Travel Tips and Tricks

Before you even think about heading out the door on vacation this summer, plan, plan and plan. You will be very thankful you did!


    * Ask yourself and your family, "What would we really like to do this summer?" Then write it on your calendar and make it happen. My son just asked me if we could visit the Statue of Liberty. He's 9 and has never seen it although we live 50 minutes away. I will ask my husband to pick a date in July to take off from work and then it will go on my planner. That's how things get done.

    * Plan as much as you can from the comfort and convenience of your own house using your phone and computer. This includes: Internet searches, directions, restaurant/hotel reservations, tickets of any kind such as park passes, airline, train, bus etc. You will save time, money and energy this way.

    * Have one "home" for all your travel information. As you're researching all you want to do on vacation, take that information and create a hanging file folder, a three-ring binder or an accordion folder. It doesn't matter what you use as the "home" for your paper plans, just stick to one place. If you're an electronic person, make yourself a digital "vacation" folder.

    * Call ahead to your final destination to see what amenities they offer so you know exactly what to pack, what's free and other pertinent information you may want to schedule into your trip.

    * Have a flexible, tentative schedule of what you would like to do on which days of your vacation. Otherwise, you may waste time in trying to decide what to do.

    * Be sure you have a "House List" for the person taking care of your home while you're gone. Write down all your To Do's for that person such as exactly what to do with the mail, plants, pets etc.

    * Copy your itinerary for a responsible person back home and also leave him/her your house key.

    * Leave the house clean, beds made and laundry done so that your only chore returning home is unpacking. Schedule a grocery store order to be delivered on the day you return home to an empty refrigerator. (Don't forget to purge the refrigerator and take out the garbage before you leave!) Or better yet, make a couple of meals before you leave and freeze them. Ask the person taking care of your house to defrost one meal the day before you return.

    * If you are driving, preset your GPS.

    * If you are flying, consider shipping your items to your destination rather than paying per suitcase especially if you're staying with family. Additionally, borrowing their washing machine and toiletries is a great way to save on packing.


These items tend to be a top priority these days that most people wouldn't even consider leaving home without them.

    * Smart Phone. Make sure your travel contacts are entered already, ensure it's fully charged and synch it to your computer before you leave if that is how you back it up. (If you have a BlueTooth device, make sure that is charged too.) Also, know how to lock and unlock it.

    * GPS. Plug in all addresses for destination purposes. Charge it.

    * Camera/Video. Make sure the battery is charged and the memory card is empty and ready to go. Take a second memory card with you if you plan to take hundreds of pictures and lots of video.

    * Laptop. Make sure your security program is set. Have it charged and definitely back it up before you leave.

    * iPod. Download your traveling music/audio books and of course charge it.

    * If you don't already own a label maker now's the time to get one. With your label maker, make a label for each connecting cord or charger you own so you will know what black wire goes to what piece of equipment.

    * Take a Ziploc baggie and put all your now labeled cords and chargers into one bag. You'll know where to go when something needs to be charged. And write a list with a sharpie (or the label machine) on the outside so you don't leave any important wires behind!


Packing and unpacking can be a little easier with the following advice.

    * Layout and layer your wardrobe for the trip and then take only half. Wear an outfit twice and choose one color scheme. The color black travels well and always wear your bulkiest items on travel days. Remember less is more especially when traveling. Additionally, check the weather at the location you are destined for.

    * Compartmentalize your luggage and pack a kitchen garbage liner for laundry to come home with. You may want to try asking your children to create a "bag" a day by placing each outfit into a large baggie.

    * Under pack your shirts and buy new souvenirs shirts if you like to do that.

    * Absolutely use a packing list. Take a copy with you, edit it as you go through your trip and then repack according to the list on the way home. If you go to the same destination again as some like to do, you'll be glad you took notes relative to the list when you end up packing again the following year.

    * Pack a collapsible duffle bag to store purchases for the way back. Better yet, ship your goodies home.

    * Utilize a tote or backpack for travel day with all travel necessities such as a bottle of water, book, and pocketbook items. Then switch to a smaller purse or fanny pack for bare essentials when you get settled. Now you'll have a choice between a backpack for day trips to the waterparks and a small one for nights out on the town.

    * Make sure your luggage is tagged and put something on it like a colorful bandana so you know it's yours when you see it drop of the luggage carousel. Additionally, not only should you have a luggage tag on the outside but also place your contact information somewhere on the inside too.

    * If you take a lot of medications, make sure you have an extra day or two of pills just in case you don't get home on time as planned.

4. FAMILY VACATIONS (aka Traveling with Kids)

    * Work around their natural biorhythms by keeping their sleeping and eating times as close to normal as possible. Adults might want to consider sleeping pills depending on how and where you're traveling to.

    * Pack your own snacks and beverages. It will be healthier, cost effective and you can put that insulated bag in your kitchen to good use.

    * Stop at the library and dollar store before leaving town for those new items for the kids, books, movies, tapes and travel games.

    * Choose hotels that have pools, playgrounds, game rooms and even programs for children. Arrive with enough time to settle in and play before a meal and then bedtime.

    * Don't forget that they have interests too. So if your daughter loves animals; make sure one of your vacation days you get to a zoo. If your son loves baseball, get tickets to a local team.

    * Have Road Rules. For example, give the family a budget, pass out individual envelopes with a certain dollar amount in it and when it's gone, it's gone. Help your children and yourself choose activities over possessions such as going dolphin watching instead of acquiring a new Mickey Mouse watch.

    * If you are traveling by plane make sure you have gum and lollipops for going up and coming down and enough activities to distract them from crying.

    * Have children keep a travel journal is educational and self-entertaining for young ones. Try "Travel Bug: A Travel Journal for kids 7-14" by Linda Schwartz.

    * Consider your travel time together opportunity to deepen your relationships. Get to know each other better by asking what each person would like to learn and do this summer. Take notes and when you get home, type up your notes and hang the Family's Summer Goals 2011 on the refrigerator. Take these goals and then set dates and times to follow up and encourage your family to be successful.

    * In your car, keep a roll of paper towels with a rubber band around it so it doesn't unravel and stuff a few plastic bags inside for instant garbage cans. And wipes aren't just for kids; the grown-ups can make quite a mess of their coffee spills too. Of course you should have a fully packed first aid kit as well and always keep the gas tank full.

    * When packing clothes for children pack the "junky" clothes; underwear and socks, which you wouldn't even donate and then you can dispose of them nightly.

    * Another opportunity while stuck on a ride is to review the kids chore chart and see what could be improved upon, deleted or added too as the children are now out of school with more time on their hands to help out around the home.

    * Train travel is fun for kids. They are able to remain active, use the facilities anytime they need and make new friends.

    * Relax around your children and don't have high expectations.


Just because you go on a vacation doesn't mean the family now owns a "clutter license". Be cognizant of the fact that most remembrances end up as junk shortly down the road. Resist the take-home tourist trap!

    * Before you purchase that souvenir ask yourself, "Where will this live in my house when I get home and what is its' life expectancy?" Depending on your answers you might just not make the purchase. If you have children, give each child a "Travel Treasure Box". No one is allowed to bring home souvenirs that cannot fit into the box.

    * Keep a travel journal instead of collecting mementos. Insert postcards of where into it.

    * Create a photo album/scrapbook from your pictures instead of acquiring keepsakes.

    * Purchase a dvd of where you were or a book so your memories will be enhanced and you'll learn more about where you've been.

    * Live in the present. If you're busy buying trinkets you're skipping the essence of the journey.


    * Ensure your vital documents are up to date, know where they are AND make sure a trusted loved one knows where they are too.

    * Copy and scan your itinerary to one file in your computer. Then email it to yourself. Just in case it gets lost, you can always retrieve the information online.

    * Do the same thing with the contents of your wallet. Copy all your credit cards, insurance card and identification items in case of theft.

    * When traveling with small children: make sure they have identification on them, dress them in clothes that are bright and easy to spot (Take a picture of them on your cell phone at the beginning of each day so you remember what they are wearing.) Keep a school photo of each child with his/her height, weight, sex, eye color and hair color written on the back just in case you need this for the authorities to help you search for lost children. Have them memorize your cell phone number so an adult can call you. And very important, make sure they know the "If I Get Lost, What Do I Do?" plan which you will decide on in advance.

    * If you like, you can tuck money, Travelers Checks, credit cards and a passport into a neck pouch or specialty belt designed just for security purposes.

    * Especially watch your luggage and yourself in situations where there are a lot of people such as tourist locations, airports, rest stops or train stations.

    * Keep a low profile including your clothes, jewelry and locked luggage.

    * Take your packing list with you and keep a copy in your wallet in case you need to put in an insurance claim for your luggage. Remember in air travel they do not reimburse you for jewelry (wear your fake jewelry), electronics and cash so do not pack them in a suitcase.


    * Empty all suitcases within 12 hours of getting home.

    * Go through all your papers from your one "home", purge what you don't need any more and make a reference file for the information you'd like to save for the next time.

    * Write out all your thank you cards if needed within one week of your return. You can even do picture cards from your vacation. Try

    * Download your photos and develop your favorites. Create a photo album or photo gifts instead of purchasing souvenirs.

    * When you receive your next credit card statement, ensure that all the vacation charges were indeed correct.

At POSSE (Professional Organizing Solutions Serving Everyone) we cater to homeowners who want one-on-one help with their organizing endeavors whether it's their space, papers or time. Besides transferring these organizing skills to our clients, we also hold organizing classes called Clutter Corrals, have a monthly forum for supporting each other called POSSE's Pen and we also give organizing presentations as well. To learn more about the author and owner, Jean Marie Herron, and sign up for her free newsletter go to