Planning A Trip?

Pack And Plan Like A Pro!

Time to hit the road, so let's pack up, get lost and unwind. But so much needs to happen before we wander.

Here are seven tips to help you plan and pack for a trip like a pro.

1. You never need as much as you think, so try to eliminate a third of what you think you need before you go.

"You can live with less and less stuff," says Jada Yuan, who was the New York Times' first-ever 52 Places traveler. Yuan went to 52 places around the world inside of a year. Her method is to pack up — "And then you take half, a third of it away because just schlepping things around is a great way to kill your buzz on a vacation."

2. Reduce the weight.

Swap out heavier versions of things for lighter ones, and load your bag up with MVPs — items that can be used for multiple purposes. A scarf, for example, can be things: a napkin, towel, handkerchief, dust mask, shawl, cover-up.

Don't even get packing expert Doug Dyment started on the many uses for dental floss — he might never stop.

3. Use packing cubes.

Packing cubes are lightweight, expandable, inexpensive zip-up pouches in rectangular shapes. They allow you to stuff a bunch of clothing inside to save space. The make organizational sense: "I like having a lot of bags inside my bags," Yuan says.

But they also solve luggage weight distribution problems. "A lot of times you're going on budget airlines with both a checked bag and your carry on bag and you have to even out that that ratio," Yuan says. "If you take a packing cube out of the carry on and just stick it in your checked bag then you sort of even out the weight."

4. Lose the liquid toiletries.

Either leave them at home and pick up what you need along the way, or pack dry versions of your toiletries (like dry shampoo, or powders instead of pastes).

But there are a few exceptions you should bring with you. "Among the things that are hard to find, always: sunscreen, bug spray, some kind of bug-bite relief" Yuan says. "If you're a woman, the tampons you like, and then hair conditioner." Everything else you can usually find at your destination.

That's what you need to know for packing. Now for planning.

5. Do a simple scope-out of your destination with reliable sources.

Not sponsored content. The Internet is full of "paid for by" advertorials from convention and visitors bureaus for various destinations. Eschew them in favor of news stories for which reporters went to a place to report on it, or are based in the place you want to go. And don't forget the easiest way: Ask friends you trust.

6. Match your activity plans to the forecast.

"I map out where I'm going to be on which day, and then 10 days in advance ... figure out what I'm going to do on those days based on the weather forecast," says Johanna Maska, former director of press advance for President Barack Obama. "The weather forecast is the No. 1 thing that I'm looking at and then figuring out what I'm going to do on those days."

And be prepared for rain. Don't learn the hard way, like Yuan did. "I was on a day to a walking tour in La Paz, Bolivia and getting dumped on and I didn't have any of my rain gear, and there were several people on that tour who were all they seem to be much more seasoned travelers than I was. And they just all immediately whipped out their rain jackets and I was like, Oh. Ohhhhh," she recalls.

7. Plan for only one main activity a day.

Stick to the One Main Thing rule: When traveling for leisure, keep your plans to one major activity per day, then build complementary activities around it — or just leave room for discovery. The unexpected is part of the beauty of exploration. "The last thing I want is for me not to be able to relax in a situation that's just so much fun because you're sitting in traffic, stressed out," Maska says.

Published By: Bellaland, NPR - Elise Hu, Sylvie Douglis

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