Here in Brooklyn things are slowly winding their way through the mess that Hurricane Sandy left behind. Here at the house / studio nothing was harmed. We had heat and power and internet and water the whole time, with just a few flickering lights on Monday night. To the north of us in Manhattan there is still no power, and I've yet to venture there. The commuting horror stories are enough to keep me away for quite awhile. The subways were all flooded and there are no street lights, so New Yorkers are "getting creative" and inventing new ways of getting to and fro. I'm staying in and I'm feeling grateful that my work is only steps from my kitchen. I had planned to tell you more about my travel strategies, gathered over a year of teaching gigs around the country earlier this week. It seemed odd to write it all down in the midst of people still pumping out their living rooms and barbecuing on the streets in lower Manhattan, but I got the nicest e-mail from a reader (Cindy- thank you!) who urged me to write on, so here goes....to all of you who are under water or without power, I am thinking of you. I'm off to donate blood today, and am looking for more ways to help out. Please leave any suggestions in the comments.
I spent this whole year in a state of unpacking and packing. My suitcase was rarely in storage, and mostly in a heap on my studio floor, in some state of explosion. Last week, in San Francisco, as I wrapped up this year of getting on and off airplanes, I thought about what made it feel organized. Here goes...
- Make a list of what you will need. Since my trips are usually based on teaching, I make a teaching list and a personal list. I write down every single thing, and cross them off as they get added to the suitcase the day before I leave. There is sanity to be gained in crossing things off.
- Keep a bag for each trip with a giant label noting the name of the trip. At the end of May, I had bags partially packed for Squam, California, Michigan, and Chicago....with master lists for each trip and teaching engagement. Having a place to dump the items that absolutely have to go on each trip is really helpful.
- Keep like items together in small containers. I've got a collection of tiny little bags and boxes that keep the things I travel with frequently organized. That little box up there is full of tapestry needles. Another one holds threaded needles. There's one for ear plugs, one for tea bags, etc. I try to keep the bags the same from trip to trip to make it easy to find everything in a big suitcase.
- Keep a designated toiletries bag, and don't ever unpack it. Years ago, my grandma bought me one of LL Beans personal organizers. I love it because when I get to a destination, I hang it up and it feels like my medicine cabinet is with me. There's a place for everything, and it stays organized without feeling fussy.
- Pack a few special toiletry items to look forward to. Although hotels have free bottles of shampoo and lotion, it is usually not the kind I like. I have small bottles with my normal stuff, as well as this scrub which stays in my travel bag. I keep nice lotion and cuticle oil in my carry on bag for long flights, as it both passes the time and is a great opportunity for hydrating on the dry as can be airplane. You used to have to pack all that stuff in clear ziplocks, but in a year of travel, I have never had to unpack my toiletry kit.
- Pack an alarm clock if travelling to a remote area. Some regions that are close to a time zone divide (I'm looking at you Saugatuck Michigan) will not allow you to use your cell phone as an alarm clock. You may end up waking up too early or too late. I have an old model from LLBean that folds up tiny. Earplugs. Don't leave home without them. They are great when you're nearby someone who is snoring, and even better on an airplane next to someone who insists on watching a movie on their ipad without headphones. Finally, if you can swing it, pack your favorite pillow. It's a luxury item when space is at a premium, but it feels so good to lay your head down on something familiar at the end of a long day.
- Speaking of air travel- the best strategy I have for a long cross country flight is to pack lots of snacks. Not junk that will dry you out even more, but small amounts of lots of different things. I like to pack hand cut carrot sticks, an apple, kale chips, red licorice, gum, cinnamon almonds, and chocolate.
- Set your watch! If your travel takes you to a different time zone, set your watch to that time on your taxi ride to the airport. Getting into the mindset of that place before you get there can help with jet lag.
- For an all night flight (a red eye) pack a sleeping pill and ear buds. The white noise app I have on my iphone drowned out the snorer sitting next to me perfectly and while I can't say I slept, I can say that I at least kept my eyes closed and did something close to relaxing for six hours. There is not much comfort to be found in sleeping sitting up, so any comforts that you can afford parts of your body other that your back will be welcome. Bring lip balm and slippers and an eye mask. I also found it comforting and nice to wear a hat and my hooded down vest which when I closed my eyes I could sort of imagine was a down comforter.
- For any flight, pack....embroidery! Even if I didn't embroider for a living, this would be my number one travel tip. It really does pass the time, and it takes up almost no room in your carry on. Scissors and needles are fine to take onboard as long as your scissor's blades are shorter than 4". However, I packed my pinking shears last week for the workshop I was filming in California, and they are now owned by security at LaGuardia airport. Apparently you are not allowed serrated scissors. Strange and sad. The security guard who took them told me that his mom had the same pair. Hopefully she now has two pairs and mine aren't at bottom of a trash heap.
These are my top tips in no particular order. I'll add more to this post if I think of anything I left out. In the meantime, what do you suggest? Do you have any favorite tips or products that you don't hit the road without? Tell me in the comments....