I consider myself a minimalist. I have certain rules which keep me from overcrowding my life. I like to think an uncluttered house equals an uncluttered mind. The man who owns little is little owned. And, as Mies van der Rohe is so often quoted, "less is more."
In other words, "Hoarding" is something I watch on TLC, not something I do.
This space-saving mentality transfers well to my travel schedule and I have learned to pack light and follow some simple rules that make traveling easier and more pleasurable, whether for business or vacation. Not all the tips/rules stem from my semi-obsession with space -- so don't be anymore alarmed than you already are.
I've included many tips that I've obtained from other frequent travelers. Proper preparedness will go a long way in successful travel before you even leave your front door. When you book your flight and get your seat assignment remember that every seat is not the same, even if it's in the same class and section of the plane. An invaluable tool, which lists virtually every seat on every flight is SeatGuru. There are better ways to start a trip than realizing, upon boarding, your 10-hour Delta flight from LAX (Los Angeles) to NRT (Tokyo), that none of the seats have entertainment systems. And your seat back is restricted by the exit row directly behind you. A quick visit to SeatGuru, days, even weeks before the flight, and you may have brought something to do. Or changed your flight. You can only skim SkyMall so many times.
You carry a smart phone? Make the most of it. Before you travel take a moment and download any apps that may help make your travels seamless. I download all airline, parking, and other travel assisting apps before I venture off. A favorite is Flight Update, which gives you everything you need to know about your flight (time of departure, arrival, gate info, and food service), including alternates. If you have any delays while on route the right app can be priceless. I learned this lesson the hard way while sitting in the plane on the tarmac for two hours waiting to take off (it's always a bad sign when you're waiting on the runway to depart and the flight attendant says over the intercom that it's fine to use your phone). Most of the passengers were doomed to miss their connecting flights but the person next to me rerouted their trip using their smartphone. By the time we landed, and I got to the nearest counter to reroute with a ticketing agent, the next outbound flight to my final destination was full. I had to spend the night stranded in Newark. Lesson learned.
Buy a sleeping bag liner. No, not for being stranded in Newark. I know, that sort of came out of left field but you'll be thanking me even before you hear the overhead ding allowing you to roam around the cabin. Sleeping bag liners, which are available at most sporting/camping outlets (and available online from REI and L.L. Bean) are intended, for the most part, as an inside liner that adds comfort and warmth for a sleeping bag. Used alone it works much better than any airline blanket you'll ever encounter. And because you get into it like a sleeping bag, it will keep your feet warm and the full body coverage will block out brisk air looking for exposed skin like butter looking to fill nooks and crannies on a toasted bagel. Sleeping bag liners range from $30-$80 and compress down to about the size of a bagel six pack. Even though I only travel with one carry on (nothing more, nothing less) I have never been tempted to leave this item out in order to save space. Pack for four days. If you're going on an extended trip, find a coin-op or consider having your clothes done for you. When I was in Hong Kong in May, I walked across the street to the local laundromat. I needed my clothes (three of each: shirts/socks/underwear, and one suit) washed and folded for my trip back home (don't ask) and needed them the next morning. I was prepared to pay a rush charge. Before I could mention any of this, the proprietor told me to come back in three hours. Total charge, $6.
I realize traveling in the U.S. will be a lot more expensive, but there's nothing wrong with washing some garments in the room and hanging them to dry. I'd rather carry 1/2 the amount of clothes. I like to remind myself of this joy when walking in midtown Manhattan during the sweltering sun and humidity each July brings, luggage in tow, while hailing a cab to JFK. One finely packed roller is a great travel companion. And keep in mind that your hometown is not the only one with a Walgreens or Walmart. Stores are pretty much all over the world these days.
Once you're at the airport you'll have to contend with the long security lines, right? Wrong. We've all seen airline personnel breeze through on a separate lane, never having to take off their shoes or jackets. A few years ago the TSA implemented a test program that is now hitting stride; it's called TSA Pre and it stems from the GOES program that has been around for years for international travelers. I've been part of the program for over two years and, although it's a godsend for coming through customs from any international destination (no lines and you check in via an ATM-like kiosk that fingerprints you), it also lets you skip most of the long lines for domestic flights. The cost? $85. But you do have to go through a two-step screening process, which should be done a month or two before you travel (you have to go to the airport and interview with TSA). There are certain requirements and restrictions, but if you make more than two or three trips a year you'll find airport security (should I really say this?) a pleasurable experience.
When boarding, keep in mind the job of flight attendants in our current society is not the glamorous one idealized during the golden age of air travel. It's a tireless and, for the most part, thankless job of customer support and even-keeled diplomacy. How could you not get frustrated on a daily basis when one hundred passengers, who appear to be fully functional, either make believe they never heard the announcement to turn off their phone or simply act as though it does not pertain to them? I am friends with a flight attendant who once confided in me about how trying it can be. She then mentioned how once in a while a passenger would bring the attendants a small gift, a token of the work they do, and it would mean the world to them.
So, I bring an assorted box and give them to the attendant after I've boarded. You'll be amazed at the gratitude. Just don't accidentally give them cordials, make a big production out of it, or expect anything more in return. It is a nice gesture and a great way to start your trip. Have fun and be nice. The journey is the destination. Other than proper identification and required medications, the most important thing you bring is you.
Follow Todd Greene on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Todd_Greene