Travel Lifestyle

Back To Travel: Notes On Packing

I am in a travel funk! I have no mojo because I have nowhere to go!! You too? I have GOT to find something to get myself back into a travel state of mind! As we all start thinking about getting out and about again, right now may be a really good time to start looking at what is really needed when we pack. And in the age of travel products, there are so many choices. You could literally pack your entire suitcase with travel gear this and travel gear that! We work so hard to plan for every emergency and contingency while trying to keep our suitcase below the check in weight or within the carry on limits that we sometimes wind up not prioritizing at all. So, dear travelers, what ARE the things that are worth taking with you as we get back to travel?

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on

Notes on packing wants you to know that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

Now Boarding!

What kind of carry on do you use? A carry on can be a tragic mistake or a brilliant time saver. Truth be told, I have all kinds of bags that I’ve test driven and I’ve narrowed down to my favorite: the under the seat roller that fits my purse, iPad, scarf, papers, medications, and other essentials. I am the traveler that does anything possible to avoid the overhead bin wars.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on

I have all of my essentials including these 4 last pieces of travel gear for the plane: my own headphones, sea bands, zip ties, and travel clippers. There is a method to my madness, I promise! I use sea bands so I don’t need to remember to take Dramamine. They work just as well. I use the zip ties to “lock” my suitcase up before I check it. String it right through the two zippers before you wave goodbye to it on the conveyor belt. The clippers are to cut the tie open on the other end. And, I am addicted to my earbuds and always download content to keep me entertained.

Pandemic Paraphernalia

Let’s face it, if we want to be traveling, we’ve got to take precautions while we are out there. Gone are the days where we simply board a plane and sit down. Now, we need to be vigilant about sanitizing our hands and wiping down our assigned areas on planes and trains. (Truth be told, I was a wiper downer before all of this… you too?) So, what’s new on my list? Well, I do take a lot more of those wipes but I’ve also got some new things, too.

people inside commercial air plane
Photo by Sourav Mishra on

Those required Covid tests to get back in the country is a start. Check, double check, and then go back and check again. You need to be sure that you have all of the up to date information on travel procedures. This means you need to meet the airline expectations, ensure you can clear customs, and meet the requirements of the State Department coming and going.

I also take my UV light surface sanitizer that takes on bedding as well as hard surfaces. This one is great for hotel rooms and cruise cabins as well as AirBandB’s.

I also take along a mask bag with my vaccine card in it. Have mask will travel and if you plan on going overseas at all, that vaccination card is your true ticket to enjoy.

Clothes Horse

This is the moment when I get on the struggle bus! As a plus sized traveler, I’m so nervous that if I need something, I truly won’t find it, so I pack things that are my size! You too? I need to quit and I do try to make better choices. Here are some successes.

black and green luggage bag on brown carpet
Photo by Vlada Karpovich on

Shoes: I’ve given up any sort of fancy shoes and stick to three tried and tested choices. First up are my walking shoes, I need them, it’s not a choice and I usually wear these on the plane to wherever I’m going. Next is a pair of comfy sandals in warm weather. Lastly, I rely on washable Rothy’s flats instead of any sort of dress shoe. So far so good on these choices!

unrecognizable woman in headscarf in car
Photo by Rachel Claire on

No matter the weather, it’s helpful to bring along the ever useful scarf. Chilly? Wrap your arms. Need a skirt to visit a church? Tie it around your waist. Raining? Wrap it around your head for cover. You can’t go wrong with an all purpose scarf. More importantly, you can’t go wrong when you pick one up as you travel. Don’t get me wrong, I use a very specific one while I’m on a plane, my trusty black and white one. But, one of my favorite travel purchases is a scarf from wherever in the world I am.

My Next Challenge? I’m working hard to stick to three colors so my clothes mix and match well. For me, black, white, and blue will do the trick. I know that if I pack two shirts for every one pair of pants, I’ll extend my choices just a bit. Fingers crossed that this actually works!!


Here’s the deal, if you bring any sort of electronics with you on any trip domestic or foreign, you need to protect them. It’s that simple. I invest in a reasonable cube that takes care of surges, conversions, plugs and USB ports. So, I don’t leave home without it.

four white travel adapters
Photo by Steve Johnson on

I use it when there are not a lot of free plugs in the airport or I can’t get a seat near a charging station, I use it in a restaurant when I’m having lunch, I use it in a hotel room. Have charged phone, will travel. Which leads me to say that I also always carry a portable cell charger with me as well.

The Miscellaneous Mania

Oh Mother Earth! I promise I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint and be responsible! I have two ways I do this when packing my travel bag. First I try to only buy environmental beauty products. We all try and here at TGC we test drive tons of them to give you a little insight.

On the other hand, I also find myself taking regular sized products with not too much left in the bottle. I trash those bottles before I return home (and that makes room for my souvenirs!) I was going to have to finish these standard size products anyway.

peaches in shopping bag
Photo by Sunsetoned on

I bring a medium sized nylon bag with me and use it all the time. I buy morning groceries, hold souvenirs, store my water bottle, and keep a map or travel guide among other things. When I’m not using it, I simply roll it up and put it in my purse. The more I take it, the more I use it.

Is laundry detergent on your packing list? It may be and that’s great but perhaps the more important thing that needs to be on your packing list: the name and address of a local laundry mat. This idyllic laundry mat called Frania Cafe is located in downtown Krakow, Poland.

P.S. If you happen to have one, don’t forget your handicap parking tag. Your tag will work in Europe and can afford you easy parking and overnight city center parking.

multicolored umbrella hung outside brown wooden house
Travel Lifestyle

Art Lovers Unite!

Do you love it or hate it? Are you inspired by it or bored with it? Do you immediately get the importance of it or do you think that your kindergartener could do a better job? Can you connect it to its history or is it just a mish-mash of stuff that is set up in an old building? Oh art!!! It can be an overwhelming part of travel that can be difficult to tackle! Let’s try to make art an enjoyable part of your experiences no matter where you fall on the “I love art” spectrum. So, wands up! Art lovers unite!

Check out our podcast! Babcia and Yia Yia Travel The World is ready to help you take a deep dive into travel with episodes on art and so much more!

I’ve go to be honest…

Just like everyone else, I saw great art in high school and I didn’t care. I didn’t get why it was important at all! I mean, I got it but it wasn’t my thing. So, what changed over the years? Well, the one thing that really interested me were good stories. More specifically, I like the puzzle of how this story over here affected that story waaaaaayyyyy over there. It’s fascinating to me. And those tales, my friends, are found by the boat load in history books.

As I learned more, art became a more important part of that history puzzle. At first, it wasn’t so much the technique or style of art. Instead, it was what was happening while that art was being made. Some made complete sense like Michealangelo. Other times though, I couldn’t believe that a piece of art was being created under such extreme circumstances like the Book of Kells. I mean, how does one come up with the idea for a super cool colorful bible while one is being attacked by Vikings? Fascinating!!

Not into to every kind of art

I’ll admit it! I’m just not that into Egyptian art and I can pass on Picasso. I appreciate it, but, it’s just not to my liking. And that’s okay! Liking art doesn’t mean loving every aspect of it. I appreciate how the Egyptians came up with different pigments and how there are cave painting in Southern France but give me bougie Monet any day and I’m happy.

I found that I gravitated to certain types of artists after a while, and that makes art all the more interesting to me. As a travel junkie, I love to see local art but, I fell in love with impressionism. So, I am always on the lookout no matter where I am in the world for whoever has one of those lovely canvases that “catches the light”!

I fell so deep, in fact, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit stunning Giverny in all it’s Monet glory. (Ummm… don’t pass it up either!) In fact, it was right in the heart of impressionistic Giverny that my love affair with this school of art was cemented. Just in the center of the little artists’ village is a wonderful museum full of famous works. There, a great exhibit about how Impressionism was inspired by Japanese Manga was in full swing. Japan and France unite? It was true! They told the story so well and by the end of the exhibit, I could totally see how those two puzzle pieces went together! Snap!

In setu

When I was a little girl, my grandfather took me to the National Gallery of Art. I walked around and saw the amazing works by so many famous artists but, I was little. I really had no idea. Two famous paintings there are by Monet and depict the cathedral in Rouen at dawn then at dusk. The study of light draws many to analyze the similarities and differences. Again, it didn’t mean much. Fast forward many years to when I got the chance to visit Rouen. Just across from the very same cathedral is the TI. The sweet young man behind the counter was kind enough to bring us upstairs and allowed us to sit in the very window that Monet had painted from. With a print of his work in front of us, it completely changed the way I looked at those two canvases way back in Washington DC!

In setu, meaning “in the setting intended” can drastically change how you look and appreciate a piece of art. Native American art will always appeal to me more in Santa Fe than it does in Miami. The Art Noveu style found in Prague is far more interesting there where the movement was born than in London where I am far more interested in Victorian works. Art in setu can completely change why art matters.

The Art In Architecture

Maybe reluctant art lovers have a simpler choice to start with. Something that is easily accessed and readily available. Travelers looking to make a connection with art sometimes can simply look around and enjoy the art in architecture. Sitting on a plaza in some amazing European city can be a– wait for it– a proverbial feast for the eyes!

I was sitting on the banks of the Vistula river in Krakow enjoying the Summer sunshine and taking in the scene around me. Old men playing chess under the castle walls that turned Krakow into a city of stone instead of a city of wood were playing serious matches against one another. The spires of the many churches rose up into the skyline telling a story of age and time. That one was an onion dome, the other a stepped church facade popular in the region. I turned to see a steeple with neo classical feel. Modern buildings rose up behind me while a bridge that crossed the river came to life with sculpture intertwined into the structure. I sipped my wine and sat back and smiled.

Whether you are looking at the reconstruction of the Notre Dame or categorizing the classes of columns at some Greek ruins, architecture could be just the ticket for the curious traveler to start enjoying the art world.

The Power of Wow

I was sharing the lovely Rialto bridge with some students one day and it was obvious that I found more joy in it than they did. I finally asked what they thought about it. It’s okay they said but it was just an old bridge. I mentioned how they built that bridge with out electricity. They countered that you don’t need electricity to enjoy a crane and a bulldozer. “Well, I guess maybe I should say that there were no engines, nothing to plug in, no lights, nothing, but they built that.”

A student looked closer. “How did they carve that design?” With a hammer and chisel I said. ” What if they made a mistake?” Good question. “Well, how did they lift that up into place?” Simple machines like ramps and pulleys. “Wow! It really is beautiful!” Ah! Success! Another art lover created!

“Wow” is a super important word in art and needs to be used as much as possible. It allows all of us to look at art from so many different angles. How was it created? What kind of talent did it take? How did they build it? How did they find those colors? Why is it so dark? The list goes on and on. The answer always has the potential to be exactly the same: wow! In an age when it seems harder and harder to impress, art never disappoints.

Beware of Sleeping Giants

So there I was…. walking down the great avenues in Paris and I was headed toward one of the pillars of the art word. You guessed it! I was going to the Louvre! C’mon! You know that if you ever set foot in Paris, it’s a mandatory stop and probably the most important stop within is the legendary Mona Lisa!!!

If I could insert the “screeching tires” sound right here I would! The Mona Lisa has to be the biggest let down in art! First, the gallery is so CROWDED! And the painting itself? SO SMALL! In fact, it’s no technical masterpiece compared to other DaVinci works. The truth is that the real reason Mona is such a household name is because she was stolen in 1911 by some poor schlump named Vincenzo Peruggia. The works inside The Louvre far outpace Ms. Lisa and Vinnie’s escapades and have so much more depth and history to them.

The police record of Vincenzo Peruggia who attempted to steal Leonardo de Vinci’s painting ‘The Mona Lisa’ in 1911, 25th January 1909. (Photo by Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

The reality is that seeing icons can be a bit of a let down after so much hype. Sometimes, you’ve got to find the hidden pieces in the quiet corners to really appreciate the talent involved. One such piece is “Lady With Ermine” a contemporary of Mona Lisa which is located in Krakow, Poland. The art itself is a bit bigger and currently sits in the Czartoryski Palace. The piece, just like the Mona Lisa, was stolen and took quite some time to return. The museum helps tell the story of this DaVinci great.

You’ve Got Style!

I am the first to admit it! I am not a fan of post impressionist cubism of the early 20th century. There I said it. Did you even understand it?! All it means is that I don’t like modern art. It’s just not my thing and that’s okay! Maybe your thing isn’t Byzantine frescoes or maybe you just can’t look at art deco. Whatever your tastes are, there’s a style of art for you to enjoy! From cartoon work out of Brussels to ancient calligraphy from the Far East, there’s something for everyone. The key is to find the connections between it all!

Finding a style to appreciate, Impressionism, Byzantine, Dutch masters, Renaissance, Rococo, Baroque, Gothic, Ancient artistic understanding gives any beginner in art appreciation a launching pad. Check out this book by Rick Steves to hone in on what makes you art happy and what your personal style is.

Buyer Beware! 

We Americans have a very conservative take on the human body. In general, we find anything immodest not healthy or salacious. This is especially prevalent when it comes to our children. No matter how you feel, if you plan on introducing art into your kid friendly travels, you are going to have to tackle naked art!

The human form is the apex of artistic talent and is studied in every possible pose a human can create. From the epic David to the patriotic Winged Victory, human pieces and parts are on display all over the world. Please be prepared for that if you have little ones in tow!!! Lol!

Art Every Day

Creating a habit of infusing the art that you’ve come to appreciate can help any traveler become a true art aficionado! Check out these super cool apps that give you just a drop of art every single day! Pass on what doesn’t appeal to you and spend as little as a minute with what stands out!

Google Arts and Culture App connects you to all kinds of art opportunities around the world. It’s a great place to check in and just see what’s new and happening.

Daily Art is the simplest app I’ve ever used. Sign up and choose a time. Each day one piece of art is sent out and you will get notified of that. Open the app and read one or two paragraphs about the art that is shared. Easy-peasy!

A couple of amazing stories based on art are out there to enjoy as you get ready for your travels. Check out these great films:

How do you feel about art on a scale of 1 to 10? 

Art permeates more than museum walls. It sings through music, it soars in architecture, and it smiles through everyday life. Art is not for the elite, it’s for you and me. It’s for those who are looking to expand their horizons to take on the future by understanding the past.

suitcase with straw hat in corridor
Travel Lifestyle

Travel Gear Test Drive

It may happen soon! We may actually be able to plan a carefree vacation so we can enjoy everything the world has to offer. Recently, I’ve been thinking about how to make my travel wardrobe strategy work better. How could I ensure that I got the most out of the clothes and accessories that I pack in my suitcase? It’s time for a travel wardrobe test drive!

Let’s Start at the very beginning…

A very good place to start! One of the first things I need to look at is how fit my plus size stuff in my suitcase. Which suitcase works best for me? I’ve been through quite a few and I’ve narrowed down my choice to one that makes me happy in looks and function. Drum roll please! My favorite suitcase is the Samantha Brown’s 26″ spinner. (It’s on sale right now over at HSN!) I find the wheels are spot on and my packing cubes work like a dream in this bag. I know, I know, 26 inches means it’s a check only bag but perhaps her smaller spinner is for you.

Here’s what makes me happy about this particular bag: the bag weighs next to nothing, it has a perfectly designed lining, and its companion under the seat bag fits perfectly on top and the wheels are a dream. I’ll leave it to Samantha to explain the rest. Comment below with your favorite bag and I’ll check that one out too!

Game Changers: Packing Cubes

I bet you are on board with packing cubes. They are the biggest change to packing strategy since wheels were added to the bottoms of bags. In short, there are two kinds that exist: cubes with sides that work like building blocks or compression cubes that start like blocks but zip down on the sides to compress what you’ve put inside. I’m a fan of both and use a mix in my bag. I like a few different ones including the Rick Steves’ standard cube but my favorite affordable set is this one easily found on Amazon.

Fill ’em up!

Okay, I’ve got my gear and I’m ready to test drive my wardrobe. I start with a few basic rules. Maybe you consider these things too:

  • Everything is iron free. Everything.
  • Everything does double duty. Everything.
  • Everything works in layers. Everything.
  • The very best shoes that I can find. Well worn and nothing new.

I know I need a few basics to make this pack successful. Things like one dressy outfit, work out gear to combat all the good food, and washable undergarments to stretch my wash week. Again, since I’m pus sized, my packing is a bit more than others but basically, I pack with the part lightweight-part comfort goal in mind.

several bags on trolley near train in station
Photo by veerasak Piyawatanakul on

Will it work?

My plan is to be in Europe for one month. I’m spending three days in Amsterdam, 14 days on a Rhine River Cruise, a few days traveling north by train, and the remainder of my time at an Air B and B in Krakow, Poland. I’m out to test drive the clothes I’d like to pack to check them out for wear, wash, photogenic quality, and longevity.

  • A jumpsuit from Lane Bryant made out of comfy cotton with the feel of sweats and the look of a put together evening look. But will it look nice enough and wear well enough to be my sole evening option?
  • Two sets of workout gear including tanks, leggings, socks, and bra. I try to get a run or walk in as much as I can. Will two sets get me through each workout? Can I wash and air dry these garments and have them ready to go in a reasonable amount of time?
  • Underwear that is comfortable and can be hand washed in the sink. Will I feel like these items are clean after handwashing?
  • Capris and tops for touring and relaxing. Will they look good after a few hours of touring a borg or berg in hot weather? Will I be able to wear it again?
  • Shoes that are comfortable and lightweight. Will they make my feet feel good after a couple of cathedrals? How about a multitude of art museums?
  • Will it all fit correctly and work the way I hope it will?

The Challenge

I have a few errands to run in South Florida and I plan to take my test items along for the ride. Why South Florida? It’s hot, humid, and will be the most like those hot Summer days in Europe that I will be enjoying. So, I have 9 days to see if my travel choices are winners or losers. Ready?

  • Bombas Socks: Part of my workout gear, Bombas are my go to socks for everyday use. I love the support and the comfort. They did the workout job but did not feel “clean” after my soap and water treatment in the shower. I’m going to need to circle back for a better choice or pack more socks.
  • Bamboo Underwear. Winner! These lightweight underwear did a great job during the day and washed super easily in the shower at night. They were dry in the morning and felt super clean and ready to use.
  • Leggings and tanks. Winner! I purchased my leggings through but my tanks came right off of Amazon and they washed and dried perfectly. Check them out below.
  • Running shoes. I ordered the seaglass blue Under Armour HOVR Infinite 2 running shoes and I love them. But could they travel? Yes they can! Stylish enough to wear while touring but sturdy enough to run on cobblestones, these shoes took the pounding and kept on going.

The Game Plan continues…

Next on my list were some outfits. I needed to see what mixed and matched and what “wore” well. What lasted more than one wear and what looked good at the end of the day. Here we go!

  • That Lane Bryant Jumpsuit… LOVE! Super comfy and dressed up with jewelry and cute sandals, it’s an easy breezy look that’s a dream to wear. I may wear it on the plane home.
  • Capris to wear two times each. Some winners and some losers. By far the best pants were from the Livi line courtesy of Lane Bryant. They weren’t wrinkly at the end of the day and felt great during the second wear. A definite must in black to wear with any printed top.
  • Tops that need to last the whole day. I test drove quite a few and, again, had a few hits and misses. All in all, I definitely had some that made the cut and enough to choose from as I gear up for fun days ahead.

Yay! I feel so much better about how my clothes and gear will work. I don’t think I’m overpacked and I definitely was able to figure out what was missing. Here’s how you can do the same…

How can you test drive your travel wardrobe?

Check out these easy steps to test drive your gear.

  • Pack. Yes, that’s right, pack your bag the exact way that you think it will work. Use all those cubes and all those folding tricks. (Even if you use an old curling iron as a stand in or use other items just to check in on suitcase fit that’s okay. Just use your actual clothes.)
  • Wait a week. Let that suitcase sit packed for a week so that you can see exactly how those clothes come out of all those packing cubes. Is everything nice and neat? Is it a wrinkly mess?
  • Wear just these clothes for the week and see if you are comfy for the week. Can you use everything more than once? Do things wash in the shower? Are your shoes doing the job you have selected?
  • Make your final picks and decide how long you will use your clothes before needing a proper laundry service. (Be sure to track that down!)
  • Leave your travel clothes alone now. You want them looking great and you want to be excited to use them!

Happy travels!!!!