I am writing this post from Phoenix, a city I visit about once a year. My father is what we in Canada call a “snowbird” – someone who goes south for a few weeks or months of every year to escape the endless winter weather. The winter in Winnipeg this 2012/2013 has been so brutal, it makes sense that he’d want to get away, and makes sense that he bought a house here to visit whenever the -40 degree temperatures and mountains of snow become intolerable.
Well, it’s the end of March and Winnipeg still has those mountains of snow, so here we are. I realized I haven’t really explained my travel plans for the upcoming months – it all fell together very organically and I’m happy to say that I will once again be on the road for approximately eleven weeks. I’m here in Phoenix until next week, then back to Canada for two days, and then off to London, England. I’ll spend most of April and May there, with a week set aside for Rome and Vatican City and two weeks for Israel and Jordan. Then I fly to Toronto to spend time with my mum and attend TBEX, my first travel blogging conference. My plans for the summer are still up in the air, but I’m very excited about everything I have planned for spring!
Here’s the thing about all of that travel, though; I’m not really ready for it. Emotionally, yes, absolutely, but physically? Well, up until Sunday night you’d have never known that I was taking off for a few months. Not a suitcase packed, not a camera battery charged, nothing. I’m aware of how foolish this seems, seeing as I have written posts on how to prepare for travel and what I pack when I travel long-term. Those posts were about round-the-world and backpacking trips, however. This time, my travelling is much more relaxed; I’m not moving around a lot, and I’ll be staying with people I know, not at hostels (with the exceptions of Italy and Jordan). In London I’ll be staying with my friend Mark, in Israel I’ll be staying with my sister Zalie, and in Toronto I’ll be staying with my mum. But why else am I still so casual about this imminent holiday? Well, it’s because I’m pretty much always prepared to travel. If I needed to, I could be ready to head to nearly any location at the drop of a hat. Here’s how you can be ready for any travel scenario, too.
1. Have a checklist of things you will need to do anytime you travel. It will vary for each person, of course, but the key is to keep everything updated and to stay on top of your travel needs. The list might include calling your credit card companies to let them know you’ll be out of town (I personally just have a “I’m always travelling” notification on mine, so that my cards aren’t flagged when I use them in a new country), ordering foreign currency, making sure your prescriptions are up-to-date, having a regular travel insurance company to call on a whim, knowing a reliable dog-sitter who can work on short notice, etc. If you keep a list like this, either in hard copy or online, you can get all your travel responsibilities covered in less than an hour. Easy as pie.
2. Keep an organized closet. This is beneficial for everyday living, obviously, but it is especially useful when you travel. I knew that all I was bringing to Phoenix were a few summer dresses, a bathing suit, some sandals, and my cowboy boots. I knew exactly where everything was in my closet or in storage (I haven’t needed flip flops since Brazil, sadly). I personally keep all my clothes organized by colour, so it was incredibly easy to find what I was looking for.
3. Similarly, keep a separate space for “travel stuff”. I have a box at home with all of my potential travel gear: lock, travel towel, head torch, adapters, money belt, sunscreen, travel-sized bottles, first-aid kit, etc. I know that, whatever I need to travel, I’ll most likely find it in there. It saves having to rummage through drawers or closets looking for your Swiss Army knife.
4. Have a go-to suitcase or backpack. Though I use a large backpack when I’m gone for longer stints, I generally travel with a medium-sized suitcase when I’m going to be staying in a city for a week or so, or when I’m bringing “nicer” clothes that I don’t want to cram into a backpack. I bought a Skyway no-weight suitcase about six years ago (similar style here), and I’ve travelled with it all over the world. I keep it right beside my stairs in my basement, so it’s easy to find.
5. Keep your passport and other travel documents in the same spot. Whether it’s a sock drawer, a safe, or hidden in a particular book, keep your most valuable documents in the same place, and return them immediately upon coming home. The last thing you want to do before a morning flight is spend the night searching for something important.
6. Keep your camera charger, spare batteries, and any other necessary electronics or accessories organized as well. I made this mistake this time around; I got my battery chargers mixed up and had to spend Monday night rummaging through boxes. You may even want to create a list of the things you’ll need. Bringing your phone? You’ll need the charger, and so on.
7. Realize that, in this day and age, you can pretty much show up with the clothes on your back in any location and be OK. Unless you are travelling to the middle of the Serengeti or getting on a three-week cruise to Antarctica, chances are you’ll be able to purchase anything you forget at your holiday destination. It may be more difficult to find, and may be more expensive, but don’t beat yourself up if you forget your toothbrush (I’ve done this twice). My hero is the Swedish guy I met in Thailand who showed up with only his passport and credit card. He bought everything he needed in Bangkok the next day.
8. Finally, have an open mind. This is perhaps the number one thing you need in order to travel on a whim. Stay organized and prepared ahead of time, and you will have no problem accepting an offer to spontaneously go to Switzerland to ski for a long weekend (hi Mark!) or take that road trip with your friends to Montreal. If you can afford the time and the money, don’t let the potential hassles you have to deal with before your holiday stop you from travelling. Just say yes!
I found this holiday to Phoenix incredibly easy to prepare for, but I know that next week, in those two days I have in Canada, I’ll have a lot more preparation to do for the ten weeks I have in Europe, the Middle East, and Toronto. I’m just going to take it easy, though, just do one thing at a time. I always look at it this way: after a stressful few days of errands, packing, phone calls, and perhaps a haircut, I have the very best reward.