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10 Things I’ve Learned while Travelling

This is not a post about what to pack although I have a couple tips in there about that too. Mostly it’s about little things that no one talks about but you just learn over time.

How to open a restroom door


When you go into public restrooms, open the door by pushing on the rectangular plate (above). It’s there for a reason. When you just push the door anywhere outside of the plate, (unless it’s a wood stained door) it’s often sticky and tacky. That’s because paint gets sticky when it’s touched a thousand times by the natural oils on human hands. You might think it’s because it needs to be cleaned, that’s not it. A heavily used painted banister feels the same way. Yuk.

Travel with your own porcelain mugs

source (I burst out laughing when I saw this one)

source (Well this one is definitely true 🙂

So many hotel rooms have disposable cups now instead of mugs or glasses. I bring my own mug because I like the experience of drinking out of a real porcelain mug. Just stuff it into the middle of your luggage and it won’t break.

Bring your own Kuerig Pods


We like the Starbucks Pike Place pods. When you travel as much as we do, you have a lesser tolerance for a bad, watery cup of coffee and it seems like the majority of hotels now have a Keurig.

I like Australian or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc


Until we hit the road in the last 2-3 years leading our courses all over the US and Canada, I was vague about the wine I ordered because I still hadn’t defined exactly what I liked. “Do you have a Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc?” I would inquire.

Now I know. And when they don’t have the kind I like, I will order a glass of Prosecco instead.

Everyone says red wine is better for you, but the problem is, I’ll be back to having no idea what I like if I start experimenting with it. Is that weird or what? If you have any recommendations on red wine that a white wine drinker should try, let me know.

Don’t touch the bread, like ever!


I love bread just like everyone else, but when you are on the road for 2-3 weeks, eating out for every meal, you will gain weight (well, unless you’re 20) if you let the bread basket stay on the table.

It’s easier if you just wave it away when it arrives. You soon forget that it’s even an option.

These days, I don’t eat much bread at home either but definitely not in restaurants.

Wear a hat with a brim on the plane

My eyes are really sensitive to glare, it’s the reason why I always want the window seat so that I can pull the shade down on a sunny day.

A hat is easier than an eye patch if you want to sleep. And, hooray, extra bonus, it also provides total black-out.

Keep an extra phone charger and a headset in your luggage at all times.

This way, you’ll never forget to bring them with you.

Pack anything you’d hate to lose inside your carry on

I learned this the hard way years ago when I packed an expensive, brand new leather jacket and all my jewelry in my checked luggage!! Never again!

Here’s a great video on packing a carry on if that’s all you’re taking:

Close the lid after you use the toilet in the lavatory


When you close the lid, it cuts out half the noise when it flushes. I literally would plug my ears in the past because it’s so loud. Does this make me a sensitive princess? Maybe.

Two of my sisters Elizabeth Jacobs (the flight attendant) and Lea Junttila (right)

When I told my sister Elizabeth (a former flight attendant, above) of this recent discovery, she looked at me with this patient “You poor thing, I could have helped you out with that” expression on her face, haha.

The one thing I ALWAYS take with me

A black cashmere wrap travel scarf. I am ALWAYS cold on the plane, it’s like a blanket and in a pinch you can use it going out as a wrap with a dress so it serves double duty.

I would love to hear your smart traveling tips! Please post them below!

Here is my fabulous SOLD OUT Vancouver class from last week:

I’m off to Los Angeles to lead my last Fall workshop for the season!

Then I’ll be flying directly to Toronto. Terreeia’s only sister passed away last week so we will be having a celebration of life for her on the weekend.

Related posts:

3 Things I Learned About Myself in Italy

1o Things I Hate/Love/Share about Me

My 5 Rules for Life




1100 pins


  • Nancy says:

    Thanks great traveling tips .

  • Michele says:

    There is another REALLY good reason to always put the seat down before flushing. What’s in there flies around outside the bowl- up to many feet away. Best not to ponder that too carefully, but always put the cover down. Secondly, rolling your clothes before you pack them makes them take up much less space.

  • Beth says:

    The two women who are wearing almost the same plaid – one pants, one shirt – made me smile. Fun post.

  • Maria, I absolutely loved the course in Vancouver this past week. I am feeling much more confident about my colour choices and can’t wait to start the next project! Thank you, keep posting!

  • Jill Baum says:

    I bring a little pair of socks, a squishy little pillow and a cashmere throw. You never know if you are delayed and have to sleep at the gate! Always fruit or a sandwich too. Once 4 hours on the tarmac and very thankful I brought real food.

  • Kay says:

    It was a FABULOUS class, Maria!!! Thanks again to you and the team. It couldn’t have been better. And such a great group of women.

    I’m sorry to hear about Terreeia’s sister.



  • Janice says:

    I am sorry to hear about Terreeia’s sister and offer sincere condolences. I find the environment on planes extremely drying so I always pack an easy to reach lip balm and a refresh spray for my face, neck and hands. Estee Lauder makes a lovely one-Set + Refresh Perfecting Makeup Mist but there are many. No suggestions for red wine as I avoid them like the plague. Red wines are one of my migraine triggers. You look adorable in a hat. Great travel tips! Thank you!

  • Anne Wilbur says:

    When will you come to Denver for a class?

  • Glenda Isaac says:

    Try Pinot noir. In cascading price scale: Burgundy, Oregon and BC!

  • Lorri says:

    EVERYONE should CLOSE ALL TOILET SEATS before flushing. They’ve done experiments that show that the WATER AND EVERYTHING IN IT, flies up in invisible droplets and LANDS ON EVERYTHING in a radius of several feet.

    That means if your toothbrush is on the vanity, it’s getting covered in invisible droplets from the toilet. Blech!

    I once worked at a furniture store that had a ladies room just for employees. The other women kept their toothbrushes in there on shelves right in front of the toilet. As a new hire, I used to close the toilet before flushing. One of the hags, er, I mean ladies, cornered me and asked me to stop closing the toilet. Since I was beginning to realize I was working for horrible people, I complied and laughed whenever I thought about what they were brushing their teeth with.

  • Lorri says:

    My condolences to Terreeia.

  • JaneB says:

    My cashmere wrap never leaves my bag. It’s navy. I always take the hotel lotion because you get so dry on the plane and they are always under the TSA limit. Great post!

  • Deb says:

    An awesome red wine is any Malbec from Argentina.

    • Barbara says:

      Deb, I was going to write that, too. Always my go to when ordering at a restaurant. But as I don’t like white wine, who knows what they would like?

  • Diane says:

    I would suggest Italian red wines. There are many to choose from but a Montepulchiano from Abruzzo is good. If you want to try a lighter red, I suggest San Giovese.

  • Kim says:

    Great post Maria. You definitely do not want to drink out of a hotel’s glass or mug (plastic cup wrapped in plastic OK). Bringing your own is better. Also, the tray tables on planes is filthy too. I don’t drink red wine because it gives me migraines so can’t help you with a recommendation. I do like to use noise-canceling headphones when flying. So sorry to hear about Terreeia’s sister.

  • Marla says:

    Please give my condolences to Terreeia for the loss of her sister.

  • I am so sorry to hear about Terreeria’s sister. You are both in my prayers.

  • Martha says:

    Deepest sympathy to you and Terreeria.

    Since you like New Zealand and Australian whites, I suspect that you (like me) don’t do well with oaked wines. You’ll also find many whites from the Willamette Valley in Oregon to enjoy (almost never oaked)..don’t miss them! Oregon is known for its wonderful Pinot’s…both red and white. I don’t explore the reds for the same reason…just don’t want to start over…but if I don’t have a choice, a Pinot Noir from Oregon is my safest bet and better than an oaked white anytime! (Tieffenbruner, a Pinot Grigio from Italy is my fav….has a little more going on than a lot of Pinot Grigio’s.) Cheers!

  • Arlene says:

    I am considering bringing something on the plane for a disposable headrest. I think headrest are crawling with whatever isn’t good. Any ideas. Airlines used to always have clean ones in place. Lots of tips here. Particularly like the video. It must have been a man that designed those horrible bathrooms with the huge toilet paper dispenser. It is close to impossible to get in and get out – I am not a big person. I agree shut the lid before flushing then run.

  • Trish Cote says:

    Hi Maria,
    Great travel tips! The best travel tip I can offer is this: Bring half the clothes you think you’ll need and twice the money ha!
    I lay my outfits out on the bed and take pictures of them, including footwear, and put the coordinating jewelry that I plan on wearing with each outfit in a labelled Ziplock bag. Makes getting ready a snap! I also roll up anything that could potentially wrinkle, especially my favourite cashmere sweaters or silk blouses.

  • Keira says:

    Great post, Maria.

    I cringe when I see people putting their suitcase on the bed. Think about all the places your suitcase goes that are dirty and full of germs. Do you want that on your bed? I am also paranoid about bedbugs. The rule of thumb there is to keep your suitcase and bags away from soft surfaces like beds and carpeting. I try to keep my suitcase in the bathroom or as far away from the bed as possible. Check for bedbugs in the seams/crevices of the mattress.

  • Great post! I wish the toilets on my flights looked like the one in the photo above.? Never the less, I will try your trick next time.

    I also need to find a nice black wrap, that would be much more elegant than my selection of brightly colored, floral polar fleece blankets. Although, my comfy polar fleece blankets are very handy when I need an extra blanket at hotels. They can be rolled up to use as a back support or pillow, they take minimal space in a carry on bag and they are washable.

    When I pack clothing that is difficult to iron or wrinkles easily, I lay it on a layer or two of white tissue paper or packing paper and carefully fold the clothing around the paper. I do this with dresses, suits, crisp cotton shirts, silk clothing… It’s fun to open my suitcase and see that everything looks tidy and ready to wear.

    My husband stuffs his shoes with socks, so that his shoes don’t get crushed. I sometimes use cedar shoe forms, but they do add weight to my luggage.

    I am sorry to hear about Terreeia’s sister.?

  • Tracy says:


  • Shannon says:

    Great tips! I use packing cubes which help compartmentalize like drawers do. Correction on the coffee name, it is Pike Place not “Pikes”. This is a common error. The coffee is named after Pike Place Market here in Seattle and the market is named for the street it is at the end of, Pike Street.

  • Barbara says:

    The number one travel tip, is to bring antiseptic wipes with you and wipe all the airplane surfaces that you will touch. Example, your seat belt buckle, light switch, tray table, touch screen, etc. Do not use the seat pocket.
    Also a good idea to wipe down any remotes and phone if you will use it, in your hotel room. I have gotten sick way too many times after flying, and this definitely helps.

  • sandyc says:

    Great tips about the restroom door and closing the lid on the toilet anywhere anytime. Like the idea of the soft floppy hat instead of an eye patch. I used to carry my own wrap-around-the neck pillow in my carry-on bag – better than a flat pillow in that it kept my head from flopping around. When I used to have to carry my laptop for work while traveling, I kept a set of all accessories I would need in a special case with the laptop so I always knew I had everything.

    I’m so sorry to hear about Terreeia’s sister.

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for your travel tips. I like the one about the airplane toilet. It made me giggle. I always put the seat down so nothing will accidentally fall in. I know what you mean about wine! Personally I prefer an Italian Pinot Grigio. I’m very excited about coming to your class in LA this week. I’m starting my journey today so I will have tomorrow to recouperate a bit from the jet lag. See you soon.

  • Mary-Illinois says:

    I don’t fly but when I travel, I never touch the hotel’s remote. And I keep my socks on while walking around the hotel room.

  • Mary says:

    I have become a huge Pinot Noir fan: smooth, medium-bodied, and extremely drinkable – not sweet at all but not smacky-dry, either. And the waiter or waitress always knows if the least expensive on on the list is good or not and I’ve learned to trust their advice, but most PNs are very, very good!

  • Bonnie says:

    I always bring a pair of cozy soft socks and those thin slippers hotels give away ..when I go to the restroom I just slide on over my socks!

  • Suzanne says:

    Sorry to hear the reason for coming back our way is such a sad one – my condolences. If you like the Kim Crawford white you may also enjoy their Pinot Noir, it’s very nice!

  • Lisa says:

    I like to slip a few perfume sample cards, either from the airport shops or from magazines, in my purse before I board a flight. They can provide a lifesaving bit of pleasant scent to counteract the myriad odors that can pop up on a long flight, from stinky food to body odor. Of course, you have to make sure your quick sniffs are discrete to not hurt feelings. 🙂

  • Carol says:

    Condolences to Terreeia and her family on the loss of her sister. May she rest in peace.

  • Mid America Mom says:

    Sorry for your loss. As for red.. I found that I love –
    Rioja – it is a spanish red wine. Pick a well rated one and that should not be too hard if you do so in the city or a better restaurant. As for travel I suggest a good book 🙂

  • Scarlett says:

    I prefer not to think about who may have stayed in the hotel room before me or I get a bit grossed out. But I always use a sanitized wipe anyway to wipe the front and back of a remote control – you never know who has touched it before you!

    And always keep an emergency protein bar or other snack in your bag for long delays. Sometimes that will help you stave off the ‘hangry’ if there are some delays along the way.

  • susi somebody says:

    My eyes are really sensitive to glare, it’s the reason why I always want the window seat so that I can pull the shade down on a sunny day. A hat is easier than an eye patch if you want to sleep. And, hooray, extra bonus, it also provides total black-out.

    Then please just use your eye patch, sit in the middle or in the aisle and let those of us who LOVE to sit with our noses on the window gazing out sit in the window seats! I hate when people sit by the window and then CLOSE it!!!

    • Maria Killam says:

      I close the window on a bright sunny day even when I’m not sleeping! Can’t please everyone unfortunately, Thanks for your comment. Maria

  • Kathy says:

    I bring an empty water bottle and fill it out at the tap or water fountain after security. I get very thirsty on the plane and it can be a long wait for any type of beverage, and prices at the airport are outrageous, plus sometimes you have to pay a deposit. I also bring wipes, a hankie, cough drops, gum, index cards and pen (for quick notes), lip balm, hand cream, portable toothbrush, wipes and cover for my glasses. I leave most jewelry at home, except perhaps one all-purpose necklace.

    I also make it a rule to always bring a bathing suit and a lightweight robe, and shower shoes, even for just an overnight, because you never know if you might need it, and a two piece can double as underwear or shape wear. Shower shoes protect from unwanted infections and give you footwear to change into. For international travel, I wear a passport holder and money belt to get me through customs and security, without flashing the cash, and nice to have on overnight trains, where thieves often rifle through your bags while you sleep (especially in Italy). It is bulky, but I prefer to travel with a small umbrella than a raincoat, and I always bring a lightweight jacket, even to someplace warm.

  • Ruthie says:

    So sorry for your loss.
    For ease in organizing makeup, I use snack size ziplock bags (or similar). All lipsticks in one, all concealers in another, brow essentials, etc. Also, I pack a small magnifying mirror with suction cups in my cosmetics bag also. Just be sure to unstick it from the mirror before checking out (still havenot perfected that yet)!

  • Maria Killam says:

    Thank you, everyone, for your condolences to Terreeia’s sister! Much appreciated! x Maria

  • Richard Douglass says:

    Great tips!

    If you like Pike Place Kuerig pods, you just might like Peet’s Coffee pods. My favorite is Major Dickason’s Blend, a dark roast, but Peet’s has other lighter blends, too. You can order from them on line.

    FYI, Peet’s has been around since 1966, and is one of the early and best high quality craft roasters. The founder of Peet’s taught the original Starbucks guys how to roast coffee, and in fact roasted Starbuck’s coffee for their first couple of years.

    And no, I do not work for Peet’s, but have been drinking their coffee for 20 years.


    • Vikki says:

      I’m with you Richard. I find Starbucks coffee to be bitter. Peet’s Major Dicks is much better.
      I also travel with noise cancelling headphones- small portable and wireless.
      As for the wine try a Napa Valley Pinot Noir which is not heavy.

  • Fiona Copley says:

    My best travel it is packing cubes. They are my new go to. They are not over rated. They make travelling and unpacking soooo much easier. I loooove them.
    A scarf is something I also do – although not black as I tend to wear black a lot – so all my pashminas and scarves tend to be coloured to provide contrast.
    I also pack an extra outfit in my carry-on, especially since travelling with a child. If a spill or vomit occurs, you want to be able to change, and not be forced to stay in the vomited-on clothes until you can pick up your checked bags. Yuck.
    As an Australian, I have to say, if you love our white wines, our red wines are even better. Anything from the Coonawarra or Barossa Valley is just beautiful. They are my favourite red wine regions.
    Final tip – I also carry my own travel cutlery, a container and sharp knife. Eating out can get expensive when on the road for a long time. With these I can pop into a supermarket, or even a farmers market – buy a loaf of bread or roll, tomato, cheese and lettuce and use the sharp knife make an impromptu sandwich. I can use the cutlery set to eat a tub of yoghurt, spread jam on a piece of bread or spear an olive. The container can take the left overs and used utensils keep it clean, to be used the next day. It means I am not stuck with eating out All The Time, but can eat local fresh produce from the area I am visiting.

  • Cheryl says:

    Like you, we have learned over years of airline travel to bring along a few essentials and practice a few housekeeping chores on boarding. We use antiseptic wipes to thoroughly clean the tray and arm rests. We never put things in the seat pocket, we keep them in our carryons under the seat. Much cleaner place for them and you won’t forget items when you deplane. The inescapable drone of the engines is really “wearing”. While awake, use a good pair of noise canceling headphones (ex. Bose) even when not utilizing onboard entertainment options. You will be amazed at how much more refreshed you feel when you arrive. A pair of earplugs and a lightweight sleep mask if you want to nap (we simply reuse the ones distributed in the amenities package distributed by the airlines). Unless an airline pillow or blanket comes out of a sealed package, we don’t use it! Always ask the “locals” where they go for a good meal–not where the tourist are directed. We have had our most memorable experiences at small local establishments dining with the regulars all over the world.
    By the way, when you were posting from Italy a few years ago, we were in Venice, and loved your apt commentary on the ordeal of locating the rental car return in Florence having just endured the experience a few days prior. We had no directions and our iPhone was of little help– finally, after 45 minutes, ended up going into the airport to ask for directions! Travel is an adventure!

  • Sylvia says:

    I used to turn into a crazy (crazier?) person before a trip, checking and rechecking my things so I didn’t forget something important. I finally bought duplicates or travel sized back ups of all the things I use daily or might want when away from home such as makeup, hairspray, reading glasses, sunglasses, contact lens case and solution, scissors, disinfectant hand wipes, snack bars, perfume, my favorite soap, phone chargers (indoors and to plug into the cigarette lighter of a rental carj), etc. The list of items can be seriously extensive or pared down depending on your needs, with the idea being that you have everything you normally like to use with you. Similar items and items that could leak are placed in their own zippered case or packing cube (waterproof and preferably clear) or clear zip lock bag depending on whether it’s ultimately going into my checked luggage or carry on. These smaller bags are contained in one large, soft sided toiletry case. Everything is then stored compactly inside a large zippered ktote bag, which is ready to go on a moment’s notice and large enough to be able to add a change of clothes, hat, a small umbrella, and a purse, resulting in oe less thing to keep track of. I also keep a notecard on top with a checklist of the items that I usually want to take that don’t fit in my toiletry case, like a curling iron, or that I can’t duplicate, like my passport, jewelry, medication, cell phone, or eyeglasses, for example. In an emergency or before a trip, I can simply grab the tote bag, add the few items on the notecard, and go, without scrambling and likely forgetting something important. Keeping my purse inside my tote leaves me with one less item to keep track of. Without the stress, I can just focus on the clothes I want to take on vacation.

    I also would like to extend my sympathy to Terreeiah on the loss of her sister. I wish her strength,iiii comfort and peace in the coming days, weeks, and years.

  • Barbara says:

    I used to be a court reporter, and a DNA expert said that one of the most common places to accidentally touch seminal DNA is on the top of a hotel bedspread. People don’t always take off the bedspread to make love, and the bedspread doesn’t get changed every day like sheets and pillowcases. On every test they did there were numerous DNA deposits found on hotel bedspreads. The suites were the worst since that’s usually what newlyweds book. It’s been 20 years since I heard that testimony, and I still remove the hotel bedspread when I enter the room..

  • Jan Turcotte says:

    Thanks for those great travel tips Maria. The one thing that I always pack is at least 36″ of duct tape rolled onto a pencil. You can used the tape for anything and when you put it on the pencil it is easy to pack and it’s compact. I have used the tape to hem pants, make a new strap for a bag, and to tape my suitcase shut when the latch broke. Happy travels everyone and sending Terreeia healing hugs for her heavy heart. So sad for her loss.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Never heard that tip before, such a good one, thanks Jan. And I will hug T for you! x Maria

    • Nicole says:

      I am a very seasoned traveler, and I have never thought of this but what an awesome tip, especially for an adventure holiday (or any trip with kids, which amounts to the same ?)

  • Ine says:

    red wine: I learned that a red blend is a better option often as it is ready to drink which unbeknownst to many, is not the case with a lot of reds. They are meant to be resting longer but most people buy and drink them right away. Try some blends and you will be pleasantly surprised at their smoothness.
    A taupe, beige camel or black midsize pashmina has been my companion for 20 odd years. I have many as I used to live in India and such places. Love them all and still use them a lot on a daily basis. Who said they are out of style?
    Wipes, yes, that started on train journeys in India. You have no idea how these were a life saver.
    Still do same in planes. Sit down and do the “housekeeping”…
    Spritz Evian water regularly. It does wonders apart from perking you up it refreshes your make up if you wear that on the plane. I don’t ..
    Anyway one could go on and on. Much of it has been mentioned and all good as far as I’m concerned. Happy travels.

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