CruiseMost cruise ship excursions bring you up close to the great outdoors, so you can soak up all that majestic scenery and catch a glimpse of all the wildlife that draws travelers to the 49th state. How you choose to interact with nature is up to you: walking tours; hiking; canoe and kayak trips; helicopter and float plane excursions; fishing or boating are all options. But, don’t be afraid to try something outside your normal comfort zone, since the point of this vacation is to get out there and experience the wide-open spaces.  Check the excursions for details on activity level. Many outfitters provide you with additional garments or waterproof outerwear to protect you from the elements so don’t think you need to buy hardcore adventure gear to enjoy the “high activity level” choices. Dressing properly for excursions is key to comfort: wear layers that can be peeled off as the mercury goes up or added on as temps drop off.
Alaska Cruise
Layers:
Start with a short sleeve shirt or tank top, a long sleeve wicking layer, add a hoodie or fleece (on colder days a padded or PrimaLoft-type vest will come in handy), with a thin waterproof hooded shell on top.Alaska Cruise

Footwear:
Besides standard sneakers, waterproof hiking shoes (with Gortex) will keep the moisture at bay. Hiking boots are not necessary unless you plan on scaling great heights. Skip the UGG’s which will get soggy, or rain boats which don’t offer much support. Throw in a pair of flip flops for the hot tub or spa, and a pair of dressier shoes for the dinners onboard.

Pants:
Jeans, leggings, and comfortable, water wicking hiking pants, are all versatile and low maintenance. Pack a pair of shorts — as you travel south to Vancouver, temps will rise, and you just might be able to lounge on the pool deck. Plus, a post- or pre-cruise stay in warmer locales in Seattle (click here to read my destination article) or Vancouver (click here to read my destination article) might include an overnight at a hotel with an outdoor pool.

Accessories:
For cooler days and for afternoons spent up on deck gazing at the glorious glaciers, pack a wool beanie, glove liners, and scarf — it can get windy up there. Light weight wool or breathable wool blend socks will keep feet warm and dry (Smartwool is my favorite).Alaska Cruise

Gear:
If you can, bring a real camera, not just a cell phone – the vistas are just too large! Bring binoculars – they are great for kids who may not be looking through a camera’s zoom lens. Pack a power strip for your cabin to provide extra places to plug in. A back pack or tote is essential for holding layers, water bottle, snacks, cell phone chargers and backup batteries.

Sundry items:
Sunscreen, bug repellant, and motion sickness pills for small craft excursions are all a must. Sunglasses and brimmed hat will be put into use during summertime since Anchorage can have over 19 hours of daylight!

Evening cruise wear:
Smart casual wear is acceptable at night — what you would wear to go out for a nice dinner at home (no ripped jeans or jean shorts). You will not be as dressed up as you are on a Caribbean cruise, and typical lightweight summer garments are not well-suited to this itinerary (think “shoulder season” or “transitional clothing” instead).  Throw in a bathing suit for the hot tub and spa, and some comfy workout clothing or stylish athleisure, which works well on those days at sea.

For more travel tips, check out my recent articles: A Few of my Favorite Travel Things, Twelve Packing Tips Every Travel Should Know, and Smart Traveler Tips.

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip or dream vacation?

Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

 

Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent

Top Twelve Reasons to use a Travel Agent

Travel is an investment of your time, your money, and your dreams.  Don’t leave any of it to chance…

1.  Travel agents are there to help you before, during, and after your journey, and look forward to forging a LIFELONG relationship with you and your family.

2.  Travel agents are travel EXPERTS and are especially qualified in assembling multi-destination and multi-generational travel.

3.  Travel agents provide you with PEACE OF MIND while you are away, especially during times of emergency or unforeseen travel disruptions.

4.  Travel agents have access to EXCLUSIVE BENEFITS like upgrades, VIP status, and special amenities.

5.  Travel agents use the HUMAN TOUCH to design personalized experiences for each unique traveler and create itineraries that match your specific needs.

6.  Travel agents cut through the clutter and misinformation spread on the internet.

7.  Travel agents read, understand, and alert you to the fine print.

8.  Travel agents study hard to become SPECIALISTS and can connect you to local culture and new experiences creating transformative travel.

9.  Travel agents make your dollars travel further.

10.  Travel agents are REAL people who are accessible in real life.

11.  Travel agents are GLOBALLY CONNECTED to people, guides, tours, drivers, hotels, resorts, cruise lines, and airlines around the world.

12.  Tavel agents are passionate travelers first and foremost, and will apply that passion to your TRAVEL DREAMS!

 

Need help putting together your bucket-list trip, dream vacation, or winter escape? Email me: mollie@herrickstravel.com, and find out about upgrades, special amenities, and VIP service for Herricks Travel American Express/Altour customers.

 

 

SMART PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER and receive all of my latest articles right to your inbox, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box and then respond to the follow-up email.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

Smart Traveler Tips

Smart Traveler Tips

Some practical advice on how to prevent unnecessary vacation-planning stress:

Inspect your Passport:
As soon as you even consider leaving the country, check your passport’s expiration date. You can be blocked from boarding the plane if the date is inadequate. Some countries require three months prior to expiration, some have a more stringent six month policy, so as a rule of thumb I recommend to clients that they stick to the six month rule. (Example: if you are flying on June 5, the expiration must be after December 5).

U.S. PassportCopy your Docs:
Carry photocopies of your travel documents and passport in a separate place from the original documents. Even better, leave a version at home, or text or email pictures of the documents to a responsible friend or family member.

Stay on Top of Shots:
Many countries have very specific immunization requirements and proof of these may be required for entry. Other vaccinations just make good health sense and can eliminate potential illnesses during your travels. I often refer clients to a Travel Doctor who specializes in the prevention and management of health issues related to international travel. Another great source of info is the Center for Disease Control, which outlines each country’s specifications. Flying to South Africa? If you visited Brazil recently and your passport was stamped upon arrival, you will need proof that you were immunized against Yellow Fever to gain entry to South Africa.

Register as a Smart Traveler:
Check out the U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service for U.S. citizens that connects you with the local embassy and consulate while abroad. By enrolling, you receive important information about safety conditions that can assist you in making informed decisions about your travel plans; it will help the embassy contact you in case of natural or other disasters; and can help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

Global EntryBecome a Trusted Traveler:
U.S Customs & Border Protection Trusted Traveler programs provide expedited travel for pre-approved, low risk travelers through dedicated airport lanes and kiosks. The most popular is Global Entry which has been rolling out to U.S. airports. Travelers must undergo a background check and in-person interview in order to secure a Global Entry Card. Upon landing in the U.S., members skip the customs line, proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport, place their fingerprints on the scanner for verification, and complete an on-screen customs declaration. The kiosk issues a transaction receipt and the traveler hands it to the designated customs official.

Global EntryGlobal Entry comes with the added benefit of TSA PreCheck, which is the Transportation Security Administration’s program that allows eligible, low-risk travelers to enjoy a dedicated security line and expedited security screening. TSA PreCheck means you can ease through security without removing your shoes, light jackets, liquids, or laptops from your bags, therefore less time on line. If purchased alone (without Global Entry), TSA PreCheck requires an in-person interview, background check, and fingerprinting. (Note: American Express offers many of its cardholders reimbursement for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck fees).

Upgrade to REAL ID:
Is your driver’s license expiring soon? Consider upgrading to a REAL ID. This is part of the U.S. Federal Government 2005 Act which established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. Eventually, to fly domestically in the U.S., your state license or ID must meet these federal standards of identification, or you might have to bring your passport to comply with the upgraded security requirements.

Get the Facts on Visas:
Most countries have very specific visitor requirements and that includes visas, a conditional authorization granted by a country to a foreigner allowing them to enter. Some visas must be secured in advance through a local embassy and affixed to your passport; some can be purchased at the airport upon arrival. It’s important to know ALL the visa and passport rules prior to your flight or you may be prohibited from boarding the plane. Flying with your children to South Africa? Those under 18 must possess a birth certificate with a raised seal to enter, along with a passport. Check out travel.state.gov for more info arranged by destination.

American Express logoDownload Credit Card Apps:
Even if you prefer not to make credit card payments online, create an online account to keep track of purchases you make while away, and make sure to subscribe to email or text alerts to be notified of potential fraud or credit card theft.

AllianzPurchase Travel Insurance:
As they say, “hope for the best, plan for the worst.” Hands down, travel insurance is the best investment you can make. In the event of illness, death, terrorism, or severe weather, travel insurance helps you recoup your nonrefundable expenditures. To avoid exclusions for pre-existing medical conditions, make sure to purchase the policy within two weeks of the first deposit made on your trip, and check policy details before you file a claim to ensure that your cancellation reason is on the covered list.

It’s not always 911:
Know how to call for an emergency in the country you are visiting. In the U.S. it’s 911, but that does not apply all around the globe. In Europe, the number to know is 112. Check travel.state.gov for all the details.

Micato Safaris, South AfricaTravel Light:
Not everyone can travel with just a carryon, so if you are planning on checking luggage, make sure to read up on airline requirements. More obscure destinations in Asia, Africa, or South America often have smaller airports that are served by smaller aircraft.

Prep the Kids:
Discuss the itinerary in advance of the trip; download an illustrated city guide; watch a travel video on YouTube – kids will feel more invested in the adventure, and more likely to “go with the flow” if any delays or glitches pop up. Upon arrival, I always made sure my boys knew the name of our hotel in case we were separated while traveling off property. Give everyone a map (yup, those free, folded paper things that the concierge hands out). Real map reading skills are an art form that should not be forgotten, and kids often have a better sense of direction than adults. Plus, they will enjoy being part of the solution rather than the problem of being lost, especially if you are in an area with no Wi-Fi or cell service…and no Google Maps!

Book Early:
Have a bucket list trip like African Safari, Australian Outback, or Alaska Cruise? Plan early (one year out!) to get a leg up on the itinerary, excursion, cruise, or lodge of your dreams.

Use a Travel Agent:
(Yes, that’s me!) For access to upgrades, special offers, extra amenities, and VIP treatment, help with multi destination or multigenerational travel, honeymoon or babymoon, nothing beats a professional. A travel agent takes the stress out of vacation planning and that makes you a Smart Traveler!

For more travel tips, check out my recent articles: A Few of My Favorite Travel Things and Twelve Top Travel Apps

PHONE SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American Express/Altour

 

Safari Packing Tips

Safari Packing Tips

Light luggage, light heart

The rule “less is more” definitely applies when packing for an African safari.  Unburdening yourself from the usual travel trappings is liberating.   On our recent family trip to South Africa we journeyed from city to safari and back again hopping from lodge to lodge by bush plane (click here to read my recent posts).  Not worrying about our “stuff” added to the spirit of adventure.  Need advice on what (or what NOT) to pack for your safari?  Here are my top tips:

Thank you Micato Safaris for the great duffle bags

WEATHER:
Weather can vary based on the country and the time of year (seasons may be opposite of your home country). Wintertime in the southern hemisphere (June through September) means as you travel north (towards the equator) temps go up, with the reverse being true in their summer (December — March).  Kenya and Tanzania, located in East Africa, have milder, spring-like weather year-round verses South Africa, which has much greater temperature swings.  No matter the destination, early morning and late evening game drives can be cooler than when the sun is high in the sky.

LUGGAGE SIZE:
Luggage requirements (weights and measurements) vary by airline carrier, so check these in advance, especially the baggage allowed on small bush planes. For our safari, a medium sized rolling duffle bag with exterior zippered pockets to store non-valuables worked perfectly.

SHOES:
Shoes take up lots of room, so choose carefully. Hiking boots are only necessary if you plan on trekking or mountain climbing. On safari, you are traveling mostly by vehicle, but hard soled, comfortable shoes are a must for bush walks.  Over the ankle hiking boots are bulky, so a better option are walking or hiking shoes (preferably with waterproof Gortex, like North Face or Merrells).  Flip flops come in handy for the lodge pool or Jacuzzi.  And, slip-on style leather sneakers are convenient for airport security and work well for “in between” weather patterns. Touring Johannesburg and Cape Town during their winter?  Pack a pair of light weight leather ankle booties with rubber soles for cool or rainy days.

CLOTHING:
Layers, layers, layers.  Simple and neat, casual clothing, whether you are in the city or on safari, always works best.  Even in warmer weather, long pants and long sleeve shirts made from quick-dry or dri-FIT material will protect you from strong sun and mosquitoes. Wear a short sleeve shirt or tank top underneath for quick changes en route when the mercury rises.  Leggings or jeans are okay, but leave the trendy, ripped ones at home.  Ventilated trousers (like REI, prAna, or KUHL) are a great option and will keep you cool and dry.

Sabi Sabi Safari

As the sun sets, long sleeves and trousers work best

Pack clothing that can be washed (not dry cleaned) since many lodges provide complimentary same-day laundry service).  Pick neutral colors and leave the brights at home.  No camouflage patterns – it is simply not acceptable.  And, keep away from brash, logo t-shirts – it’s best to blend in.

When temps drop, most lodges will provide warm blankets or hot water bottles in the open-air vehicles, but come prepared with scarf, wool beanie, glove liners, fleece jacket, and light-weight quilted vest, because when the sun sets it gets cold!  Heavy winter boots and coats are not necessary — but I definitely appreciated my flannel pajamas during our visit in July!  In the cooler evenings in Cape Town and Johannesburg, I made good use of light weight merino wool cardigans that were easily layered (and didn’t take up much room in the luggage).

Sabi Sabi Safari

Dress in neutral attire that will not “attract” animals, especially when spending time outside the vehicle during a “Sundowners” break

Outdoor dining at the lodges is very popular, but dressing up for dinner is generally unnecessary; it’s more relaxed than you think, even at the luxury tented camps.  Usually, we went right from our evening drive to our al fresco dinner.

Other important items?  A brimmed hat and bathing suit for warm, sunny days and rain shell and collapsible umbrella for rainy days.  And, if you have read my previous packing article (click here) you will know I never travel without a wrap or Pashmina!

Mini surge protector

ELECTRONICS:
Bring extra batteries, memory cards, and lens cloths for your camera (dust gets everywhere) plus power packs for your phone. Converters and adapters will be required for most electronics, and a mini surge protector always is useful in any hotel room where outlets may be few and hard to reach. During game drives, my boys also made good use of binoculars — great for children who may not be using a camera or spotting wildlife through a zoom lens.

This adapter kit works with all Apple devices

Many lodges provide flashlights, but pack one of those mini mag lights just in case — lodges can be pitch-dark at night (although for safety reasons, you are usually escorted back to your tent by a guide). Most lodges include a hairdryer so skip packing this heavy item (and wear that hat you packed!)    Make sure to download books to your e-reader in advance because wifi and cell service can be unpredictable, or better yet, bring an actual book or travel-sized board game – since being “off the grid” is really the point.

SAFARI DAY-PACK:
Take a tote bag or a light weight backpack to use in the safari vehicle to store your camera and the extra layers of clothing you may shed (it can double as your carry on).  Make sure it has a zipper to keep your items dust-free (the bag usually winds up on the floor during all that off-road driving).

MEDICINE & FIRST AID:
Assemble a well-stocked first aid kit in a Ziploc bag. Include extra prescription medications (an antibiotic script, just in case) plus over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen, allergy and diarrhea tablets, cortisone cream, motion sickness pills, dry-eye drops, hand sanitizer, bug spray, sunscreen, and adhesive bandages.

Packing cubes

PRE-PACKING:
Before placing items in your bag, lay out your things by item type and then remove one item from each category – you will not miss them!  If traveling between several lodges, I recommend those flat, zippered, nylon pouches to arrange your stuff.   You can lift them from suitcase to dresser drawer and back again without having to repack each individual item.

DONATIONS:
Handing out toys, pens, and candies to local children you meet along the way is strongly discouraged because it creates an endless cycle of begging. Instead, search out a “Social Enterprise,” an organization that runs as a business with profits going to support a community project or social need — buy locally made handicrafts or stop at a community-run store or café. Upon your return home, make a donation to a cause that has pulled at your heartstrings be it animal conservation, children’s charity, or land preservation.  Your dollars, euros, or pounds will go a long way to helping our planet and all who dwell on it.

Sabi Sabi Safari

During our stay in Sabi Sabi, we visited a local community and the “Swa Vana Center,” which cares for orphaned and vulnerable children by offering physical, emotional, social, and educational support.

Sabi Sabi Safari

We stopped in a local market and met the proprietor.

Sabi Sabi Safari

After shopping at a local crafts market, we were treated to a performance of music and dancing.

Sabi Sabi Safari

The local children loved “hamming it up” for the camera

Our visit to the local communities in the Mpumalanga Province was an enriching and educational experience

PAPERWORK:
Check your travel documents — having the proper paperwork is crucial.  LOOK AT YOUR PASSPORT EXPIRATION DATE: it cannot expire prior to six months from the dates of your trip. If you have LESS thank six months left on the expiration you will NOT be allowed to checkin at the airport or board your departure flight! Make sure you secured the appropriate visas to enter a country. South Africa requires all children under the age of 18 to possess a valid birth certificate with a raised seal, in addition to a valid passport (even if traveling with both parents).  Many countries may require proof of inoculations so check the cdc.gov website (or visit a doctor that specializes in travel related immunizations) to learn about recommended shots.

For more packing advice, check out my recent articles: “Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know” and  “A Few of my Favorite Travel Things.”

SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

 

 

Herricks Travel American Express

 

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A Few of my Favorite Travel Things

A Few of my Favorite Travel Things

My recent article, Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know, included some indispensable items no traveler should be without.  Here are a few more favorite things that will keep your travels stress-free:

Mini power strip:  Most hotel rooms have a woefully inadequate number of outlets.  Even if you travel with a minimum of electronics, there’s just never enough places to “plug in.”  This mini Power Strip takes one outlet and turns it into three, plus spots for USB chargers.

solar charger

Goal Zero Solar Charger

External battery:  I bought my Mophie external battery at the Apple store, but these can easily be found online. This compact power reserve comes in multiple capacities, it’s lightweight, and can be used to power smart phones and tablets.   My son, on the other hand, swears by his solar charger, Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit, which he purchased for his upcoming sailing trip. I made good use of it on our last family vacation in Antigua — it occupied a sunny spot on my lounge chair for most of the week!

Packing cubes

Packing cubes

Packing Cubes:  I know I mentioned this in my last article, but I just can’t say enough about using these packing cubes for multi-destination trips. Versions can be found at the Container Store, Tumi, and LandsEnd.  Pack similar items together in a cube and easily transfer them from suitcase to hotel dresser drawer and back again.

Noise canceling earphones: Yes, those earbuds are super convenient, but they don’t always block out all that annoying ambient noise on the plane.  Over-the-ear headphones (like Bose) can become VERY pricey, but a basic model like this SONY brand, definitely does the trick at the right price – under $50. (Make sure to throw an extra AAA battery into your carry-on).

Belkin headphone splitter

Belkin headphone splitter

Headphone splitter: This little cable can eliminate many family arguments.  Just insert into tablet, phone, or laptop and two prickly siblings can watch one movie at the same time.  My favorite, the Belkin Rockstar, links up to five headphones to one device.

Wireless keyboard: On second thought, leave that heavy laptop at home and purchase a wireless keyboard if you really need to do some extensive typing while away. These Bluetooth enabled devices can even be hooked up to your smartphone.

Cross-body bag

Cross-body bag

Messenger bag: A lightweight nylon cross-body bag will come in handy on any trip, whether trekking through Costa Rican jungles or pounding the pavement of your favorite European city.

Digital luggage scale:  This device will help you make sure your bags stay within airline luggage requirements. Take it with you on your trip to check your suitcases once they are filled to the brim with all those gifts and souvenirs.

cosmetic bag

Travel cosmetic bag

Travel cosmetic bag: I recently came across this clever Lay and Go” cosmetic bag — its specially designed “lip” around the perimeter keeps makeup from rolling off the counter (especially beneficial on a cruise ship).  Pull on the drawstring and it converts into a sealed soft clutch. (Traveling with kids? Buy the solid color version — it makes a great tote for tiny toys like LEGO’s.)

shoe bag

Nylon shoe bag

Shoe bags: Made from cotton or nylon, these are perfect for keeping shoes from soiling your clothing in your suitcase. I picked up these adorable Cath Kidson shoe bags on my last trip to London, but you can order them from the website, or check out Tumi or LLBean for other options.

Mini first-aid kit:  I keep a mini first-aid kit stored in my son’s luggage at all times. You can even make your own by using a zippered baggie and filling with bandages, gauze pads, cleansing wipes, medical tape, and antibiotic cream.  I also added a small sewing kit and some packets of laundry soap for those equally distressing wardrobe emergencies.

travel wallet

Travel wallet

Ticket organizer/passport wallet: My boys made good use of this wallet when they traveled on their own to the British Virgin Islands for a student SCUBA diving program. It helped them keep track of passports, boarding passes, Global Entry cards, cash, and transfer instructions.  The wrist strap helps keep the wallet close at hand when checking in or presenting documents to customs officials.  Place your cellphone number in a visible location inside just in case you and the wallet get separated.

apple plugs

Apple adapter kit

Adapters and Converters: Electrical systems and outlets vary throughout the world. Check what is required before leaving home and make sure to pack a convertor (which will change the voltage of local electricity to match your device) and adapters (which will reconfigure your plug to match the outlet of the foreign country).  Traveling with Apple products? I highly recommend the World Travel Adapter Kit  — this indispensable and compact kit includes seven interchangeable AC plugs with prongs that fit most outlets around the globe.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American ExpressSUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know

Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know

There is a reason they call it the “Art of Packing.” For some, packing is just second nature – a “right-brained” talent that is done on the fly. But for others, it is a skill that must be practiced over and over again, and regrettably never mastered.  In travel, first comes dreaming, next comes planning, and then comes packing.

To help make your packing travails a little less laborious, here are twelve quick tips:

CARRY-ON LUGGAGE:  The first rule for carry-on luggage is to check with your airline’s website to find out specific dimensions for carry-on sizes, so you are not caught off-guard at the last minute and forced to gate-check your luggage.

– Passports and travel documents should go in your carry on, not checked luggage, and make copies just in case. Bring your driver’s license even if you aren’t taking a driving trip – it’s a good backup form of identification to have on hand.

– A large scarf or pashmina can do triple duty as pillow, blanket and fashion statement.

– Always keep an airline-friendly one-quart zipper baggie packed with your essentials ready to go: hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes (to tidy up tray tables and arm rests), lip balm & moisturizer (for those extremely dry cabins), nasal spray, and air sickness pills for turbulence or those dreaded circling, holding patterns.  Make sure all liquids are less than 3.4 ounces.

– Request extra prescription medication to bring with you in case of travel delays.

luggageCHECKED LUGGAGE: Make sure all luggage is clearly tagged with your contact information, and add a colorful ribbon to the handle to help separate your bags from the sea of suitcases.

– Create a packing list and begin the packing process early. The week before your trip, start collecting items and place in a spare room or in an empty, plastic laundry basket.

– Think in terms of the “layered look” when planning your wardrobe.

– Never pack valuable items in checked luggage (money, electronics, jewelry, travel documents, and prescriptions).

– Making several stops on your itinerary? Purchase zippered pouches or “packing cubes” to separate clothing items by type. (See tumi.com or thecontainerstore.com). The pouches can easily be lifted from the suitcase and placed in hotel drawers and then back again.

– Always pack one or two clothing items for the opposite weather of where you are traveling because you never know how the temperature can change.  Heading to Miami? Bring a sweater or warm wrap. Leaving for London? Take a few tank tops or camisoles to wear under a blazer.

– Do not lock bags unless using a TSA-approved lock that can be opened by an agent, or risk your locks being broken if bags are selected for screening. Concerned about your zipper accidently coming undone without the lock? Thread a baggie twist tie through the two side-by-side zipper pulls and mate them together.

– Place all liquids in plastic bags before packing in luggage. And, pack a few extra bags, especially large white garbage bags, to use for wet bathing suits, sandy shoes, laundry, or liquid souvenirs like wine or olive oil.

– Make sure not to over-pack —  always leave room for gifts and souvenirs!

Herricks Travel American ExpressFor more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

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