Six Things to Always Pack When Travelling
Packing for Possibilities
With weather delays in the news, here's six things you should always pack when travelling - by plane, train, car, or otherwise - to be prepared for travel issues.
There is always the possibility of delays - weather, mechanical, etc. And, whether travelling for business or pleasure, delays will never be a welcome event. But, with a little planning, you can turn a delay from a totally miserable experience to merely annoying.
#1 - Food and Water
This may seem unnecessary, but like the candy bar commercial says, "You're not you when you're hungry." And while a candy bar is probably not the optimal choice, having a snack available can make you feel better. A meal replacement bar or breakfast bar is good. Trail mix is good too - eat a little now, eat a little more later. For you plane travellers, you will probably have to buy your water after you go through security - with the three ounce rule, and pay a high price, but if there's an issue, it may be well worth the cost.
Travelling home by train one Thanksgiving Sunday evening, the train had a problem. Most of the train was continuing, including the dining car. Myself and a few other cars were sidelined on the track to our destination. The train had a problem. We were within sight of the terminal, but the conductor wouldn't let us out - dark, uneven ground, lawsuit... Anyway, Amtrak's choice of solution was to send a locomotive from where we just left - three hours ago - to come and push us into the station. Then when we did arrive, well after midnight, all the shops - and public transportation - were closed. The taxi stand had a line 40 people deep and my house was an hour's ride from the station. A snack is a good thing.
#2 - First Aid Kit
I don't necessarily mean the standard bandages and antiseptic - though those are nice to have - but more of a personal comfort kit. Some things to consider - pain killer (aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.), antacid, motion sickness pills (for turbulence), eye drops, chap stick, tissues, cough drops, lots of wipes - antiseptic and general soft cleansing. Plus other things depending on you're personal needs - I have allergies, so hydrocortizone cream and antihistamines are in the kit. If you wear contact, your case and backup glasses are a good choice.
In a stressful situation, headache and upset stomach are likely. The dry air on some public transportation can cause dry eyes and throat. If you're stuck on the tarmac or side track waiting - particularly in the heat - moist wipes will help a lot. You may also consider a cold pack - available in the sports medicine aisle, they have two chemicals kept separate. When you squeeze and shake the packet, the chemicals mix and there is a thermal reaction - the pack gets cold.
#3 - Change of Clothes
Yes, if you're travelling, you probably have a change of clothes, but I mean in your carry-on; and not just a change of clothes, more of a change of season and venue clothes. Bring a jacket even in the summer - you can never tell how the environmental controls may be set. If you're travelling for business in a suit, etc. and are stopped for hours in the heat - a t-shirt may be better than just taking off your suit jacket. Ladies - high heels? Really? Pack some comfy flats. Several companies make "terminal slippers" just for the occasion - they fold into a small pouch that's convenient to carry.
As a kid, I was travelling with my family from Louisiana to Florida mid-summer. So, I was dressed accordingly - t-shirt and shorts. Our train car was left on a siding for another train to pick up, but the other train was late. We had no conductor or anyone on board, but they thoughtfully left the air conditioning on full. Unfortunately, a late afternoon rain and sunset cooled off the outside air, but the A/C was still on full. It got so cold. My mother unpacked everything in our suitcases to try to keep warm. I was wearing everything I brought for the week - shirts and shorts wrapped around my legs, arm and neck; underwear on my head, socks on my hands - and still freezing. Worst trip ever. So, pack for environmental anomalies.
#4 - Money
And I mean cash. Credit cards are a great convenience, but not always usable. The credit card commercial with the guy in the airport, has just a credit card in his pocket, and says "I'm packed." - not really. Sometimes cash is a good thing. Power outage or phone/internet outage can prevent businesses from processing credit cards. Leaving you stuck if you don't have cash.
Pack coins and small bills also. Sometimes the only thing "open" is the vending machine. I was travelling and caught in a huge back up behind an accident on the Interstate. By the time I got to the motel, everything was closed - or at least everything in sight. I could have driven around looking for a convenience store or something, but I had my snack bar and coins for the vending machine, so I just ate what I could get, then went to bed exhausted. In the morning, a nice restaurant for a nice breakfast was in order.
#5 - A Book to Read
I know, entertainment abounds - laptop, tablet, iPod, smart phone, Kindle, etc. The drawback - they all take batteries, and batteries run down. Books don't have that problem. Your device batteries may last through a short flight, but a long delay, and they'll be useless. Bring something light. You're mood is likely already bad, so nothing dark or complex. A book of humorous short stories is good. Text books or business books - learning books are definitely out. Newspapers also - too depressing. Magazines - it depends on the zine. Keeping yourself occupied rather than sitting impatiently waiting make the time seem much shorted.
#6 - A Tote Bag
A tote that is sold in most stores nowadays is good. Folds small and usually has a stiff bottom. Companies make travel totes that fold into their own pouch and are very small. A plastic grocery bag or anything that folds small then opens when you need to put stuff in it is fine.
Why? Somehow, the same stuff seems to increase in volume once it's out of your luggage. If you've been on a long trip, maybe stuck in traffic or on a siding or whatever, the last thing you want to do when you finally arrive at your destination is to try to clean up around your seat and get everything back in your luggage. Instead of trying to find a trash can for wrappers and such or trying to figure out how to put your shoes in the space that once held the little slipper packet, a tote is much easier. Just pull out your tote, close your luggage, and toss everything else into the tote - jacket, shoes, book, laptop, candy wrappers - everything. Look around your seat, grab all the loose stuff you took out of your luggage, or bought later, or whatever, and dump it all in the tote - deal with it when you're comfy at home or in your hotel room. For the moment, just grab and go.