Traveling is always easier when you’ve got your sh*t together. There’s so much to do and keep track of: You have to book a flight, make a hotel reservation, plan activities, pack, and that’s just the beginning. For those who weren’t born with the organizational gene, hitting the road can be stressful. Well, we’re here to tell you it doesn’t have to be. Yahoo Travel talked to the experts to put together the ultimate easy travel guide for the disorganized packer.
Tripit! is free, or you can upgrade to Tripit Pro (Tripit!)
Try these user-friendly apps for your itinerary. Tripit! helps organize your itineraries and information so you don’t spend hours searching for them or feel scattered. “You give it permission to access to your email and every time it sees a reservation or confirmation come in — it pulls the most important information — confirmation numbers, addresses, flight details and puts them in a timeline itinerary,” says Jill Duffy, tech writer and author of The Get Organized Guide to Travel. Though Duffy says Tripit! is the most user-friendly, another good choice is Tripcase — it has users forward emails to the app in order for it to access the information. It’s an extra step in the process, but it does afford users a higher degree of privacy.
Take screen shots of important info. If you’re not into apps, you can still make things easier for yourself. “Pull up your confirmation emails on your smartphone and take a screen shot of each one,” says Duffy. “The photo provides offline backup of your documents so that you have all your information safely and easily at your disposable at all times.” You can also do it with maps and directions when traveling in non-English speaking country. “I show the picture of the map to the driver and I get where I need to go without any problems,” adds Duffy.
FOR THE AIRPORT:
Easy on, easy off, and they’re comfy. (J.Crew)
Wear an airport-security-friendly outfit. Trying to take off your sweater and shoes, piling all your belonging into bins, pulling out your laptop, and getting screened by TSA, can fluster anyone, and things can easily get misplaced or worse. So the best way to stay organized starts with strategically planning what you are going to wear to the airport, says flight attendant Abbie Unger, author of Looking Skyward: Turn Your Flight Attendant Dreams into Reality. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and on, says Unger, and if you can, skip the belt altogether. Then stuff your sweater, scarf, wallet and any other loose items into your carryon. Place that tote on top of your shoes in the same bin. The more consolidated your belongings are, the less you need to keep track of.
This MZ Wallace bag is a Yahoo Travel fave. (MZ Wallace)
Pick the perfect travel tote. “The best bag is one that has at least two zip pockets or zip dividers,” says Barbara Reich, founder of Resourceful Consultants, a professional organizing firm. “Keep your passport and travel documents in one of the pockets, and store your cell phone in the other.” Having zip closures ensures nothing falls out — even if things get jostled through security or if there is turbulence on the flight. Reich also follows suggests following this rule: “Whenever you have to take your picture I.D. or passport out, immediately put them back. The less time they are out, the less chance there is of losing them.” She also suggests investing in a bag that is made of a durable material like leather and has straps long enough to be comfortably hoisted over your shoulders to free up your hands to carry other important items.
WHEN PACKING YOUR CARRY-ON:
Use space wisely. Over-stuffing a carry-on is a surefire way to increase chaos and disorganization. So according to Reich, the only things that should be in your tote are airport essentials (travel documents, a neck pillow, headphones, snacks) and valuables (medicine, jewelry, e-readers or computers, phone, and wallet). If you are worried about losing your luggage, you can also pack a shirt and undergarments in a plastic bag, just in case.
Velcro One Wraps (Velcro)
Keep wires at bay. When you’re traveling with limited space in your carry-on, tangled wires can cause the rest of your items to get mixed up and out of order. “I like to use Velcro One Wraps on my chargers, cables, and cords,” says Duffy. “They are the same wire-bundling strips of Velcro that musicians have long used to keep their wires neat. I like that they come in multiple colors, so I can glance in my bag and see a yellow one for my headphones, a blue one for my iPhone charger, and green one for a micro USB cord, and so forth.” (Packs of multiple colored Velcro strips can be purchased for under $5 at hardware stores.)
WHEN PACKING YOUR SUITCASE:
Lists are a packer’s best friend. (Thinkstock)
Make a packing list ahead of time. While packing in advance makes a huge difference, it’s not always realistic. Still, there is some prep you can do ahead of time that will actually make your life easier. (Trust us – shopping for a swimsuit in the hotel gift shop is not a pretty situation.) A few days before you leave, “make a list of everything you need to bring,” advises Reich. Ideally, she suggests planning daily outfits but if that’s too ambitious, just write down the clothing items you plan to wear. That way if you are missing something, you still have time to run out and get it. Plus, it can help prevent egregious over-packing. Adds Reich, “Only check items off the list once you place them in the suitcase.” Then, put the list into your suitcase and when you pack to go home again, cross off the items once more.
Choose what to pack according to these rules. How you pack is almost as important as what you pack. Reich has three rules to live by: 1. Pick one color scheme and stick to it. “By doing so, all your clothes can be mixed and matched, and virtually doubles your number outfit combos,” she says. 2. Rely on costume jewelry or metallic layering pieces (like light sweaters) to dress up nighttime outfits. “They keep your outfits cute without taking up too much room in your suitcase. 3. Only bring three pairs of shoes — one for day, one for night and a pair of sneakers. “These really simply things and lighten your load incredibly,” she says.
Use this packing method. You’ve probably heard that rolling clothes saves space, but it also makes identifying garments in a suitcase difficult. So for the more disorganized traveler, it’s actually a better bet to fold each piece of clothing and stack similar items together - shirts with shirts, pants with pants. Also, Pack the heaviest items — like shoes and accessories — on the bottom of the suitcase, then stack folded clothes on top. (Layer the heaviest clothes first, with lighter items on top.) And put smaller items like socks and lingerie together in one-gallon plastic bags, suggests Southwest Airlines flight attendant, Emily Witkop. Then tuck them into the remaining spaces in your suitcase. It keeps folded clothes in position and the slippery finish also helps reduce wrinkling. When coming back from the trip, those same plastic bags can be reused to store toiletries, wet swimsuits and dirty garments.
Related: 11 Things You Never Need to Pack
ON THE PLANE:
Take a minute to think so you don’t leave anything behind. Many people end up leaving things behind on the plane, explains Unger. But that’s easy enough to prevent: “Use the last five minutes of the flight to get your head back in the game,” she says. “When you begin to land, remove your ear buds, pack up your iPad, and other belongings, check your seatback pocket, and start to think about what you have to do next” to get to your destination without any mishaps. And give your seat a second glance before disembarking. “Whenever I get up and walk away – whether I’m on the airplane or in the boarding area – I always glance back and make sure I haven’t carelessly left something on the seat behind me, or have had something fall out of my bag. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost left my sweater behind.”
IN YOUR HOTEL ROOM:
An extra bed is a great spot to organize. (Thinkstock)
Unpack, and have a landing strip for random belongings. When unpacking your clothes in the hotel room, keep your clothes to only two or three drawers in one side of one dresser, and one section of the closet for hanging things. Your shoes should go directly beneath your section of clothes. Toiletries are easier to keep track of when you put them in a case together in the bathroom. Then designate a spot in your room for extraneous stuff — whether it’s an extra bed, a desk, the top of a dresser, or your empty suitcase. When you come into the room and need to throw stuff down, only do it in that one spot. Leave chargers and guidebooks and other loose belongings there too. That way you don’t have to go searching every nook and cranny to find things or to make sure you didn’t leave anything behind.
Use reminders. If you need to charge your phone or camera and think you’ll forget to take them with you, or if you’re always forgetting your room key, put these small but important items something you need. Stick your phone in your sneakers, for example, since you’re not likely to forget to put on your shoes.