Vegas Adventure: The Planning (or lack thereof)

Last night was the first time I got a good night's sleep in weeks. Sure, there was this one night when I slept for 9 hours before taking my exam, but my dreams were basically reviews of what 15 U.S.C. 1114(1) and 1125(a), (c), and (d) covered. It's been a hectic few weeks, and I'm so glad that I finally have time to do nothing today.

Everyone knows that the best thing to do before a trip is to plan--being prepared will save a lot of money and prevent the type of chaos that would ruin a good time. The friends I went with did a great job with planning, but sadly, I did not. I was too consumed with memorizing stuff for exams, and when it was all over, I had a few hours to go out with a friend who visits once a year. I literally didn't do my packing until 30 minutes before heading out the door. The result--a "what I did right" slash "don't let this happen to you" post. It doesn't matter where you're travelling to--these notes apply to a lot of different situations.

1) What to wear--that was easy part since I'm pretty good at packing light. If you're heading somewhere for a particular purpose and know you won't have much time to plan to put outfits together, focus on the big event itself. Then, think of the other activities you'll be partaking. The average itinerary consists of a formal/business event, a dressed-down-but-still-sophisticated social gathering, and some casual schlepping-around downtime. Once you've gotten your activities mapped out, pick out pieces that can be recycled, layered, and reassembled for the different occasions; it helps to start with one versatile piece and work around it. See if your dress-up pieces can be dressed down, and vice versa. Don't forget to check the weather report; if you're on a strict budget, it doesn't help if you have to go out and buy clothes just to stay warm. When it's time to pack, it might be a good idea to wear the bulkier pieces and stuff the smaller pieces inside the bag.

For me, my friend's wedding ceremony was the main focus, so I figured out what to wear way ahead of the time (off-the-shoulder sweater, a chiffon skirt with crazy stuff hanging off of it, high-heeled sandals, a coat, small quilted purse). I didn't think of what to wear for the other events until the night before and the morning of the trip. For travelling time, I wore the high heels, a flattering pair of jeans, long-sleeve tee, a graphic tee, a short-sleeve hoodie, scarf, and a yellow down jacket. My jeans was my staple piece. I could wear the wedding ceremony sweater and have another casual outfit. For my sophisticated social outfit, I chose a lacy halter. I also threw in a lounging outfit for sleeping. Just in case I needed it, I included a pair of tights (which I ended up not needing). After packing whatever I wasn't wearing, my duffle still had plenty of room. All the outfits worked as expected, so I was very happy.

2) Shoes/accessories--this is where I get a B-.

I wore the dressy sandals for travelling because they were bulky, but I packed away a pair of ballet flats for casual walking around. Ballet flats seem like a good choice because they're nice and compact, but they'll be good only if they are soft and pliable. I was dumb and decided to bring a cute pair of flats with a stiff upper. After spending a day breaking in my sandals, my calloused toes were not happy to be rubbing against the stiff upper of the flats...totally didn't expect this to happen, though I should have. I happened upon a cheap and comfortable pair of Vans slip-ons while shopping and started wearing them right after paying. I didn't buy shoes for the sake of replacing my flats, but I know some people have to pay full price for comfortable shoes they forgot to bring for the trip. That's just not good for budget travelling. Next time, I'll opt for more comfortable flats.

I also made the stupid mistake of not bringing a tote bag for casual downtime. A tote bag is nice because it folds up easily and doesn't take up much room, but it holds a lot of stuff. All I had was my little quilted purse, which holds my essentials but nothing more. While I was shopping, I found a cute Stella McCartney for Adidas bag, which was roomier. I also started using it right after I bought it. Again, I didn't run out to buy a bag just because I didn't bring one. It just happened to work out that way. Still, it's nice to remember to bring a tote in the future.

With jewelry, keep it to a minimum and bring a small pouch so that you won't lose your baubles when you're not wearing them.

3) Toiletries--yes, hotels have shampoos, lotions, and soap, but supplies are limited. If you're travelling with other people, and all of you planned on relying on the hotel stock, one of you is bound to be out of luck. So, bring your own travel-sized body wash, toothpaste, and lotion. Don't forget your toothbrush and towel. In most big cities, getting toiletries is not a problem (CVS bailed me out this time), but if you're in the mountains and it's snowing (which happened to me a couple of years ago), it can be a big problem.

4) Food--my friends brought a lot of snacks and water (plus a gallon for refill) for the trip, and one even brought enough crackers and energy bars for breakfast. I was going to bring my box of Triscuits and a gallon of water, but in my ill-advised haste of packing, I forgot them. Boo to me. Eating out for breakfast can add up, so bringing donuts and energy bars for breakfast is a good idea. If you don't want to lug them on the road, they're cheap enough to buy at any market at the destination...unless you're going to be in the middle of nowhere.

5) Cash--this is where I got into big, big trouble this time. I don't like the idea of walking around with a lot of cash on me, but when you're going out for dinner and drinks with a big group, you're going to need it. Inevitably, someone will not have enough cash and will have to put it on their credit card. If only 1 or 2 people do it, that's usually OK, but restaurants are not going to be happy to deal with more than 2 credit cards (and probably not allow it).

Even though the dates were set long ago, my friend's wedding ceremony and dinner were planned in a rather last-minute fashion, so I didn't know how much I was going to spend until, well, the last minute. Instead of going to a buffet as originally planned (where I thought I could use my credit card), we ended up going to a very expensive sushi restaurant. I started off the day with (what I thought was) a lot of cash, but that amount was reduced by lunch and a drink. I forgot that I needed to help pay for the bride's and groom's dinner on top of my own dinner and drink. I ended up borrowing $10 from my friend to cover dinner. But wait, my mistakes didn't end there--I got cash-back at CVS and then realized I may have overdrafted. I forgot to transfer more money to my checking account before leaving for the trip. It was a good thing that the Vegas drug stores had a cap on how much people can get for cash back, since enough people are in the same predicament that the stores might run out of money.

What's the bottom line? A couple of things--know your account balances and know where the nearest bank ATMs are. This could only be done if you looked them up ahead of time. I knew how much was in my checking account, but I was too lazy to transfer the money, thinking that I wouldn't spend that much. I missed overdrafting by a hair. That was really stupid of me--if I had only taken a few minutes worth of time to take care of it, I wouldn't have subjected myself to worries of a big overdraft fee. Another thing you should know where your bank's ATMs are. I've seen some B of A ATMs at the outlets and in Caesar's Palace, but I don't know where other banks have their ATMs. I shake my head with pity every time I see someone use one of those standalone ATM's that charge an arm and a leg per transaction.

6) Cell-phone charger--finally, we close with something I did right. You never know when your phone might die, even if you're not out of town for long.


SDMC said...

Did you have a good time? I always end up missing something every time we travel...no matter how early I pack and how much I plan or how many lists I make...lol.

Sales Rack Raider said...

I had a great time! The friends I was with are awesome and we had lots of fun travelling and shopping together.

Brian said...

Bah. You realize you can get more toiletries from the hotel, so there's really no such thing as running out, right?

and most stock toothbrushes, disposable razors, etc...

Sales Rack Raider said...

Yeah, that's true, but sometimes it takes forever. I don't think you were around then, but S. had requested some towels and we had to wait before we could go anywhere. Thankfully, the wait was short. And with cheap motels/hotels that aren't great with service, running out of toiletries is possible.