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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing

Travel Plans: Details! Details!

Getting planned and organized for a trip can be a mammoth task. And let’s face it, we feel obligated to ensure we plan thoroughly enough to make every travel moment count. It’s almost as if we are fearful to miss an opportunity that may be just out of reach if we don’t research and plot each and every move.

Truth be told, I love the planning process. It’s one of the many reasons why I write and share so very much. In fact, I sometimes think that planning is as satisfying as the trip itself! (I’m looking straight at you, Disney peeps!)

I know, I know! A weekend trip to Asheville is a super big difference from a multi country, multi week jaunt across the ocean. While one is just a matter of gathering a few things, the other necessitates my big fat trip planning strategy. However, there are a few things that are a travel blessing no matter what kind of trip you are on.

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The Devil is in the Digital Details

My mother often talks about an incredible road trip she took down the Romanticstrassa in Germany. She fondly remembers how each charming hotel owner would simply call ahead to another inn just a few hours drive south. Each place was a new adventure with rooms fit for a princess and picturesque views that are simply unattainable these days. They traveled from Amsterdam all the way to Lake Como using this call ahead system.

Can you imagine it? Just calling ahead!!! One day in advance?! That Europe is certainly not today’s Europe. And, for that matter, it’s not that kind of travel world either. It’s time to face the music: You’re going to have to embrace the digital world to thoroughly plan and track a trip.

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I think about starting to plan. With three trips in the future, I’ve got to log in for flights, tickets to venues, ground transport, hotels or AirBandB’s. It’s a lot of log ins and, as a result, a lot of opportunities to screw up well meant plans. On top of that, it takes time. Hours and hours of time.

There are quite a few great digital conveniences that exist for the planning junkie and top of my list is This travel tracking website and app duo is great to keep your upcoming travels organized in one place. Whether I am simply planning a weekend getaway or I am crafting a multi country, multi week adventure overseas, I use TripIt to file each and every plan. I can keep track of my museum tickets as well as my flights. I can add copies of pdf tickets and boarding passes. It keeps me digitally organized.

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If you are looking for one less log in, google calendar can also do a decent job of blocking out times and making sure you have your bases covered. As a frequent traveler, I set up a dedicated free gmail account and I can track and schedule everything from one spot.


Home Sweet Home

Once all that planning has been accomplished and you are ready to go, take a bit of time to think about how you are leaving things.

  • Consider a house sitter or pet sitter to check in on your home each day. Be sure to choose wisely and leave detailed instructions! We were on our way out of town and needed someone to just check in once a day on our self sufficient pup. I thought a neighbor’s son would be just fine and while my dog was properly fed and watered just like we asked, our sitter didn’t know to check around the house. We lost two sets of window blinds because my dog couldn’t see out the windows! Ugh! Like I said, detailed instructions!
  • If you are an Amazon Echo or Google Home subscriber, consider the automated plugs that let you turn on lights on a timer or automatically. If automation isn’t an option to get ready to travel, this is a good time to dig out all of those old school timers that you have in your Christmas decorations. Why not put them to work for you twice a year?
  • Take care of the bills, mail, and deliveries. If your lights go on and off but you have 4,000 Amazon boxes at your door, you haven’t helped yourself at all! I try really hard to not order any last minute things. Although I am very guilty of ordering a travel curling iron at the last minute only to find mine two days later as I pulled out my luggage.
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  • For bills, I try to ensure that they are all taken care of before I go or I simply add them to my calendar so I get a notification when I need to pay them. Be careful to put them on the day before they are due so you don’t wind up being late because of the time zone you are in! As for mail, think about whether to put a temporary stop in place or if your house sitter can take care of that for you. I try to leave an empty basket on the counter as a catch all.
  • Let your bank know that you are getting ready to travel. Your card will get flagged and you could wind up with declined charges. I know I can simply log in and annotate when I am coming and going with my bank. They make it pretty easy.
  • Leave your house exactly the way you want it when you return back home. Be realistic, you don’t want rotting fruit, dirty dishes, laundry or gross garbage in your house upon arrival. You want clean beds and baths, some frozen pizzas to heat up and an empty washer so you can throw your travel gear right in. My routine when I come home is to make my first stop the laundry room. I open my bags up and get a load going while I sort the mail. I order take out or throw in that pizza and collapse. Everything else can wait. After all, tomorrow is another day! Right, Scarlet?


On The Road Again

I once planned a trip to Ireland for six people. The trip was a massive undertaking and took a ton of planning and, as a result, tickets and schedules. I wound up carrying around a mini binder tied up with a ribbon that kept us on track for almost three weeks. Thankfully, technology has done a great job of replacing my binder but it can be it’s own challenge on the road. From google translate to audio guides, organizing your phone to be ready to handle all that you planned before you ever walked out the door is imperative these days!

In addition to having all of your plans readily available, your suitcase needs to earn it’s keep too! Having an organization plan with packing cubes and a laundry plan, if you need it, is a quick and efficient way of getting rid of some of that unnecessary travel stress! I like to pinpoint a laundry mat for wherever I’m going to be on my seventh or tenth day of travel, depending on how long I’ll be gone. I may use the ship’s services if I’m on a cruise or perhaps I find a service in whatever town I’m headed through on that day.

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I know, I know. Laundry seems to be pushing the over planning a bit too far! Just remember that you are going to be lugging that suitcase and carryon around, be sure everything you put in it is worth the effort. The hard truth is that no one ever says “I wish I had packed more!”

Wrapping it all up

I admit it, I’m a shopper! When I am traveling, I’m a sucker for a gift shop. I like Christmas ornaments and jewelry. I fall for kitchen gadgets and artwork. Every. Single. Time. One time I was in Poland and I bought so much pottery that I had to mail it home. I wound up wasting serious time packing and shipping. It’s one of those times that I wish I had a a better plan in place. Whether you plan on just getting a pretty scarf for yourself or you are loading up on local art, have a plan to get it home that doesn’t waste your time.

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Last on my organization list is getting my memories in order. I mean that’s part of the travel point, right? Before I leave, I take a quick look around and I ensure that I know just where a new piece of framed art might work. This lets me have a little guidance as to what to buy while I’m gone. I also pick my digital album layout so I can easily dump photos in when I get home (or even when I’m still on my trip).

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Babcia and Yia Yia!, Notes on Planning and Packing, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

Your Travel Wardrobe Is In Your Closet. Right Now.

You hear it all the time! Create a capsule wardrobe to be a successful traveler. It makes any potential packer think that they need to order and buy specialty clothes to only use when there’s a suitcase at hand. Not so fast! We, here at Babcia and YiaYia, think that you might be selling yourself and your closet a little short. That’s right, we think you probably have far more than you think to complete the perfect travel wardrobe.


In fact, we think that you probably have clothes that you love to wear that could be the foundation for that super elusive capsule wardrobe that all the rage. But where do you even start? We’ve got some easy steps to help!

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Weed out what won’t pack well.

You already know all of the things in your closet that are high maintenance They wrinkle fast and never wash well. You probably pull them out once or twice a year. They probably won’t pack very well anyway. Additionally, you probably know what kind of weather your head toward so out of season stuff is not part of your packing equation.


Choose a color.

You know the color. It’s your favorite one and you pair it with black and white all the time. Ours is blue. It goes with our complexions and never fails to photograph well. You probably have this color weaving in and out of every rack in your closet anyway.

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Set out your neutrals.

Black. White. Denim. The gang’s all here! These are the pieces that go with pretty much anything. These wardrobe basics are the foundation to your mix and match packing style.


Edit out the cliche items.

It’s time to do a double take. Is there anything in your potential packing pile that screams tourist? Message tees? Super bold colors that scream “pick my pockets”? Shoes that say “I have no idea how to travel comfortably with style”? Now is the time to edit those items out of your capsule concept.

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Start to mix and match.

Now that you’ve got yourself focused. It’s time to start pairing items together so that everything you take pulls a double shift. We start with the amount of days from take off to laundry. Do you have seven days until laundry? Then you need 5 bottoms in cool weather and 6 bottoms in hot weather. (Why six? Try sweating all day and then trying to look refreshed for dinner.) Seven days also needs 6-7 tops. There are many people who will give you different numbers but sweat doesn’t lie. Match them together. Make those outfits. Then make sure each top has a different bottom that will make a new look.


Minus one for dresses.

If you like dresses, simply subtract one for every dress you plan to pack. Just remember that every dress you take needs to pack well. It also needs to be useful. Dresses for a rafting trip won’t do you much good but an easy to use maxi dress might be just perfect for evenings in Paris.

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Weave in the layers.

No matter what the weather, we always pack a wrap, a cardigan, and a scarf. Sounds like overkill? Well, we find that we use every single item every single time. Wraps are perfect as a double for plane blanket or pillow. Cardigans cover up if it gets a little too breezy. Scarves can cover bare shoulders or shorts in a pinch if you need to cover up at a particular site like a church or mosque. The most important thing about these pieces is that they go with every single outfit we bring.


Finish off with three pairs of shoes.

You are definitely going to need walking shoes. These will most likely be your bulkiest shoes and you will most likely wear them on the plane just like us. Additionally, you are going to want a pair of shoes that turns all of your outfits into a smarter look for evening. This may be a pair of flats or sandals. The point is, they elevate your look somehow to give you a little oomph. Lastly, you may want to add in beachy flip flops or a second pair of walkers depending on your needs. The most important thing about any pair of shoes you choose is that they go with every outfit you just made for your travel capsule wardrobe.

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Take it for a test drive.

Now, weeks before your trip, take all of those picks and pack them up. Zip that suitcase closed and put it in the corner. Try not to open it for three or four days. Then, take it all out and decide if it’s a keeper. We promise you probably only need to change out a few items. You’re ready to make a shopping list of the very few things that may be missing.

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We bet you feel a lot better!

We told you! You DO have a lot of items to contribute to a great travel capsule wardrobe. While you may want to add in a few last items, your closet is already full of great pieces to travel with. One last tip: take things that you love but may be expiring soon. If you need to ditch them for a little extra packing space on the way back home, it won’t hurt too much. Happy travels!


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Notes on Planning and Packing, Study Hall: Essays On Travel

The Great TSA Mystery!

It amazes me that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t seem to crack the TSA secret code of the day. Don’t get me wrong, I get the general liquids, shoes, and electronics rules but there always seems to be a little surprising twist. On Monday, I need to show ID and tickets in Washington, D.C. but on Friday I only need ID in Palm Beach. I can put my shoes on top of my laptop in Atlanta but don’t dare mix shoes and electronics on the conveyor belt in Dallas! AND all of this TSA travel nonsense may or may not be true when I click publish!

photo of people in airport for TSA Travel
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Line Dancing

If you are anything like me, I’m sure you scope out the line competition. I’m always trying to make the best choice as to who to get behind. The man with the money clip, laptop, belt and jacket is a choice. Contestant two: the airport wheelchair couple that just came through the Clear line. And the inevitable last choice is the lady with two kids and a stroller. Why oh why am I never behind the lady who checked her bag and doesn’t have to empty her pockets?!

Nope, I am usually directed to the guy who hasn’t flown without his wife in 30 years and just realized he has to take off his belt. Insert eye roll here!


Help me Obi Wan!!!

So what can I do?! As Shiela in Newark says my shoes need to be touching the conveyor belt and Todd in Detroit says that I don’t need to do anything because the airport has just been remodeled and they have face recognition, I give in to the roulette game. I’m sure both Todd and Shiela have checked my FBI record by the time I make it to the jumping jacks machine where you literally need to assume the position. Which, for the record, is extremely thin!! In fact, I was once told that I will always be pulled aside if my pants are cuffed. That was at Baltimore.

The only thing that I have found to be reasonably helpful in combating the TSA rules is the MyTSA app. Simply choose your airport and you can see how well the lines are moving and what the anticipated wait is. It sure is helpful but it still doesn’t quite crack the secret code of the day!

Very Funny, TSA

If there is one thing that’s certain in all of this line waiting and scanning it’s that TSA has one heck of a sense of humor! Whoever is running their Instagram feed deserves an award for taking the most ridiculous situations that travelers throw their way and sharing it with the rest of us. I tend to scroll on their feed while I’m waiting in line. It brings me a little joy and patience.

Seriously, though.

I’m sure by now, you are asking the following questions:

  • Question: So what do you do to make TSA easier?
  • Answer: I ensure that I have no layers on and slip on shoes with socks before I get to the security check. I also CHECK MY BAGS!!!! Go ahead, judge me as you shove that carry on in above my head.
  • Question: Is pre-check, Global Entry or Clear even worth it?!
  • Answer: Honestly, I don’t think so. I was next to someone with Clear at the ticket counter and as I went through the standard TSA line, they finished at the same time I did. Pre check may be a tad faster but if you are prepared for the fact that they are going to throw you a curve ball, the difference is a matter of a few minutes.
  • Question: What do you do with your water bottle?
  • Answer: I keep it empty and then look for a refill station on the other side of security. Airports are adding plenty of these and I see them more and more. A water bottle combined with a little bento box (I always take a bamboo one that I’m willing to ditch.) can be quite the budget move.


So go enjoy your next adventure! Be prepared and know that you’ll still be surprised. And may the TSA odds be ever in your favor….