In April, I celebrated my one year anniversary of ditching the day job to take this blog full time. One of the things I’ve been able to do now a lot more than before is travel. Well, I traveled a lot with my old job, but it was work related and not as fun as blog traveling (I mean come on, exhibit A, B and C for starters). Traveling for work is great though as I had a system down pat. I knew exactly what I needed to wear and bring for all my trips. But traveling to explore a city is completely different. Over the last year I’ve finally mastered packing well, traveling smart and have a handy dandy check list I rely on heavily to make sure I cover everything. Today I thought I’d share some of my best travel tips and best packing tips. From surviving the airport, to how to look somewhat put together when walking for miles exploring. Let’s get started!
MY BEST TRAVEL TIPS
THE BEST PACKING TIPS
I have a packing list that I’ve mastered over time that lives on my TO DO list on my phone. I’ve found myself adding, deleting over time to refine it to be just right. It hasn’t failed me since and here’s what it consists of:
- Tops (both dressy and casual)
- Workout outfit (even if you don’t work out when you travel, bring it!)
- Comfy flats
- Light jacket (always a hoodie no matter what)
- Laptop & charger
- Backup iPhone charger
- Weather related items – umbrella, boots, gloves
- Passport and spare card in a separate bag
- Toiletries (I keep a toiletry bag packed at all times and just grab and go with it)
Okay before you think, duh, anyone knows to bring that shit. Here’s the thing. This is just your outline. I like to pack my outfits and stick to a color theme. I choose either brown or black for the trip. This way I’m keeping shoes, accessories and so on to a minimum as they’ll get more use if I stick to a theme. For my outfits, I also like to try them on prior to packing to make sure things go together and I feel comfortable. This is also a great time to figure out how to make that boring outfit a little cuter. I tend to grab jeans and a tee, but for my last trip to DC, I swapped my jeans for a denim skirt that made my look instantly more stylish without sacrificing comfort. When you try things on, you can better adjust and edit down if you need to. I always recommend trying to figure out ways to incorporate a jacket or third piece as this can easily take a boring travel outfit to a more stylish ensemble with minimal effort.
THINGS I LEARNED TO NEVER FORGET!
A few things that are more new on my list are my light jacket/hoodie. I NEVER head out of town anymore without one of my millions of Alternative hoodies. They make for a great layer to stay warm on a plane, throw on to grab a morning coffee sans bra, and also help if there’s unexpected dips with the weather. I also recently added a workout outfit no matter what. You never know when someone on your trip wants to take a random hike, or go for a run. Plus it makes for a comfy casual outfit to head home in if you run out of clothes. It doesn’t take up much space to throw in some workout shorts and a tank with a built in sports bra.
While at Coachella this year, my friend lost his entire wallet. He didn’t even flinch, this happens to him often, so now he always carries a spare ID and credit card in a separate bag at all times for this exact scenario. Genius. My bag was recently stolen right out of my hotel room (while I was SLEEPING) and thankfully it was in Atlanta so I had backup stuff at home. But if I were out of town I would’ve been royally fucked. So my newest tip is to throw your passport (or if you have an extra ID) and a spare credit card and $20 into your suitcase, travel bag, just anywhere that your wallet isn’t.
MY TRAVEL BAG SYSTEM
My system for packing is to keep everything in my giant suitcase that I check. I then carry on my backpack (I use this one) and pack my empty purse in the suitcase. I prefer a backpack since it keeps your arms and hands free and it’s super chic. It also makes for a great bag option while exploring a city so you can keep a water bottle, camera, sweatshirt and so on readily available.
TIPS TO SURVIVE THE AIRPORT
My airport routine is pretty standard and I don’t stray from it. We’re lucky in Atlanta that the airport is amazing, full of great food options and clean. I know my terminals down pat. From where I like to eat, to knowing exactly how long it takes me to get from point A to point B. Here are some of my best tips to survive the airport.
- Wear headphones. It makes the daunting lines and annoying humans that much easier to deal with. I’m thinking about investing in some noise cancelling ones as I find it really hard to hear while on a noisy plane
- Pee whenever possible. Nothing is worse than a damn airplane bathroom. I always try to go before a flight no matter what.
- Get a bottle of water ASAP. Puffiness is real friends. Drink up as much as possible not only to fight the bloat, but also good for the immune system with all those germs. Plus, I don’t care if they tell me the water on planes is safe to drink, it just never tastes good.
- Grab a snack. If you didn’t pack one (which I encourage) grab something to have on the plane or when you even get off as hunger can strike at any time. I almost always fly with gummy bears, it’s a ritual. And I NEVER leave for a trip without a good handful of KIND Bars.
- Get the apps! My Delta app is a life saver. Tells you when your gate has changed, if your bag has arrived and so on. It has also saved my ass twice now when I had to book a last minute flight with miles and had no access to a computer, it’s so simple. I almost 90% of the time fly Delta so I don’t bother with the others. But download whichever airlines you fly often for easy access.
- TSA Pre-Check. This year I finally invested in TSA Pre-Check (it’s only $85 for 3 years). If you’re not a terrorist, I highly recommend it. It’s saved me from missing my flight in the past and also is so much nicer to not take your laptop out and shoes off.
- Board last. This is my own personal preference. Since I rarely carry on a bag, I have no need to get on the plane to get overhead space (although if it’s full they immediately put your bag under the plane for free and it’s actually kind of nice). Your most likely to not lose your bag if they gate check and it usually comes off the plane first along with Priority. I figure the less time spent sitting in a cramped plane the better
NOW LET’S TALK EXPLORING
I like to try to scope out a few spots ahead of time to visit so I have some sort of a game plane. I definitely do not plan out my day down to the hour by any means. However, I at least like to get an idea of what part of town I want to be in and what things I’d like to see. For example, I’m heading to NYC next week and will only have two days to explore. I know one day I’d like to stay in midtown area, visit MOMA, Grand Central and Times Square. The next day, we’re heading downtown to Battery Park, Wall Street and such so that we’re keeping things to specific neighborhoods/areas of town. This helps to limit the amount of time going from place to place. Pick a neighborhood and stick to it.
Get The Inside Scoop The Right Way
I also like to ask the locals (not the concierge) where to go. Concierges are typically provided kick backs from restaurants for referring you to them. I like to find myself a nice restaurant, or coffee shop and just ask the employees where they like to go. They’re usually super insightful, know the more off the beaten path spots and will have a much more honest answer for you.
Take photos! I try to bring my DSLR with me whenever possible, but sometimes it can be super heavy and an iPhone works just fine sometimes. Whenever traveling with friends, we always turn on Airdrop so we can easily share photos with one another. It’s a great way to get photos you may not have taken yourself, or photos of you that they took. It’s so fun to see what others have on their phones.
WHAT ABOUT THE BEST APPS?
YELP – While traveling, I like to also keep track of where I go on my Yelp app. This is a new habit I’m trying to do thanks to my friend Dan. While in Charleston I was sitting next to a couple who just landed from New Jersey and asked me where to go. I had NO idea where to go besides two spots. I’ve eaten at dozens of restaurants in Charleston and couldn’t think of any of them on the spot. Having my Yelp app, I can easily see where I’ve been based on location which makes it a lot easier to share your tips with friends and remember where you ate! I also have started to read reviews and find it’s been pretty helpful when planning places to eat.
TIP: When traveling abroad, Yelp reviews are mostly done by Americans. I have found that reviews of foreign places can be skewed to the American perception. We’re guilty of expecting super fast service that’s overly friendly all the time. For example, Europeans tend to have long drawn out dinners and you usually have to ask for our check instead of just getting it automatically. It’s important to keep that in mind while reading reviews. So pay more attention to what they say about the food!
Locals usually use Four Square or other apps, just ask around what’s most popular. I try to just use Yelp to help narrow things down on my own.
INSTAGRAM – I tend to go down a deep dark hole of Instagram when traveling or starting to prepare for a trip. You can find some really great places from the locals this way. Just start searching relevant hashtags, and you’ll eventually stumble onto great dishes to try.
GOOGLE MAPS – This is great to use when traveling to a place you may not have great service. You can download the offline map so that you can still get around without service. I also like to star my favorite things on the map so that I can see all the things I want to do. It makes planning out your trip much easier too when deciding which neighborhoods to visit.
My next trip is in just a few days and I’m definitely going to be snapping lots of photos. I’ll be making sure to follow all my own tips here too. What travel tips do you swear by? I’d love to know if I’m missing something from my list to make my travels a little easier!
Photos by Jen Eun