Packing for Holiday Travel

Deanna Noriega and her dog guide

Editor’s Note: The peer advisors can’t get enough of sharing their tips and advice on travel tips for people who are blind or visually impaired. Last week Sue Bramhall shared her travel tips from the perspective of a business owner of a travel tour company. This time DeAnna Quietwater Noriega shares hers but with a focus on dressing for travel, packing your suitcase and traveling with a dog guide.

Packing and Identifying Your Luggage

We are in the holiday season when people may be taking trips to visit family, or leaving winter weather behind to find a bit of sun somewhere warm. Here are some of the travel tips I have learned over the years. If your journey is of short duration, a long weekend or so, try packing light. If you can fit everything in to a small enough bag to carry on with you, then you won’t have to struggle to describe your luggage to a person who can’t understand you due to language barriers. If you absolutely need a bag that must be checked, mark it in a distinctive way. You could paste on a bright bumper sticker, tie a wide colorful ribbon or scarf through the handle, or purchase luggage that is an unusual color. I have had a friend paint a design on the canvas side of one case and marked another with hearts and flowers meant to be stuck on the bottom of a bathtub to prevent slipping. Be creative and make that travel companion stand out!

In your carry-on luggage, place anything you can’t afford to be without should your checked bag get lost. These might include such things as medications, a couple of servings of dog food in zip lock bags for a dog guide, jewelry, comb, toothbrush and some extra articles of clothing that mix and match with your travel outfit. That way, you can cope with your luggage missing its connecting flight or wandering off in a completely different direction than you.

Selecting Traveling clothes

There are many fabrics that can be rolled up and jammed in to a small bag and don’t wrinkle. My favorite travel outfits don’t have zippers, metallic buttons or decorative features. Sportswear is designed for comfort and can be surprisingly adaptable to fit the occasion. You might consider something like yoga pants, topped with a soft sweater, a light jacket with zippered pockets and slip on walking shoes, (I like Birkenstock sandals or moccasins). Are you wondering why I specified zippered pockets on that jacket? They come in handy for stowing things like your ID, a handful of dollar bills to tip sky caps or people who assist you in making your connections or get you to the hotel shuttle or cab. I also like to keep copies of my travel itinerary in an accessible format in one of those pockets. In your carry-on bag, you might include a change of underthings, a matching vest, blouse, and long skirt. Once I was separated from my checked luggage for a week and such a combination of clothing allowed me to manage until my wayward checked suitcase returned from Hawaii to join me in New Jersey where I was in training with a new guide dog!

Packing For Your Dog

Speaking of dog guide, include a folding dog dish, pick-up bags, a few folded paper towels, a travel size pack of wet wipes, and a few small travel treats with those couple of extra meals I mentioned earlier. Some of these things could fit in to a fanny pack to free up space in your carry-on bag.

Another way to lighten your load is to mail ahead things like dog food. Or gifts for the people you are visiting. If you are going to check a bag anyway, then you don’t need to worry about making sure you have travel sized containers of liquid toiletries. Just pack what you need in the checked bag.

Additional Travel Tips

Some of the other things to consider bringing—a raincoat that can double as a robe; a sun visor cap or sun hat that folds up; A small bottle of dish liquid to rinse out lingerie; a mesh laundry bag or basket. You can purchase ones that fold flat and take little or no space in a suitcase and make handling dirty laundry a breeze.

Most Important Travel Tip

The best thing you can bring is a sense of humor and a determination not to sweat the small stuff. Flights can be delayed, connections can be missed, and dog guides can get ill. Keeping a positive attitude and explaining clearly what help you need can smooth out some of the inconveniences of travel. If the meet and assist folks show up with a wheelchair you don’t need, use it to carry your bag and explain what help you need calmly with a smile. If you prefer to sit in the bulkhead row or in a seat elsewhere with your guide dog tucked under the seat in front of you, offer to demonstrate how this works and assure the flight attendant that your dog understands the procedure and is most comfortable using it. Whatever the snag in your travel might be, remain friendly but firm about what you want and need. Enjoy the adventure and travel safely. Happy holiday traveling!

As you get ready for the holidays, what travel tips do you use? What have you learned from your travels that make the trip enjoyable and hassle free? Share your tips and thoughts in the comment section below.