Packing for a trip

I’ve been traveling a lot lately and I thought I’d write down some of the things I’ve done to help ease my travel stress.

TSA Pre and Global Entry Kiosks

If you’re a US Citizen or Permanent Resident, sign up for Nexus if you can. If you can’t sign up for Global Entry. Both Nexus and Global Entry will give you access to the Global Entry kiosks, which you can use instead of regular passport control and customs. It saves you having to stand in line and make small talk after a long international flight.

Both Nexus and Global Entry will also give you TSA Pre, which is what airport security checks used to be. Shoes stay on, liquids don’t need their own bin and the lines are shorter.

Roll everything, shoes at the bottom

By bottom, I mean if your suitcase is upright, your shoes should be close to the ground.

For every item of clothing except formal wear, you can tuck in the sleeves and roll it up like a giant cigar. This transforms each item of clothing into dense little bricks that you can easily organize.

Duffel bags are underrated

They might not have all the pockets and zippers that a suitcase provides but they store a ton of things and can be molded to fit into any overhead compartment. I can fit more in my duffel than in my carry-on suitcase.

Anti-microbial, fast drying underwear

I have the kind of anxiety that makes me want to pack too many things. Like 10 pairs of underwear for a 7-day trip. It’s a great relief to pack a few pairs of underwear that can be washed in a sink and dry overnight. If I need to, I scrub them with plain old soap, hand-wring thoroughly, then roll them up in a towel and walk all over it to get the last drops of water out. Then just air dry for a few hours.

Multiport USB charger, USB battery

Even if you only have one device that needs charging, get a charger that has a couple of ports on it. And it must have 2 Amp charging for today’s hungry smartphones. The extra ports will make it easier to ask for an outlet at the airport or share a room with others.

A USB battery is also nice for the days that will see heavy phone usage (e.g. navigating with GPS) or just for the reassurance that you’ll have enough juice at the end of the day to get home safe.

Earplugs and headphones

I’m prone to feeling sensory overload on flights. The jet engines and the talking and the babies crying all leave me super stressed out. Earplugs help reduce the volume significantly and cut out a lot of the droning. Headphones sitting on top of that allows you to keep watching movies when you’re in the mood.

I’ve tried the high-end Bose noise cancelling headphones and I don’t like them. They cancel noise by generating a sound that cancels out the droning of the jet engines. But I found the headphones to be too expensive, the technology to be imperfect and the overall feeling to be less pleasant than just plain ol’ earplugs.

Apple Pay

You need three things to use Apple Pay in a foreign country: A relatively recent iPhone, your credit card provider’s support, and any payment terminal that has that wifi icon (that means you can pay without swiping or inserting your card).

It doesn’t matter if Apple Pay isn’t widely offered by the destination country’s banks (e.g. Australia and Iceland). Apple Pay just requires your bank’s support and the contactless payment standard.

This form of payment is far more secure than swiping a credit card, as long as you’re comfortable with people seeing you own an expensive smartphone. Plus, it’s a nice backup in case you do lose your credit card (as what happened to my friend recently).

Time to sit and think

I freak out a lot less about the contents of my luggage if I give myself a little time to just sit and run through the various mental checklists. Furiously packing right up until the last second and heading out the door is a lot less reassuring.

I used to delay and procrastinate because I thought I couldn’t set anything aside because I’d need it before the trip. But it turns out I can set aside a week’s worth of clothing and still go about my daily life. I feel a lot better knowing I set some time aside to consider what I might be forgetting.

Make hard cuts

Knowing that I always pack more than I need, I’ve been challenging myself to trim down. That might mean bringing fewer electronics, wearing clothing on multiple days, coming up with smarter ways to layer or just learning to live without certain luxuries. It’s a vacation, it’s supposed to be a break from the routine.

You can always buy more stuff

Unless you’re headed to a place far away from civilization, you can just buy what you’re missing. You don’t need to pack for every possible contingency. If you’re pushed for space, you can skip the things that you can easily find as needed (i.e. toiletries).

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