Airline flight packing tips to ease strain on wallet and back

Thank you to free, Microsoft Office Images.

Packing for your next vacation? What will you take? If you’re flying, there’s much to consider. Should you only use a carry-on or check your bags? You can find an abundance of tips online to help eliminate possibility of excess airline fees — and back strain.

When I was packing for my recent 10-day vacation to the United Kingdom, I decided to use the simplest methods possible — packing only what I thought was absolutely necessary — at least so I thought. I had not packed enough of some items, and had over-packed with other non-essentials. Packing for an international vacation is like any other trip. You want the least amount of weight in the smallest suitcase, but you want to take it all! Packing simply requires a lot of common sense and a little ingenuity. I know many of my readers who are experienced travelers have tons of tips. Feel free to add these to comments below and help me improve — for my next trip!

Make a list. Check it twice. (Sorry.) Categorize your list first by items such as clothes, outerwear, shoes, toiletries, medicines, hats, documents, electronics, etc. Then rearrange your list for each bag or container: carry-on, checked bag (if necessary), personal item, pockets.

Layout your items on a flat surface. See how much you’re really going to pack in your suitcase before actually start loading it up. This will avoid unpacking and repacking. If your suitcase has been in the closet, storage unit or garage, check it for stowaway critters such as scorpions. I was stung while packing for a Mexico trip a couple of years ago, and I’ve read accounts that passengers have been stung after boarding a flight.

Consider each item before tossing it mindlessly in your luggage. Ask yourself: Do I really need this? What happens if I don’t take it? Can I buy it at my destination? For example, I probably don’t need a full-size shower gel or a large bottle of Tylenol. I can survive with a smaller amount for a week long trip.  Lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, goos, pastes, gels — all of these pile on the luggage weight. Consider packing basics such as comb, toothbrush and paste, floss, deodorant, shavers, moisturizer and a little bit of makeup. You can probably purchase the remaining sundries at your destination.

Make good use of your shoes. Use Oxfords, sneakers and boots as containers for socks, belts, phone chargers and other small or even breakable items. I usually wear my heaviest footwear — such as sneakers — to the airport, just because I never know when I’ll be spending most of the day on my feet, or running through the airport. Then I’ll pack a pair of dressy shoes, boots or sandals, depending on my destination. My other only footwear is a pair of flip-flops which I pack in the outer, zip compartment of my soft-sided, zippered suitcase. Along with one magazine, these add some stability to my aging, worn suitcase.

If you can, try to eliminate the checked bag and only use a carry-on bag and personal item. I prefer a soft-sided rolling duffel, but currently for most week or 10 day trips, I use a  rectangle case measuring about 20 x 14 by 6 inches. It’s small and light enough for me to lift on to the security check conveyor and the plane’s overhead compartment. Most airlines restrict the carry-on size to 22 x 14 by 9. Many passengers really try to push the envelope with those “expandable” carry-on bags. You know who you are.

My personal item is either a larger “hobo” bag or a smaller backpack which will fit under the airline seat. Personal bag contents: Wallet with one credit card, passport, cell phone, Chromebook, camera, sunglasses, headphones, tissues, prescriptions, mints, water and snacks. If I will need to check a piece of luggage, and I have room in my personal item, I will consider packing a change of clothing.

photo (8)Consider getting rid of the “purse” and packing a small cross-body bag for use at your destination. I pack away small purse in my carry-or my personal item. I bought a small camera backpack in which I would put all my valuables and personal items. It’s a CaseLogic DSLR pack I found on Amazon that not only carries all my gear in neat and compact accessory compartments and zippered pockets, but also fits nicely under the the airline seat. This backpack also fits my Chromebook very neatly. Okay, it may weigh a few pounds, especially when I add a bottle of water, extra lenses and snacks, but I’d much rather tuck a bit of weight underneath my seat and carry it on my back, than attempt to hoist a larger, heavier pack above my head to the overhead bin and strain my back and shoulder pulling it in tow. (Sigh, I guess I’m either too proud or stingy to use a SmarteCarte.)

Carry-on (or checked bag if absolutely necessary) contents: shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, sweaters, jackets — and roll them up tightly — even those unmentionables. I’m not sure if this is something to brag about, but I can fit 10 pairs of rolled undies into a quart size Ziplock bag. Rolls of clothes can wrap around every curve and cubbyhole of your luggage.  If you’re unsure about your destination’s weather, plan to dress in layers.

Pack apparel that can do double duty. For instance, maybe a nice performance workout tank can double as a tankini swimsuit top. Or maybe gym shorts can substitute as swim trunks.

My goal is to save money, and save my back — eliminate the excess: Less to pack, less to tote, less to lose, less to worry about on your vacation.

Thank you to free, Microsoft Office Images.

Who has packing tips and suggestions? I would love to hear some of yours!

What’s on your hiking checklist?

Doug and Chuck start off on the Butcher Jones Trail at Saguaro Lake

Doug and Chuck start off on the Butcher Jones Trail at Saguaro Lake

 

Spring in Arizona always brings a renewed excitement of outdoor activity. It’s the best time for spring training baseball, festivals, picnics, wildflower watching and day hiking. I already have found myself plotting courses to the Superstition, Catalina and White mountains. I’ve dusted off my day pack in anticipation of my next hike. But first it’s time to do a little equipment inventory before hitting the trail again, so I’m compiling another day hiking checklist. (I knew the last one was outdated because it listed such items as “fanny pack” and “film.”) Please help me — could you suggest some additional items? Here’s what I have so far (in no particular order):

  • Water (100 oz. for my Camelbak M.U.L.E. hydration pack)
  • Compass/GPS
  • Maps (single sheet trail maps can be put in a waterproof pouch if phone service fails)
  • Hiking boots or shoes (I love my Keen’s – they seem to mold perfectly to my feet)
  • Hat (I’m learning to wear a hat that covers ears too.)
  • Gloves (for chilly mornings or steel cable hand-rails)
  • Small flash light or headlamp
  • Reflective emergency blanket
  • Cell phone (Fine, when it’s usable when in cell service area. Otherwise it’s feels like a “boat anchor.” So my phone usually serves as a timepiece and camera.)
  • Mophie Juice Pack Plus (To extend cell phone battery life)
  • Digital SLR Camera (Only if I’m sure I’m going to capture that National Geographic Photo Contest winning shot. Otherwise it’s just another “anchor.”)
  • Pair of binoculars (Best for those view trails when I’m sure I’ll use it – if not: “boat anchor.”)
  • Trash bag (Plain old plastic grocery bag, just for picking up picnic trash)
  • Hiking staff (I need just one pole — for extra balance and traction)
  • Rain poncho (Small fold-up type – but this really doesn’t get much use)
  • Tissue pack
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Gauze, bandages, corn cushions
  • Ace bandage
  • Tweezers/nail clippers or small Leatherman tool (but not too large or it’s just another, you guessed it: “boat anchor”)
  • Benadryl
  • Ibuprofen
  • Lip protection
  • Whistle (Mom always said to pack a whistle – even before the “Titanic” movie)
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Identification
  • Food for snacks or lunch including: fruit, jerky/beef stick/salami, trail mix, cheese, crackers, small sandwiches

Did I forget anything? Of course, not all hikes require ALL of these items. What items will be going into your day pack? I’d like to know about your day hiking tips and your hiking checklist recommendations!

You can also find AzGetawayTravel.com on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Rocky Point beach condo packing list ‘extras’

beach

Beach condo family vacations can be the most memorable.

So your vacation condo listing advises: “just bring swimsuit and toothbrush” but I’m sure you’ll probably want to bring a few more items. We’re getting ready for another beach vacation to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico so I thought a post about packing for a beach condo would be apropos. If you’ve made several trips to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and have stayed at the condo resorts, you’re already aware of these tips. But even a seasoned condo guest may benefit from our list:

1. Extra coffee filters

Call me a control freak, but I like to bring extra filters from home. The condo may provide one or two, but if you need more, it can be a hassle. Forget to buy them on your back from town, and you’ll find yourself fashioning a makeshift filter out of paper towels or napkins. That’s why I bring a few both standard cone and basket filter types for most 12-cup coffee makers. After all, you’re on vacation — you shouldn’t have to work for your morning coffee.

2. Extra kitchen tie-type garbage bags

The condo or timeshare may provide a few bags, or your resort may provide daily towel and ‘tidy’ service. Nevertheless, trash has a way of doubling in size at check out time. Yes, you always could try to find a housekeeper with spare bags or maybe call up the front desk to send some up. It’s easier to just stick a few extras in your bag – they can always be used for wet swim suits, towels or sandy sneakers.

3. Small bottles of dish and laundry detergent, and liquid hand soap

Chalk this under the “why make an extra trip to the store this when you could be sitting on the beach and it costs three times what it’s worth at the resort mini-mart” column. I know, housekeeping is supposed to restock this stuff, but I think it’s just easier to bring small amounts to have on hand.

4. Plastic cups for the pool

With your own plastic cups or sports bottles, you can bring your own drink down from the room. You don’t have to worry about hiding a can or bottle under a Kan Koozie. (You wouldn’t bring glass to the pool anyway.) At the end of your stay, you can use plastic cups with lids for transporting home the kids’ seashells.

5. Insulated tote back or soft cooler

Resort management heavily frowns upon bringing your 120-quart ice chest down to the pool, setting it up next to the swim-up bar and serving 100 of your friends. So keep it classy and exercise a little decorum. For this reason, we love our small, soft cooler that resembles a backpack or beach tote.

6. Binoculars

At one condo we rented, the owner provided a spotting scope. It was great for viewing the ocean sights! Binoculars come in handy for those long distance views over the Sea of Cortez, keeping an eye out for early morning dolphins while you enjoy your coffee on the balcony. Bring a pair to the beach to watch kids on the banana boat, sailboats on the horizon, or to see if that crazy guy hanging out of the ultralight is someone you know.

7. Favorite foods and beverages

Although it’s not necessarily true of all parts of Mexico: some American products are really hard to find in Rocky Point grocery stores. So we often bring our favorite brands for wine, dark chocolate, club soda, English muffins, craft beer, apples, tea and cheese. Just about everything else is available at the Super Ley.

8. Folding camp chairs

Here’s why you may want to bring a few extra chairs: 1) Beach sand can get really warm! It’s too hot to sit on a little towel or even one of those grass mats for very long! 2) Chaises under the beach palapas can get very crowded during summer months and 3) poolside chairs also will be in heavy demand.

What’s on your beach vacation packing list?

hammock

Beach condo vacations can be relaxing with a little planning