Tag Archives: packing

Packing Tricks For Flying Home with Holiday Gifts

Do you ever start a trip with only carry-on luggage but do so much shopping en route that you must check a bag on the return?  As just one example, on a Thanksgiving trip that started in the souks of Morocco and ended with Christmas markets and holiday shopping in Austria and Germany, I accumulated so much stuff that flying carry-on-only was no longer possible—certainly not on intra-European flights—and my luggage had to expand.

If you travel with certain types of bags and a few multi-purpose essentials that take up almost no space, it will make it so much easier to transport all those mementoes and gifts you pick up along the way.

Here are the five items that have proven most essential to me on countless trips. Consider them the next time you need to pack for a range of climates and activities, and for accumulating stuff as you go:

Three of my packing essentials, laid out on my bed at Royal Mansour in Marrakech, make it easy to pack light.

* A thin, lightweight duffel.
I always pack one of these in my carry-on wheelie. That way, if I collect too much stuff during the trip, I can check the wheelie on the return flight and use the duffel as my carry-on. Many duffels will do, but I happen to have a Le Sportsac Large Weekender I’ve used for at least a decade for this purpose.

* An expandable carry-on wheelie.
If you unzip a special zipper that wraps around my TravelPro 22-inch expandable spinner, it magically yields an extra 44 square inches of width.

* A backpack-style handbag with built-in laptop sleeve.
As female business travelers know, the easiest way to limit your luggage to one carry-on and one personal item is if the personal item is a combination handbag-plus-laptop-case. My Tumi Voyageur Backpack is stylish enough for business meetings yet rugged enough for hikes in the rain, keeps my hands free, and keeps all my electronic accessories safe, sound, and organized.

* An ultralight, compressible parka.
Mine happens to be a North Face Thermoball Jacket. It keeps me toasty warm in wind, rain, and snow, yet does not overheat, and it compresses to a tiny fraction of its bulk, folding into its own pocket, so I can also use it as a pillow on the plane.

* A warm yet lightweight pashmina shawl.
I bought the one you see in the photo on sale at the Frette shop in Florence, Italy, years ago. It doubles as an airplane blanket and a headscarf in the rain (or if I want to pop into a mosque).

For more essentials, here’s the complete Wendy’s Essential Packing List. What items are key to your packing strategy? Share your answers in the comments below.


Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

purple carry-on luggage roller bags

Packing Solutions for Even the Smallest Carry-On Bags

Many international airlines have rules that require smaller carry-on luggage than U.S. airlines, whether those rules count by centimeters or kilograms.  I bumped up against such a rule last week:

I checked in at JFK for a Swissair flight to Geneva, and the check-in agent told me my carry-on wheelie was too heavy.   I said, I’ve taken this wheelie into cabins on transatlantic flights countless times.  He said, Swissair was worried about heavy bags falling out from the overhead bins.  I said, what if I remove a couple of heavy items and put them in my handbag?  He said I should try it.  So I removed from my wheelie three pairs of shoes and a tote bag and placed the shoes in the tote bag.  He weighed my carry-on again, said it was acceptable now, and waved me off to the security line with it.

Since I was now headed toward security with a wheelie and two handbags, I shuffled items around so that I was back down to just one (heavier than before) handbag. I had no problem in the TSA line, boarding the plane, or fitting the wheelie into the overhead bin.  When flying back to the U.S. a few days later, I flew United instead of Swissair, and nobody checked the weight of any bag.

No matter what baggage regulations your next flight has, you can be ahead of the game with these hard-earned packing tips:

  • Wear your heaviest shoes. If you need to bring bulky footwear, wear it on your feet rather than taking up space in your luggage.
  • Pack your oldest socks and underwear. You can discard them along the way, making room for souvenirs you pick up.
  • Stick to just two or three colors of clothing, and avoid patterns and stripes. That way everything matches and can be worn with everything else. I usually pack mainly black, then add color with a bright silk scarf (in summer) or pashmina shawl (in winter).
  • Opt for luggage with few compartments. This might sound counterintuitive in an era when we have to cram so much into such a small space, but in my experience, extra zippers, buckles, and straps just take up space. I’d rather have an empty box-like space so that I can use those precious extra millimeters to cram things in. I do like to have an outside pocket, though, so I can quickly reach items I’ll need to access, such as my ultra-light compressible parka and pashmina.
  • Use zip-top bags of varying sizes to make space and stay organized. Instead of using a carry-on with lots of compartments, I make my own “compartments” with zip-top bags. They weigh nothing and take up no space. I place my liquid toiletries in one (for easy removal at airport security), my dry toiletries in another. I vacuum-pack clothes in a two-gallon-size one, and I create my own inflight amenities kit by throwing eye drops, ear plugs, eye shades, Vitamin C, etc. into a sandwich-size Ziploc.
  • Carry travel-sized, multi-purpose toiletries. Use 3-ounce-and-under sizes of multi-purpose toiletries (e.g., facial moisturizer with SPF, shampoo-plus-conditioner that you can use as shaving cream) and liquid toiletries in disposable packets rather than bottles (e.g., makeup remover pads; hand-sanitizing wipes).
  • Bring 3 or 4 plastic grocery bags too. Like Ziplocs, they weigh nothing and take up no space. I use them as shoe bags, and they can also hold laundry, protect a camera from rain, etc.
  • Pack travel-size detergent. Use Woolite packets or Tide singles to wash clothing in your hotel-room sink.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’s reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Wendy Perrin rolling carry-on luggage at JFK to Uzbekistan

Wendy’s Essential Packing List

The type of trip you’re taking dictates how you pack, of course. The clothing and gear you’ll need depends on whether you’re headed to a beach resort, on a business trip, or to remote pockets of a developing nation. But there are certain items I pack every time, especially when an overnight flight is required to get there.  These are the must-have items I fit into one carry-on wheelie, plus one laptop-holding handbag.  Here’s what I find most useful.  How about you?

For the flight:

  • Inflatable airline neck pillow. The Cocoon Ultra-light Air-Core Neck Pillow, for instance, weighs practically nothing and takes up no space.
  • Inflatable lumbar support cushion. On long flights (as well as in uncomfortable wooden chairs at your destination), this Vive pillow can save your spine.  It folds into nothing in your carry-on.
  • Eye mask, earplugs, hand sanitizer, sleeping pills, Vitamin C, and tiny vials of eye drops and hand cream. Place them in a sandwich-size zip-top bag, and you’ve created your own business-class amenity kit.
  • Shawl, sweater, or travel blanket—for an extra layer of warmth on the plane (remember, it’s smart to turn on your overhead air nozzle, since it scatters viral particles, but it can also chill the air) and at your destination (where my pashmina shawl doubles as a headscarf in the rain, a picnic blanket, etc.)  If you’re male, think Cocoon Coolmax Travel Blanket.
  • Headphone Y splitter. Parents, listen up: It connects two headphones to one jack, enabling two of you to use the same device (e.g., two kids can watch the same movie on one iPad).

At the destination:

  • Sturdy, comfy walking shoes. Make sure they’re broken in.  In developing countries, favor black or brown (new white sneakers make it hard to blend in and are a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist).
  • Ultra-light, compact jacket.  Mine happens to be this one—which I can even fold into its own pocket and use as an extra pillow on the plane—but there are many to choose among, from a windproof, water-resistant Patagonia Nano Puff to a Uniqlo Ultra Light Down.
  • Ultra-light day pack. Throw it in your carry-on and use it when sightseeing and shopping. (If you plan to do a lot of shopping, here’s more packing advice).
  • Crushable, non-wrinkle hat. I like Wallaroo hats because they’re UPF 50+.
  • Smartphone that’s an all-in-one alarm clock, flashlight, map, and magnifying glass (use the camera zoom).  You can also use your smartphone camera to prevent these common travel headaches.
  • Small binoculars or opera glasses (for when your smartphone camera zoom won’t cut it).
  • Tiny but powerful flashlight.  For those times when your smartphone flashlight isn’t strong enough, carry a Maglite mini.
  • Resistance bands for exercising in your hotel room.

To minimize bulk in your bag:

  • 3 or 4 clear zip-top bags of different sizes—for holding liquid toiletries; wet bathing suits; or any other small items you want to organize and find easily. I place my liquid toiletries in one (for easy removal at airport security) and my dry toiletries in another. If you want to compress clothing (e.g., compress a wool sweater to half its size), try a two-gallon-size zip-top bag.
  • 3 or 4 plastic bags they gave you at the grocery store. Like the zip-top bags, they weigh nothing and take up no space. I use these as shoe bags, and they can also hold laundry, protect a camera from rain, etc.
  • 3 or 4 bags they gave you at the dry cleaner. I hang each item of wrinkle-able clothing on a separate disposable wire hanger, encased in a separate plastic dry-cleaner bag.  Then I hold all the hangers in one hand, fold the hanging clothes once, and place them on top of everything else packed in my carry-on wheelie, so that they lie smoothly across the top. This way, nothing ever wrinkles!
  • Multi-purpose toiletries (e.g., facial moisturizer with SPF; shampoo-plus-conditioner that you can use as shaving cream) and liquid toiletries in disposable packets rather than bottles (e.g., makeup remover). Look here for possibilities.
  • Travel-size detergent—e.g., Woolite packets or Tide singles for washing items in your hotel-room sink.
  • Your oldest socks and torn underwear. Discard them as your trip nears its end, making room for souvenirs you pick up.


  • Extra camera battery and memory card. Don’t waste hours of precious vacation time searching for a store that carries these.
  • Gaffer’s tape for on-the-fly, temporary repairs of shoes, bags, hems, and the like. (Alternatively, use a portion of the adhesive-paper bag tag that the airline affixed to your checked luggage.)
  • Short 3-outlet extension cord that turns one electrical outlet into three, so you can easily charge all your devices in one spot at one time.
  • Glasses you can’t lose. Clic readers mean you need not fumble through bags for your reading glasses.
  • Kleenex packet. It can double as toilet paper.


  • Adapter plug—for use in foreign electrical outlets.
  • Photocopy of your passport (to keep in your hotel safe). Or snap a photo of the passport page with your smartphone (and email it to yourself in case the smartphone gets lost).
  • Copy of your travel insurance or emergency medical insurance policy.
  • Medical kit—including an antibiotic for respiratory ailments, an antibiotic for digestive ailments, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, antihistamine, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, multi-vitamins. Just remember that medications need to meet TSA regulations and liquid ones must be 3.4 oz or less per container if they’re in your carry-on.
  • Money belt or neck pouch. This pouch hides beneath your clothing. Don’t use a fanny pack; they attract pickpockets.
  • Energy bars—for snacks when you’re not sure you can trust the food.
  • A few photos or postcards from home—to give rural children in developing countries. They’re great conversation starters with the parents.


palapa with two beach chairs on a beach with turquoise ocean and palm trees

The New Travel Checklist

Vaccine or no vaccine, the coronavirus pandemic will affect how we travel for a long time to come. New protocols mean that, to prepare smartly and safely for a big trip, there are new tasks to attend to, new questions to ask, and a whole new packing list.

So we’ve compiled a checklist of important items to address long before heading to the airport.

To Do:

  • Check the entry requirements and restrictions for all destinations on your itinerary, even if you’re merely transiting through them. Consult our lists of the Countries That Are Open to U.S. Travelers and How to Get In and Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information.
  • Complete any forms or paperwork required by your destination, and download any required apps. These could include an entry form, contact tracing information, or health affirmations. Hawaii, for example, requires that you fill out an “online safe travels form.”
  • Get a Covid test—which you can now do quickly and easily by mail—for your own peace of mind, even if it’s not mandated by the destination. By getting tested as close as possible to your departure date and getting a negative result, you lessen the chance that you might unknowingly spread the virus. Proof of your negative status can also be useful just in case the rules change at your location, or a company or hotel decides they want it, or some other emergency happens. Here’s how to get a fast Covid test, with results reliably delivered shortly before your travel date.
  • Make a plan to get tested at the end of your trip. As of December 6, 2021, all travelers entering the U.S. via air—regardless of vaccination status or citizenship—must show a negative Covid test taken within one day of their departure. There are self-test kits that you can pack in your luggage, or your trip planner can arrange for an in-person test at your destination.
  • Consider self-isolating for 14 days before you travel.  It’s another way to minimize the chance of unknowingly spreading the virus. Of course, you might live in a place that requires quarantining for 14 days after your return—as these states do—to avoid potentially bringing the virus back to your home community.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least three or six months past your travel date (depending on the country’s rules).  If you need to renew it, do it now; there are delays.
  • If you are making a large non-refundable advance payment for your trip, research travel insurance—including medical evacuation coverage and Cancel For Any Reason options—before or at the time you book. That’s because you need to purchase your policy very soon after making your first trip payment: Insurance that includes the Cancel For Any Reason option and coverage for preexisting medical conditions requires purchase within 21 days of your first trip payment (or deposit). Most travel insurance policies were written before the pandemic and thus are not an ideal fit for pandemic travel, so your research may be time-consuming. Which is just one reason why it pays to…
  • Book through a vetted and reviewed Trusted Travel Expert from Wendy’s WOW List. These are the destination experts and local fixers who know everything you don’t about what’s really happening where you’re headed. They can ensure you will get the up-to-date guidance and on-the-ground assistance you need. They will also assure you end up with the safest, smartest hotel choices. If you’re not certain which trip-planning specialist is right for your trip, or you’re not even sure where you’d like to go, talk to us directly via Ask Wendy and get a personalized recommendation.

To Ask:

  • Rules and requirements are changing quickly nowadays—they may even change while you are en route—so ask your WOW List trip designer what your contingency plans should be. What are the most likely changes to occur at your destination, and how might your plans change as a result? Know your Plan B.
  • Share your specific concerns about Covid-era travel with your WOW List trip designer because he or she will have solutions you have not thought of. Ask, for instance, about hygiene and social-distancing protocols at hotels; how private vehicles are made safe; how museums, monuments, and restaurants are operating, etc.
  • Get the details of your trip planner’s cancellation and refund policy in writing. You’ll want to understand how you are protected, and policies are more flexible than they were pre-pandemic.
  • As your travel date approaches, ask your airline how full your flight is. You might want to change to a less full flight (which often can be done for no fee). Here’s how to choose a smart seat on the plane.

To Pack/Carry:

  • Proof of Covid-19 test results (even if not specifically required by the destination, it’s smart to carry at all times).
  • Masks. And, since cloth masks should be washed often, travel-size packets of Woolite or detergent for hand-washing them at night in your hotel-room sink.
  • Gloves. Try to avoid airline bathrooms; when you must use them, wear gloves. Keep extra pairs of gloves in your day bag for any situations that may arise.
  • Sanitizer and wipes. The TSA allows air travelers to bring 12 ounces in carry-ons now. It’s helpful to pack smaller bottles also, to carry with you in your day bag at your destination, or in case international airports have different liquid allowances.
  • Face Shield for the flight.
  • Snacks. Airlines vary in what food they’re now providing in flight, so be prepared with your own favorites.
  • Comfort accessories, such as a blanket, pillow, and sweater for your flight. The flight you’re on might not offer pillows or blankets, even for sale. And if you keep the air nozzle turned on above you the whole time to help circulate the air, it might get chilly.
  • Passport, travel insurance info, test results, and other travel documents. Print everything out, and keep back-up copies securely in the cloud or on your phone.
world's largest pumpkin roadside attraction

Three Things You Should Always Stop for on a Road Trip

Wendy and her family are big road-trip fans and have become experts on sussing out the stops that elevate any old long drive into a memorable adventure. Here are three things they suggest always stopping for on a road trip.

Don’t miss Wendy’s full list of 15 ingenious road-trip hacks over on TripAdvisor.

Quirky attractions advertised on billboards

State fairs and world’s largest anything are the sorts of attractions you’d expect to find advertised on the highway (and those are worth stopping for as well), but keep your eyes peeled for unexpected or goofy-sounding sites too. Wendy’s kids spotted a sign for OstrichLand USA in California and are still talking about feeding the oversized birds.

Full parking lots in the middle of nowhere

If you’re driving on a lonely road and suddenly encounter a lot packed with cars, investigate! The locals are probably onto something you’d have had a hard time finding out about as a drive-through tourist: say a pancake breakfast, outdoor concert, firemen’s carnival, or wildlife spotting. Wendy’s clan saw a packed rest stop on California’s Highway 1, and when they got out to see what all the hoopla was, they found a herd of elephant seals playing on the beach.

Small-town picnic spots

Not only is it an adventure to browse unfamiliar supermarkets for regional foods and brands, but a grocery-store stop is also a smart way to save money on lunch. Pick up food for a picnic, then look for a town square, park, or scenic spot where you can refuel while you people-watch or meet other local families. Wendy always packs a soccer ball so her boys can run off energy or start pick-up games with other kids they meet. See the rest of her road trip packing essentials here.


For more road trip intel, see Wendy’s series at TripAdvisor: How to Plan the Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary, Packing List: Essential Gear for a Road TripHow to Make Family Road Trips Fun and Stress-Free;  and 15 Simple Hacks to Make Any Road Trip Better.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

volkswagen van driving on a road trip

Road Trip Hacks: 5 Things That Will Come in Surprisingly Handy

We all know the no-brainers to pack for a road trip: Snacks, maps, phone chargers…. But there are other items you’d never think to bring along that will save you a lot of hassle. Here are a few of Wendy’s problem-solving road-trip essentials. Don’t miss her full list of 15 ingenious road-trip hacks over on TripAdvisor:

What would you add to Wendy’s list of surprising road-trip must-haves?

Small overnight bag

Pack it only with what you’ll need for one night: toiletries, pajamas, and the next day’s clothes. By keeping those essentials separate from the rest of your luggage, you won’t have to unpack the entire trunk every time you stop for the night.

Cheap beach towels

If you’re flying to your road trip, don’t take up precious space in your luggage with a towel. Buy one when you get to your destination; you can usually find them for five bucks or less. They’ll serve as picnic blankets, a cover for your valuables when you leave the car, seat protectors for messy activities or on-the-go eating, makeshift pillows and, of course, as towels if you make a pit stop at a lake or a pool.

Permanent marker

No matter how organized you start out, the car is going to get messy, and everyone’s stuff is going to get mixed up. Bring a marker to label things, especially if they look alike (say, when four passengers with iPhones have brought identical white power cords and charging blocks).

A roll of quarters

Even in this age of credit cards and pre-purchased toll passes, you still need an old-fashioned handful of change on a road trip. Throw a roll of quarters in your glove compartment for parking meters, vending machines, and laundromats.

Garbage bags

They have endless uses in addition to the usual one: storing wet bathing suits, serving as emergency rain gear, protecting cameras in the rain. You can even twist one into a rope and use it to tie things together.

For more road trip intel, see Wendy’s series at TripAdvisor: Packing List: Essential Gear for a Road TripHow to Make Family Road Trips Fun and Stress-FreeHow to Plan the Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary, and 15 Simple Hacks to Make Any Road Trip Better.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

road trip on a winding desert road

Don’t Take a Road Trip Without Packing These

Some road-trip packing essentials are no-brainers: rocking music, tasty snacks, and a whole lot of patience. But there are plenty of additional items that you might not realize you need…until you need them. Luckily, we’ve got your essential road-trip packing list right here. These items will help you save money, stay healthy, and stay sane during those long hours on the road. (You can also click over to TripAdvisor to see Wendy’s full list.)

Save money with a cooler

Pack your own water and snacks to save money and calories. The cooler (either the old-school kind that you fill with ice from the hotel, or the electric kind that you plug into your cigarette lighter) will also come in handy for picnic lunches. Which reminds us: Toss a picnic blanket in the back seat.

Save your skin with sun protection

For you and for your car. For you and the kids, we’re talking about the SPF kind, and not only for the times when you get out to stretch your legs. If you’re riding with the windows open, slather some on arms and faces—especially the driver’s left arm. Wendy also recommends bringing a windshield sun blocker; the steering wheel and seats can get very hot after a few hours in the sun while you’re all off hiking or seeing the country’s largest peach pit. A blocker will keep the car cooler and cut down on how much you need to blast the A/C once you pile back in.

Save your sanity with emergency kits

You’ll need three kinds to be prepared for just about anything: a first-aid kit, a roadside emergency kit, and a roadside assistance plan, either through an automotive club or an insurance company.

Save your back

In addition to regular stops to stretch your legs, Wendy likes to take along a lumbar support pillow to help prevent back pain from long stretches of driving. (Pro tip: a rolled up towel works in a pinch too.) Then each night at the hotel she likes to use rubber massage balls called T Spheres to roll out cramps and kinks.

Stay on track

Getting lost can be maddening, especially if everyone is tired or hungry and ready to get out of the car. If you’re using the GPS on your phone, be sure to bring a USB car charger so that you always have power (better yet, get a charger with multiple ports so other passengers can charge their devices too). Don’t forget a smartphone mount for your dashboard either, as they make looking at the phone for directions and playlist changes much easier—remember both of these tasks are for your copilot, not the driver! Wendy also recommends a paper map for road trips. Not only are they handy if your devices do run out of juice, but they provide a big-picture overview of the trip and can be used as a roadside-stop journal and kept as a memento of your adventures.

Stay connected

Whether you have to work during your road trip or just want to post pictures of your trip on Facebook, you’ll need to bring a few pieces of tech gear if you want to get online on the road. A portable Wi-Fi hot spot can be invaluable; or you can talk to your cell phone carrier about turning your phone into a hot spot (sometimes this incurs fees, so be sure to check). Finally, pack a voltage inverter; these are special chargers that plug into the car’s cigarette lighter one end and have a three-prong A/C outlet and USB ports on the other.

See Wendy’s full list of road-trip essentials and her tips for how to plan the ultimate road trip itinerary on TripAdvisor, where she’s TripAdvisor’s Travel Advocate, and follow her on Instagram for postcards from the California road trip she’s on right now.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

exercise bands on carry-on bag

An Easy Way to Exercise on Vacation — No Gym Required

Making time to exercise on vacation can often seem like a chore. There are so many fascinating things to be doing, and after all, you’re probably already walking a ton each day. But it’s even more important than usual to take care of yourself when you’re traveling: You’re out of your normal routine, eating differently, sleeping differently, and are probably more tired than you realize.

One way I make it easy to stay on top of my health is to keep a couple of tiny exercise helpers in my carry-on: A resistance band and a loop band. They weigh next to nothing and fit right in the pocket of my carry-on—as opposed to bulky running sneakers, which eat up a ton of precious space (and so often go unused; am I right?).

Instead, the bands quickly turn any hotel room into a gym. I use the first band to do arm- and leg-strengthening exercises (here’s a wide array to choose from). And I place the loop band around both legs for bridges, clamshells, and lateral band walks.

I especially appreciate these items after a long flight, and when I don’t want to deal with making an appearance at the hotel fitness center.

Do you have an exercise routine when you travel?

Save Time, Room, and Money: Secret Travel Uses For Common Accessories

Note from Wendy: All travelers develop packing hacks over the years. I have several of my own. For instance, I always pack a thin, lightweight day pack or duffel in my carry-on, just in case I end up coming home with more than I left with and need to check the carry-on. In this article from Brittany Jones Cooper at Yahoo! Travel, she finds creative travel uses for items many of us have lying around the house. What are some of your best packing tips? Tell us in the comments below.

This article originally ran on Yahoo! Travel


Everyone has secret tricks they use when packing and traveling, and I think the best part is that it doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money.

In fact, some of my favorite travel hacks involve secret uses for items I use every day.

So, this week I’m going to share some ways that your eyewear can help you on the road…other than the obvious use of helping you to see.


You download a movie on your phone to watch on the plane…great planning. But what you didn’t plan on was holding it in your hands the entire time. To prevent fatigue, use your sunglasses to prop up your smartphone. You’ll look like a genius, and your arm won’t get tired!

contact case-cr-yahooContact Case

If you’re a contact wearer, you probably have a bunch of these contact cases lying around. You get them every time you buy a bottle of solution. But they can also be used to hold a small amount of cream. For instance, if you have really expensive eye cream that’s in a big bottle, you can put a small amount in your contact case for a short trip. You can also do the same thing with foundation or gels.

Added bonus: These cases are also a great place to carry small items that easily get lost—like earrings.

glasses case-cd-yahooGlasses Case

When I’m packing, I always throw my brush, comb, and toothbrush in my toiletry bag, but all of the small stuff always gets lost in the shuffle. That’s why I’ve started using my extra glasses case as a smaller vanity kit. I put in small things like cotton balls, Q-tips, hair ties, bobby pins, and even a small sewing kit. Now, they easily accessible AND organized!

Also from Yahoo! Travel: 6 Unusual Household Items You Need to Use When Packing

What are your best packing hacks?

5 Easy Ways to Avoid Airline Bag and Change Fees

In the first three months of 2015, U.S. airlines raked in a record-setting $1.6 billion in checked-baggage fees and ticket-change fees. That’s up 7.4% from the same period last year. With the airlines’ profits at record highs, do you really want to give them an even bigger chunk of your trip budget?  I didn’t think so.  So here’s what you can do to avoid these fees:

How to avoid baggage fees

1. Get a credit card that exempts you from them.

The standard fee for checking a bag is $50 round-trip but, depending on the size and weight of your luggage, can be as high as $400 internationally. Each of the three major U.S. airlines offers a co-branded credit card that waives such fees when you fly that airline. And these credit cards cost nothing for the first year, so you have little to lose by trying one for 12 months. United offers the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card from Chase; it provides one free checked bag to both the cardholder and one travel companion ticketed on the same reservation. American offers the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard from Citibank; it provides one free checked bag for the cardholder and up to four travel companions. Delta offers the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express; it lets you and up to nine companions check a bag for free. For all three cards, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. The United and Delta cards charge no foreign-transaction fees.

 2. Fly an airline that does not charge baggage fees.

Southwest charges no baggage fees, and some JetBlue fares still incur no baggage fees.

How to avoid or minimize ticket-change fees

1. If you think you may need to change an airline ticket, buy it with miles.

Change fees, which are typically $200 for domestic tickets and up to $450 for international flights, are more lenient for mileage-award tickets. American Airlines, for instance, lets you change mileage-award flight dates and times for free or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, for $75. United lets you change your travel dates for $75 or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, $100. Fees for changes to mileage-award tickets are lowered or waived for fliers with elite status.

2. Choose an airline that offers changes for free.

Southwest Airlines does not charge ticket-change or cancellation fees. Alaska Airlines offers free changes if you make them 60 days or more in advance.

3. If the flight is not very expensive, look into booking two one-way tickets rather than one round-trip.

Time was when two one-way tickets cost significantly more than one round-trip. Nowadays, though, more and more, they cost the same. So, if you’re unsure about either your outbound or return date, consider buying two one-way tickets, especially if each one-way fare is less than the airline’s change fee. Say a round-trip costs $300 and the airline’s change fee is $200. If you bought two $150 one-way fares and you had to change the outbound or the return, you could simply throw out the $150 ticket (and buy a new one), saving yourself $50. If you’re unsure of both your outbound and return dates, you’re probably better off buying the round-trip because you can change both dates with only one change fee.

Do you have any suggestions I’ve missed? I’d love to hear them—as, I’m sure, would everyone else! Please weigh in below.

Tiny Travel Gadgets That Won’t Weigh Down Your Suitcase

Note from Wendy: I love tech-savvy tools that make travel easier. You can find my own favorite sites and apps here, and check out some of my top packing tricks here. Below, our friends at SmarterTravel share their recent technology discoveries for travelers—all lightweight, and all pocket-sized. What travel tech gadgets are most useful in your own adventures? Share the info with your fellow travelers in the comments below.

This article originally ran on SmarterTravel.


By Caroline Morse of SmarterTravel

Having the latest technology at your fingertips doesn’t have to mean weighing down your suitcase. We’ve found eight can’t-travel-without gadgets you never knew existed (until now), and best of all, they’re all pocket-sized.

Photo: VoltReady

Photo: VoltReady

VoltReady Dual Output Portable Battery
Charge your iPhone 6 and your Kindle at the same time, using the same device? We never thought it was possible until we saw the VoltReady, a magical device that has built-in Apple Lightning and Micro USB cables. It’s credit card-sized and can fit in your wallet, while still packing enough power to give your phone about 1.5 full charges.

Photo: Chamberlain

Photo: Chamberlain

Chamberlain Jump-Starter
Nothing ruins a road trip faster than a dead battery, which is why the Chamberlain Portable Jump Starter is an essential for your car (or rental). This little battery weighs less than 2 lbs., yet can jump-start your car up to 20 times on a single charge.

Photo: WakaWaka

Photo: WakaWaka

WakaWaka Power+ Solar Charger
If you’ve got the sun and the WakaWaka Power+ then you’ve got power. This solar charger can give your phone a full charge or up to 150 hours of light (on the flashlight setting). It’s about the same size as your smartphone. And you can feel good about this purchase—for every WakaWaka sold, a solar light will be given to someone living without electricity.

Photo: Kenu

Photo: Kenu

Kenu Stance
Tired of shaky smartphone videos or photos? The Kenu Stance, available for iPhones and Android or Windows, fixes your problem (and photos). It’s a tripod that mounts right into your phone’s charging point—and it only weighs 1.2 ounces and folds down smaller than a pack of gum.

Photo: Victorinox

Photo: Victorinox

Victorinox Jetsetter 3-Pocket Knife
Finally, a TSA-friendly multi-use tool that you can actually take on airplanes. The Victorinox Jetsetter packs tweezers, toothpick, scissors, key ring, screwdriver tip, bottle opener, and wire stripper into one tiny tool.

Photo: Shavetech

Photo: Shavetech

Shavetech USB Rechargeable Travel Razor
Is your electric razor taking up too much space in your toiletries bag? Get the Shavetech Travel Razor, which is smaller than your phone, and can be charged through its built-in USB connector—no annoying cords or bulky batteries required.

Photo: Ivation

Photo: Ivation

Ivation Super Portable Bluetooth Speaker
The Ivation is by far the smallest wireless speaker we’ve ever seen. It’s about the same width as a quarter, and only weighs 1.51 ounces. Charge its battery via the built in USB connection and you’ll get around four to six hours of use out of it.

Photo: BlueDriver

Photo: BlueDriver

If you’re headed out on a road trip, the BlueDriver diagnostic scan tool could save your vacation if your car quits on you. This tiny tool works with your smartphone and lets you diagnose problems with your car (wireless, and no mechanic required). You can read and clear diagnostic trouble codes all on your own via Bluetooth, which will save you time and money for minor problems.


More from SmarterTravel
9 Travel Products You Don’t Really Need
10 Incredibly Useful Travel Products for Summer Trips
How to Travel Without a Bag

Rooftops in Venice, Italy

Is Venice Really Banning All Wheeled Luggage?


“I’ve heard a rumor that Venice is going to ban all roll-on suitcases starting in May 2015. Is this true? My husband and I will be visiting Venice then and hope we won’t have to carry our suitcases to our hotel or be held hostage by someone who insists on carrying them at a high cost. We travel light, but not that light.”


Anyone who has flown to Venice, taken a water taxi from the airport to the stop closest to their hotel, and then wheeled their luggage—over cobbled streets and up and down stone stairs and over ancient footbridges—to their hotel knows what an obstacle course that can be, especially since some hotels are hidden down tiny alleys and hard to find. Getting lost in Venice is one of the most fun travel experiences I know, but getting lost with luggage is not.

The good news, Sharon, is that the ban on wheeled luggage is a rumor. There were reports last fall that the Venice City Council was going to ban it (for visitors, not residents) and slap travelers who break the ban with a 500 euro fine. But then Venetian authorities clarified what had been a misunderstanding: They are not planning any ban or fine after all. But the controversy points to an ongoing problem: Twenty million tourists or so visit Venice annually, and all those wheels damage ancient stones (not to mention suitcases) and create a cacophony.

“Venice presents unique logistical challenges if you have more than a backpack,” says Brian Dore, one of my Trusted Travel Experts for Italy. You should absolutely check out Brian’s Insider’s Guide to Venice. I asked him to share advice for handling luggage in Venice, and he was kind enough to lay out your options:

“1. Water taxis and porters
Water taxis wait at the airport, but keep in mind that it is a fairly long walk to the water-taxi dock. You will need a cart to put your luggage on, and then you’ll need to wheel it to the pier. The water-taxi driver will tell you the fare based upon the address of your hotel (it’s more expensive if your hotel dock is on a small side canal, as opposed to the Grand Canal) and the amount of luggage you have. If you don’t want to walk to the water-taxi pier, car taxis wait just outside the airport exit and you can go immediately to the Piazzale Roma, Venice’s frontier for cars. From here, you can hire a porter to take your bags to a water taxi and then on to your hotel. The cost of the porter service is 2.50 euro per bag.

If you’re arriving at the train station, you can take a water taxi directly from the station to your hotel.

2. Public Transportation
If you want to save on the water taxi, you can take the public water buses to the stop nearest your hotel. This is advisable only if you can carry your luggage, such as a backpack. If you have actual luggage, with our without wheels, the vaporetto operator may make you wait for the next one if the water bus is crowded, and when you do arrive at your station, you then have to navigate the confusing maze of Venetian streets to find your hotel. Doing this with luggage—even one small suitcase with wheels—is difficult, as well as hard on your luggage. It’s not recommended; it’s worth paying for a water taxi. If you are traveling in Italy with luggage but can consolidate to a backpack for your days in Venice, you might consider checking the rest of your luggage in a locker at the airport or station.

3. Private Service
When our travelers arrive at any entry point, an assistant meets them with a waiting water taxi and porters, and it is prepaid—so there’s no wandering around to find service and no worries about being overcharged along the way.”

In summary, advises Brian, “if you can’t physically carry your bags, save yourself some aggravation and pay for help. There is value in convenience.”

Brian and his wife Maria Gabriella Landers can, in fact, make everything easier and more rewarding when you travel in Italy. Here’s the best way to contact them for a trip. Check out their fabulous blog Postcards from Italy too. 

Buon viaggio!

elephants locking trunks safari Photo by Susan Portnoy

Safari Packing List: Don’t Leave Home Without These Essentials

If you’re looking for a thrilling adventure, an African safari is a no-brainer. But wide-ranging temperatures and internal flights with stringent luggage restrictions can make safari packing a real challenge.

Basic requirements include sunscreen, a camera, a good hat, and sporty shoes, of course, but when space and weight are at a premium, what else do you choose and what can you lose? We interviewed our Trusted Travel Experts for Africa to glean the secrets to packing smart for a safari.

lion yawning safari Photo by Susan Portnoy

Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

For every safari:

Use a soft, malleable bag with no wheels.
To maximize your options, your best bet is a soft bag that’s flexible enough to squeeze into a tiny storage compartment (wheels are a no-no).
Linda Friedman of Custom Safaris
likes The North Face medium-sized Base Camp Duffel. The Base Camp has internal pockets and can be carried traditionally or as a backpack. Nina Wennersten of Hippo Creek Safaris recommends the L.L. Bean medium-sized Adventure Duffel, what with its super-lightweight fabric weighing a mere 14 ounces.

Count on free laundry.
Flying into the bush means you’ll be on small planes with very little cargo space. Assume you’ll have a limit of 15kg/33lbs per person—camera equipment and carry-on included. The good news: Camps provide free laundry service (though not all of them will launder your undies) so think about packing for a long, adventure weekend—not the full length of your trip—knowing you’ll be able to enjoy clean clothes as needed.

Cheetah in Kenya Photo by Susan Portnoy

Cheetah in Kenya. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

Stick to neutral tones.
Avoid bright colors that scream “I’m here!” to the animals, and avoid wearing black or dark blue while on game drives, as annoying bugs may think you’re a skinny buffalo.

Think layers
African weather is variable: Evenings and early morning are chilly, but it’s toasty by midday, if not sooner. Layers will keep you prepared for anything. Pants, a T-shirt, a fleece and a light jacket usually suffice outside of the winter months and enable you to peel down as the sun kicks in. Lightweight cargo pants that unzip into shorts are a great way to get two pieces for the price of one. For women, Cherri Briggs of Explore recommends adding a cashmere shawl. It’ll keep you warm when needed, dress up an outfit at dinner, or double as a cover-up at the pool.

Save space for a power strip and other non-clothing essentials.
Even the most luxurious camps have a limited number of outlets in each guest tent, so our experts suggest adding a travel power strip to your packing list so that you can charge everything you need each night. And don’t forget a universal adapter. It will come in handy no matter where you travel. Bring an ultra-light day pack that you can take with you on game drives to carry an extra camera battery, an extra memory card, a pocket journal, your sunglasses, sunscreen, and the like.

For photography enthusiasts who plan on taking a boatload of photos, a small portable hard drive, like Silicon Power’s Rugged Armor 1TB external drive, is highly recommended.

A herd of hippos in Botswana Photo by Susan Portnoy

A herd of hippos in Botswana. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

For specific locations:

During the rainy season (November–February) “a lightweight rain poncho may come in handy,” says Julian Harrison of Premier Tours. If you’re planning on riding in a mokoro, he also recommends including a waterproof bag to store your electronics. In the Okavango Delta, because travel between camps consists of short, small plane rides, you may wish to include Dramamine if you’re prone to motion sickness.

Read Julian’s Insider’s Guide to Botswana.

The Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda
Julian recommends bringing silica gel dry packs to put in your camera bags; they will protect your electronic devices from the high humidity. Quick-dry shirts and pants will protect you against the humidity, and a pair of gardening gloves will shield your hands from stinging nettles if you’re trekking gorilla or chimpanzee.

Since plastic bags have been banned in Rwanda to help the country cut down on litter and will be confiscated on arrival, Linda suggests reusable pouches for all the odd and ends you would normally toss into zip-top bags.

Read Linda’s Insider’s Guide to Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda and Uganda.

Photographing Lions in Botswana Photo by Susan Portnoy

Photographing lions in Botswana. Photo: Susan Portnoy, The Insatiable Traveler.

Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania
Some of the best game viewing is during Africa’s winter months (May–August), but the weather can be very cold at night and in the early morning. Nina packs a warm hat, gloves, and a Uniqlo Ultra Light down jacket. She says, “It’s virtually weightless, takes up little room in a suitcase,” and works great on its own or as another layer for when it’s really chilly.

Read Linda’s Insider’s Guide to Kenya’s Great Migration; and Nina’s Insider’s Guides to South Africa and Kenya and Tanzania.

Namibia and Zambia
If you’re visiting during the hot season (October–February), Cherri warns, “Be prepared for serious heat!” She suggests travelers bring plenty of Rehydrate, an electrolyte replacement drink mix, to keep you happy and healthy while out and about. She also recommends putting Listerine in a spray bottle to repel tsetse flies. If you’re going on a walking safari in South Luangwa, Zambia, Julian suggests adding a pair of gaiters to your packing list to keep ticks from attaching to your socks.

Read Cherri’s Insider’s Guide to Namibia and her Insider’s Guide to Zambia.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.


Read more from Susan Portnoy at her own site, The Insatiable Traveler, and follow her at facebook.com/Insatiabletraveler and @susanportnoy.

Packed luggage for a family vacation

How to Pack for a Family Vacation

Note from Wendy: One of the biggest, saddest obstacles to international travel with kids is the perception that you’ll need to haul around a ton of luggage. It’s a misperception, as Eric Stoen, the founder of Travel Babbo, shows us. Eric is a frequent international traveler whom I met when he won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Photography Contest, and he uses many of the same strategies I use when packing for my own family.

This past summer we took a Disney Cruise from Venice to Barcelona and then, with suggestions from the kids (and a little research on TripAdvisor), kept adding on European destinations post-cruise. What started as two weeks in Europe turned into six weeks. Those six weeks included everything from a formal night on the cruise to operas in Salzburg to hiking and swimming, with temperatures ranging from the 90s in Turkey to the 50s in Austria at night. We were still able to pack everything for two adults and three kids (ages 4, 6, and 8) into just two suitcases and two carry-ons. Here are our packing suggestions—based on this trip and many others—and they work just as well for a one-week trip as for a longer vacation:

1. Use packing cubes. In our case, each adult gets two and each kid gets one. These allowed us each to pack enough clothes for four to five days each (which was sufficient, given that we would have laundry access at several points during the trip or could do laundry in hotel sinks and bathtubs when necessary). The cubes have the added benefit of neatly organizing our clothes, which comes in handy when we are in non-connecting hotel rooms and need to place each person’s things in the correct room.


Packed luggage for a family vacation

We packed everything we needed for two adults and three kids (ages 4, 6, and 8) into just two suitcases and two carry-ons. Photograph by Eric Stoen.

2. Pack empty duffels, and be prepared to ship things home. We packed two empty duffels in our suitcases and filled both (with souvenirs and new school clothes for the kids) over the course of the first four weeks. In Austria we bought boxes at the post office, loaded them up, and mailed them home. It was inexpensive, and all of a sudden we had empty duffels again for shopping at our remaining destinations. We always have to bring back several bags of Batticuori cookies from Italy, after all!

3. Limit your colors. It’s often said but bears repeating: Take clothes that mix and match.

4. Forget formality. Hauling around a sport coat for six weeks that you’ll use on only one or two nights doesn’t make sense. My son and I were fine in slacks and button-down shirts for both the “formal” cruise dinners and the operas. The girls found it easy to make a few skirts and dresses fit any occasion.

5. Eliminate shoes that aren’t practical. Does anyone really need more than three pair of shoes on a trip? Each of us brought one pair of comfortable walking shoes, one pair of flip-flops or sandals, and one pair of slightly nicer shoes for dressing up. No heels: If it can’t be worn on cobblestone streets, it wasn’t allowed in the suitcases.

6. Bring kid medicines. We bring an assortment of medical items that may not be easy to locate in foreign cities. Our emergency kit consists of Pepto-Bismol and Tums for kids, Band-Aids, Neosporin, hydrocortisone, and children’s ibuprofen—the chewable pills, not the liquid. Every trip we (unfortunately) need to use most of those items at least once.

7. Don’t forget sun hats and sunscreen. If we forget sun hats, we have to buy them at one of our first stops. It’s not fun being somewhere like Ephesus for hours with no shade.

8. Take a linen blanket. We find ourselves at the beach frequently and often have impromptu picnics in parks. A large, thin linen towel or blanket works for both: It’s a towel for wet kids, or a picnic blanket. It can also double as a skirt/sarong for the occasional church that doesn’t accept visitors in shorts, and it can be used to pack breakable items on the way home.

9. Don’t spurn electronics. Books are great at home, but on the road we rely on lightweight iPods and iPad Minis. They’re lifesavers on airplanes, as well as at long European dinners when it takes 45 minutes to get the check.


boxes shipped home from vacation

Once our extra duffels were filled, we bought boxes at the post office, loaded them up, and mailed that stuff home. Photograph by Eric Stoen.

10. Remember packing and repair supplies. We bring a small kit with scissors, packing tape, blue gaffer’s tape, and a Sharpie. We use these for everything: shipping boxes, labeling cups, wrapping fragile souvenirs, taping up shampoo tops before flights, and on-the-fly repairs.

What’s your best family packing tip?


Meet our writer

Eric Stoen, the founder of Travel Babbo, travels around the world constantly with his three kids. Wendy met him when he won Condé Nast Traveler’s Dream Trip Contest a few years ago and was so impressed with his travel savvy that she invited him to contribute to WendyPerrin.com.

The Great Wall of China
Don't take off for China without checking your passport—it needs to be valid at least six months past your departure date.

The One Tool You Can’t Travel Without: A Valid Passport

Go check your passport right now. Go on, we’ll wait.

Do you have more than six months between the date of your next trip abroad and the expiry date? If not, then you are asking for trouble.

Everyone thinks that their passport is good for ten years, but that’s not really true. Your passport is good for about nine and a half. That’s because various countries require that you have anywhere from three to six months left on your passport in order to enter. If you don’t, they might not let you board the plane or get through immigration once you land.

Terry McCabe, a travel agent with Altour, reminded us of this essential travel tip just the other day. “A friend called me last night from the airport almost hysterical because she couldn’t get on the flight,” Terry said. “And just now I was on the phone with friends who traveled to France for a month; their daughter was not allowed on the flight back home because her passport was expiring in three months.” In both of the above cases, Terry had not been the one to book the airline tickets; if she had been, the travelers would have certainly been reminded to renew their passports.

Since the acceptable time window can vary widely from country to country, bookmark the passport section of the State Department’s website, where passport-validity rules are listed by destination. Your passport must be good for six months past your departure date if you want to visit China, Russia, and the U.A.E., for example, but if you’re spending time in the U.K. your passport only needs to be valid during the time you’re there. And then there are the 26 Schengen Borders Agreement countries: If you’re entering any one of these member states (which include Austria, Italy and Norway; see the whole list here) for short-term tourism or a business trip, then your passport must be valid for three months past your departure date. But once you enter one Schengen country, you won’t have to show your passport again when you cross the border into another.

If you’ve just checked your passport and realized that time is running out, the State Department site also has information on how to renew—it usually takes four to six weeks but can be rushed in three weeks, and in some cases eight days. My younger son’s passport expires next May, we’re flying to Europe this November, and you can bet I’m renewing it right now.