I recently took two trips in a short time span: one to Texas for work, the other, a long weekend to visit family in Idaho. Both were rewarding—time and money well spent. But both had dreaded ramifications: sleep deprivation and a pile of neglected to-do's (the laundry! the bills! the errands!), plus a miserable case of the flu. Is it possible to jet off without that can't-sleep-the-night-before feeling of impending doom?
Like many things in life, stress-free travel boils down to planning. The right travel accessories also help. Here, 10 tried-and-tested tips to prepare for that forthcoming work trip or holiday visit:
1. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Success in travel (and, let's face it, in most things) comes from passing along to someone else that which you yourself need not do. Can your sister book the family dinner reservations? Could your colleague find a perfect spot to take clients for a drink? When you have to get something done in a pinch, and can't unload it for free, I recommend an errand service; Task Rabbit operates out of 17 US cities.
2. Make a trip details folder. As soon as you've booked your travel, print out your itinerary and include any phone numbers, directions, and other particulars you'll need. It might seem time-consuming now, but including this step can be stress-reducing and, if you're traveling with others, argument-saving later: "I thought you had the address!" If you're heading to a city with too many good places to keep track of, consider uploading or printing out a guide, including, for the best design destinations, our own City Guides.
Above: An organized house is much nicer to return to than an unruly one.
3. Set up any house care that you will need while you are away. Do this right after you've made your travel arrangements. Will you need a house sitter, babysitters, pet sitters, plant waterers, someone to pick up the newspaper? Will you need to hold the mail? Do this now, not later. I have learned that "later" almost never comes.
4. Head to the pharmacy to refill any prescriptions or pick up toiletries you'll need to take with you. This is one last-minute errand that can easily be done ahead of time; take care of it at least week in advance. I order my in-flight toiletries in advance through 3 Fl Oz, which offers a wide range of TSA-approved products with a focus on natural skincare and wellness.
Above: For crucial pre-travel rest, the 225-thread count Nap Pillowcase Pair ($45 each in queen size) from Matteo Home.
5. A few days before you leave, load up on Vitamin C and sleep. I always carry those fizzy Vitamin C drink packets in my bag and make sure to drink the suggested two per day before I travel anywhere. Sleep usually gets short changed in the days leading up to a trip, because we never accurately estimate how long it actually takes to get ready. Don't skimp on these two and you'll thank yourself when you return home in good health.
6. Schedule the proper prep time during the days leading up your departure. Block off time in your calendar to get ready for your trip—pack, run errands, finalize the daily plans. Do not over-schedule the week of your departure. Will you skip the gym on Friday? Forego your friend's dinner party? You have to make the time somehow.
Above: A weekend bag at the ready. Photo via Stewart James.
7. Three days before you leave: pack your suitcase and your carry-on bag. Don't leave this important task until the night before—the toothbrush is always left behind, right? Use this time to catch up on your laundry, as well. Do it now; otherwise the pile is guaranteed to multiply while you're away. Determine your packing strategy: Will you use Travel Space Bags ($6.99 at The Container Store) to condense your clothing or Go Clean Pack Bags (starting at $15 each from Flight 101) to separate everything from wet suits to boots?
8. Two days before: Bring your mailbox, physical and virtual, to zero. Make sure to pay any bills and take care of mail that's lingering in your household. That unexpected medical item your insurance didn't cover will get lost or overlooked in your absence—my husband can vouch for this one.
Above: An arsenal of cleaning basics from Cinq Design in Tokyo, Japan.
9. The day before: Clean the house, check-in online, and charge your devices. If possible, hire a cleaning service to come and take care of the straightening up while you're away. Here in the Bay Area, I recommend Exec cleaning.
Above: Send in the cleaners while you're gone. Detail of antique door hardware via Bo-Laget in Sweden.
10. The day of: Give yourself plenty of time to finish up around the house and get out the door. Check electrical devices and potential hazards, secure locks around the house, grab your bags and the folder with your trip details. Got all the necessary chargers? Then sit back, relax, and bask in the immunity-building, stress-reducing, all-around glory of planning for a bon voyage.