Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vacation Planning

Summer is a tough time to get motivated to do large scale projects. Spring is when everyone thinks about cleaning; summer is when everyone thinks about vacations and relaxing. However, if you are planning a vacation, you can do a few things for yourself that will make you feel as though you accomplished some organizing in the process. Do you make a list of the things that you don’t want to forget when you are packing to go away? Many clutter control experts suggest that you do that once and reuse the same list every time you go away; keeping a copy of the master list right in your suitcase. I think this sounds like a great idea. Mostly, you need the same things when you leave home, whether for the weekend or an extended trip; you just need to adjust the quantity depending on how long you are going to be gone. You can keep the list generic and not specify specific clothes, shoes or outerwear, or you can have a blank form with places to fill in the specifics if you need them. You could also add some sticky notes for particular items you may need only for the current excursion or you can make a second shorter list of items over and above the master list. No matter how you plan to do the list, don’t fail to make a plan. The best way to spoil your vacation is to lug too much baggage around with you or to forget something important only to find that you can’t replace it where you are traveling. And, there are some things that you don’t want to buy twice because the extra item becomes clutter when you return home. Start planning early and carry a notebook or sticky note pad around for a week or so before you leave on which you can record any item that you remember that you want to pack.

Also, I think it is a good idea to keep a kit of toiletries and essentials in a travel kit and keep that somewhere ready to grab and go. You can fill it with the extra soaps, small bottles of shampoo and a spare toothbrush that you found when you cleaned up and de-cluttered the bathroom! Although some experts suggest leaving this kit in your luggage with your master packing list, I don’t think that is a good idea if it contains any liquids that my leak out while the suitcase is in storage, particularly if you store your luggage in a hot attic or a damp basement. You also need to remember as you unpack to refill any products that you used up while away or remember to check quantities before it gets packed for the next trip. If you are traveling with a companion, share the burden and only bring one of basic items such as a hairdryer or bottle of shampoo, or better yet, find out if the place you are going has hairdryers and basic toiletries and use them. Most hotels these days have hairdryers in each room or you can get one from the front desk to use while you are there. But whatever you do, don’t bring the extra bottles home unless you are very good about using them up at home, need them for the guest room or plan on giving them to a shelter or other needy cause. You can take one small bottle of shampoo you like to use in your toiletry kit for the next trip, but you probably don’t need any more shampoo and you certainly don’t want to drag it around for the rest of your trip.

Find out the weather forecast at your destination and pack only what you need. Pack only things that go with everything else in your suitcase. In other words, coordinate the items of clothing and shoes you pack so that you can make up several outfits using individual pieces or layer them if necessary for more warmth. Plan to layer rather than pack bulky sweaters or jeans. If you are going someplace cold, consider a pair of lightweight thermal underwear so that you don’t have to pack your heaviest articles of clothing. If you are going to be away for a while, plan to find a laundry facility mid-way through the trip so that you only have to pack half as many clothes. If you plan to do some laundry, pack a small quantity of detergent and a dryer sheet so that you don’t have to purchase these items – laundromats often over charge for the single pack of detergent if they have them at all.

One of the books I have read suggests bringing a spare cotton pillowcase in your luggage to use for dirty clothes and recommends putting a dryer sheet in that pillowcase to keep your dirty laundry from stinking up your suitcase until you get home or find a washer and dryer.

I always pack some kind of collapsible tote bag or carry-on in which to bring home anything I may acquire on my vacation that doesn’t slip easily into my suitcase.. I have found some compact ones at places like Brookstone or the Container Store, but I try not to rely on using them and adding to my burden. And don’t get a really big spare bag, because you will be tempted to buy too much which will add to your clutter. Think about deciding on a particular kind of souvenir before you go. Decide an item that is lightweight, useable and easily carried that you can always bring home from each vacation (like socks, dish towels or pencils) or something that is useful and representative of the destination would be best and then it becomes an adventure shopping for and finding just the right item rather than bringing home a bunch of clutter. If you feel you must bring something for your friends or family, consider something edible. Food items can usually be bought at the airport as you head home, or even the airport at home, so that you can avoid loading down your luggage with souvenirs as you travel. I have a friend who has been known to purchase very heavy items like lava rock bowls or solid wood carvings. These make lovely, unique souvenirs (unique because most people are smart enough not to purchase rocks while traveling) but heavy items not only make running for a train or plane more cumbersome, they might end up damaging something else in your bags.

Don’t pick up other travel literature along the way, like guidebooks, event calendars, maps and brochures unless you think you will revisit that destination soon or add the item to a scrapbook. If you are planning a scrapbook or travel journal, be selective about what you bring home by tearing out useful pages or photos and throwing the rest away. You may be able to leave a few brochures or maps behind in a hotel drawer for the next occupant of the room. Most of the information you will need about places to visit can be found online and the likelihood that a brochure will still be current by the time you need it precludes the need to collect it and save it. By all means, jot down the name of the location and the website if they have one for future reference.

Bring an assortment of zip lock storage bags to hold miscellaneous items in your suitcase. Snack bags can be used for cotton balls, Q-Tips, jewelry, batteries, sewing kit, medicines, etc. and the larger ones come in handy if you have a wet bathing suit or some handwash that is not quite dry by morning. You can even use plastic bags to organize smaller items in the suitcase like socks, underwear or t-shirts. A friend of mine makes small bags of sets of jewelry (rings, earrings, bracelets and/or necklaces) and packs them into the suitcase right next to the appropriate outfit, but an easier method would be to just bring (or wear) some comfortable “goes-with-everything” costume jewelry that you won’t mind if it gets lost or stolen.

You should travel with a list of important numbers for things like credit cards (and the phone number to call in case of loss); passports; traveler’s checks and prescriptions. This list should be kept somewhere not too obvious and could perhaps be carried by more than one traveler in your party. Lori Baird, ed., Cut the Clutter and Stow the Stuff (Yankee Publishing, Inc., 2002) suggests printing all important numbers out in a small clear font from the computer and taping the list inside a plastic (non-zip lock) sandwich bag under one of the insoles in your shoe. This seems a bit overkill, but I have been robbed on vacation so whatever precautions you feel are necessary will make you enjoy your vacation more in the long run.

Bill Adler, author of Outwitting Clutter (Lyons Press, 2002) has some suggestions about unpacking that I will share tomorrow.

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