Travel Tips from Smart Women

May 23, 2023

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Last fall, on my way home from a trip to Scotland, I crowdsourced travel tips from the smart women I get to hang out with on Instagram, and here (finally!) are the amazing results.

This is not the most eloquent article I’ve ever written. I prioritized getting the tips out there – including just cutting-and-pasting them – so don’t judge the writing! Focus on the tips!

We’ll first cover things to do before or during travel and then turn to the things to bring with you.

Things to do in relation to travel

1. Use packing lists

I didn’t keep a packing list for trips until I had kids, and now I wonder how I ever survived without them.

Whether you do this in an Excel spreadsheet like I do or on a notes app on your phone like someone recommended, it’s a time-saving and let’s-avoid-scrambling-to-buy-things-once-there habit to get into.

My spreadsheet has different tabs – one for me, each of my kids, and even my dog (e.g., bowls, food, meds, leash, bed).

The level of detail is… maybe a little overkill, but I always appreciate the reminders in there to pack things like, e.g., spoons for my 1-year-old, contacts in my dopkit, chapstick and airplane-conducive headphones in my carry-on, and reminders to order diapers to wherever we’re visiting if it makes sense.

To give you more detail than you likely want, I have a “travel packing lists” folder on my computer that contains all versions of past packing lists. They’re labeled with the ages of my kids at the time and the weather (e.g., “cold” or “hot,” as that obviously changes what we pack). When I have a trip coming up, I find the most relevant list, “save as,” and go from there. It’s been awesome to pull my, e.g., 1.5yo packing list from my first daughter to use it again for my second. Way less reinventing the wheel / learning the hard way.

2. Download offline maps on Google Maps of where you’re going

Especially if you’re going abroad or if you’re road tripping, I highly encourage you to download offline maps of your entire drive and/or the area you’re visiting. If you lose reception on your phone, you’ll still be able to orient yourself and get yourself where you need to go!

Also, someone else said, “Love tagging places in a ‘want to go’ google map when I read/hear about them!” This is such a practical way to keep track of places you want to visit when you’re there!

3. TSA Pre-Check / Global Entry

Get it. So, so worth it. Do it! Schedule time to do it now!

4. Prep your plane/vacation entertainment ahead of time

As someone said, “Save articles you want to read to Pocket/Instapaper for offline reading (good for delays).”

Now that I have kids, I also schedule time before a trip to download shows for the kids on an iPad. I should do this for myself on solo-trips, too!

5. If jetlag is going to be an issue…

“The Timeshifter app for reducing jet lag when traveling overseas.”

6. For short trips, drive to and park at the airport

I never used to drive to the airport and leave my car there. Then, I had kids. For basically any trip I take them on, we fly and park. It is SO much easier to not be dealing with carseats when trying to Uber/Lyft back and forth from the airport.

And now, for even short solo trips (e.g., 2-4 days – where the cost of parking is pretty comparable to Uber/Lyft-ing to the airport), I do it, too. Getting off the airplane and walking to your car is AMAZING.

Things to pack when you travel & related tips

Here are what other women recommended you pack.

What to bring in your carry-on & related tips

  • Electrolyte packets
  • Meds you might need (e.g., Tylenol, Zofran for nausea)
    • Bonus tip: For medicated people, take the bottles and doctors’ notes so you won’t get held up in customs
  • Carry on using a backpack or a tote with a trolley sleeve and then bring a small cross-body bag for when you’re there. Zippers on everything!
  • Bring an extension power strip – helpful in hotel rooms or airports if the current outlet is full (and reminder: don’t use USB direct plugs to charge anywhere for safety).
  • Carabiners for hooking water bottles to backpack/purse or keys to the inside of a bag or even a bra.
  • Travel tech bag: All charges and electronics in one place. Velco helps keep things neat.
  • “Mary Poppins” bag: I have one zippered small bag that contains my chapstick, lotion, antibacterial stuff, hair ties, bobby pins, mints, etc.
  • 1-2 small reusable bags for back of plane seat, laundry, shopping, etc. Recommendation: Envirosax.
  • For long flights: compression socks, healthy (low salt!) snacks, glasses, and a face mask for moisturizing skin, and an eye mask for sleep…. And melatonin.
  • Always bring snacks, change of clothes and necessities in carryon (This is Kelly: I will admit, I don’t bring an extra change of clothes for me … maybe I should!).
  • For some international trips: “Second sim for dual sim phone (iPhone X and later)”
  • Carry on some packs of oatmeal. If stuck on the tarmac, you can still get hot water!
  • Always bring a scarf! Nice if the plane is cold, for a pillow, for something to drape over your eyes when you sleep, etc.
  • Airfly: a way to use your wireless headphones on a plane

Checked bag / Carry-on bag for clothing

  • Packing cubes/clothing bags for different clothing of yours (e.g., undergarmets) and, if relevant, to separate out clothes per family member
  • Travel size serums/lotions of good quality – worth thinking ahead about. When I traveled a lot for work and worked in an office, I also kept duplicate makeup bags in my suitcase and in my office so I didn’t have to pack up my make up all the time.
    • Additional shared tips: Sephora has many travel-sized options. Or you can get refillable containers from Target/CVS.
  • Pick a color scheme for your clothing to make it easier to mix and match. E.g., black, white, and yellow.
  • “I pack clothes for half the trip and then pay for laundry service halfway through.” (I absolutely love to do laundry on vacation – and at the end of a vacation so I’m not coming home with loads and loads.)
  • If you’re going to a winery, bring a pair of thick, tall socks to transport the wine back!
  • For carry-on only trips, all toiletries come in solids (e.g., sunscreen, bug spray, hair stuff) – also laundry detergent strips.
  • Garbage bag for laundry
  • Extra pair of eye-glasses if you’re very dependent on them, especially for long, international trips or any trip with small children who like to grab your glasses!
  • Stow down winter coat in oversize/squishy carryon rolled or in compression bag
  • Roll up your clothes to save space (a flight attendant hack!)
  • For trips you know you’ll shop on (e.g., for souvenirs), bring an extra duffle bag in your carryon.

Alright – hope that helps!

For more travel tips, see these articles:

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