Is it time for lists and resolutions already? Well, here goes.
This post isn’t for those who wish to put travel in their resolutions for the coming year. Instead, we’ve put this list together for those who know they’ll be on flights and trains and road trips, even if the details are fuzzy at this point. My travel resolutions are a mix of observations, hard-learned lessons and some inspiration to try and make 2018 a year of better travel.
We can go all Marie Kondo on the contents of our luggage, but what usually gets in the way is the ‘what if’ of needing a particular outfit or accessory. Here’s what I’ve learned from years of over packing: there will rarely be a situation where you so deeply regret leaving behind a particular piece of clothing that the haul of extra kilos was worth it. If and when you do, it’s usually a very basic item or a very special one. The trick is to pack a sensible supply of basic garments in colours you often wear, and if you’re travelling for an event or occasion, try on the whole outfit at home so you’re confident and happy with your choice when you arrive at your destination.
Vacations are great for getting us to leave our usual worries behind, so you probably won’t be too fussed even if you miss something. Plus, you can also shop, and you need room in your bag to carry back new things! Marie Kondo may not approve, but need we say more?
Stick lip balm is better than the one in a pot
I’m putting two facts side by side. One: you can’t always control how often you will be able to have clean hands while travelling. Two: A lot of people touch a lot of surfaces, and you will probably touch some of these too.
To put it not-so-gently, your hands are at their germy worst when you’re travelling. And you know there will be an inevitable itch to rescue dry, thirsty lips at some point in your journey. Rather than dip your grubby and/or hand-sanitised fingers into a pot of gooey relief, feel pleased and proud for having anticipated this part and avoid all this unpleasantness. Always remember that when it comes to lip care, the twisty-stick variety will win over the non-twisty stick variety. Yes, those are the official names for the two types of lip balms in the world.
Apply for your visa on time
No matter how well we seem to have it all planned, almost everyone I know has had at least one episode of nail-biting anxiety where they are nervously awaiting the courier delivery of their freshly-stamped passport while they’ve got one foot out of the door en route to the airport. This is how it usually goes: person books holiday; person at some point looks at the visa application website; person sees average processing time; person works backwards from departure date; person means to apply well before the safe date but somehow applies with no margin of error on dates at all. After this, there are generally horror stories heard from other travellers about how long it took them to get their visa; then follows the afore-mentioned nail-biting anxiety.
The good news is that all of this is largely avoidable. The simple trick is to apply for the visa the day after you have confirmed your travel. It’s really never too early, and the only consequence of applying way in advance is that you get your passport and visa way in advance. It will still bear the dates of your intended travel. Drama averted.
Be a more eco-friendly traveller
The clatter of the airplane tray with untouched portions of the in-flight meal going straight into the trash always fills me with a bit of guilt. Travel is often accompanied by disposable variants of every imaginable product for reasons of convenience, and that amounts to a fair amount of waste. But small measures of thoughtfulness and considerate use can drastically cut that wastage down, and it starts with us.
Decline the straw, say ‘no’ to the customer copy receipt coming out of the credit card machine that you’re going to crumple up in a ball, carry a bottle of water that you can refill (once you’re out of the airport) and go easy on those paper napkins! Carry your toothbrush and toothpaste so you don’t end up using the miniature tubes which are more packaging than paste.
Invest in hair products and hair care
Airline atmospheric dryness, a break from sensible eating, more hair washes and hair-drying than usual… it can all take a toll on your crowning glory. While I’m happy to break from the everyday routine of self-care rituals while on holiday, I have come to realise the one part that takes longest to recover from holiday neglect is my hair.
Even if you find the tiny bottles of nice-smelling bottles enticing, the one product that I highly recommend you carry from home is your shampoo because no hotel will know what works for your hair as well as you do. Put it this way: experimenting with a different product and running the risk of not liking what it does to your hair is, quite simply, not worth it.
Take it easy on the bucket list
In an age of super efficiency and hyper-productiveness, it’s easy to cram your trip with loads to do. Heard of anyone who needs a holiday to recover from their holiday? Been there, done that. It’s only natural to want to do as much as possible while away, but it can get exhausting. Frankly, this is what so many of us do on a daily basis, that doing the same thing while on holiday sucks the joy out of a much-needed break.
The moment the penny dropped for me was when I realised I had stopped myself from revisiting places I had been to before, just so I could go to new destinations that were on my list. This year, I allowed myself to return to London (my former home) for no reason other than to reminisce my days there.
Read better books
Beach literature and glossy magazines have long been my greatest indulgence while travelling. And I’ve noticed that I read most when I’m away from home. So, if my travel reading list comprises of beach literature and glossy magazines, then that’s what I have mostly read in the year. It’s time to change that. Instead, tote along one of those novels in your ever-growing pile of books to read at home.
Don’t bring back souvenirs
What might look great along the cobblestone streets of a quaint little town might be out of place in your home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you don’t pick up trinkets from your travels. Some of the things I love most in my home have come from far-flung lands and remind me of happy times. But these are normally objects you’d chance upon. Unless it’s the kind of chocolate you can’t miss, or an exceptional piece of local genius, it’s quite alright to come back with nothing for anyone.
Unpack within 24 hours of returning home
This isn’t really a new resolution as much as it’s an affirmation to continue an old practice. From my early days of independent travel, I started unpacking the minute I got home. Literally.
The worn clothes are lifted straight out of the laundry bag and into the wash while the toilet kit goes straight into the washroom. But the tiny individual items with their unique resting places, like phone chargers and passports that need to go into drawers, is where determination wavers. But I’ve found that if you power through, you don’t have to face the uneasy weight of the dreaded unpacking act. Nothing throws you back to the grind like the reminder that your task list is starting to pile up again. Skip that part! Think of it as a cleaning ritual that makes your luggage ready for your next trip.
Happy travels this 2018!