Aug 08

Four Ways I Have Learned To Travel Smarter

Between work and family I have about ten overnight trips over the course of a year.  There was a time where I didn’t think much about packing when I would travel; I would just simply throw everything into a suitcase and rushed out the door.  Over the years I have discovered some simple, but helpful ways to travel smarter.  By implementing these things into the way I pack, it has not only made traveling smarter, but made traveling a better experience.

Here are four ways I have learned to travel smarter:

Luggage:  Instead of using suitcases, our family each has their own duffle bag.  Duffle bags are easier to pack, transport, and makes loading a van or bus a lot easier.  I love LL Bean duffle bags primarily because they offer a variety of sizes, features, and a lifetime warranty.  A couple of years ago my bag had a tear in it, and they replaced it without any hassle at all.  You can get a duffle bag with wheels and a handle, which makes trudging through an airport or walking long distances much easier.  They are a little more expensive, but well worth the investment.  I also recommend bright/different colors when buying a duffle bag.  It makes your luggage quickly noticeable on the luggage carousel, and makes it easier to avoid grabbing the wrong bag.

Toiletries: I used to pack all my home-sized toiletries into a toiletry bag, would then come home, unpack the bag and put those things back.  Jayme would be upset with me for taking a brand new bottle of shampoo on a retreat with me, only to forget to bring it home because I left it in the shower at the retreat center.  Large stores like Target usually has a huge wall of travel-sized toiletries and sells everything you can possibly think of.  Every once in a while I will stock on the things I use regularly, and keep everything stored in my toiletry bag.  When it is time to pack for a trip, I simply grab the toiletry bag and put it into my duffle bag.  It’s already packed, and saves me time from having to pack toiletries while I’m trying to get out the door.  By using travel-sizes, it reduces weight (good for baggage fees), and gives you more room inside your duffle bag for other things you will need.

Laundry: Before you close your duffle bag, throw in a plastic trash bag to collect all of your laundry.  It will keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes, and will keep your clothes together so you don’t leave anything behind.  When I get home, I simply pull the plastic bag out of my duffle bag, and toss it down the stairs to be done with the laundry (our ten-day family vacation produced six trash bags of dirty clothes).  Also, before you begin packing, line the bottom of the bag with a scented fabric softener sheet.  It will keep your clothes from smelling the like you are lodging in a room with teenagers that….well… you know.

Cipro:  On my first international mission trip I ate something that got me violently ill.  Thankfully, before I left for the trip, a good friend of mine recommended I bring a prescription of Cipro with me.  I was so glad I took that advice.  Within a couple of hours after taking the Cipro I was doing much better, and by the next day I was fine.  Each year I get a small prescription from my physician and keep it in my toiletry bag for any trip I go on.  I like to call it cheap “health insurance”.

Poncho:  When we were in Trinidad last month, one of our construction jobs required us to be outside for several hours, and it rained all afternoon.  Everyone was soaking wet, trying to make the best of a miserable situation, and making fun of me for pulling out my emergency poncho that I keep in the front pocket of my duffle bag for when situations like this arise.  I was dry as a bone!  You can find emergency ponchos in the camping section of large stores like Target, and they cost about a $1.

If you have tips for smarter travel, I would love to hear about them.  Leave a comment below and share your wealth of wisdom!

  • Catherine

    for anywhere on an airplane, pack a change of underwear in our carry on.  If your luggage doesn’t make it, you have a clean set of undies and you rinse out the worn ones each night.

  • Todd Szymczak

    Great tip, Catherine.  Thanks!

  • Robert Frazier

    I work hard to pack lightly because after all this traveling my back is killing me! I’ve started limiting myself to 2 books, preferably 1 (sometimes I will look at my schedule for the trip and not bring a single book based on how much I’ll have time to read). Lastly, I bought an Ipad. This was the best decision I ever made traveling. Replaces my larger laptop and gives me more battery time for ereading, surfing and media where I might have brought a couple of devices before, now I usually bring 1.


  • Todd Szymczak

    Nice, Robert.  The iPad is definitely a game-changer!