5 Things We Do to Make Ourselves Comfortable

We have been traveling for more than three years now and have learned a lot about how to be comfortable wherever we go. Our arrival activities have increased over time as we’ve learned what makes us comfortable. First, we have a list of things we check when we get somewhere new, including understanding the air conditioning and appliances. In addition, there is a ritual we go through, whether we are staying for a few days or a month. What’s interesting is that I only realized the repetitive nature of our arrival activity recently.

For those of you who travel a lot, I’d love to hear about your arrival rituals if you have any.

1. Stowing Our Luggage

We have three suitcases, which isn’t really very much, but it usually takes some effort to figure out how to easily access all of them. The luggage challenge leads to different actions depending on whether we are in a hotel or an apartment. If we are in a hotel, we often ask for folding luggage racks. We have three suitcases and never more than one luggage rack is provided. Sometimes we get them and sometimes we don’t. There are a few other things that happen in hotels to make room for our luggage. For example, the space-hogging coffee and tea-making stuff are put in a closet. Then the TV might get moved to make room for a suitcase. The closets are never big enough to open a suitcase and we only unpack if we are staying more than a week.

Getting another luggage rack

In an apartment, the luggage situation usually involves moving furniture. Often, a chair or table is relocated to the bedroom from the living room to act as a platform for one or more of our suitcases.

2. Removing Tchotchkes

tchotchke (/ˈtʃɒtʃkə/ CHOTCH-kə/ˈtʃɒtʃkiː/ CHOTCH-kee) is a small miscellaneous item. The standard Yiddish transliteration is tsatske or tshatshke. Everyone wants to decorate their property to make a hotel room or an apartment look appealing. For us, these usually breakable things need to be stowed for their own safety or provide space for bags. Sometimes things I want to use or look at vanish. Negotiation may be required because Mike really likes to make things he doesn’t need disappear.

This morning, I broke a glass that housekeeping put on my nightstand to drink out of. The funny thing is that I looked at it last night and thought, that’s a bad idea. But I didn’t move it, shame on me.


3. The Many Uses of Chairs

Mike is always moving chairs, either to use them for other things or just to get them out of walkways, etc. We sometimes use a chair as a nightstand if one isn’t available. Mike likes to move a chair to an out-of-the-way, accessible location, to sit and put on and take off shoes. Chairs are used as luggage racks and if there are enough of them they are used as footrests while sitting on the couch.

Sometimes chairs are used to hold fans, backpacks, or my purse. Chairs can also be moved to keep black-out drapes closed or maybe we use our chip clips to keep the drapes closed. We try to make the most of what we have to make our accommodations more comfortable.

4. Kitchen Adjustments

When we stay someplace for longer than a week, we try to find a place with a kitchen so we don’t have to eat out all of the time. Kitchens are always interesting, first to explore and then to use. We have found that timeshares are usually better equipped than Airbnbs. That said, Airbnb apartments frequently have foodstuffs and spices in the cabinets, which we like. Typically, some kind of oil, salt, pepper, and sugar. In Sorrento, our Airbnb came with homemade olive oil and limoncello. Depending on our travel plans, we sometimes have to leave our own non-perishable food in an Airbnb.

Much as we like getting an apartment so we can cook, corporate apartments have better furniture than Airbnbs. While the furniture is better, their kitchens are woefully understocked. For example, the corporate apartment we are currently in didn’t have a spatula, large bowls for mixing or serving, or measuring cups. If you are staying for a month like we are, those things are pretty important. Our go-to in the US is Dollar Tree or somewhere similar. What you get can be junkie but it will usually last a month.

Moving Stuff in the Kitchen

Because I’m height-challenged, Mike frequently has to move plates where I can reach them, also in the category of rearranging the furniture. The toaster, the coffee pot, and the kettle are usually moved in order to improve usability. Sometimes they aren’t even near an outlet.

While the plates in most apartments and timeshares look nice, they can be very heavy. Additionally, there are never enough of them to fill the dishwasher before we run out. So other things we sometimes buy are plastic plates and plastic tumblers. Because we move around so much by air, we usually have to leave whatever we buy because we don’t have room in our three suitcases.

The final thing we started doing after our big trip was to accumulate small, invaluable kitchen objects. In Travel Kitchenware, we described the things we take with us. Since we wrote that article, some things have been added to our complement of kitchen stuff, most importantly some spices. We now carry very small refillable salt and pepper grinders, red paper flakes, cinnamon, Italian seasoning, and olive oil. We also have a food box at a friend’s house in the Bay Area because we are back there for an extended stay every Christmas. There are more spices in that box, some of which I only use at Christmas time for cooking and baking.

Spices, with glass for scale

5. Setting up the Router and the Roku

Usually right after we arrive somewhere for a short or long stay Mike sets up our router and connects the Roku stick to the TV. Setting up the router is generally straightforward and allows us to automatically connect all of our devices without having to log into the hotel or apartment WiFi. The router, once connected, also allows us to set and change our location in order to watch the TV shows we like, including US football.

Attaching the Roku stick to the TV can be quite challenging and sometimes involves removing the flat-screen TV from the wall to access the HDMI ports. It’s a good thing that the new TVs don’t weigh much. The Roku stick also has to be powered and finding an available power source close enough to the TV can be a challenge. The entire router and Roku process usually takes Mike about 20 minutes during which time, I’m usually unpacking my bedtime stuff and my toiletries.

Do you rearrange hotel rooms and apartments when you travel? What do you move?

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  1. The room set up is usually my wife’s domain. I don’t know how she does it but she somehow optimizes every space for our lifestyle. Within minutes of entering the room, chairs and tables are shuffled, tschotkes stashed, ersatz kitchen deployed.

    My domain is mostly systems: figure out how to open windows, make sure TV works, check AC, make sure doors and windows lock securely, etc. This summer we made a point of only staying in places that *advertised* air conditioning. In our hotel in Deventer, NL (awesome town!) there was just one control for the AC: an on/off switch. When I asked the hotel staff about how to adjust the temperature, I got a typical Dutch response which was basically that the AC is already set to the optimal temperature and an implication that you should be happy to have AC at all, you weak American.

    But, yeah, the arrival stuff is mostly my wife’s doing. I’m more like Richard Ayoade on Travel Man. If you’ve seen that show every time he checks into an awesome boutique hotel he drops his luggage and tells his companion “meet in the lobby in 5 mins” so they can go out and explore the town. If you haven’t seen Travel Man, seek it out. A really funny travel show visiting a lot of destinations you will enjoy.

  2. Excellent advice on this post! Some suggestions are new, some we do as well. Of course you are staying longer and more frequent “away from home” stays, but you bring up some good points/ideas!

  3. Something almost always gets moved around! Chairs have often been luggage racks for us, too. Small binder clips are handy for those pesky drapes that won’t stay together, and they are great bag clips, too!

  4. A must for me is getting the toiletries in place, ice from the machine and bottled water. I try to consume more water than usual for travel detox, health reasons. The local tap water may be questionable or at least does not taste so good. Really cold water from adding ice helps with the latter.

    Btw, that food box at a friend’s house thing rings a bell too.

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