Comfortable yet light travel in the New Year!

This article is for those who have the time and energy to travel extensively in the United States and beyond.  Spouse Susan and I have been retired three years and have toured about 65,000 miles through the US and Canada.  We have also been privileged to make two European small ship cruises (Grand Circle Cruise Lines) in the last 12 months.  Each of our journeys has taught us lessons in comfortable and increasingly light travel.

Here are some of our suggestions for easing your travel burden, whether done in the states or around the world.

Susan and Tim Viall in ship's lounge; "upscale casual" is rule, no need to pack sports coat or fancy clothes!

Well before your departure, create a written checklist, set it aside for several days and re-think it. Consider how long you’re going for, where you’re headed, the weather you may run into and the like. Don’t pack for worst-case winter weather; you can always purchase more fleece if you need it!

Completely pack a few days before you have to depart. Lay all your items out on a bed, recheck a few days later and ask yourself “do I really need this”? If you’re not sure, don’t take it. That’s probably my biggest failing – I either don’t pay attention to what I need until the day we depart, or I let my wife pack items for me.  Invariably I, or she, take more than I’ll ever need.

Think small: instead of a 4 pound laptop and charger, sync your android or iPhone with a portable Bluetooth keyboard. On a recent three week trip to Europe, I dictated into my iPhone, edited a bit on a portable keyboard – and filed stories straight from the phone – saving about 3 1/2 pounds of unneeded weight. I also no longer had to worry about my laptop being stolen out of a hotel room or public place.

For your checked bag or bags, purchase those that can expand if needed.  Ours have an extra zipper; if we acquire foreign goods to bring back, the bag can expand about 20 percent.

in foreground, Brooks exercise jacket made of synthetic fiber, under a Goretex shell with a hood and lots of pockets, is about all you need for blustery, outdoor trekking.

Instead of a carry-on bag, I make mine a backpack and I insure that it is well stocked with “must haves”. Those include any specialty gear like winter clothing,  deflatable water bottle, a real compass if you’re a hiker (for when your cell phone has no reception and only a Compass will work), small but quality binoculars, plastic bag containing your first aid supplies and any required medicines, a cell phone extra battery pack, cell phone tripod (eliminating those annoying “selfie sticks” too many use incessantly) and wireless keyboard to connect with my iPhone.

“Non-color coordinate” your basic garments. Think gray, black and off-white. If your undergarments, shell, pants and the like are black or gray, they will go with anything else you have (and they hide dirt well). And, in Europe, everybody’s wearing only gray and black!

Invest in several multi-purpose garments – a well-built outer shell made of water-repellent material like Gore-Tex (but not a bulky parka), a light under-jacket made of synthetic fiber to wick away moisture, and a good set of travel trousers that zip off of the knee (if you need shorts).

Backpack, clockwise from right rear: stocking cap, baseball cap, pair of light wool gloves, deflatable water bottle, reading glasses and writing tools, a real compass if you're a hiker (for when your cell phone has no reception and only a Compass will work), 30 SPF or better sunblock and lipgloss, stuff sack, binoculars, plastic bag containing your first aid supplies – pills, headache medicine cold lozenges, Band-Aids and bandages, bandanna. At center, left to right, cell phone rechargeable battery pack, cell phone tripod, cell phone and wireless keyboard.

Susan almost packed a heavy winter coat for our December trip down the Adriatic Sea – and we had 18 days of sunshine and 55-60° plus weather. Should you run into really cold weather on a winter/spring trip, it’s always easy to buy a fleece pullover to wear under that Gore-Tex windbreaker.

Don’t forget you can do laundry on a several week trip. Hotels and cruise ships all offer laundry service – plan to wash undergarments a week into the trip and you’ll pack much less.

On small ship cruises, whether the rivers or oceans of Europe, “upscale casual” is the rule. I took a nice sports coat, but did not need it.  Blue jeans or slacks and a sweater were the rule, so dump those dressier clothes.

Think frugal and inexpensive: instead of paying through the nose in airports for snacks on those long flying days – pack several sandwich bags full of almonds or walnuts and purchase a few beef sticks. It’s better nourishment, and healthier, than what you can usually find in airports. Also make sure you save your empty water bottle – refill it from drinking fountain and avoid $3 for bottled water.

If a skiing or snowboarding trip, a scuba or a surfing trip – you’re often better to rent that equipment at your destination rather than suffer the hassle of checking it. You avoid the risk of theft or lost baggage, and get a chance to check out some new equipment at your destination.

As you contemplate future travel plans, keep Mark Twain in mind:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – Mark Twain, a frugal and light traveler.

Update your travel bucket list, plan your journey and pack light!

For more information on European ocean and river cruises, see Grand Circle Cruises,

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook or Twitter; or, email him at Happy travels in the west!


This entry was posted in Alaska, Canada, Eastern, Canada, Western, Central California, East Coast US, Europe, Hawaii, Midwest US, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southeast US, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers, United States beyond! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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