Happy Friday, friends, and cheers to the weekend! We’re headed home tomorrow, then it’s fully-steam ahead on back-to-school. Little Miss starts Monday, followed by college move-in day next Thursday. I am a giant ball of nerves, anxiety, excitement, and tears.
More than anything, I’m just dreading that moment when we drive away. To help cope, I’ve already starting doing what I do best…planning trips for all the school breaks! It may seem strange, but traveling is my absolute passion, and where we invest a big part of our time and budget.
I love sharing Trip Reports from each of our adventures (find those here), but I’m often asked more general questions about travel. I recently opened it up on my Instagram Story, and the questions came flowing in! I chose the most popular ones to answer today, and will follow up with the remainder soon.
What luggage do you use?
I switched to hard-shell luggage several years ago, and don’t think I’ll ever go back! Not only does hard-shell luggage provide extra protection from rough handling, but keeps the contents dry in rain, snow, and puddles, plus holds it’s shape for easier over-head storage. It’s also easy to keep clean, since you can just wipe it down.
I think one of the myths about hard-shell luggage is it’s heavy, therefore prohibitive to how much you can pack before hitting the airline’s weight limit. But in fact, my CalPak bags are more lightweight than any fabric suitcase I’ve ever owned!
The shallow, double sides also hold so much more, and are easier to access since you’re not digging to the bottom of a deep bag. Every member of my family owns a CalPak 22″ Carry-On bag, and paired with a personal backpack, it was all we needed for two weeks in Greece! (See those packing tips here.) I also own the CalPak 28″ Bag for longer or cold-weather trips. Or in this case, I take them all when shooting a Gibson x Hi Sugarplum Collection! (See the behind-the-scenes of those here.)
You can find tons of deeply-discounted CalPak bags on eBay, and since they’re so durable and long-lasting, buying them pre-owned is a great option too. If you’d prefer new, just use the filters in the sidebar.
outfit details here
How do you pack in just a carry-on?
One word….eBags!! I discovered these several years ago, and they were the biggest travel game-changer! I have a huge assortment of sizes, and my entire family swears by them!
I fold my clothes in the dimensions of each bag, and pile them high! The bags are ventilated and compress your clothes into a compact cube that packs easily, and prevents wrinkling. The material is sturdy and the zippers durable…I’ve had this exact set for years and they are still as efficient as the day I bought them.
What is your go-to travel outfit?
My outfit varies a little depending on the length of the flight, plans upon arrival, and weather…but it always includes comfy shoes and a jean jacket!
For long, international flights, I wear joggers or some sort of knit pant, and a cotton tee or tank. They feel like pajamas, but you look more pulled together and you don’t arrive a rumpled mess. The jean jacket instantly adds style, and also provides an extra layer of warmth on the plane.
Of course my carry-on tote includes a cozy cardigan, fuzzy socks, and more…you can find more on that here.
outfit details here
For shorter or domestic flights, I prefer to keep my legs covered so I opt for jeans or a long skirt. If my final destination is warm, I wear a tee or tank, and the jean jacket keeps me warm enough in my departure city, and adds an extra layer for the chilly plane.
If arriving in a colder climate, I wear a fleecey or jersey long-sleeve, along with my winter coat.
I also use whatever bag I’ll need most on the trip (tote, beach bag, etc), as my personal carry-on. It stacks easily on the flat top of my CalPak 22″ Carry-On bag.
outfit details here
How do you handle jet lag?
Traveling across several time zones takes times and an adjustment. Jet lag is inevitable, but there are things to lessen the effects once you arrive. I used to prefer to hit the ground running, but could barely make it to dinner. So now we do things a little differently!
- First, I choose the latest overnight flight available to increase my chances of sleeping on the way over.
- Avoid caffeine and stimulants on overnight flights.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! I literally guzzle water the entire flight.
- As soon as I board, I change my watch to the destination time zone and immediately start using it as my guide.
- Do your best to ensure your hotel room is available upon arrival, even if it’s morning, so you aren’t walking around like a zombie in your travel clothes.
- If it’s a late afternoon arrival, take a quick shower to revive and head out for a few hours of exploring and dinner. Try to stay up until 10pm before crashing.
- If it’s a morning arrival, take a power nap at the hotel, but no more than 2-hours! Set an alarm to be sure! Then shower and head out for exploring.
- NEVER calculate what time your body ‘thinks’ it is! You’re on a new time clock now, stick with it!
Do you plan everything or do you use a travel agent?
I love every aspect of travel, from planning the trip, agonizing over hotel choices, finding the best local foods, and exploring new cultures and environments. So I plan all our trips…but wouldn’t say I do it alone!
I reach out to friends, scour blogs and Pinterest, and consult countless travel sites. Depending on the trip, it can take me anywhere from a day or two, to weeks and weeks!
Do you stick with healthy eating and working out when you travel?
Travel is a full experience for me…from the food to the activities. So I don’t limit what or when I eat (rarely do I practice Intermittent Fasting when we travel…see that Q&A here). I also don’t want to spend precious time on a trip in the gym!
That said, we almost always choose destinations with an active element! Hiking in national parks, skiing in the mountains, hours of walking European villages, and even long walks on the beach. So while I’m not seeking out traditional work-outs, we are staying active.
As for food, I eat all the things! I’ll always remember the gelato cone on the gondola in Venice, the Nutella crepe in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the block of feta staring out at the Mediterranean Sea. I won’t remember if came home with tighter pants or not.
But instead of two scoops, I’ll get one. Or instead of two huge plates of pasta, we’ll split one. So there’s some moderation. I fully enjoy every aspect of the travel, then get back to my usual routine when we get home.
Do you fly coach when traveling internationally? If so, how do you make it more comfortable?
When we first started traveling, we chose the cheapest seat that got us to our destination and were happy as clams to be there! Now that we’re older, we don’t bounce back from long, uncomfortable flights as quickly, so I made a few changes to ensure better flying options for international flights!
- I use a mileage-accruing credit card, and we put absolutely everything on it! I also fly one airline almost exclusively, so I’m racking up as many points, and status, as possible.
- The departing flight is usually the most crucial to us, since we usually need to ensure sleep, so I’ll use miles/points for business class on the way over, but coach or preferred economy on the way back.
- If business seats aren’t available, I’ll book a coach seat with miles, then pay to upgrade to the next cabin.
- I never book a flight without securing the best possible seats within our budget. For us, seats are more important than the day or flight time, so I’ll look at several flights until finding the best seating options.
- If coach class is inevitable, I always pay the fee to secure a seat in the front of the cabin with optimal leg room and dedicated overhead bin space. Seat Guru is an amazing source for selecting the best seats for every plane/flight. Then pack cozy socks, soft cardigan, eye mask, ear plugs, and a neck pillow to make the space as comfortable as possible.
Do you always travel with just a carry-on?
No, it really depends on the destination and itinerary, but I love the ease of carry-on life and try to make it work whenever possible. No lost luggage, no waiting at baggage claim, no lugging heavy bags!
I always weigh the options…do we have a short connection time where checked bags could be a problem? Are we changing locations several times? Can I buy full-size items if needed at my destination? Will the hotels provide essentials like hair dryers and toiletries? If the answer is yes, then I try to make a carry-on work.
If the answer is no, and I want the option to bring more, I go with a checked bag. Another tip is to get TSA Precheck…not only does it give you access to easier security lines, but you don’t have to pull liquids out of your bag. So as long as everything is under 3ozs, you can pack them in your main toiletry bag.
Did you travel a lot when your kids were little?
Mr. SP and I have taken a kid-free trip every year we’ve been together…minus the years each kid was born. It’s always been the best thing for our marriage!
We also want to share the world outside our home bubble with the kids, so we travel as a family, as well. But while we wanted them to experience the world, it didn’t make sense to spend a fortune on places they wouldn’t remember! Or make the trip more work than fun! So we started small, with road trips and weekend adventures that only required a short flight.
We spent a lot of time at the beach, and exploring big cities over a long weekend. So they got used to the travel and how to behave, but it was mostly about fun family time. As they got older, the trips got bigger and a little more strenuous, but always with active, family-friendly elements.
This year was the first for them to travel outside our country (they’re 18 and 13), and I’m so excited to venture further.
What do you do for international phone service?
I always choose hotels with wifi so I’m able to use email, iMessage, FaceTime, and internet when necessary. My phone carrier also offers a Passport Plan for just $10 a day, so I’ll activate that on trips when I know I’ll want full data and phone service outside of the wifi parameters.
What are your sleeping arrangements? Do you get an extra room for your kids?
It’s a little different for every trip, depending on hotel options, but we always share a single space. Family travel is exactly that…the chance for us to spend as much time together as a family. So we leave friends behind, and share a single room or apartment.
I look for rooms with two of the largest beds, or a pull-out sofa, or sometimes rent small two-bedroom apartments. The time before bed always seems to be when we have the most fun, so I don’t want to miss that just for the chance to have a little more personal space.
Okay, I think that’s enough for today!! So many great questions, and so many more to come in my next Travel Q&A installment! Feel free to leave any in the comments, and I’ll add them to the list! Happy weekend, lovebugs!
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*This post is created in collaboration with eBay, but all thoughts, opinions, and wanderlust are my own. Thank you for supporting Hi Sugarplum sponsors!*