Take A Break is your ultimate guide to the perfect trips to recharge, rediscover yourself and your relationships, and reengage with the world. We’ll cover shopping stops, great bars, restaurants worth your money, photo opportunities, memorable drives and experiences, and other important details you need before you book.
Below, we chat with Caroline Bologna, senior travel and culture reporter at HuffPost, about why you’ll want to put New Orleans on your bucket list.
What drew you to New Orleans as a place to visit or explore?
I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived there until I went away for college, so the city is in my DNA. However, I don’t think I had a full appreciation for what a special place it is until I left.
As an adult, I often return for the typical family holidays, weddings and school reunions, of course, but I find myself thirsting for more NOLA time (and more NOLA food!) ― especially around the many festivals and other amazing cultural events. It feels like there’s always something exciting going on in New Orleans, and people are always down to have a good time. “Laissez les bons temps rouler” is our unofficial motto, after all.
What are the best times of year to visit?
I don’t recommend visiting during the summer, as it’s hurricane season and also tends to be unbearably hot and humid. My favorite time to visit is spring — especially around Jazz Fest. Fall is another pleasant time weather-wise, with plenty of Halloween festivities as well. And the holiday season is lovely, with mild temperatures and festive decorations (shout-out to the lights at The Roosevelt and Celebration in the Oaks).
What’s your best tip for getting there? How can you make the travel as stress-free as possible?
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is reachable via nonstop flights from most major hubs and other destinations. The airport itself is also quite new and nice, with amazing local food like MoPho, Emeril’s and Café du Monde.
New Orleans is also an excellent road trip stop if you’re exploring the Southeast. You can drive through Cajun Country and quickly get over to Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle as well.
Where do you recommend staying when you go?
I urge visitors to stay in hotels when possible, as the negative impact of short-term rentals on the New Orleans housing market has been particularly tough.
Fortunately, there are lots of wonderful hotel options. Beyond the classic chains, The Chloe and The Eliza Jane are great for charming boutique hotel vibes. I’m also a fan of Hotel St. Vincent and Hotel Peter and Paul, which are in cool old renovated buildings (and great for grabbing a bite or drink too, even if you aren’t staying there).
What are your go-to restaurants or foods to eat while you’re there?
Where to begin? New Orleans is famous for its food, so it’s hard to have a bad meal. The last new restaurant I tried was Mister Mao, an eclectic “tropical roadhouse” that did not disappoint.
Some of my favorites include Turkey and the Wolf (the collard green melt is my favorite sandwich of all time), Toups’ Meatery (that dirty rice is pure smoky deliciousness), Peche (be sure to order the whole fish), Willa Jean (don’t forget to try one of their famous cookies), Atchafalaya (brunch with live music and a Bloody Mary bar is hard to beat), Mother’s (great for classics like jambalaya and gumbo) and Camellia Grill (an old diner with a famously gregarious staff).
I’m also a fan of Saba, Bywater American Bistro, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, Bayona, Jacques Imo’s, Birdy’s Behind the Bower, La Petite Grocery, Willie Mae’s Scotch House, Compère Lapin, Cochon Butcher, and the offerings at food halls like St. Roch Market and Pythian Market.
For a fancier meal, I recommend Galatoire’s (Friday lunch is a truly special experience), Antoine’s, Brennan’s, Commander’s Palace, Restaurant R’evolution or the restaurant in the new Four Seasons New Orleans, Chemin à la Mer.
In the morning, grab a coffee at PJ’s or French Truck Coffee and maybe some beignets from Café du Monde or other pastries from Levee Baking Co. Honorable mention to Ruby Slipper Cafe for breakfast as well. And for dessert, I recommend ice cream from Creole Creamery, any of the sweets from Sucré or a sno-ball (not to be confused with other shaved ice desserts) from Plum St. Snoballs, Sal’s Sno-Balls or Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls.
What bars or entertainment spots do you make sure to hit? What’s good to drink there or what else should people know?
If you’re looking for a nice hotel bar, definitely check out the famous Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone ― it actually moves like a carousel!
For more great hotel bars, go to The Columns, The Chloe, Hotel St. Vincent’s Paradise Lounge, the Chandelier Bar at the Four Seasons, Jack Rose in the Pontchartrain Hotel and The Elysian Bar at Hotel Peter and Paul.
If you’re looking for a more casual outdoors vibe, grab frozen daiquiris and wings at Bourrée, hit up the patio at Tchoup Yard or hang out at Wrong Iron on the Greenway. Bacchanal is a beloved wine bar, and Lafitte’s and Pat O’Brien’s are classic French Quarter spots if you want to get the true visitor experience. (And of course, there’s Bourbon Street, but I’ll talk about that shortly…)
What are your favorite shops and what do you look for when you’re there?
Magazine Street is a great shopping area with tons of local spots ― such as Home Malone, Hazelnut and Sunday Shop for home goods and Monomin, Peony, Hemline, Dirty Coast, Fleurty Girl, Jean Therapy and Trashy Diva for clothes.
As for accessories, I like to buy jewelry from local designer Mignon Faget, who has a shop on Magazine St. as well. And I highly recommend picking out a nice pair of sunglasses from Krewe and looking through all the unique pieces at Saint Claude Social Club.
What’s your single favorite spot to go for photos and why?
Obviously, the French Quarter is a very “Instagrammable” neighb, but don’t sleep on the Garden District for beautiful homes and gardens that make for great photo backdrops ― with a nice side of architectural history.
Drive down St. Charles Avenue for some more lovely oak tree-filled views and pass by perhaps my favorite photo spot for both sentimental and aesthetic reasons ― the school I attended for 14 years, the Academy of the Sacred Heart. It frequently appears on lists of the most beautiful schools in the South or the country as a whole.
What tourist attraction should people skip and what should they do instead?
Bourbon Street is obviously famous, so I see the appeal of checking it out at least once. But for a fun night out, I tell people to leave the chaos of Bourbon Street and head over to Frenchmen Street for incredible live music and bar-hopping around the Marigny neighborhood instead.
Where do you feel the most relaxed, calm or happy?
“The Fly” is a lovely waterfront area of Audubon Park where my friends and I used to hang out when we were younger. Sitting there and staring out at the Mississippi River still brings me a strong sense of calm and nostalgia. Walking along the levees around the Mississippi River can also be a very relaxing experience.
What scenic spots do you recommend checking out?
Nature lovers will also enjoy City Park, which boasts 1,300 acres of green space to explore, as well as the lovely New Orleans Museum of Art and Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden. There’s really something for everyone at City Park, from golf to fishing to an amusement park! (Hit up Ralph’s on the Park for scenic dining views as well.)
I also tell history nerds to add The National WWII Museum to their itineraries ― it’s a top-notch museum in a very cool space. Music Box Village is a unique place for performances and exploration, so definitely check it out if the idea of “musical architecture” appeals to you.
What’s one thing you make sure to pack if you’re going and why?
I recommend packing a solid, easily portable umbrella and/or rain jacket because it rains rather frequently in New Orleans, and often in unpredictable ways. If you’re going to a festival like Jazz Fest, don’t bring all your good shoes.
What are some specific planning tips to know before you go so you’re not stressed?
For stress-free travel, I again advise not visiting during hurricane season (especially August and September) because you run the risk of a storm derailing your plans.
And although the iconic streetcar makes for a scenic ride, it’s not going to be practical for all locations, so map out where you’ll need to take an Uber, or consider renting a car.
What surprised you about New Orleans when you went the first time?
I grew up in New Orleans, so I had a funny perception of what was normal at times. In a reverse way, what probably surprised me the most was moving away from the city and learning that open container laws are a thing.
Anything else visitors should know?
Make sure you talk to locals while you’re in town. The people and infectious energy are what make New Orleans so special. And it’s pronounced New Or-linz, not Nawlins and certainly not New Orleenz.
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Travel Hacks That Actually Save Money
The benefits of travel are manifold. Whether you’re going on a multi-country adventure or getting some R&R at the beach, there’s real value to unplugging from everyday life, connecting with new people and enjoying a change of scenery.
But what people aren’t always sure about is the monetary value of the experience.
“I think there’s an assumption that travel has to be expensive because until fairly recently it has been more of a luxury and certainly more expensive,” said Katie McIntosh, a travel blogger and creator of The Katie Show. “While it’s a privilege and still requires some money-saving dedication, the cost has been significantly reduced now that we have access to many different price-checking websites, apps, and platforms.”
Indeed, there are lots of ways to cut down on costs as you plan a trip — some more effective than others. Below, McIntosh and other experts share their favorite hacks for saving money when they travel.
Rethink your default airport
“It makes perfect sense that when booking a vacation, you’ll select to depart from your nearest airport, but it’s worth comparing prices first,” said Blake Walsh, a travel expert at Travel Lens. “Vacation costs can differ when traveling from different airports, so carry out some research to see if you can save money by flying from an airport which isn’t as close to where you live.”
If you live in Miami, for example, you might find cheaper options if you expand your search beyond Miami International Airport and look at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as well. Similarly, if you’re a New Jersey resident, you might have better luck flying out of Philadelphia than Newark.
“While you may have to drive a little extra, flight prices could be hundreds of dollars cheaper at the next-closest airport,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer.
Find a local car service
“Pre-planning things as much as possible is a great way to save costs,” said Laura Ratliff, senior editorial director at TripSavvy. “For instance, while I used to rely mainly on big global rideshare services in most cities, now I take a few extra minutes to find a local car service wherever I go.”
Think about how many Ubers or Lyfts you take during a typical vacation and how those costs add up. Compare their prices with other ride options, and you might be able to save a significant amount of money on a trip. Ratliff noted that local car services have other benefits.
“Many of them are cheaper, have nicer vehicles, and offer services like pre-scheduled, in-person airport pickups, which can be handy when you’re struggling with lots of luggage or arriving late and want the reassurance that you can safely get to your hotel,” Ratliff said.
Prioritize free parking
Whether you’re driving your own car or renting one, don’t overlook the related costs that can add up ― like parking.
She also tries to choose a hotel that’s within walking distance of great food and amenities to cut down on transit time and gas costs.
“When I was in Miami with a rental car, I stayed at AC Dadeland Hotel because it is connected to an upscale mall and has plenty of free parking, which checked off all these boxes,” she noted.
Or better yet, stick to public transportation
“Taking public transportation is often much cheaper than getting a taxi or renting a car,” said travel blogger Sean Lau. “It is also a great way to get to know the area and get a better sense of the local culture.”
Although not every destination has quality public transit, plenty do. So, before your trip, conduct some research to see if you have safe and convenient options.
“Many popular cities offer easy-to-navigate metro systems, as well as widespread bus lines or trams,” said travel blogger Rocky Trifari. “If your route is accessible via public transportation, you can probably get there for a fraction of what it would cost to go directly via taxi.”
Break up your trip with multiple lodgings
“Consider breaking up your trip by staying in different hotels rather than the same one,” said Sosie Matos, a wealth coach at OneEleven Financial Wellness. “You can sometimes get a better deal and also get to explore more of the area.”
Staying in different accommodations allows for greater flexibility, which leads to more savings. As you look into hotel options, see how the rates change for various durations.
“Search different lengths and dates to make sure you’re taking advantage of promotions like third, fourth or fifth night free,” advised Chris Hutchins, a “financial optimizer” and host of the podcast “All the Hacks.”
Choose accommodations with a kitchen
“One of the biggest expenses when traveling is food,” Lau said. “Eating out can get expensive, especially if you’re dining in a touristy neighborhood.”
Consider cooking some of your own meals. In addition to saving money, you’ll get a nicely immersive tourist experience by shopping for local ingredients at markets or grocery stores. Try your hand at a local recipe if you’re feeling inspired.
“I always look for hotels with at least a kitchenette,” Dengler said. “Staying at a hotel with a kitchenette or full kitchen allows you to prepare your meals and avoid high restaurant prices. I save hundreds of dollars on trips by cooking breakfast and lunch in my hotel room or Airbnb and only eating out for dinner.”
Look for restaurant specials
“I always save my fine dining experiences for lunch,” said Jessica van Dop DeJesus, founder and editor at The Dining Traveler. “Most restaurants offer a prix-fixe lunch menu that is much more affordable than the evening menus. I splurge for lunch and then eat at fast-casual places or street food at night.”
Even if you want to try lots of restaurants during your trip, you can still spend less by putting in a little time to plan in advance. Cast a wide net and look for deals.
“A usually pricey restaurant may have a delicious special menu one night of the week or a discounted happy hour menu at a particular time of day that you can uncover with some research and planning,” Ratliff said.
Take advantage of ‘shoulder season’
“I recommend traveling during the destination’s shoulder season,” Dengler said. “That is the time between the peak and the offseason.”
He noted that the shoulder seasons for a summer beach trip are typically late May to early June and late August to mid-September, when it’s “still warm enough to enjoy the beach and ocean but without the usual crowds.” Different types of destinations have different seasonal demand, so, as always, do your research to identify this ideal travel time.
“Not only will it be cheaper for you to fly to the destination, but once you arrive, prices might be cheaper overall,” said travel blogger Esther Susag. “A lot of popular destinations will hike up the prices of their excursions, hotels, and even restaurants during popular months to travel.”
Keep a currency conversation cheat sheet
When traveling abroad, try to familiarize yourself with the local currency.
“One common behavior people fall into while traveling is overspending simply because they don’t understand the conversion,” McIntosh said. “When there is a large difference in the conversion rate it can be overwhelming to keep track of and constantly be doing the mental math of calculations, so many times people just purchase things without thinking of what they are actually spending.”
McIntosh recommended keeping a “cheat sheet” with the currency conversions in your phone for easy reference as you make purchases so that you know what things actually cost.
“It’s saved me from overspending many times over the years,” McIntosh said. “It’s also very helpful when getting cash out of ATMs, because sometimes the denominations offered are far more than you would need.”
Avoid costly exchange rates
On the subject of foreign money, you’ll want to get the best exchange rates possible, so that your money goes further.
“If you are traveling to a destination where you have to use a foreign currency, you might be tempted to use a currency exchange,” Lau said. “However, this can often be a costly mistake. Instead, consider using a bank card that offers no ATM withdrawal fees and no international transaction fees while you are abroad.”
Be strategic about when you book flights
“If possible, pick your trip dates based on the cheapest days to fly to your destination,” Dengler said. “Doing so can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.”
Google Flight’s calendar view can help you identify the cheapest travel dates from a variety of airlines. The day you search and purchase your flights can also make a difference. Weekends are popular times for booking, so costs might be higher.
“Buy air tickets on Monday or Tuesday between 11 p.m.-12 a.m.,” recommended finance coach Tatiana Tsoir. “Prices are highest at weekday lunchtime, and sometimes even if you keep checking the same site several times, the prices will go up because your IP address is being recognized. Clear the cookies.”
Set flight alerts
“Flight alerts can be a useful way to help monitor airfare if you have some parameters in mind for your trip,” Trifari said. “For example, if you know you aim to go to a specific destination during certain dates, I would recommend enabling alerts to monitor for price increases and decreases. Not unlike stocks, timing the market can be difficult.”
If you wait to book your flight, you risk the possibility of the price increasing, which is more likely to occur for popular itineraries. When you aren’t taking an in-demand trip, however, you stand to save money by waiting and then pouncing as soon as there’s a price decrease. The other side of flight alerts is opting in for notifications of trending deals, which can be helpful, even when you don’t have a specific trip in mind.
“I love using flight services like Scott’s Cheap Flights or Travel Pirates to get notifications for cheap flights, and that can also take out a lot of the work to research and find the best deals,” Susag said.
La Carmina, who is based in Vancouver, noted that she uses YVR Deals, which sends email alerts for cheap fares out of the area.
“Thanks to this head’s up, I got my dad a flight to Hong Kong for around $500 roundtrip, and helped my friends book flights to Australia for under $1,000,” she noted. “Just be sure to book the flights immediately upon receiving the deal alert, as they usually sell out quickly or the price jumps back up within hours to a day.”
Find free tours
“A little time spent researching can save you a lot,” Hutchins emphasized. “The trick is that the travel industry is great at monetizing our desire for convenience and simplicity, so you might need to put in a little extra effort, but the returns can be huge.”
This not only applies to flights and accommodations, but also activities like guided tours.
“I just searched ‘London guided tour’ and the top few results were all in the $30-$200 range,” Hutchins explained. “But if you had found your way to Free Tours by Foot, Strawberry Tours or GuruWalk, you’d realize there are a ton of amazing free tours you can take ― though I do encourage you to tip the tour guide for their services.”
Explore outside main tourist areas
“It doesn’t matter where you travel to, if you are in the main tourist area then you will be paying more than you need to,” McIntosh said. “Often times you can easily save money by simply walking a couple of streets outside the center of town — provided the area is safe to do so, of course.”
McIntosh suggested taking this approach for meals to get better value for your money, as well as a more authentic experience.
“Check out forums and groups for the local community where you’re going,” Tsoir advised. “Ask for their advice on local gems, places to eat and visit beyond the touristy areas. Sometimes those are nice to explore and are cheaper too, while also being spots that reflect the true culture.”
Use comparison sites for research
As you plan your next trip, consider exploring sites like Kayak, Expedia and Orbitz to get a sense of which dates and travel providers are offering the rates you seek. Play around with the destination options as well.
“One of my suggestions is to look at smaller neighboring towns, cities, or even countries to fly into instead of some of the major hubs,” said Ben Julius, founder of Tourist Journey. “Sometimes, you’ll find that this saves quite a bit of money, and often provides less of a tourist view of the destination. For example, instead of flying into Milan or Venice, try Verona or Bergamo instead.”
Erika de Santi, a solo travel expert and co-founder of WeRoad, advised using these booking sites as an initial guide.
“Comparison sites can be useful in the research stage of planning your trip,” she explained. “But while they claim to scan every site to bring you the best deals, they often don’t flag those that are specific to an airline or hotel.”
De Santi recommended booking your flight or hotel of choice directly with the travel provider unless it’s more expensive. Consider calling to see if they’re offering additional deals you aren’t seeing online as well.
“When I’m ready to book I always prefer to book direct with the airline, so I’ll check on their website, and then I’ll download their app and check the price there too,” said Claire Summers, the travel blogger behind Claire’s Itchy Feet. “This doesn’t work for all airlines but some often do special app-only prices, so it’s worth a try.”
Join travel rewards programs
“I highly recommend booking your next vacation with a travel rewards credit card,” Dengler said. “Popular cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred and American Express Platinum Card have high earning rates for common travel purchases, including airfare, hotels and rental cars.”
If you’re not looking to add another credit card, you can also earn travel rewards points by joining the loyalty programs for the chains you use.
“Always be sure to apply the number to whatever you travel by on that trip,” Tsoir said, pointing to Marriott Bonvoy and World of Hyatt. “There is one there too. And those bigger chains often have locations that are prime. Points on airline travel and hotels make it significantly cheaper than traveling using dollars.”
Tsoir also suggested signing up for email lists that share promotional rates and taking advantage of discount programs you qualify for — whether it’s through work, school, military service or something else.
“There are plenty of apps that will help you find live discounts on food and drinks, cheap fuel, and occasional freebies,” said David Woody, a country development and travel expert at Sixt.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t take advantage of all the discounts out there, though.
“While you can seek out all the travel hacks to save money, at the end of the day, hotels, flights, dining, activities all come with a cost and to really enjoy a trip, you likely need to be prepared to spend some money,” Hutchins said. “But I think the experience you get from traveling, meeting people from other cultures, and eating food from around the world, is a fantastic use of my savings.”
8 Little Ways To Sneak In Self-Care On A Flight
Flying on a plane can be exciting ― especially if you’re venturing to a new place or going to visit people you love ― but it can be stressful at the same time. With delays, cancellations and COVID-19 still lurking around, understand that it’s OK to have feelings of uncertainty. You’re not alone.
Having a self-care routine in-flight can be beneficial for your mental and physical health. These small acts to take care of your body and mind can help you regain a sense of calm, and ease the stress of traveling. Not to mention a flight might be the only time you have to prioritize yourself.
We spoke to experts for their tips on in-flight relaxation and rejuvenation ― without annoying your seatmate. Here’s their best advice:
Do some writing.
It may be tempting to tap into that in-flight WiFi as soon as you hit the air. However, take a pause and consider if you can disconnect from social media or work emails, said Dr. Nina Vasan, the chief medical officer of Real, a mental health platform.
She recommends spending some time offline to focus on the present, and journal how you’re feeling. Write about the things you’re excited about or what’s worrying you currently. You can also follow a few prompts, like “if someone described me, what would they say?” or “when I look in the mirror, what do I see?” (Here are a few other options.)
If that doesn’t feel like your speed, try writing a letter to a friend. Thinking of a loved one is associated with more positive emotions ― combine that with the therapeutic effects of writing and you have yourself a beneficial way to tick down the minutes of your journey.
Try box breathing.
Deep breathing is a practice that can evoke a sense of relaxation. Israa Nasir, a psychotherapist and founder of “The Well.Guide,” recommends trying a “box breathing” exercise in order to get your body to physiologically calm down.
“The technique involves inhaling for four counts, holding your breath for four counts and exhaling for four counts either through your mouth or nose,” she said. Repeat as often as it takes to feel yourself unwind.
Indulge in your skin care routine.
“A skin care routine is a form of self-care that can feel therapeutic and soothing,” said Dr. Zain Husain, a dermatologist in New Jersey. Spending time to take care of your skin can help you take a moment to reflect or even wind down to rest.
When you’re flying, take the opportunity to try a face mask or massage your skin with a face serum. “Airplanes can be dry environments, so remember to keep your skin hydrated by applying a moisturizer as needed,” Husain said.
Take a nap.
Travel can be hectic and oftentimes you may have to make compromises, especially on sleep. Getting some good shuteye is an important aspect of self-care that rests and recharges your body.
“Use the flight time to close your eyes and catch up on sleep or simply rest. Wear ear plugs or listen to some calming music to help you disengage from the world around you,” Vasan said.
For added comfort, Nasir recommends wearing a sleep mask to help your body wind down.
Taking care of yourself involves staying hydrated as drinking water is essential for positive physical and mental health, said Supriya Lal, a registered dietitian based in New York. Being dehydrated can contribute to low energy levels and headaches.
After you clear the security checkpoint, remember to grab a water bottle or refill your reusable one. You can also request water during in-flight beverage service when you’re on board.
Try meditative coloring.
Meditative coloring is a practice that induces quietness and mindfulness by resting your mind, explained Nasir. It creates a space to allow you to creatively express your feelings while boosting your mood. Research shows that coloring can also relieve stress and can help you sit with imperfection (who really colors exactly in the lines?) ― all important mental health benefits.
Nasir recommends packing blank pages and coloring tools in your carry-on to use on the flight.
Read a book.
Enrich your mind by picking a book of your favorite genre to read on board. Reading can allow you to focus and promote a sense of calmness, Vasan said. Plus, it’s a great escape from the real world (which is definitely not calm right now).
If you don’t have time to grab a physical book prior to boarding your flight, aim to download an e-book on your phone or tablet.
Eat something delicious.
Eating when you’re hungry is a crucial aspect of taking care of yourself. “However, this can be challenging while traveling given time zone changes, potential delays, and availability of food options on the plane,” Lal said.
When packing your carry-on, remember to add some snacks you can munch on to satisfy your hunger, she recommended. Or grab something you enjoy from the airport, like candy you don’t often eat. Use this as a distraction-free time to savor what you’re noshing, rather than rush through it.
7 Ways To Make Holiday Travel Just A Tiny Bit Less Stressful This Year
The holidays are right around the corner, and you may be making plans for travel this season. With unexpected flight delays, COVID-19 infections lurking around, and other disruptions to your itinerary, traveling during one of the busiest times of the year can be stressful.
Understand that it’s completely normal to feel anxious and overwhelmed during your trip, especially with so much outside of your control, said Nina Vasan, chief medical officer of the mental health platform Real.
Whether you are traveling home for the holidays or taking a vacation to a new destination, here are some expert-approved tips to make holiday travel less stressful this year.
If you’re worried about sudden changes to your travel itinerary, it may be helpful to make a plan ahead of time.
Vasan recommends thinking of potential situations like flight cancellations, weather changes and lost baggage. You can then incorporate steps such as knowing alternate flight options or taking only carry-ons, if you have the option to do so.
“Having a ‘crisis plan’ in place can decrease your feelings of anxiety because you already know what to do if something disrupts your itinerary,” she said.
Balance your itinerary
Trying to fit everything into your trip, from visiting multiple family members to touring new places, can be a lot.
“Don’t feel obligated to make a fully booked travel itinerary or feel like you have to be productive at all times. Focus on spending quality time with others and make sure to spend some time for yourself to take care of your mental health,” said Katie Duke, a nurse practitioner and member of FIGS’ health care advisory board.
If you’re traveling for an organized event like a holiday, give yourself some space before or afterward to take a relaxing break. Duke recommends doing something that gives you joy, like taking a walk outdoors or grabbing your favorite drink at a local cafe.
Mindfulness, the ability to be present in the moment, has been associated with reduced anxiety. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, like focusing on your breathing, journaling how you’re feeling, or engaging in a guided meditation.
“The physical action of taking a few deep breaths can be really useful in releasing stress and promoting a state of calm,” Vasan said.
During your journey, you may find yourself spending more time waiting than planned due to delays. While this may be stressful, think of it as an opportunity to do something fun and entertaining to boost your mood, Vasan said.
Be creative and engage in an activity you enjoy, like finding a new book to read, starting a new TV series, drawing or even listening to a podcast episode.
It’s easy to forget to drink water throughout the day, especially during the colder months. Make sure you’re drinking enough water this holiday season, said Supriya Lal, a registered dietitian based in New York City.
“Staying hydrated will not only help our bodily functions, but also help improve our mood and energy levels,” Lal said.
Whether you are on the road or taking a train, the journey to and from your destination may make it difficult to get enough shut-eye. Prioritize sleep while traveling by aiming to get at least the recommended seven hours of rest each night.
“Getting enough rest is essential to be able to regulate your stress and channel healthy coping mechanisms,” Vasan said.
Give yourself some positive self-talk
The unanticipated changes you may experience during your travel journey can feel overwhelming, but remember that it’s out of your control. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
“Tell yourself that your emotions right now are completely valid. Engaging in positive self-talk can uplift your mood and decrease stress,” Duke said.
The Best National Parks To Visit In The Winter
When people plan their national parks vacations, they typically don’t target the winter season. But the low-traffic cooler months are actually a perfect time to visit many parks across the U.S.
“Winter is such an underrated time of year to visit the national parks if you’re willing to put in some extra time planning around seasonal closures and packing those winter clothes,” Jim Pattiz, co-founder of the organization More Than Just Parks, told HuffPost.
Of course, some parks are better suited for winter visits than others. We asked experts to share the national parks they believe are best to explore during the winter season.
Sequoia National Park
“Without a doubt my favorite national park to visit in the winter is Sequoia National Park in California,” Pattiz said. “Walking through a grove of the park’s magnificent giant sequoias draped in feet of white snow is truly an awe-inspiring experience. The crowds and frequent wildfires of summer are long gone here and replaced by the serene quiet of snow dropping from overburdened branches and the wind gently passing through the giant trees’ upper canopies.”
He noted that many of the park’s roads are closed seasonally, so it’s important to check the website ahead of time to ensure you can reach the specific destinations you want to visit.
“Be flexible and bring your best winter clothing!” Pattiz added.
Everglades National Park
“So many people make Florida their summer vacation spot because it’s a convenient time for a family getaway. However, it is not a good time to visit Everglades National Park,” said national parks travel expert Mikah Meyer.
This impressive wetlands ecosystem is located just outside Miami, and as Meyer alluded to, the area’s summer heat, humidity and swarms of mosquitos make it less enjoyable to visit during that time of year compared to other months.
“Having spent time in every section of the park in January, I can confirm it is an entirely different ― and pleasant ― experience,” he said. “The lower temperatures make every activity more enjoyable, including it being more comfortable to wear long pants on a muddy ‘slough slog’ hike to a cypress dome.”
Airboat rides feel less blistering in the sun during this time of year, and there’s a nice coolness in the air as you watch dolphins in the southwest section.
“It also means you’ll be less dehydrated during a Shark Valley Tram Tour, and in general will make you want to spend more time admiring the park’s multitude of wildlife than rushing back to the AC of your car,” Meyer said. “While there are other nearby national parks to Miami, Biscayne Bay and Dry Tortugas, both of these are less enjoyable in the winter because they are so heavily reliant upon water activities. The ocean water is cold during this time of year, which also takes away recreation options at the beach.”
Yellowstone National Park
“Yellowstone is one of the best parks to visit in the winter because it offers a unique glimpse at the world’s first national park,” said Jack Steward, co-host of the “Rock the Park” TV series. “The park has a quieter, less active feel in the winter, and with the bears hibernating, you can really sense the stillness in the air.”
The winter provides rare opportunities for exploration with fewer crowds and incredible snowy vistas, creating the sense that you’re the only people in the vast landscape.
“You can’t drive through or [camp] inside the park in winter,” said Joe Yogerst, travel expert and author of National Geographic’s “50 States, 500 Campgrounds.” “But you can hop a snowcoach or snowmobile tour or join a guided snowshoe or cross-country ski trip in the parks. There’s nothing quite like seeing ― and photographing ― a herd of snow-mantled bison in Yellowstone.”
Make sure you do your research, so you know how you’ll be getting around and which areas are accessible during the winter. You’ll be mentally and logistically prepared for a unique experience.
“Mammoth Hot Springs and the Lamar Valley are two locations that must be visited, both for the wildlife and to see the transformative nature of winter,” Derek Wright and Amy Beth Wright, outdoor enthusiasts and creators of Parks and Points, told HuffPost in an email. “Old Faithful blasts out steaming water, but then watch as it cools in the winter air. Ghost trees (trees covered with the frozen water spray), geysers where water turns from steam to ice, and bison whose exhales come with wisps of steam as well are just a few images of the natural world that are only visible at this time of year.”
Although camping outdoors isn’t an option, they recommended exploring the lodging options inside and outside the park, like the gateway towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner.
“It is cold, but pack warm clothes and enjoy a hot cocoa at the end of the day, as you’ll never have a winter adventure quite like this,” the Wrights added.
Big Bend National Park
“Big Bend National Park in West Texas is a massive park that borders the Rio Grande River and Mexico, and makes for a great winter visit,” the Wrights said. “The summer temperatures will have abated, making it a perfect time to hike or stroll through a unique mountain landscape that formed from volcanic activity 35 million years ago.”
Winter is part of the park’s high season, so make sure you plan ahead if you want to camp or stay at the lodge.
“In particular, skygazing is perfect at this time of year,” the Wrights noted. “If you are into astral photography or simply enjoy being absorbed by the night sky in an amazing location, Big Bend National Park is an official International Dark Sky Park. With the timing of winter sunsets, stargazing can start before 8:00 p.m.”
Travel blogger Renee Hahnel also advised taking advantage of the winter weather conditions in southwest Texas.
“It can get really hot in Big Bend National Park, so visiting during winter is optimal,” Hahnel said. “There’s tons to do, including hiking, sightseeing, bouldering, scenic drives, and soaking in hot springs.”
Bryce Canyon National Park
“The hoodoo-spired landscape of Bryce Canyon National Park adds another dimension entirely when snow falls on its peaks,” said James Brockbank, founder of The Family Vacation Guide.
Beyond the magical vibes, you won’t have to contend with crowds and struggle to find parking during the low winter season, and there are still plenty of activity options.
“The red rock amphitheater remains open year-round, and families can head to popular lookouts such as Sunset Point or hike recommended routes including the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden trails,” Brockbank said. “There are a multitude of things to do ― from daytime hiking, ice fishing and snowmobiling to a nightfall stargazing and camping experience for families. Its photogenic landscape makes for a great excuse for sightseeing and plenty of photo opportunities to cherish for life.”
Acadia National Park
“Acadia National Park is typically covered in 5 feet of blanketed snow during the colder months,” Brockbank said. “The park contains the tallest mountain on the Atlantic coast of the U.S. Great for cross-country skiers that can enjoy a 45-mile stretch of carriage roads.”
Parkgoers can grab a hot chocolate and explore the nearby Mount Desert Island town of Bar Harbor, Maine, before and after their Acadia adventures.
“The park is rich in human history dating back 10,000 years,” Brockbank said. “Here you can include your kids of all ages, as there are a plethora of child-friendly excursions for educational purposes along with fun-filled activities.”
From snowshoeing to snowmobiling to ice fishing, the options are vast.
Death Valley National Park
“Winter is the prime time to visit Death Valley National Park,” said Janel Jensen, program manager for adventure travel at REI. “Temperatures are usually mild (for the ‘hottest place on Earth’), and there are good opportunities to still soak up some sun.”
The snow-capped peaks and low-angled winter light make for some lovely views, and you can spend more time outdoors than is advisable during the hotter months.
“Hiking is an ideal activity along with cycling the less-trafficked roads during offseason,” Jensen said.
Yosemite National Park
“My favorite winter national park is Yosemite, mainly because the valley and the high Sierra look so gorgeous when covered in snow,” Yogerst said.
He recommended snowy activities like snowshoeing through the redwood groves, family-style downhill skiing or snowboarding at Badger Pass, ice skating beneath the stars at Curry Village, and cross-country skiing along Glacier Point Road.
“Yosemite National Park is one of the busiest national parks during the warmer months, so visiting during winter is a great time to escape the crowds,” Hahnel said. “I recommend traveling with tire chains, unless you have a 4×4 vehicle and winter tires. The roads can get icy!”
Photography enthusiasts will also enjoy the season’s low lighting and easy wildlife spotting, added Jensen.
“Yosemite National Park is a winter wonderland of iced granite peaks, snow-topped giant sequoias and snow blanketing the valley floor,” she said. “My favorite snowshoe trip is from Badger Pass to Dewey Point, where you are rewarded with one of the best views of the valley and El Captan and Half Dome on a clear day.”
Zion National Park
“Winters in Zion National Park are spectacular,” Jensen said. “The potential fresh snow on the landscape adds a dramatic contrast to the already unique scenery and the noise-dampening quality of snow makes this less crowded season that much more peaceful.”
She touted the crowd-free solitude of Zion in the winter and variety of hiking options open year-round due to the low elevation and mild conditions.
“Take in breathtaking views of snow-dusted cliffs contrasted against the warm orange tones of Zion Canyon,” Jensen recommended. “Hike to Observation Point, exploring slot canyons along the way and incredible views of iconic Angels Landing. It’s easier to see wildlife this time of year as they move to lower elevation. Wild turkeys, bald eagles, elk and bighorn sheep are a few of the resident wildlife.”
What Travel Experts Would Never Buy On A Trip
Visiting famous attractions and trying new restaurants are undoubtedly highlights of most trips. But many travelers also relish the experience of shopping in a new destination.
Not all travel purchases are created equal, however. And there are certain items you’re better off just bringing with you on your vacation.
We asked travel experts to share the things they would never buy on a trip, from items they always make sure to pack to certain souvenirs that aren’t worth schlepping home. Read on for their responses.
“I would never purchase shoes while traveling. They tend to take up way too much space in your luggage, and if you are an over-packer, like me, you will not have room for them. However, you could always pack a pair of shoes that you are comfortable with leaving at your destination in exchange for a new pair. Then it is a win-win!” ― Ravi Roth, travel expert and host of “The Gaycation Travel Show”
“I would never buy anything that can break, like glass bottles of wine, olive oil, sunscreen in a bottle. You do not want to risk ruining your clothes in your luggage for a bottle of red wine.” ― Roth
“One thing you should never buy while traveling is headphones. A good pair of headphones can make a long journey fly by, but if you’re like me and tend to forget them, they are incredibly overpriced both in airports and tourist shops.” ― Gabby Beckford, founder of the travel site Packs Light
Food or other natural products
“Don’t bother trying to bring jams, meats, cheeses or other perishable food items home. It’s not worth the likely hassle at customs. I bring home foreign candies for my kids and have wine shipped if there’s one I really like.” ― Paul Jacobs, general manager and vice president at Kayak North America
“I love functional souvenirs (spices, accessories, notepads, clothing, etc.), but I would never try to bring back dirt, sand, shells, or fresh produce or meat of any kind. Sometimes it’s OK, sometimes, it’s the biggest hassle ever. If I want to bring a particular food back home, I’ll buy it at the airport to make sure it’s airport security approved.” ― Beckford
“If you want to avoid extra charges and fees, try to avoid purchasing heavy items that may jack up the weight of your suitcase. If you check a bag, make sure you keep in mind your airline’s weight limits and how much your checked bag weighed before takeoff.” ― Casey Brogan, consumer travel expert at Tripadvisor
New deodorant or lotion
“This may sound odd, but deodorant and lotions. You can use different shampoos and soaps from wherever, but changing brands of deodorant or lotion can cause all kinds of irritations. Bring the brands you use at home.” ― Jacobs
“Of course, avoid packing liquids that don’t meet your airline’s guidelines, or else you may have to throw out expensive products. If you choose to buy toiletries at your destination, don’t get the large bottles you would purchase at home. Instead, select small or travel-sized items that you can dispose of at the end of your trip and avoid waste.” ― Brogan
“I highly discourage buying full-sized toiletries when traveling. In most cases, you will not finish the bottle and have to throw it out. Instead, buy travel-sized toiletries before leaving for your trip. You can also buy full-sized toiletries at home along with 3.4 oz TSA-approved travel bottles. Fill the travel bottles with what you need and pack them for your trip. You will then have the full-sized bottle waiting for you when you get back home.” ― Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer
“Although it can be tempting to purchase big ticket valuables like jewelry, it may be best to avoid the risk of loss or theft. Consider having valuables shipped home if you’re able.” ― Brogan
Heavily marked-up souvenirs
“While some souvenirs may seem unique at the time, you can probably get them cheaper elsewhere. Additionally, heavy souvenirs may not only be overpriced but a burden to carry around. You may also find it difficult to transport heavy souvenirs home if you already have limited luggage space. With regards to Disney, I recommend buying all Disney apparel and souvenirs before or after your trip. Unfortunately, Disney souvenirs are heavily marked up at hotels, and in the parks, so you are much better off buying elsewhere.” ― Dengler
“Forgetting your phone charger when traveling can be costly. While airports do sell chargers, the prices are highly inflated. If possible, buy your new charger at a local store after arriving at your destination. Unfortunately, that can still be a huge hassle, and you may still end up paying a premium price. I recommend having a good packing list and always including essential electronics like your phone charger.” ― Dengler
Mistakes Travelers Make On A Long-Haul Flight
On the list of ways people want to spend their time, sitting on a plane for hours on end is probably not very high. But long-haul flights are a necessary reality if you need to travel far.
“A long-haul flight can certainly be daunting and stressful,” Casey Brogan, a consumer travel expert at Tripadvisor, told HuffPost. “Airports and security lines definitely generate traveler anxiety, especially with new guidelines and ever-changing restrictions. But it is important to remind ourselves that the journey to get there is not the vacation, and relaxation awaits you.”
In addition to focusing on the positive light at the end of the tunnel, there are also many ways to make the flight a little more pleasant. An easy approach is to understand what not to do.
With that in mind, HuffPost asked travel experts to share the common mistakes travelers make when it comes to long-haul flights — and their advice for avoiding these pitfalls.
Wearing Uncomfortable Clothes
“The most common mistake people make on long-haul flights is not dressing properly,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “Since you will be sitting in the same seat for six or more hours, it is essential to be as comfortable as possible.”
Avoid heavy and restrictive clothing and instead choose soft fabrics and stretchy garments for peak comfort and coziness. Wearing layers is helpful for the shifting cabin temperatures. And don’t forget to invest in some compression socks for health and comfort during long-haul flights.
“While I’m usually a proponent of dressing nicely on flights, the super long-haul ones are the ones where I see many people make the mistake of dressing too cute and then winding up uncomfortable,” said Gabby Beckford, founder of the travel site Packs Light. “I always get compliments on my flight fit ― matching top and bottom neutral sweats. Or, I recommend bringing a comfortable flight fit to change into once you reach a cruising altitude.”
In addition to wearing comfortable, stretchy clothes, you’ll also want to avoid wearing tight, restrictive shoes when you fly.
“Loosen the laces so you can slip on and off to get comfortable,” Brogan advised. “At the end of the flight, you’ll probably find that your feet have swollen. This is normal and another reason to choose comfortable footwear.”
Choosing A Seat By The Restroom
Your seat selection can make a big difference in the quality of your flight experience. If you’re looking for a more peaceful time, consider choosing a seat that isn’t in a high-traffic area.
“Sitting near the restroom may sound convenient, but it’s never fun to be in that row when a line forms outside the restroom,” said Paul Jacobs, general manager and vice president at Kayak North America. “Sit far away and use the walk to stretch.”
Watching The Clock
As the saying goes, “A watched pot never boils.” Similarly, time will seem to move a lot more slowly during a long flight if you keep staring at the clock.
“Once you’re on board, set your watch to the time of the place you will be landing in, but try to avoid looking at it and counting down the hours,” Brogan advised. “Similarly, don’t look at the ‘where are we’ map. You’ll land soon enough!”
Forgetting To Double-Check Upgrade Options
Don’t assume you can’t afford to upgrade your seat on a long-haul flight. Check the upgrade options when you check in for your flight online.
“I always check in as soon as the option is available ― 24 hours before flight time via the airline app,” Beckford said. “When you do that, you will see what seat options are available. Often on the day of the flight, upgrades will be drastically reduced in cost.”
“For example, on my flight from Cape Town to Newark, originally upgrades were $3,000 ― but on the day of the flight, those same upgraded seats were $700,” she noted. “That little upgrade will definitely make a 14-hour flight more enjoyable.”
Traveling Without Sleep Essentials
“You should bring good earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you plan to sleep,” Dengler said. “Additionally, a good sleep mask can make a huge difference. Finally, I recommend finding a good neck pillow before flying.”
He noted that “not all neck pillows are created equal,” so do your research and find the one that works for you. “Get the ones that attach to the headrest,” Jacobs said. “It’s a total game changer.”
Flying Without Entertainment
“Before your flight, download movies, music or podcasts to your devices like phone, iPad or laptop and ensure they are fully charged before traveling so you have guaranteed entertainment options,” Brogan said. “On a recent flight, my in-flight entertainment was not working properly, so I was glad to have downloaded movies to my iPad as a backup for the hours in the air.”
Your entertainment doesn’t have to involve a screen either. Bring a book or magazine or do crossword puzzles for entertainment.
“You should always have something to do on a long-haul flight,” Dengler said. “At times, that may be sleeping, but I recommend always having access to entertainment.”
Overlooking Seat Options
“Be sure to select your seat in advance,” said Ravi Roth, a travel expert and host of “The Gaycation Travel Show.” “You don’t want to end up stuck in a middle seat on a long flight. Most airlines do not charge a seat fee for economy, but if you can splurge I say go for comfort plus or economy plus. Extra legroom is key.”
Paying for business class is not feasible for most people, but maybe you’ve saved up enough to compromise with a premium economy ticket.
“Select a window seat if you plan on sleeping,” Dengler said. “Pay extra for an exit-row seat if you will be more comfortable with extra legroom. It really comes down to what time the flight is and whether or not you plan to sleep.”
Figure out which seat position you prefer before booking a long flight.
“Window or aisle ― you really need to decide what is more important to you,” Jacobs said. “You can lean on the window ― or have the freedom of getting up and stretching whenever you feel like it. I prefer the aisle any day.”
Boarding Without A Sleep Game Plan
“It is important to figure out what you will be doing on the flight,” Dengler explained. “Is it a red-eye flight where the goal will be to sleep? Or is it during the day when you will need to stay occupied?”
Try to sleep when it’s nighttime at your destination, rather than your origin. And if you’re planning to sleep during the flight, avoid caffeine and try to walk around the airport to tire yourself out before boarding.
“Watching movies can make you sleepy, so instead log on to Wi-Fi and work or shop when you need to be awake,” Jacobs suggested.
Jet lag is very real, but there are different tactics for making the time change easier to manage, even after a sleepless red-eye.
“Do not take a nap once you land at your destination,” Roth said. “Power through so that you sync up your body with the local clock. You will adapt much better to the new time zone.”
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, however. It’s not the end of the world if you can’t quickly adjust.
“Don’t force yourself to sleep just because you feel like you should,” said Laura Ratliff, senior editorial director at TripSavvy. “I’m a big fan of an arrival ‘espresso nap’ ― I down a quick espresso, draw the curtains, and force myself to sleep for 25-30 minutes. It helps me get through the day without being bleary-eyed, and I am just tired enough to sleep at night.”
Feel Obliged To Talk The Whole Time
“When traveling with colleagues, you don’t have to sit next to them,” Jacobs said. “A long flight is a long time to make small talk.”
Unless you need to do collaborative work during a flight, choose your own seat on a business trip if possible and try to put some space between you and co-workers. You’ll have plenty of time together at the airport and then your destination.
“Plus, no need to have your colleagues see or hear you sleeping,” Jacobs said. “Sit separately ― it’s not rude. They will appreciate it too.”
Relying On Plane Food
Unless you’re sitting in business class, you’re not guaranteed a lot of meal and snack choices, so if you’re particular, it’s best to eat just before the flight or come prepared with your own food.
“I always bring my own snacks on long-haul flights, and I have never regretted it,” Dengler said. “Food options can be limited, so this guarantees I will be able to eat what I want and when I want.”
Being on a long flight might feel like some sort of alternate reality where time and rules don’t apply, but it’s still important to take care of yourself and your body when you can.
“Get up to walk around and stretch every few hours,” Brogan said. “Your legs will thank you once you arrive!”
Don’t forget to stay hydrated and take any vitamins and medications that are part of your daily routine. You’ll feel much better during your trip if you do what you can to take care of yourself during the transit process.
“On long flights, I have a little ritual of brushing my teeth, washing my face and applying lotion about an hour before landing,” Ratliff said. “My favorite lotion is Le Labo’s Rose 31 — the fragrance helps boost my mood a little, and now, it’s become such a habit that I associate that smell with getting off the plane and exploring a new place!”
How To Travel With Just A Carry-On
The air travel chaos of summer 2022 brought mass cancellations, overwhelming lines and mounds of lost luggage to airports around the world. Although departure schedules and crowds are not within a passenger’s control, many travelers have decided to take action on the lost luggage front ― by vowing to never check a bag again.
“I only check a bag if it is absolutely necessary,” Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer, told HuffPost. “I avoid checking a bag because it is often more expensive, and the risk of it getting lost or delayed is too high. This strategy saves me money and decreases my stress when flying.”
If you’re traveling with a ticket that allows for a carry-on bag and personal item, that’s the simplest way to get your things to your destination.
“I personally prefer to travel with just a carry-on to save time and avoid lugging a massive suitcase around,” said Casey Brogan, a consumer travel expert at Tripadvisor. “When I arrive at a vacation destination, the last thing I want to do is wait around in the airport.”
Fitting everything into carry-on luggage might feel easier said than done for some people. Still, there are practical ways to make it happen. Below, find 15 carry-on packing tips from Dengler, Brogan and other travel experts.
Wear your largest footwear on the flight
Be strategic about your plane outfit. What you choose to wear can free up precious space in a carry-on, especially when it comes to shoes.
“You should always fly wearing your footwear that takes up the most amount of space,” Dengler said. “Certain shoes, boots, and other footwear can take up a ton of suitcase space, and most can’t be folded.”
He also advised limiting the footwear you pack to what you absolutely need for the trip.
Stick to a color scheme
“The smartest thing you can do to minimize the risk of overpacking is to make sure you will wear everything you bring,” said Gabby Beckford, a self-proclaimed “carry-on-only queen” and founder of the aptly named travel site Packs Light. “I always try to pack with a color scheme in mind. With pieces in the same color scheme, you can mix and match as much as you need.”
As you select clothes for the trip, try to visualize how each piece could work with multiple other garments to create a variety of cohesive outfits. You can mix things up with well-placed accessories that don’t take up as much space in a suitcase.
“I recommend packing clothing with neutral colors that can make a variety of different outfits,” Dengler said. “That allows you to pack less and still not wear the same exact thing every day.”
Roll your clothes
“Rolling your clothing is the best way to maximize space in your carry-on,” Dengler said. “Additionally, your clothes will likely be less wrinkled than if you had folded them.”
He also suggested wrapping rubber bands around your rolled clothing to help keep things more organized and secure in the suitcase.
Choose accommodations with washer and dryer access
Before you even get to the packing stage ahead of a trip, you can help ensure you’ll only need a carry-on with your choice of accommodation.
“Staying at a hotel or Airbnb with a washer and dryer allows you to pack much lighter than you would otherwise have to,” Dengler said. “While many people do not want to do laundry on vacation, it allows you to take a potentially long trip with only a single carry-on.”
TripSavvy senior editorial director Laura Ratliff swears by stain-removing wipes to freshen up clothes she rewears while traveling. She also recommends doing laundry or dropping off your clothes during a trip.
“In many places, especially internationally, laundry services are incredibly cheap, so for longer trips, plan a day where you can drop off some dirty laundry and enjoy clean, pressed clothes by dinnertime,” she explained.
Take advantage of your personal item
In addition to luggage that goes in the overhead bin, major airlines typically allow passengers to travel with a “personal item” that must fit below the seat in front of them. This presents another opportunity to make use of extra space.
“I use a standard backpack as my personal item, and it is essential in allowing me to not have to check a bag,” Dengler said. “I often use it to store extra pairs of shoes as well as snacks and toiletries. That allows me to focus on clothing for my carry-on.”
Paul Jacobs, general manager and VP at Kayak North America, also recommended taking advantage of your personal item allowance.
“I use a laptop bag that has a sizable middle section,” he noted. “A sweater or light jacket and my toiletries can typically fit in there and save space in my carry-on. My wife also puts her purse inside a backpack to limit it to one personal item.”
Use packing cubes
“For travelers looking to join #TeamCarryOnOnly, I recommend the standard packing cubes,” Beckford said. “People recommend them all the time because they actually work.”
Packing cubes bring a sense of order and organization to a suitcase, which helps prevent over-packing as there’s less temptation to mindlessly throw in items you don’t actually need.
Try vacuum-sealed bags
“If you want to take it a step further [than packing cubes], there are vacuum-sealed packing bags you can use,” Beckford explained. “Place your fluffiest items into them and use the hand pump to remove all of the air. It compresses your clothes so you can fit twice as much. Just make sure you’re ready to do the same on the way home.”
Many people who live in small homes use vacuum-sealed bags to store winter clothes or other bulky items in the offseason, so it only makes sense that the same technology can help travelers maximize limited carry-on space.
Ensure your bags are carry-on compliant
It’s a terrible feeling to go through the process of packing what you think is carry-on luggage only to find out at the airport that you’re required to check it.
“Allowed carry-on and personal item bag sizes vary by airline, so check to see if your bags are compliant when booking your ticket,” Dengler said. “In many cases, it is more expensive to add additional carry-on and checked baggage after booking, so you must figure it out during the booking process.”
Choose lightweight fabrics
Instead of packing your chunky sweaters and fuzzy socks, consider how many more garments you could fit if you chose clothes made with thinner fabrics. You’ll also be better prepared for temperature fluctuations at your destination.
“Avoid packing heaving or thick materials and instead opt for items you can layer,” Brogan said. “Also, pack outfits that allow you to mix and match so you can re-wear items.”
Swap full-size items for smaller versions
“Instead of a heavy laptop, I travel with a mini tablet,” said Marek Bron, a travel blogger at Indie Traveller. “While it’s small, it’s perfect for entertainment or reading e-books.”
With the Transportation Security Administration’s limits on carry-on liquids, many travelers opt for smaller versions of their bath products and other personal items as well.
“For toiletries, I fill up some 100 ml travel containers, or I use products like solid shampoo, which can always pass through security,” Bron noted.
Separate must-haves from nice-to-haves
“The key to traveling carry-on is to pack light,” Bron emphasized. “I pack only the must-haves and not the nice-to-haves.”
Before you start putting items in your suitcase, take time to carefully consider each thing. Ask yourself, “Will I use this enough to justify taking it with me all this way?” Paring down may require some tough choices.
“Pack less than you think you need,” Brogan advised. “Lay it out, then put back 30% to 40%.”
Pack small items inside shoes
As you place items in your suitcase, be on the lookout for any empty vessels, which can mean wasted space. Then, place smaller items inside.
Jacobs recommended doing this with your footwear (assuming it’s not too smelly of course).
“Electric razors, watches, pairs of socks ― all can fit inside the shoes you packed,” he said.
Wear your coat
Like footwear, outerwear has the potential to make the difference between carry-on and checked luggage.
“Even small jackets take up a lot of space,” Dengler said. “Wear your coat or jacket on the plane even if it does not make sense temperature-wise. In some cases, there will be enough overhead bin space for it, but I recommend waiting until everyone has a chance to put their carry-on in a bin first.”
If there’s no overhead bin space available, simply take off your jacket and put it behind you for the duration of the flight.
Plan to buy toiletries at your destination
“For toiletries, consider buying items like shampoo and conditioner, lotions, and toothpaste once you reach your destination to save room in your suitcase,” Brogan said.
This might not be the most economical option, but if the bag space situation is getting really desperate, you might want to remove your toiletries and plan to purchase new ones at a drugstore after you arrive.
Choose luggage that is lightweight itself
In addition to size limits, carry-on luggage is also subject to weight limits. Even if you think it’s unlikely your bag will be weighed, no one likes to schlep an uber-heavy suitcase to and around the airport and back.
“I ensure my luggage itself is lightweight,” Bron said. “A lightweight carry-on backpack or suitcase can easily be 1 to 5 pounds lighter than typical luggage, giving you more of your carry-on weight allowance to use for clothes or other items. Considering how much you can save on check-in fees, some lightweight luggage is a nice investment.”
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