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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Taking The Stress Out Of Travel

It's vacation time again, and tons of you will be hitting the roads and airports to enjoy a little R and R this summer. Are you simultaneously looking forward to the trip, but dreading the stress of the actual travel? The frustrations of traffic jams, lost luggage, and packing?

Avoiding Typical Travel Annoyances

The trick to successful and stress-free travel is planning ahead. Challenging, though it might seem, your goal is to think of every possible contingency that might come up, and take action before it happens. What will you do if your luggage is lost? If you come down with a serious disease If you get into a wreck with your rental car? If you discover at the last minute that your flight has been canceled or your hotel is overbooked?

Being proactive will not only reduce the possibility of a serious crisis occurring during your trip -- it will also help you avoid the little irritations that seem to take the fun out of traveling. We tend to worry more about the "scarier" issues, but it's less likely that you will be kidnapped by terrorists, and much more plausible that you will have forgotten the blue dress you wanted to wear out to dinner -- or that your plants will die while you're gone because you failed to ask anyone to water them. But even these issues can be avoided if you think ahead just a bit.

Budgeting For Your Trip

Travel doesn't have to break the bank, if you are willing to plan ahead for your vacation spending. Decide how much you can afford, then make your plans. Start searching early for deals -- talk to your travel agent, look for internet specials, and check with travel clubs for discounts. You can find some great bargains in package deals that combine hotel and airfare.

If vacations get you in credit card trouble, consider a savings account just for travel -- put away a small amount each month toward your next trip. You can also use traveler's checks instead of credit cards to stay within your budget. And be sure to keep track of how much you actually spend, as compared to your budget.

If you can't seem to make it happen on your budget, consider compromising on lower priority expenses in exchange for the higher priority ones. When my husband and I travel, we are always willing to stay in a budget hotel so we can afford to eat out and attend cultural events. We decided that expensive hotels are wasted on us because we spend very little time in our room, and we would rather spend our money elsewhere. Where are you willing to trade off?

Packing Made Easy

Have you ever been away from home and suddenly realized that you forgot something crucial to your trip. Your toothbrush, your favorite dress shoes (the ones that go with that cute pink outfit), or your bathing suit? Having to rush around replacing items that you left behind not only wastes time and money, it also reduces your enjoyment of the trip.

Sometimes, you might forget an item that isn't so easily replaced -- like your checkbook or ATM card or the report you were supposed to present at tomorrow's meeting. And the last thing you want to deal with is overnighting sensitive items halfway around the world. But you can save yourself a lot of heartache by taking the guesswork out of packing.

Start by developing packing lists for both short-term travel (from one to three days) and longer trips. You can even create different lists for different kinds of travel -- camping, business, foreign travel, trips to the beach, cold-weather travel, etc. Try to include any and all generic items that you might need -- clothes, toiletries, alarm clock, night light, whatever you like to take with you. Then use these lists as memory-joggers as you are packing for each trip. You can also cut down on the time you spend preparing for travel by keeping a "pre-packed" toiletry bag with duplicates of the items you use in your home. Fill your kit with samples of shampoo, soap, lotion, cosmetics, toothpaste, and shaving cream -- even miniature toothbrushes and razors. These travel-sized items take up less room in your suitcase, and you will be less likely to leave something important behind.

And don't forget your vital documents -- especially if you are traveling overseas. You should plan to bring proof of citizenship, an official government photo identification (driver's license or military ID is fine), a state-issued birth certificate with a raised seal, and a passport. Remember that children and infants are also required to have a state-issued birth certificate for travel.

Less Is More

If you can get away with it, try not to check your luggage.  Entrusting your luggage to the airline is just asking for trouble (as well as an extra fee) -- and it's not actually that hard to pack light. A few years ago, I purchased a very roomy pullman carry on that will accommodate up to a week's worth of clothes -- that way, I never have to be concerned about losing my bags. If you pack "mix-and-match" clothes, throw in a few travel detergent packets, and plan to do some washing along the way, you don't need 15 different outfits for a one-week trip.

If you do have to check a piece, be sure to keep those items you couldn't live without in your carry-on -- toiletries, a change of clothes, clean underwear, medications, maps, travel confirmations, and any materials you might need for an upcoming business meeting. But try to take no more than one medium-sized suitcase and one carry-on bag per person. Remember, you can always remedy underpacking, but not overpacking! However heavy your bag is when you start out, it will be twice as heavy when you come home.

If you plan to do any shopping while on your trip, you may decide to bring along an extra bag for carrying your purchases home. Put your filled suitcase inside a slightly larger empty one -- or, get a collapsible tote that will take up very little space in your bag. But the easiest option (although perhaps not the cheapest) is to have each store ship your treasures directly back to your house This is an especially good policy if you are bringing home anything large or bulky on a plane, as the airlines often charge extra for oversized parcels. And each bag you have to lug around limits your transportation options. Heavy suitcases mean cabs and porters and inconvenience and fatigue -- while a light suitcase equals travel freedom.

Protect Yourself And Your Belongings

While no one wants to be paranoid about their safety when traveling, it's a good idea to err on the side of caution when planning your trip. So let's start with your "stuff" -- list the contents of each piece of luggage and keep your list close at hand any time your bags are out of your sight. This will save you a great deal of frustration if your luggage is lost and you have to file a claim or replace your belongings. And don't forget to mark your bags for easy retrieval -- all those black pullmans are starting to look alike, and it's easy for someone else to pick up yours by mistake.

While you are making lists, create a written record of your credit card numbers, traveler's checks, medical insurance, emergency phone numbers, and other important information. Keep this information hidden away some place secure (like a hotel safe deposit box) where you can easily access it. Do not -- I repeat do not -- store this record in your purse or wallet. Think about it. These are the first things a thief will take, and the list won't help much when your cards and checks are stolen. You are better off sticking it in your shoe (as long as your feet don't sweat a lot!)

Keeping Your House Safe

Nothing can ruin a fabulous vacation more than worrying about your home while you are gone. Before you leave, let the police or a very trusted friend know that you will be gone -- especially if you are planning a lengthy trip. Nothing says "not home" more than a pile of newspapers in your driveway or magazines pouring out of your mailbox -- so stop your mail and newspaper delivery or have neighbor collect them. Investing in timers for your lights, radios, lawn sprinklers, etc. -- then setting them to go on and off at random times during the day -- will make your home look lived in and keep burglars away. And if you still aren't comfortable abandoning your home completely for the length of your trip, hire a housesitter.         

Finally, be sure to have a point of contact at home -- someone who knows where you are and how to reach you. Make sure to give this person any information that could be important in the event of an emergency -- the phone number and address where you are staying, the code to your alarm system, your doctor's name, etc. It will ease your mind to know that you can be contacted if something goes wrong at home -- and that you have someone who can act on your behalf if something goes awry on your end.

Insure Your Trip

One thing that very few people remember to do before leaving home is review their insurance policies. This is particularly important if you are travelling overseas. First, make sure that you have the proper personal liability coverage. This is meant to insure the loss or theft of your possessions, injury to yourself or someone else, your legal defense (other countries don't operate like the U.S. -- remember that kid in Singapore who was caned for a petty case of vandalism?), and the repatriation of your remains should you die overseas (not a nice thought, but it does happen). Check with your carriers -- your homeowner's policy may include coverage for your possessions while away from home, and your credit card company probably offers inexpensive life insurance.

If you plan to operate a vehicle while on your trip, check to see what your automobile insurance covers. If you are in an accident in a rented car, what is paid for? Are you covered if you crash your car overseas? Are there any hidden costs that you will be expected to pay? You should also familiarize yourself with your medical insurance. What actions does your insurance company require if you become ill or injured while out of state? Out of the country?

If you are taking a package tour or an expensive trip, if you will be visiting a dangerous or unpredictable parts of the world, or if you have a personal or medical situation that might disrupt your travels, you should also consider trip cancellation and interruption insurance. This type of coverage can protect you in case of bad weather (ie: a cruise cancelled because of a hurricane), illness, family emergency, and even the default or bankruptcy of your travel suppliers. But remember that certain situations -- like pre-existing medical conditions, terrorism, hijacking, and war -- can void your trip cancellation coverage. Make sure that you clearly understand all of the terms, requirements, and exclusions before you purchase your insurance. Does it only cover situations when someone in your party gets sick, or if someone at home gets sick as well? When does your coverage start and end? Does "medical evacuation" mean that you are evacuated to the nearest medical facility or back home? You may want to contact the insurance company yourself, as your travel agent might not understand all the terms of the policy. Don't assume that anything is covered until you check it out for yourself.

Scheduling As A Science

Some of the biggest frustrations people face when traveling are disruptions to their schedule -- flight delays, traffic jams, getting lost, long lines, you name it. While you can't entirely avoid these annoyances, certain precautions will help you better stick to your itinerary. Don't wait until you arrive at your destination to learn the lay of the land -- do your research and develop at least a cursory knowledge of the routes, transportation systems, and weather before leaving.

Pick a few major sights that you really want to see (recognizing that you can't do everything!) -- then make as many advance reservations as possible. Be sure to confirm any appointments and reservations before leaving -- then reconfirm everything when you arrive. There is no such thing as too much double-checking!

posted on: 6/15/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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