Travel Tips

I travel a lot, for work and for pleasure.  As a photographer and artist, I’ve learned the value of seeing the world.  It’s important to me to experience new places, cultures and get inspired.


Recently I was giving my cousin and her husband a lift to the airport and as I pulled up to their house she shouted out the front door, “We’re running about 10 minutes behind.”  I laughed and thought, no problem, I usually am too!  When they got in the car I asked her the same series of questions I ask myself when leaving for a trip.  Did you pack all your chargers, toothbrush, toothpaste, ID and plane tickets? Extra pair of clothes in your carry on?  I have a mental check list of what I know I like to travel with and I was just throwing it out there to see if there was anything they may have forgotten.
As we talked about packing and traveling my cousin said, “You should write a blog about what to pack!”
With so many people going on summer vacations and honeymoons I thought it might be helpful to share some of my tips and tricks.  Keep in mind, I don’t have children, so my list is going to look way different than my friend’s with little ones.  But this list is a good list for many people on many different types of trips.  Whether you’re traveling in the winter or summer or your destination is warm or rainy, this list should come in handy.
Also keep in mind the type of trip you’re going on.  Is it tropical?  Are you backpacking through Europe?  What will you be doing on your trip?  Going to a wedding?  Relaxing by the pool?

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When I was 20 I moved to England for 6 months.  I was young, and had never been away from home.  I ran out and bought the largest suitcase I could find!  Six months away from home in a foreign country is a long time, I needed to pack my entire bedroom!  Or so I thought…. I remember a great piece of advice our teacher gave us, he said, “Pack light.  Don’t worry about having a different outfit every day.  And ladies, just pack one club outfit. You’re not going to see the same people every time you go out.”  Wow, was he right!  Of course that was 14 years ago, and social media wasn’t what it is today, so people do in fact see you in the same outfit, however, switch up your necklace and earrings when you go out and your selfies will look different each time.  Trust me.
When I travel I only bring a carry on.  Yes, even when I am photographing a destination wedding, I take my camera bag as my personal item, and the rest of my gear is in my suitcase with my clothes and toiletries.  If I can pack all that in a carry on, believe me, you can too!
So, let’s get to it.  Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size4CLOTHES:
Look up the weather report before you go.  Are you thinking about a trip that’s happening in 6 months?  Search weather averages for the month and destination.
Pack lightly!  I can not stress this enough!!  When I go on a trip and I don’t wear something I packed, I feel like I cheated myself out of suitcase space.  I could have left that extra skirt at home and had room to buy one more souvenir!  Plan out what outfit you’re going to wear each day.  With a little planning you’ll pack smarter, and lighter.
I fit everything into one carry on bag so I don’t do the whole “pack an extra set of clothes into your carry on bag.”  However, if you do check a bag, then please, by all means, pack an extra top and bottom into your carry on.  And, at the very least pack a pair of underoos and the essential toiletry items.  My list of essential toiletry items is:  toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, deodorant.  For me, I would also pack mascara and an eye brow pencil.  Your essentials may include: foundation, face wash, moisturizer, etc.

Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size5Here’s a true story from that same cousin I recently took to the airport.  After their wedding in 2016, my cousin and her husband went to the Caribbean islands for their honeymoon.  During the first leg of their trip a woman died on their plane!  My cousin said it was horrible.  The flight attendants did everything they could to resuscitate the woman, but unfortunately nothing could be done to save her.  The plane had to make an emergency landing in Billings, MT and they were grounded there for 6 hours while they waited for a new plane to come in from Denver.  I did not know this, but when someone dies on your flight, the plane is considered a crime scene.  Any way, they missed their connecting flights and had to stay one night in Miami.   Their bags were checked all the way to the Caribbean and she said they couldn’t go out and enjoy Miami because they didn’t have anything.  Learn from others’ experiences, always pack the necessities and a change of clothes in your carry on if you’re checking the rest of your stuff.
Shoes.  I recommend traveling in your biggest pair of shoes. For example, when I’m headed some where and I want to wear my cowboy boots, I always wear those through the airport.  They slip on and off easily through TSA and they’re comfortable.  For some people tennis shoes or hiking boots may be your bulkiest pair, so wear those and pack your smaller shoes such as flip flops and flats in your bag.  I don’t recommend wearing shoes with laces through TSA because they take so long to tie, but at least if you’re wearing them, you’ll have more room in your luggage.

Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size6TOILETRIES: I have my list of essentials, but if you’re in the market for a new set of TSA approved toiletries buy them from Travel Badger.  Web site:   They have 3 levels of products ranging from good, to better to best.  And they even have organic, unisex and children’s kits! They’re absolutely perfect for traveling, and you could even throw one in your car or fifth wheel.   Seriously check them out.  And admire the photography on their web site 😉
Back to my list of toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, hair brush, curling iron/straightener (don’t pack a hair dryer, every hotel has one) make up (just the essentials, I remove any make up from my case I know I won’t be wearing), face wash, moisturizer and razor.
All liquids and gels must be 3.4 oz. or smaller.  I also pack contact solution and my glasses.
I don’t pack lotion or body wash because hotels carry that. I don’t pack a loofa and use a wash cloth instead.
When packing toiletries think about where you will be staying and consider what is already provided.  Do I like using the hotel body lotion? No, I prefer my Aveeno.  But I’m going to be there 4-7 days and I can make do.  The one thing I can’t travel without is my electric toothbrush.  I once did a 2 week trip around the southeastern US with a regular toothbrush and my dental hygienist had a fit at my next cleaning!  So, obviously if there is anything related to maintaining your health pack it.  Pack any needed medication, sunscreen, etc. No, 10 pairs of shoes are not related to maintaining your health!

Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size7OTHER:  These are the miscellaneous, technology and other items I pack.
Phone charger, iPod/iPad and mini speaker, something to read/keep me entertained, tablet/lap top, head phones.  I love playing music where ever I go.  And I am old fashion when it comes to my little portable speaker.  If you have a Bluetooth speaker then pack that (as long as it’s small!).Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size8For international travel, pack important documents like your passport, plane tickets, printed out directions, hotel info, etc.  More and more places have internet now, but what do you do when you’re standing in the taxi line in Mexico, your Spanish is weak, at best, and you’re trying to explain to the driver which hotel at which you’re staying?  It’s much easier to show them the reservation with the hotel’s name and address on it!  Screenshot all the reservations you make and have them on hand when dealing with transportation and Customs.  Also, make copies of your passport and keep it at home.

Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size9THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU LEAVE: The week before a trip I get online and notify my bank and credit cards.  Write down the phone numbers of your bank and credit card in case either are lost or stolen and keep that piece of paper packed in your luggage.  I don’t keep it in my purse because if my cards are in there and it’s stolen… well then that doesn’t help me, does it?  A night or two before I leave for a trip I charge my toothbrush.  If it’s a long trip (more than 2 weeks) I will pack the charger with me.  Set up plans with a house sitter.  We ask a neighbor, friend or relative.  Have your house sitter take care of your pets and plants.  Some people prefer their house sitter to stay the night.  Just make sure to notify your neighbors that; #1 you’re going away for X amount of days and #2 some one is watching your house and they drive such and such a car.

Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size13THINGS NOT TO DO:  As tempting as it is to post all your fabulous beach photos on social media, don’t do it!  The June 2018 issue of Men’s Health magazine ran an article that stated: “Most burglaries happen in the summer, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.”  The magazine mentioned that people who post on Facebook that they’re on vacation are prime targets. Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size11

I could write an entire series on packing and traveling.  I could go on and on about what to do and what NOT to do.  Take for example the use of technology, which makes several aspects of our life, including travel, easier.  We can discover new places and plan trips with so much detail it’s like we know the place before we even get there!  But of course, BEING there is the point of traveling.  Tasting the food, hearing the language, smelling the salt water.  Live in the moment, don’t stress over what you’re wearing or how your hair looks.  I can guarantee these three ladies were having the time of their lives on the tiny island of Jost van Dyke in the British Virgin islands!  The just jumped from a boat, getting all their money soggy, walked their beach drenched hair and beach bums right up to the Soggy Dollar bar (hence the name, tourists have to swim from anchored boats to the island) and ordered a round of pain killers. Emmas_Packing_Tips_web_galleries_size12Remember to travel light and pack an extra pair of underwear.
Cheers friends! xoxo, Emma