5 Travel Tips To Keep You Organized On The Road

Remember when we went to Miami Beach in April to throw our annual Festival of Art + Craft in Advertising and Design? On that trip, as is very often the case on the road, I had travel tips flowing out of my ears. It's simply a case of us learning as we go along, and I'm always compelled to share what I learn through our experience. So this is the third post of advice that I pulled together on that trip. Why yes, it did take a while to share the full rundown with you, but here is the last of those three posts (the last of what popped into my head on that trip, anyway). One of our toughest travel challenges is staying organized, and thus maintaining our sanity for the duration of a trip. We are really messy, actually, which makes it really important to at least have a system behind the mess holding it all together. Our suitcases may eventually look like they were individual bombs set off across whatever space we are occupying, but I know that everything we need is with us and has a place to live (even if it might not be occupying said place at any given moment. Hey, just being honest).

Our system for staying organized -- the method to our undeniable madness -- follows these five recommendations.

Pack with a plan.

As mentioned in my first travel post, a packing list (here's my template) can save a lot of time and "wait, what do I need?" headaches as you're packing. If you're packing often, you can lose a lot of time in the willy-nilly-wing-it packing system. By contrast, if you just use your list as a general guide, then pack with a plan, you'll be all set. Think very literally and thoroughly about where are you going and what you will need there. Lay out full outfits, if possible, but especially for any special occasion during the trip -- from the clothing itself to the shoes and accessories (i.e. men, do you need cufflinks and a tie clip with the suit you're bringing? Ladies, does that outfit need a necklace or scarf? Everyone... did you remember socks and underwear?). It's often the most obvious items that get lost in the melee. When you arrive and don't need to dig through your belongings 800 times hoping you packed something that you didn't, or have to go shopping for a tie in a town where you will never find a suitable option, you will thank yourself. 

Unpack when you arrive. Immediately.

This one is annoying up front because the very last thing you want to do when you finally collapse at your destination after a travel day is unpack your suitcase(s). But force yourself, trust me. Because it won't be long before you need to start digging into that luggage, and that's when hotel room explosions happen. By contrast, if you unpack right away, you a.) remind yourself what you brought and b.) put some order to it to prevent the boom. Most hotel rooms or accommodations -- even Airbnb -- have dresser drawers, a closet or at least a luggage rack for you to use. Take advantage and start out on the right foot (I give a lot of credit for just a well-intentioned start).

Keep track of dirty laundry.

Another annoying one ("Hello," I know you're thinking, "you want me to do this on vacation?"), but again, it will prevent headaches, which no one likes on vacation. Pack a reusable laundry bag in your suitcase and be sure to throw your dirty clothes (and those of the minis) into it as soon as you strip them off each day (okay, at least at the end of the day... see tip #4). My absolute favorite laundry/travel tip of all time is to pair your dirty socks before you throw them into the laundry bag. It prevents rogue runaways and arriving home with 1/3 of the socks you left with, and this is truly one I learned the hard way after buying all new socks after every trip. Having a laundry bag on hand also helps to prevent a lost cause after our patented hotel room explosion, because it keeps the stanky, used clothes away from the freshies.

Do a daily room clean up.

Okay, I promise I'm not trying to make vacation feel like home or Choretown U.S.A., population one. I only suggest taking no more than five minutes a day to sweep the room/space and straighten it up and/or prep for the next day. Even just putting things in a very loose, general sense of order can make a big difference in how efficiently you'll get out the door the next morning. I like to straighten up after the maid comes, and build on that momentum (God it's nice to have someone help make the beds and vacuum the floor each day... sigh) because otherwise it can feel overwhelming and demotivating. Put crayons back in boxes (or even in a neater-than-everywhere pile), dirty clothes in your laundry bag and clean ones back in the drawers or on the shelves. That's all. Five minutes, tops. It's worth it.

Be thoughtful about your luggage.

The bags you choose to use can make all the difference in what and also how you pack. Does your carry-on make it easy to store and access cords, electronics, laptops or books? Do you use a cord organizer? The more compartments and dividers your bag has, the less thinking you have to do in a moment where you might be stressed or distracted. We use the Supra Backpack 2 Pocket bag for our carry-ons (we both have one!) and what you can't see online is that it has a pocket or compartment for everything we need (we're a triple-iProduct couple, with a phone, iPad and laptop to transport each, plus their related cords and gadgets). Getting on the plane in a hurry, and trying to grab what you need and store your bag before the flight attendant and four fellow passengers scream at you is not a problem if you can quickly access what you need.

Conversely, before this bag was in my life and I was operating with a big purse and the neverending dig system, the simple action of boarding a plane could be immensely stressful. Likewise, with your luggage. While rollerboard suitcases are all the rage, we prefer duffels -- again with many pockets and storage compartments like the Supra Two-in-One Duffel Bag (nope, not sponsored by or affiliated with Supra, but damn, I should be) or the Osprey Transporter Series bags, which are also very good. The flexibility of a duffel versus the rigidity of a rollerboard can make a big difference in many situations if/when things get Tetris-like (you may be good in an overhead compartment, but do you know the space you'll have in your rental car, etc.). The storage options within the bag help keep things organized when you only have a luggage rack, and not a closet or drawers available to you.

That's it! As I've admitted, we always end up with a messy room/tent/space, but by employing these five travel tips, I'm able to keep my sanity in whatever home-away-from-home we are occupying, put our puzzle back together very quickly, and keep us ready to remain on the move. That way we enjoy our experience, rather than face delays caused by frustrating moments looking for items you swear you brought, but cannot find.

How do you stay organized while traveling? Please share your wisdom in the comments below.