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I have been traveling a lot this year. Two to three trips a month. Most of it was planned before the end of 2023 so I knew it was coming.
I’m excited to share with you my thinking, my structures, and my approach to travel, which helps make travel smooth and easy. 
Of course, one of the first structures I put in place a few years ago, was to turn all my travel booking over to my Executive Assistant. Yes, it felt highfalutin’ at first, but now, booking my own travel seems like a big annoyance and waste of time. And if/when I need to make changes, particularly last-minute changes . . . oh forget about it . . . I definitely want someone else to deal with that! Rather than waiting in line at Customer Service, or messing around on an app, I’d rather go get a latte. 
My EA has all of my airline mileage plan numbers and TSA Known Traveler number (BEST $80 I ever spent!). She knows my key preferences for flying, and the airport codes of the places I travel to most frequently: SEA, SBP, PSP, PHX. (You’re quizzing yourself to see if you know what these are, aren’t you?)

Packing checklist – This is the key to your sanity! Start with the basics that you know you need on every trip (house keys, glasses, toothbrush, charging cables, vitamins, phone). Then keep adding to it, trip by trip. Eventually, you’ll have a very long list that will include things from that winter trip to the mountain (boots, puffy coat, gloves, scarf), to the trip to Hawaii (rash guard, sunglasses, bikini wrap, sun dress), to that trip in Vegas (sexy heels, “that dress”, crazy earrings).

If you do sports and activities on your trip, add all of those items too: Golf and Pickleball outfits and gear, yoga mat, foam roller, massage gun, water bottle. All of these items are on my master packing list.

I use Cloud Outliner for my Master list. As I check things off, they are removed from my view (super satisfying) and I’m left with only the items I know I need for this trip. 

Determining Outfits
This is the key to packing light. Packing light means less lugging stuff from point A to point B to point C. Don’t be that person with bags hanging all over them, whacking people as you walk down the aisle of the plane.
Once you have packed your clothing, that is what you will be wearing. It is settled. (Ladies in particular, this matter is now settled and not open for discussion with yourself anymore.) Forget about all the other options you had and love the choices you have made. Don’t pack a ton of “options”. If you are not sure if you are going to want a sleeveless or short sleeve top under your jacket at that event, bring them both. But don’t bring lots of options.
Shoes take up a lot of room, so make your best pick and pack those. Then when the day comes to wear them and you think “Uggh, I wish I had brought my red ones…” practice making your decision right. “Love the one you’re with,” as the song goes. No one is going to notice, and you’re going to rock what you got. 
Less is more. Lighter is nicer. Can you get by with one less pair of shoes? Could you use a good old-fashioned fold up travel toothbrush for a few days, rather than your nice electronic toothbrush in its nice carrying case, that is the size of a hot dog bun?
Not checking your luggage really saves you time. When I walk straight off the plane, get on the escalator and text my driver, I often think to myself, “…the people in back could still be deplaning!”

Second home? Or another home you visit frequently?
Do you have a second home or a place you visit frequently where you could have a drawer or two? This is the best! I’m fortunate to have a second condo and I visit my mom for three or four nights every month.
If you have a similar situation, leave some things for next time you visit. This way you don’t have to pack as much! I’m a very light packer and this is partly why. I have two drawers at my mom’s house. Ok, it’s three now. One drawer is all pickleball gear and clothes.
I use Apple Notes to keep inventory lists for myself for these two locations that I frequent. What to list: What do I have at that location? What do I not have there?

Staying Well
I think overall, people expect too much from themselves when they travel. They believe they will be able to work and be just as productive as they are at the office. I vote no.

Drink water. Yes, certainly have a glass of wine as well, but drink water, drink water, drink water. 

Try not to be really close to people while you are in transit, if you can avoid it. People will travel when they are sick because they “need” to get where they’re going. Wait for your boarding time away from the crowds. You don’t need to sit in the boarding area with the masses. If you can swing it, Airline lounges are also helpful. But even if you are waiting to board, wait 20 or 30 feet away from the masses. You will still be able to hear the boarding announcement from your gate. 

Noise cancelling headphones. I use my air pod pros. Eliminating some of the background noise on the plane makes for a more restful flight. And of course, adding music or a movie can make the day less draining.

If you can, fly First Class. I started this in the pandemic for the sole purpose of staying as healthy as possible. (Note, I have not gotten Covid). I wanted space around me. I wanted to not be in a herd of people in the boarding area.

Turn on the vents above you in your seat, so there is air flow around you.

Dress in layers, so that your body doesn’t have to deal with being too hot or too cold. I go through both phases on every flight.

Do you need lumbar support, which no airline seat has? I do. I use a blow-up neck pillow. I blow it up only halfway, and then put it behind my lower back. Remember, the air pressure on the flight will have it fill up more.

Be kind to the staff. All the staff. Whatever is going on that day is not their fault. 

Are you a nervous flyer? I don’t love turbulence. I do like being prepared. I use the Turbulence Forecast app. I used this service before it was the nicer app that it is today. Years ago, I used their website.

Some people would rather not know what’s coming in terms of bumps. I like to know as much as possible. With this App, you can even order a more detailed report (I’ve done this before) for a specific flight on a particular day and time.

In fact, as I’m typing this, I’m on a plane and there are bumps. I am just really focused on what I’m doing, writing and editing along the way.

Working through the bumps with a solid plan is more than just a great metaphor for life and business! Let me know if you try any of these hacks, or if you have some tried and true travel tips of your own.  

Gina Cotner, CEO, Athena Executive Services


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