1. Sometimes less really is more
I love reading! And what better time to read when you are taking time off? When I go on a longer vacation, one of the things I look forward to the most is reading. I finally have time to catch up on all those books I have saved on my reading list. Up until recently, I would stack all those books in my suitcase and just hope the weight wouldn’t exceed the 20 kilo limit. You know the times when you have to decide between taking one more book or that awesome new dress you’ve been dying to wear? My sister actually still talks about that vacation when she opted for the dress and ended up having nothing to read on the last days of our vacation.
Well, no more! I recently discovered an eBook reader for me and it changed my life! Coming from an avid supporter of ‘real’ books that is quite a statement. I love the feeling of touching the paper, how my bookshelf reminds me of the time when I read each book and the used look books get once they traveled with you. Somehow it makes me feel connected to the book. I recently went on a big trip to Australia though and had to decide which one book I wanted to take with me. I was quite limited on space, so taking too many wasn’t an option. Obviously, I chose the wrong one. It was one of those books that you have on your nightstand forever and really want to finish, but never actually do. Halfway through the book I decided I needed a more fun book to read.
That’s when I resolved to finally give an eBook reader a try. And it really does make traveling sooo much easier! I now have five books in my library without having to carry them all. The best thing? I can buy a new book while traveling with just one click. I can even read my newspaper on it and stay connected to what is happening at home while I’m away. I carry it with me all the time now and use it on the train, on airplanes or while waiting for the bus. The one I use is a Kindle, but there are others out there as well that serve the same purpose.
2. Learn how to pack like a pro
If you are anything like me, you start out with a super organized and space-optimized backpack when you leave home. T-shirts on one side, pants on the other; pajamas and towels on top since you may need them first. Three days later, everything is a mess! Somehow it all fit in when you left, but the space doesn’t seem to be enough anymore. You can’t seem to find your laptop charger anymore. And did you even take sunscreen with you?
Something that really helped me to not only fit more things in my backpack, but also keep it organized longer are packing organizers. They come in various forms and with various names: Packing cubes, travel organizers, or packing bags. It doesn’t matter which one you pick, they are all the same: Insanely helpful! I always take about three travel bags for all the small clothing items I own, i.e. socks, underwear, swimwear etc. This way I don’t keep losing them all over my backpack. If you get an organizer with more than one pocket, you can even use one side for clean clothes and the other for dirty laundry. I also use at least one packing organizer for all my electronics and chargers.
For the more advanced traveler, I would suggest getting even more packing cubes and organizing all of your clothes in them. You could have one for all your shirts, one for pants, another one for dress up clothes… you get the idea. If you’re looking for a specific shirt, you simply pull out the ‘shirts’ bag and only have to look through you shirts rather than your entire suitcase or backpack. Think about the time and hassle you save yourself! You can also easily squish them so you can fit more things in your luggage. If you have a tough time deciding which sweatshirt to take, just take them both!
3. Pack a chameleon to save space
Another way to save space in you luggage is to take things with multiple purposes with you. My favorite example is the scarf/towel. This is probably more for the female readers out there, but there are other examples for men as well. I love it when I can take one item and use it for tons of different purposes. It doesn’t only save me space in my suitcase, it also makes your bag lighter when exploring during the day.
Take the scarf/towel, for example. You can use it as a beach towel, skirt for wearing over your bikini when you’re going for lunch, as a scarf when you’re getting cold, to cover your head when entering religious sites, as a blanket when you’re cold on the plane, to keep your skin from being sunburned if you forgot sunscreen, as a picnic blanket.. The list goes on and on. You just need to be a little creative. This is why I almost always take a scarf with me whenever I travel. They are just amazing ‘chameleons’ that save you from taking ten different items with you.
One sustainable company producing such towels is Sand Cloud. With their mission to help save marine life, they focus on sustainable materials and packaging in all of their products. This one is one of my favorite beach towels from them.
I admit, this example is extremely good at being multipurpose. Other ideas could be shoes (think: running/mild hiking/city tour sneakers) or tote bags (think: beach/shopping/markets). All you need to do is get a little creative!
4. Plan your transport options
You are probably expecting me to say something like: Book your airport transfer before you leave so you know how to get to your hotel after you arrive. But that’s not what I mean at all. If you are traveling to a limited number of countries or cities on your trip, I recommend checking out the local public transport or ride share options before you leave. It will really save you some time and above all nerves during the trip!
For example, I recently arrived in Melbourne, Australia. Apparently you need a card for taking any kind of public transport like trams or busses here. If you don’t have it and you don’t have a store close-by to buy one, well guess what? You can’t take the tram. Obviously you can’t buy that card in your home country before you arrive. However, there is an app for Android users that allows you to pay without owning an actual card. You could download the app before your trip and be ready to go in two seconds when you’re here.
Another example are the countless bike or e-scooter sharing options available everywhere. There is a city in Germany (Hamburg), where you can actually rent a bike for free for the first 30 minutes. Those bikes are spread all over the city and make sightseeing super easy and eco-friendly. If you didn’t research it before, though, chances are slim you even know about it. Let alone, have the app on your phone or consider it as one of your options when exploring the city.
So before you go on your next trip, make sure to spend 30 minutes researching public transport or ride sharing options. It may not only allow you to reduce your carbon footprint, but also save money and stress on the way.
5. Prepare your stress-free food map
I am a big foodie. I love trying local food on my trips. Yet, sometimes this is the most frustrating and stressful part of the my whole journey. I’m talking about those times when you are starving after exploring the entire city by foot. You dream of a delicious dinner that doesn’t cost the world but lets you try the local cuisine. If you are in Italy, you might want to indulge in a delicious pasta or traditional pizza. In Spain, you may wish to try the best tapas or paella in the country.
So what do you do? You google “best pasta in town” or take a look at Tripadviser’s top ten list for your city. After scrolling for a bit, you find the place that sounds like everything you were looking for. One minute later you realize it’s all the way across the city and you would need two hours to get there. You try your second favorite place, but that one is even further away. By this time you are probably hangry and getting annoyed. It takes you all the energy you got left in you not to grumble at your travel companion for their unhelpfulness during this whole dilemma. Sound familiar?
One way to make sure you don’t end up in this situation is to lay some groundwork at home. Just sit down and google some of the food you would like to try and where the best places are to try it. The important step is to then save it to a map application on your phone. This makes it easy to access while you’re on your trip. It also factors in your current location. Once on vacation, you simply open up your app and choose the nearest one to you. You won’t be overwhelmed by all the choices around you, because you have saved only the places that look good beforehand. You’ll also be able to make a more rational decision since you haven’t reached the hangry state yet.
There are several apps that let you save places for later. I normally use google maps if I have internet. When I need to use offline maps, maps.me is my app of choice. Both apps work fine and will even give you some reviews of the places if you need some reminder of why you chose that restaurant in the first place. Make sure to save a couple of options though. And most importantly: in various parts of the city.