When I went on my trip to Kentucky I realized that I needed a travel blanket and all the blankets I had currently wouldn't fit in my bag... so I headed online to start researching good options. I get either cold or overheated pretty much round the clock (there's not a lot of in between unfortunately) so I have collected a LOT of blankets over the years and found a lot of duds in the process. I needed something to keep me warm for those chilled times but still be lightweight enough that I don't have to devote my carry-on to a blanket. Typically I have a thick sweater I keep with me year round when I am out but I really wanted something that would keep all of me warm instead of just my arms as I was going to be trying to sleep on the plane and shivering doesn't work too well with that goal.
After reading a lot of reviews on travel sites I purchased the Cocoon CoolMax Blanket from Amazon as it seemed a good combination of quality and affordability. The cheapest color option was the 'tree frog' green so that is what I purchased. It ended up being basically a lime color which reminded me of my college dorm room but it wasn't a horrible color like some of the reviews had complained about (I didn't care so much about the color but rather the functionality). The color really isn't too bad but it is quite a bright color if you are opposed to vivid colors for your blankets. I ended up finding the bright color useful though as I could always find it... even when my niece decided it made a better ghost costume or superman cape than blanket and wandered off with it various times on my trip.
The blanket is quite large compared to other travel blankets I have had, which is a plus. The description states that it is 55" x 70" but I didn't measure it to verify... it covered me from shoulders to toes completely with a little room to spare so I was happy. Unfortunately, while it is large it is not particularly thick. The thickness is about what I would expect for a thicker bed sheet yet somehow warmer than a simple sheet would be. The warmth of the blanket was enough to keep me comfortable on the planes all but once, when it got particularly cold, but that was only for a few minutes and most people would likely be quite comfortable.
You can use this, or any travel blanket actually, even when you are not traveling. I keep my blanket in the trunk of my car in case I need it personally. I actually used the blanket today at the office as I forgot my sweater today at the house so I was freezing (why is it that office's are always so cold!?!).
Space-wise I was quite happy with the amount of room this blanket took up as it was able to fit into my already quite packed backpack without issue. One feature that I liked was that it comes in a bag with a drawstring to keep the blanket in. I suggest that you keep the bag if you purchase this item as you don't need to roll the blanket or do anything special with it... just quickly stuff the blanket into the bag, pull the drawstring and you are ready to go, the bag doesn't seem to get much bulkier than when it is neatly folded and rolled. The blanket in the bag is larger than a can of soda but quite a bit smaller than my travel pillow. These are not my hands (and it is not my photo) as I have pretty small hands and didn't feel that you would get a good comparison.
Overall I would say this was a good purchase for me but for some people it might be a little more expensive than they are willing to pay. If you have more room in your bag for a slightly bulkier blanket then there are a lot of other options out there that may work better for you. Let me know if you have found a fantastic blanket as I'm almost always cold so pretty much always looking at potential new blankets for my home or for travel.
I promised updated packing lists so here they are! Obviously these are personal to me so update them to fit your needs. I decided for this set I would group clothing items by style of attire... then I just have to choose how many days/outfits of each I will need for the trip. If using a printed list I would write out the number of each I need and check it off as it is put into my suitcase- not before. Otherwise I could have prepared it and STILL forgotten it at home. It has happened... brain fog is no joke man. :)
IDENTIFICATION AND PERSONAL (FRONT POCKET/QUICK ACCESS)
NOT IN AN ORGANIZER BAG
EYE CARE AND MAKEUP BAG
PET CARE BAG
LIQUIDS AND GELS BAG (CAN BE DISBURSED IF NOT TRAVELING BY AIR)
To get through TSA faster:
I'm a huge list person... it's pretty much how I keep from forgetting half my life. Brain fog is a symptom of several of the issues that I have so being forgetful is pretty common, as is confusion from time to time.
Here is a post from my personal Facebook page that shows a bit of the confusion side:
"So I just wondered where the rain was coming from and how it was raining in just one small area of the parking lot... When I passed through about a second later I was like, sprinkler... It's a sprinkler Heather. Hello brain fog! Still not as bad as last week's trying to punch the office number into the floor buttons on the elevator. I was so confused when I got to the zero... At least those are funny incidents :) the worst is having to be so organized... all... the... time... so that I don't forget something. If I ever tell you I'll remember, call me a liar and wait 'till its in my calendar/lists. Till then its a nebulous maybe even with the best of intentions."
I organize my life currently with an App/Website called Cozi. I keep a To-Do list called "Vacation Packing List" and one called "Weekend Away Packing List" so that when it is time to pack I don't have to come up with a new list and forget something important. The only big difference between the two lists is how they are arranged as for a weekend away I need to pack dog food and pack everything for the pups separately as they will likely stay with my mom for the two days. When I travel on vacation, if it is more than a couple of days, I will need to buy food once I arrive and their items will be in my bags since they will be traveling with me. Clothing for all seasons are on the lists so I look through it before I start packing and check off things that I know I will not need. There is also a note for me to check my itinerary and the weather before finalizing my packing. You will also see items listed for my hair that I do not need any longer since my hair is quite short at the moment but I am leaving them there as it reminds me to check and see if there is anything in that drawer (my hair items drawer) that I should take for a specific outfit. I am sharing the lists below in case anyone else would like to utilize them... feel free to let me know if I've missed anything! When I am away if I find that I needed to pack something and forgot it I just pull up the app and add it right then and there so that I don't forget it the next time. This list is for when I am driving for the most part but for most people could be used for flying as well. I am working on a better organized version for flying to show how I separate between my carry-on and checked luggage. The difference you will see is mostly just in how it is organized but there are a few odds and ends I need only when I fly as well as a few duplicates that need to be in both my carry-on and checked bags just in case. Sooo... here's my current list!
VACATION PACKING LIST:
Everyone should have an Emergency as well as Hygiene Kit either in their car or at the office. I have been assembling mine by trial and error for the past few years so thought I would save you guys the trouble and let you know what I've found works the best. This can all fit in a smaller zip container I picked up for a few dollars down town but I have seen things like this in Walmart as well as the Dollar Tree occasionally. My container measures approximately 7x7x5 (inches) and is soft sided and washable.
Well, that's it for today guys... what do you have in your emergency office kit/personal drawer at the office?
I am going to visit my family in Kentucky soon! I'll get to spend time with my cousins, aunts (except one, who lives in California), uncles, grandparents, sister, niece, parents... pretty much the entire family. It's pretty exciting. Buuuuuut, traveling can be difficult with a chronic illness as you know. So I'm going to show you how I pack to be prepared for anything that might come up during travel, and while I am away from home. For both myself and the wonder pups that will be showing up in the photos (they thought we were leaving because they know the drill for when it's time to get gone... which means that they didn't want to be left behind and were pretty much underfoot most of the night I was taking the photos for this and a few other of the posts in this series). I will have a post on how I pack the pups, how I pack my carry on, my go-to packing lists, and what I do the week of my trip to prepare my body for the stress of travel. I will end the series with a post on anything that comes up during the trip to KY.
Let's start with how I pack the dogs...
Aren't they adorable? How could I leave them behind!?! I couldn't is the answer. They are well seasoned travelers at this point and actually love traveling most of the time (grandmas and great-grandmas spoil them rotten so why wouldn't they love visiting?). Those who ask why not kennel them and travel lighter... have you seen kennel fees? With my girls being so small we can travel for cheaper usually and I never have issues with them at airports. People often don't even realize I have them until they look closely or one of them moves and it catches their eye. Also, I don't like leaving them with people I don't know or exposing them potentially to kennel cough or other nasty bugs unnecessarily. I do their grooming at home typically as well to save money, reduce the stress on them and keep them healthy.
When the girls and I travel we always attach a medical ID card to their carrier as well as my carry-on, just in case. I sometimes have their ID cards attached as well but typically I carry those in my wallet (I am STILL waiting on ones with updated addresses... come on HomeAgain, get your act together). I prefer to have their collars outside the bag so that I can prove their shots quickly if asked without having to take the girls out of the kennel in the middle of the airport (airport people don't like it when you do that). Plus they are a little heavier than I would like on my small pups since where I am currently living has A LOT of required tags. For this reason when I am home and they are just relaxing I often remove the collars. We are on the second floor right now so they won't get out and be lost and even if they did they are both micro-chipped with HomeAgain per our last duty station's regulations so it will be easy to identify that they are mine and contact me if something were to happen. I will go into what they need in my carry-on bag in bit. Just as an FYI, you will have to take them out when you go through TSA as well as have your hands wiped for explosive residue (or whatever that test is... that's what they said it was for last time) which takes a few more minutes so budget your time for that.
Now, before anyone complains that the kennel/bag is too small for my babies let me just say this: I wish I could take two kennels/bags so my babies could stretch out and enjoy the flight but the airline won't let me (and it is quite expensive as well). Now that I am single I am only allowed to pay for one carry-on pet kennel allowance since I only have one seat to place it under. They sleep the entire time once we are settled on the plane, I do not make them stay in it one second longer than absolutely mandated (so we get on the leads as soon as we leave the airport doors), and it is a lot roomier than it looks due to the sides expanding and they travel in it with the part you are looking at facing the ceiling so they get the entire 'height' as the length instead... plus my babies are both pretty small and they can (and do) turn around in the carrier. They just can't do a whole lot of moving about during the trip, which I hate but I can't move a lot in the airplane seat either and its better that they spend a few hours sleeping in close quarters than days in a kennel upset and not eating. Isabel doesn't eat we when I'm not around I found out when I went for a visit with a friend and left her with my mom, who she loves and knows well. All that being said- if you can take one kennel per dog that is, without a doubt, ideal and the best practice to stick with. A lot of airlines have made this the rule anyways so please check and ensure that if you are traveling within the guidelines for your airline. Further, if you have a layover and there is a pet relief area please, please let them out to stretch if at all possible. Just like we like to stretch after sitting for so long they need to as well. They also need to be able to relieve themselves and be comforted by seeing you again after being locked away beneath the seat for the duration of the flight. Traveling with a pet is not easy and making sure to bring them the best comfort you can is very important to their well-being. My Roxy LOVES her bag and tried to jump in it as soon as she saw it when I took the picture above actually (I had to hold her so that I could get a good picture and not hyper puppy blur) and will often go lie down inside it if I forget to put it back in the SUV after cleaning it just like with her pup-tent (collapsible pen). She has traveled with her sister inside it before without issue BUT not all dogs/pets will be able to do so. Now that that has been said... back to packing...
First off, their leads/leashes... super important. I never pack them in the check-luggage as it has gotten lost before and then you end up needing to go purchase new ones until the ones you packed are delivered back to you (hopefully). You will also need the leads in any pet relief area and once you arrive at the airport when you let them out of the carrier so bringing a set is imperative. Wasted money I could be spending on having fun on my vacation in my opinion. In the side pockets of their I-Go-2 Plus I have each of the leads... one side has the lead with the attached canvas bowl and plastic waste bags and the other side has the lead with the harness for my super excited pup. These stay on the leads full time for the walks we have been trying to get in lately so that I don't have to worry about getting it on and off every time we leave the house.
I always make sure they have water available. Roxy is an excited pant-er so she needs water often when we travel (or when I get home, or when we go to Grandmas, or when we go to the dog park... you get the idea). Isabel takes a little more work to get to drink when we are out of the house but it is important that all three of us stay hydrated. I like the H2O4K9 bottle I have now the best out of all the bottles we have used over the years as it is stainless steel and has a drinking cup for them built right in that allows me to return any water that was not drunk to the bottle. Neither my own nor the dogs' water bottles are full when we go through TSA of course so one of the first stops on the other side is to get water for all of us.
Hi Roxy! She was insistent on being right there every second in case we were leaving so that she could come... she knows the packing drill. :)
In my carry-on they have their H2O4K9 and a small bag that has their medications (other than the Benadryl Roxy needs in Kentucky for allergies... which is in my 'liquids and gels' bag for TSA purposes) along with anything needed to administer them, several potty pads and extra waste bags, a lead coupler, their brush and toothbrush, thier medical records on a zip drive along with an abbreviates version in thier 'passports', a couple of toys including Isabel's orange ball (that we must not EVER lose for fear of the freak out session that would surely ensue... think baby's lost teddy bear at bedtime but 24/7), food for one day and a couple of treats just in case. In the photo I do not have the toys because the dogs are playing with them or treats because I forgot to grab them from the packing prep area I had assembled.
In my main suitcase we have their collapsible pen, a single and double Popware feeder (single for water and double for feeding... traveling with one dog would just need a double), some more potty pads and food for the trip. Since we are only going for a few days I am going to be trying to pack their Gamma2 TravelTainer so that I don't have to go buy food once I arrive as it will store enough food for them for 3-4 days. You could also use some gallon sized ziplock bags but I don't have any right now and I do have the TravelTainer. If I am able to fit it in my suitcase then I will leave behind the double Popware feeder as the TravelTainer has built in bowls I can feed the girls with (if you have one pet you don't need a water bowl either!). If you want reviews on any of the items I use with my pups let me know and I will write one... most of these items I have been using for YEARS and I love them all. I pulled the links from the purchases sections on my Amazon account (ran a search for 'pet' to see everything I had purchased for them over the years) so these are the exact models I have right now. As always, check around for better prices or alternatives if something doesn't quite fit what you are needing.
No... I did not purchase all of this at once. This has been over years of traveling frequently with my girls. They have a diaper bag I picked up at a yard sale for $5 that stayed packed in case we decided at a moment's notice to go out of town for the weekend... just grab the bag, fill the water bottle and fold down the pup-tent and away we went (my ex-husband and I already kept hygiene bags packed so it was just a matter of grabbing clothing and medication and we could be on our way). We used to road trip to my aunt's house about once a month when I was married and living in California and have gone cross country as well as on trips to visit family out of state with the girls. I've accumulated their travel kit over the nearly 5 years they have been alive. If it is your first trip with your pet you can easily purchase a small bag of pet food at your destination (I do if the trip is longer than 3 days for sure... I might this trip if I am not able to fit the TravelTainer in my suitcase!), use other bowls you borrow or purchase at your destination inexpensively and get a $1 canvas water bowl to give them water from your own water bottle during travel. The canvas water bowl I have attached to the girl's leads currently for walks I actually purchased at the Dollar Tree several years ago. The reason they have their own water bottle is because I will go through several bottles of water during the course of a 4-6 hour trip. At work, not in a dry environment, I drink about 1.5 L before lunch alone. It makes it easier for me to pack for them the way that I do so that I don't stress once I arrive or on the trip to get there any more than necessary. Being less stressed makes my illness easier to manage so I enjoy my trip more which is pretty much the point of a vacation. Oh and yes... I like pink. :) My favorite colors are actually pink and green, though not together.
Since I work so far from home I take a lot of things with me on a daily basis that many people wouldn't necessarily take with them. I need my meals with me for the day as well as clothes to go for my lunchtime walk, medical items and schoolbooks to study on work breaks or while waiting for people to arrive at an after work activity I participate in. I think the best when I am not overly fatigued so I am not always at my best come evening for studying and therefore like to fit in a little whenever I can. If you meal prep for strength gains and go to the gym before or after work you might end up packing similar to this. You might also pack like this if you have a lot of food allergies or are trying to save money by meal prepping and live a very active lifestyle where you are out of the house for the majority of the day and evening. When I pack for a workday I usually end up packing at least half of my daily meals (depending on the day possibly all of my meals) in a lunchbox, at least one schoolbook, notebook, pens and a highlighter, workout clothes, jogging shoes, medical supplies, toiletries and chargers for my electronics. I don't take my laptop as it won't fit in my bag. I normally pack my bag the evening before so that everything is ready and I just have to grab my lunchbox out of the fridge, toss in the icepacks and head out. Depending on the meal plan for the week I may scramble some eggs fresh while I am getting ready for work.
You can see that my scrambled eggs container is empty in the photo above. I also have a container of nuts that isn't always in my bag, depending on the week's plan and the day, pictured here.
So... starting in the kitchen:
I have my lunch/meal-box here. For this day I have a container of soup, a chicken thigh with zucchini, an egg muffin and sausage piece, a large salad, fresh veggies, an apple, nuts, seeds, a protein bar, and salad dressing. The nuts, seeds and protein bar will stay at work for the duration of the week for those times that I stay late at work (or run off without my eggs... it has happened people... my brain these days!). Most of the time I don't get through even half of what is pictured on the nuts and seeds front but I prefer to be prepared. That brings this day's meal plan to:
Breakfast: eggs and sausage piece
Snack: egg muffin and an apple
Lunch: soup and fresh veggies with homemade salad dressing
Dinner: chicken thigh with salad and zucchini
For the Office (for the week): mixed nuts, seeds, and a protein bar (organic, no extra junk added)
I have three small bags that fit inside the front compartments of my backpack.
Everything fits inside one bag this way (barely) and I don't have to worry about lugging around multiple bags... which I can't really do all that well. On the side pockets I put my water bottle and my green smoothie. If I decide to bring tea then I can carry that pretty easily- I don't put bottles, even hard bottles like the ones I use, inside after an issue I had with an exploding smoothie...
When it comes to after work activities I don't pack them into this bag as they don't fit and there really is no reason to do so. I pack for the week's activities on the weekend like so:
This bag was a gift and is wonderful for what it is- a laptop backpack- but it doesn't really do everything that I need it to do so I have been looking at getting a meal management backpack such as the Isopack or Expedition 500. I will likely still use this bag if I don't need to pack meals as I think it is really well made and has a ton of storage areas. One of the things that I need it to do is hold the rest of my medical odds and ends so that I can stop carrying a purse on workdays... I can't really leave them in the car as the heat can cause issues with them and replacing them can get quite expensive. There has been a lot of review watching and reading, comparison shopping, and debate on which bag I will get but I think I am just about ready to make a purchase. Since it is a larger purchase I will be cutting back in some other areas for a while on my budget to pay for it but I think it will be worth it in the end. Once I make my final decision and use the bag for a while I will do a review of the new backpack. Feel free to put any comments in the bottom if you already own a meal management backpack that you own and love/hate... I'm always open to more information when making a larger purchase like this! The two that I am currently spending most of my focus on are below:
Want to know what one of my most useful kitchen tools is? The one that saves me the most money out of everything in my kitchen? No, I don't have one of those nifty food saver machines (though they look pretty cool). it is so much simpler and CHEAPER than that. Ice trays... simple, $1 for 2 at the dollar store, ice trays. I use them to freeze up bone broth, sweet potato and pumpkin purees, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and even fresh herbs (in olive oil). I can't tell you how much time I save in the morning when I can just grab some pre-chopped and frozen fruit, a cube or two of pumpkin puree, a handful of greens and a cup of liquid to make a smoothie in less than a minute. No measuring, no mess, no spoiled food... easy, quick and I save money to boot! Or the evening I come home exhausted and just want a quick burger with some yummy homemade ketchup or a bowl of soup but don't feel like spending 10 minutes making that ketchup or an hour or more making soup... nuke 1-2 cubes of ketchup while the burger is cooking and dinner's done or toss a handful of ready-made stock cubes with some chopped veg in a small pot while I do my evening chores (think laundry... so much laundry... why is there ALWAYS laundry!?!) and I'm done. I'm not a big fan of cooking for one and even less of a fan of cooking for more than 20 minutes on a weeknight... is anyone?
From left to right (what is in my freezer RIGHT NOW): beef bone broth (the chicken bone broth is freezing still), homemade sweet potato puree and homemade ketchup. All of these are simple to freeze, simply ladle them into the trays and freeze them.
If you wanted to store herbs you just chop or mince them, put them in the tray and fill the remaining space with olive oil. How would I use these cubes of oil and fresh herbs you ask? Just toss it in a hot pan and saute away... fast and easy way to start off your stir fry or pan seared Tilapia. Best part? Those fresh herbs you worked so hard to cultivate don't wilt away unused and wasted! I don't have any fresh herbs right now so unfortunately I can't show photos of how to do this... yet. I will try and come back to add photos the next time I do.
I measured my ice tray compartments by taking a cup of water and filling the compartments of tray one by one until the water was gone in order to measure the volume of each cube quickly and efficiently. Now I know exactly how many cubes I need when a recipe calls for something I have frozen away for later use and don't have to guess.