By Carrie Pokrefke
I will not pretend I am a Master Trip Preparation Specialist. I’ve done my fair share of final packing as I was walking out the door to go on a trip. But over the years, I’ve found some helpful tricks to make preparing for a trip easier.
My first big trip that I went on was in May 2010. In April of 2010, I had called Lindblad Expeditions to find out about their photography expeditions to the Galapagos Islands. I signed up for the December 2010 expedition and jokingly put my name on the waitlist for May expedition. This was the same day I had sent my passport off to get my name changed (like I said, I am not a Master Trip Preparation Specialist!!). About three weeks later (and just two weeks prior to the expedition), I got a last-minute call from Lindblad Expeditions to find out if I wanted to go on the May expedition. I called and got my passport expedited and once I knew it was safely at my house, I booked my flight. And somehow, I managed to get ready for an epic trip in two weeks.
While this doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment, I should note that there is no REI in Mississippi. When I booked the trip, I was on the Mississippi coast, so I was able to go to a sporting goods store down there for some moisture-wicking clothes. Lindblad does a good job of telling you what you need and they also have a website where you can order the clothes you need for your expedition. But, with such a short time, I had to buy all my clothes in person. I ordered a few things online and had the shipping expedited. It wasn’t much time to prepare, but it all got done.
On the other extreme, I had over a year to plan for my trip to Antarctica and Easter Island in November 2013. I started shopping for that trip when the cold-weather clothes went on clearance in early 2013. I also bought some winter clothes over the summer that were on clearance and I found some summer clothes on clearance in August and September for Easter Island. I work right by REI and I don’t even know how many times I went there. I was gone for 30 days, had two vastly different climates to pack for and had to keep it all under 50 lbs. I packed and weighed. Repacked and weighed again. Bought a new (lighter) suitcase. Scaled down as much as I could. Bought uber lightweight shoes to wear on the ship in Antarctica with tights and then ditched the tights for Easter Island. I switched to daily-wear contacts so I wouldn’t have the weight of contact solution. I brought just enough deodorant and toothpaste to last the month.
And guess what – between Atlanta – Buenos Aires – Ushuaia – Buenos Aires – Santiago – Easter Island – Santiago – Buenos Aires – Atlanta…not one person cared how much my suitcase weighed or that it was over the weight limit.
One thing that I started doing when I was getting ready for the Galapagos Islands and evolved while getting ready for Antarctica, is to have three lists:
1) Day-By-Day Itinerary
2) To Do
3) To Pack
These lists started out on a poster board, but now I use the giant Post-It Notes. I keep a marker hooked on the list, too, so I can write down something anytime I think I need to add something. And I keep these in my bathroom and bedroom.
The “Day-By-Day Itinerary” helps me to see what I need to pack. I can see how many days I will be gone, how many will be travel days or at sea days and helps me learn the names of the places I will get to see. Then, when I am done with that, I can take a quick picture of it with my iPhone and send it to family or friends that need to know where I am.
My “To Do” is where I put EVERYTHING I have to do before I leave – board my dog, get film, change my voicemail, set up friends to water my plants, unplug everything, turn off the water, etc. As it gets closer to leaving for my trip, I put non-trip related stuff on there to help make sure I get everything done that I need to get done so I can walk out the door.
The “To Pack” list is just that – everything I need to pack. Camera equipment, clothes for each activity, toiletries, etc. If I realize that I don’t have something that I need, I put it under “Pick-up” on my To-Do list. As things get added to my suitcase, I scratch them off my list.
You can take a pic of either list before you go to the store – you already have your shopping list done. It also helps to take a picture of each list when you get back from your trip, so that for the next trip, you don’t have to think of everything again – all the information is right there for you.
These three lists help me stay organized for big trips and I can make sure I don’t forget anything. I’d love to hear some of your travel prep tips! Feel free to leave a comment!