Minimalist packing list

luggage-3167359_1920.jpgI’ve been on a travel kick lately. So following on the heels of my last travel-related post, I wanted to share my packing list. This is usually what I bring for a long trip (up to 4 weeks). Overnight trips are a lot easier to pack for.

When I travel I only take carry on. I’m pretty low maintenance and it helps reduce my stress. I usually create a capsule wardrobe for each trip. This means that everything I bring matches and gives me several outfit options. It also allows me to pack for a specific climate.

Bringing only carry on does mean I’ll be doing laundry a few times during the trip but I’m okay with this. I wanted to share my packing list for my Philippines and Japan trip. Feel free to adjust as necessary. Helpful hint: rolling your clothes will help you to reduce wrinkling and saves on space.

Travel outfit
-Dressy shirt
-Comfortable pullover sweater
-Maxi skirt
-Scarf – becomes a great makeshift blanket or pillow.
-Money belt
-Comfy boots
*I try to wear things that don’t wrinkle. I’ve noticed that dressing nicely does impact how the gate and flight attendants treat you. And I’ve been upgraded to business class a couple of times randomly (while wearing a dressier outfit). But sometimes you have to be comfortable. So it’s up to you.

-A week’s worth of socks, underwear, and bras – rolling the socks and underwear and stuffing them into your packed shoes will save on space.
-T-shirt and athletic shorts – perfect for a casual day or workout.
-Five short sleeved or sleeveless tops
-A dark grey cardigan
-Pair of pants
-Pair of jean shorts
-Running shoes
-Dressy flats – must be comfortable enough to walk in for a couple of hours.
-Camera and charger
-Lots of protein bars

Toiletries (tucked into my carry on)
-Shampoo bar in a tin (mine’s from Lush) – I use this for both shampoo and body wash. It also doubles as laundry soap if I need to wash anything in the sink.
-Toothbrush and floss
-Face scrub
-Jewelry – I’ll usually bring a ring, necklace, and pair of earrings.
-Extra hair elastics and bobby pins
-Band-aids – great for random injuries and blisters.
-Kleenex pocket pack – in case the bathroom doesn’t have toilet paper.
-Sanitary products
*I purchased a disposable razor once I got there.

Liquids/gels (in a plastic Ziploc bag)
-Hand sanitizer
-Travel size toothpaste – you can buy a larger one when you arrive.
-Contacts and solution
-Cream concealer
-Face and hand lotion
-Essential oils roll-ons – great for helping with upset stomachs and headaches.
*I’ll keep these in my purse while going through the security screening and will tuck them into my carry on suitcase afterwards.

-Snacks – lots of trail mix, dried fruit, and protein bars.
-Phone and charger – I loaded helpful travel apps on here.
-Wallet with ID, cards, and foreign currency
-Passport and visas
-Power bank and charger
-Ipod and noise cancelling headphones
-Eye mask
-Lip balm
-Itinerary printouts and information- I keep these in a waterproof folder.
-Medications and/or vitamins – keep them in their original packaging and check that you can take them into the country ahead of time.

What’s on your packing list?

Introvert guide: trip planning

street-409993_1920I love traveling overseas. While using a travel agent can be helpful and they can advise you of any entry requirements, I still prefer to plan out my own trips. I love the flexibility of planning things myself. Plus as an introvert, I may need to switch things around when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to share a general idea of how I plan my trips.

1. Make a budget.
Create a flexible budget for your travel expenses. This should include flights, accommodations, food, transportation, tickets/tours, souvenirs, misc, and an emergency fund. It’s always better to over-budget for things. Rather than finding out you can only afford two meals a day once you’re there.

2. Create a timeline.
If I’m planning a trip, I’ll create two timelines. One is for the trip itself. I’ll plan out where I want to stop and how long I want to stay in each place. Making sure to account for travel time via plane, train, bus, etc.

I try to buy my flight tickets at least three months in advance. Once they’re finalized I’ll book the accommodations and rail passes within a month. I’ll buy tour or event tickets closer to the trip unless they’re in short supply.

3. Research everything.
I make an extensive list of everything the destination has to offer. Then I’ll choose one thing per day that I MUST see. These become my priorities and I’ll plan each day around a single attraction or event. I’ll keep a list of other interesting things in the area if I have more energy. But some of my most rewarding travel experiences have come from wandering around and exploring.

4. Book flights.
I’ll compare prices on Google flights, FlightHub, Expedia and actual airplane company websites. Keep in mind what time of day you want to leave and when you’d prefer to arrive. Also decide how long of a layover is acceptable and what your approximate budget is. Once it’s booked, I’ll keep a copy of the confirmation on my phone. But I’ll also print out a copy. That way I can check in without a WiFi connection.

5. Book accommodations.
Now it’s time to book accommodations. I use Expedia and TripAdvisor to find the best deals. Even though I’m a huge introvert I love hostels. They’re inexpensive and I’m still able to get my quiet time. But I’ll check the reviews to ensure it’s in a safe location, is clean, and has friendly staff. I’ll also look up their check in and check out times. Whether you can drop your luggage off early. And how to get there from the airport. Keep in mind what you want (price, location, room size, privacy, distance to transit) and what things are optional. But if hostels are not your cup of tea, you can also check out Airbnb, bed and breakfasts, motels, and hotels. I love booking through Expedia because I can pay for the room ahead of time.

6. Figure out transportation.
If you’re renting a vehicle you may need to get an international driver’s license. Also check into car insurance. You may get better coverage through your credit card company than through the rental company. I usually rely on public transit as it’s cheaper and less stressful. In Scotland and Ireland I paid cash for transit. But in Japan I ordered a JR rail pass ahead of time. Then picked up a reloadable PASMO card once I arrived for the lines not covered by the pass.

7. All the details.

Entry requirements.
You may need vaccinations. Vaccinations usually need to occur weeks/months in advance so it’s good to find out early. You may need a travel visa. Sometimes you have to apply for it before your trip. Other countries allow you to apply for and pick up your visa upon arrival. Also, certain countries won’t allow you entry unless you have a return ticket. So make sure you have that ready to go too. You can always contact a country’s embassy for their current entry requirements.

Register yourself.
I registered with the Government of Canada travel website before my trip. They keep you updated with weather and travel advisories. I actually got a typhoon warning while in Japan which was super helpful. They’ll also notify my family if something were to happen.

Travel insurance.
Travel insurance gives you peace of mind and it’s usually not too expensive. Be sure to read the agreement and know who to contact if something were to happen. I always keep a copy on my phone and a paper copy with me.

Foreign currency.
It’s always helpful to have a little cash with you. You may need to order currency from the bank. Order it at least a couple of weeks before you leave. Also check to see what the limit is for bringing in currency. For example, you can only bring 10,000 Philippine pesos (about 250 CAD) into the Philippines. So I brought some USD as well and exchanged it once I got there.

Get directions.
I keep a copy of my itinerary, directions to/from the airport and contact information on my phone. I’ll keep a paper copy too in case my phone battery is low. I’ll also send my family a copy if they need to get a hold of me while I’m gone.

Plan for meals.
If you don’t have food sensitivities or allergies, feel free to skip this one. You can request special meals with most airlines. Once you buy your ticket, you can log in and make a special meal request. You may have to call some airlines to make this request but it’s easy to do. Follow up a day before your flight and mention it as you’re checking in and/or boarding.

During the planning phase, I make up a list of gluten free restaurants and their addresses. Once I arrive, I can look up the addresses on Google maps and get directions. Some companies even coordinate “food tours” for those with dietary restrictions. They contact restaurants directly to arrange a safe meal. I would definitely consider this if I went back to Japan. I also printed out a card in Japanese explaining my allergies. And I brought a ton of gluten free protein bars to ensure I didn’t starve if I couldn’t find something safe to eat right away.

Pack smart.
I only bring carry on when I travel which reduces my stress. But there are certain things I always take with me. I brought a power bank for charging my phone and it was a lifesaver. I also brought an adapter/converter so I could charge my electronics while in the Philippines and Japan.

Do you have any helpful tips?

Introvert guide: conventions

man-2616599_1920I enjoy conventions. There’s something that keeps me coming back. Despite the massive crowds, over-stimulation, and constant buzz of conversation. I love massive nerdy comic expos, arts and crafts shows, and local festivals. As an introvert this may seem a bit contradictory. But I’m learning to enjoy them in my own introverted way. Here are a few things that help me not only survive, but thrive in a convention setting.

1. Accept you can’t do it all.
This is the hardest but most important step. I wish I could thrive on noise and energy like an extrovert, but that’s not who I am. I’m an introvert. I’m learning to take things at my own pace, listen to my body, and make awesome memories along the way.

2. Plan ahead.
Most large conventions will post a schedule of events ahead of time. I’ll browse the list and star anything that catches my eye. I’ll then pick 2-3 per day that I must see. The rest I’ll attend if I have the energy. Rather than cramming in everything and being miserably overwhelmed, I get to see the awesome stuff that excites me.

3. Check your energy.
During the event I check in with myself every 30 minutes. How am I feeling? Am I hungry or thirsty? Do I need a break or am I okay to keep going? What “percentage” is my energy level right now? Am I slightly overwhelmed or near my breaking point? Then I follow through on what I need. I have to be extra vigilant as it’s easy for me to slide from okay to overwhelmed in an instant.

4. Take breaks.
I can’t spend a whole day at a convention. I’ve tried and I’m a burned out, frazzled, irritated, mess by the end. So now I go for a limited time each day with lots of breaks. If I’m hungry or thirsty, I’ll find a place to sit down and refuel. I bring a refillable water bottle and lots of healthy snacks. If I’m getting fuzzy, I’ll step outside and go for a short walk. Or I’ll take a bathroom break and sit in the stall for a few moments. This isn’t a weakness, it’s being proactive about managing my energy. If I can’t handle things and need to head home, that’s okay too. I’m not a failure for taking care of myself.

5. Travel solo.
This is not always an option, but it’s definitely helpful. In previous years I’ve attended events with a clingy extroverted friend and I regretted it. If you’re going solo, you don’t feel obligated follow the group even if you feel terrible. But if you are with a group, let them know you’ll be popping in and out periodically. With technology it’s a lot easier to rejoin them later.

Do you have any other tips?

Introvert guide: getting started at the gym

CrossfitI wrote a previous post titled 10 tips for an introvert at the gym. I wanted to follow up with some tips for those who may be considering a gym membership. But before I start, I want to state that going to the gym isn’t for everyone. The most important thing about exercise is finding something you love. However, if you want to find a gym or switch to a new one, here are a few helpful tips.

1. Figure out your personal goals.

I didn’t have any clear goals at the beginning of my fitness journey. I knew I wanted to get healthier but I didn’t have anything specific to strive towards. As a result, I wasted a lot of time and became frustrated because I couldn’t see myself improving.

Take time to assess what you want to accomplish. Is your goal building strength, weight loss, increased cardio and recovery, or something else entirely? Once you’ve figured that out, write down goals that will help you achieve this. Create specific, short, medium, and long-term goals. Decide what kind of equipment will be necessary. Don’t worry, this can change as time goes on but it’s good to have a starting point. Are you more interested in machines, cardio equipment, or free weights? Not all gyms will carry everything. If you have an idea of what you want to use, it’ll be easier to find a place that fits your needs.

2. Do your research ahead of time.

As an introvert, I need to have as much information as possible before making a decision. Whether its grocery shopping, buying a car, or picking out a gym, I need to know what my options are. Only then can I narrow down my decision.

Do a google search for gyms in your area and see what’s nearby. Decide if you’re interested in a big box gym, one that only offers classes, a power-lifting gym, a crossfit gym, etc. Search their websites for information. You can usually get a lot of info via email too which is perfect for avoiding phone calls. Decide what your budget is (monthly and overall). Also note that a lot of gyms charge an initial sign-up fee separate from the monthly payments.

I usually make a spreadsheet which includes the gym’s name, distance from work, distance from home, contract or no contract, monthly fee options, cancellation fees, what’s included (classes), and anything additional (first month free or discounts at other stores). Then I figure out my priorities. For example, I’m willing to drive a little farther if the monthly fees are lower (as long as they have the equipment I need).

Decide whether you want something close to work, close to home, or both. If you have to travel too much out of the way, you’re less likely to go. A larger gym franchise might offer access to multiple locations which is great if you travel frequently, but may be more expensive. They may have a cheaper option if you only use one location.  Be sure to ask, as they’re less likely to offer you the cheaper option without prompting.

3. Write down your questions.

You’ve probably been here before. Someone asks you if you have any questions. Your mind goes totally blank and you stare at them. Then later that day, you start thinking of questions. It’s a frustrating experience to say the least.

Before you even contact the gym to request a visit or pass, write down all the questions you have. If you’re like me, all my questions disappear during the interview, then reappear on the drive home. A few sample questions could include asking about the different monthly rate options, as they usually try to sell you the most expensive one. I was able to get a monthly fee that was 50% less than the quoted price, simply because I asked. Question them about the cancellation fees, special offers, how much personal training is, can you bring a friend in, discounts, etc.

4. Go in with a game plan.

Once you’ve scheduled your first visit, figure out exactly what you want to do. You’ll likely be taken through a short interview by the associate. But after the questions, you’ll usually get the chance to do an actual workout. Make sure you have a game plan. Do you want to do a cardio session or check out the free weights? Write out what you want to do that day in a notebook or on your phone. A great option is to grab some cardio equipment for the first few minutes. It’s a great warm up and you can survey the rest of the gym and slowly get used to the environment. Bring your headphones to block out distractions and you’re all set. Also, if you pretend you’re totally comfortable, no one looking at you will be able to tell any different.

If I don’t go in with a solid plan, I end up drifting around the equipment, unable to decide on an exercise. I’m far more productive if I can purposefully move through a pre-determined set of movements.

5. Try it out!

Most gyms offer a 3 day trial, a free week, or something similar. Take them up on it and try them out, you’re not obligated to sign up for any of them. Check out multiple gyms to get a feel for the difference in atmosphere and clientele. Pick a time when you would usually work out to get an accurate idea of how busy they’ll be. I tried three different gyms before deciding on my current one. It was the one I felt most comfortable in as soon as I walked in. Write down your reactions and feelings about each location and how you felt during your workout.

This will probably feel a bit uncomfortable and get you out of your comfort zone, but it’s very important to check out the gym yourself. After all, you’re going to be the one going there.

6. Sleep on your decision.

Or take as much time as you need. If you’re checking out several gyms, wait until you’ve experienced them all and give yourself time to compare them and mull over your decision. Be prepared for the sales associate to push you to sign up right away. However, you’re the one that holds the power in that situation. You don’t need to sign up until you’re 100% certain of your decision. As an introvert, we need to process things before making a decision. Honour your personality by giving yourself time to weigh the pros and cons.

Do you have any other helpful tips?

Image credit: “Crossfit” by Wei Han Frank Lin is licensed under CC by 2.0