Gypsy Life Hacks
by Whitney Claire Kaufman

WARNING: The following are a collection of tips acquired after many years of hotel living and airport navigation. Some are purely the product of this one traveler’s neuroses, but what the hell. If they can bring you, travel yogi, any added peace or comfort in your globetrotting, then my often laughable particularities have not been in vain!

 

How to: have a healthier travel day.

When I was on the road with a Broadway musical, I found myself in at least two airports every Monday. The cast and crew would travel to the next city on Mondays, play the show Tuesday through Sunday, and then repeat. There were certain things I did that helped me feel more healthy and happy on these sometimes hellishly long travel days.

Get a good night sleep the night before you fly.

Travel can be stressful, and with all stressful situations, we’re better equipped to handle it if we’re well rested. I used to take a sleep aid every Sunday night after our final performance of the week to ensure that I’d get a solid 8 hours. The buses, flights, and other travel nonsense seemed much more manageable if I wasn’t all cranky pants from tossing and turning the night before. Plus, since Monday night was our night off, I’d arrive in the next city ready to enjoy the evening. So, if you’re traveling somewhere and you want to be in tip-top shape when you arrive, get that shuteye the night before. You never know how well you’ll sleep on the plane…too many variables (turbulence, screaming baby in your row, chatty seat partner.)

Guzzle a green juice before the TSA screening checkpoint.

I’ve started picking one of these up the night before I travel so I can drink it on the way to the airport. There’s always a chance I’ll eat like crap in the airport (Manchu Wok, anyone?), so if my healthy eating options are limited at least I know I got a few servings of veggies in first thing. Oh, look! Chik-fil-A!

Starbucks oatmeal FTW.

As much as I love a good, greasy baconeggandcheese breakfast sammie, I don’t feel quite as bloated on the plane if I opt for the Starbucks oatmeal with nuts and a little brown sugar. And a coffee. Definitely a grande coffee.

Bring emergency rations from home.

That cushy layover you planned at DFW is bound to get screwed up due to an ice storm or toddler puking on your inbound plane ruining a row of seats or some other “act of God” or “act of crappy airline” problem, so instead of being able to grab a sandwich between flights you find yourself sprinting to your next gate…and you’re starving. You don’t need to worry if you follow one simple rule: DO NOT LEAVE FOR A TRIP WITHOUT AT LEAST 2 OF THE FOLLOWING ITEMS IN YOUR CARRY-ON!!

-energy bars

– pretzels

-vacuum-sealed cheese sticks

– trail mix

– crackers

– turkey or beef jerky

YOU WILL NEED THESE AT SOME POINT. And if you don’t and you just get snacky on the plane, you won’t be tempted to buy that $8 bag of Chex Mix. Gone are the days of the free peanuts, my friends. And let’s be honest, those lil bags were never big enough. You’d need like 4 of those to equal what you can pack yourself. Plus, you can tailor it to your needs and favorites. Remember about not wanting to be cranky pants? Being hangry is a direct cause of cranky pants behavior.

Splurge on that big ass bottled water in the airport.

Some of you may argue, “What!?! Bring an empty reusable water vessel from home and fill it at the drinking fountain! And you call yourself a yogi…” Be my guest, but to me that water tastes exactly like the pipes it flows through. Nope, not for me. Too metallic and sometimes mildew tasting. Blargh. Since I believe in paying a premium for those things that really make a difference to your travel experience (for me it’s fresh-tasting water, for you it might be that double issue of InStyle magazine or the $15 Wolfgang Puck Express BBQ Chicken Pizza…those are delicious!), I grab the biggest water I can find after I go through security. Air travel is incredibly dehydrating, so this way I feel like I’m combating that as much as possible. Plus, that big bottle can be refilled upon arrival at the hotel in the gym (more about this in another post.)

 

How to: take your yoga practice with you on the road.

It’s easy to be lazy with your yoga routine when you’re traveling. And by all means, if being away from home is the only chance you get to recharge and binge watch TLC and HGTV do iiiiiiit. Sometimes being in a hotel can feel like playing hooky from real life, so take a long bath, snuggle up in that hotel robe and chill. No need to do a single chaturanga if you don’t want to. If you DO want to bring your practice with you, here’s what I’d recommend to make it easier:

Buy a travel yoga mat.

This is the single best investment a travel yogi can make. With baggage fees what they are nowadays, traveling with only a carry-on is where it’s at. Most traditional yoga mats aren’t gonna fit, and do you really want to tote that rolled-up thing through the world with you? It might make you look like a super cool yoga hottie in the airport, but it’s a pain to drag around, trust me. I’ve tried. My travel mat is regular length and width, just as sticky, but folds up into 1×1 square. I’ve stuffed that thing into my purse when I’ve had to. One side is NOT sticky, so it’s not a pain to smush into exterior roll aboard pockets. Mine’s Manduka, but I’m sure your favorite yoga gear line makes one, too, what with the advent of international yoga retreats. It’s pretty thin, but I find that firm hotel carpet gives you’re the perfect support underneath.

Stash a travel candle and matches (or a lighter.)

There’s nothing worse than a stale-smelling hotel room. A lot of luxury candle lines make small, portable, lovely smelling candles in tins with a lid. They’re super easy to toss in your bag, and some are even big enough to hold a small book of matches. Afraid of being caught with something flammable? Fear not…I had to throw my matches away once when I went through security and I just purchased a $1 lighter at a convenience store when I got to my hotel. Lighting a special candle in your room gives it an instant sense of “home.” It’s a great way to motivate you to do some opening stretches upon arrival after sitting in a chair in the sky all day!

 Subscribe to an online yoga class service.

If you’re like me, you need a guide to help you stay focused when practicing outside of a studio. If I try and practice on my own, I get real distracted and antsy after 20 mins. By downloading or subscribing to online yoga classes, it helps me to get a good asana practice in when I’m away from home. My recent favorite is The Yoga Collective. It’s $12/month for unlimited classes…kind of a killer deal! They’ve got tons of teachers and class styles to choose from, so there’s bound to be something to match your energy level wherever you are. I like to settle into my room, light the aforementioned candle, and follow along on my phone or computer for an hour. Suddenly, no matter how long my travel day has been, I feel grounded and more content. Yay, yoga!

Practice at a local studio.

One of my favorite things about travel is the ability to be anonymous in a new place. I get off on dining out, wandering the neighborhood, or shopping alone when I’m traveling. It makes me feel like a part of the world in a way I don’t always feel when I’m some place familiar. I LOVE practicing with new teachers in new spaces, and being a world-traveler has allowed me the opportunity to do that and then some. If I know I’m going to have some free time while I’m away, I’ll use Google maps to search around my hotel for yoga classes. If free time comes up unexpectedly, I’ll use the MindBody app that allows you to search from your current location for all sorts of classes (the studio, gym, etc. has to use MindBody as their scheduling server, but they’re pretty prolific so unless you’re in Podunk Arkansas, you’ll probably find something that’ll work.) Sometimes I end up in a gorgeous, established studio with a burgeoning community, other times I’ll end up in a class of 3 people at the local Planet Fitness. Often times they have “first class” or “new student specials” they’ll let visitors take advantage of. No matter what, it’s always a great learning experience to venture out into the wider yoga world.

Don’t do yoga. Change it up!

Most hotels have a decent fitness room these days. Sometimes it’s fun to bring your sneakers and do 45 mins of cardio while watching “Ellen” on your elliptical TV instead of the same vinyasa sequence you’ve been doing at home. But, since you have a travel mat, you can get a good cool down stretch or some core in, too!

 

How to: Macguyver your hotel room into a wellness sanctuary.

Ok, so I’m going to confess something here that is slightly embarrassing, or used to embarrass me before I realized I’m a grown-ass woman and I can do what I want. Actually this isn’t a confession at all, but a completely confident announcement that I have figured out how to make any hotel room into a cocoon of wellness, rest, and comfort. You may not be as neurotic as I am about your environment, but trust me when I say that living in hotels nonstop for 2 ½ years will make you extremely….creative….when it comes to problem solving. So sit back, folks, and prepare to be marveled and amused by the random hacks I’ve come up with for hotel living.

Use your bathroom trashcan as a larger ice bucket.

There’s no way more than one beverage can fit in those dinky ice buckets most hotels provide you, and I like to grab a coconut water or juice or two at a convenience store or drug store when I get in. I’ve even been known to put fruits, veggies, milk for cereal, cheese, or other perishables in my hotel trash can filled with ice. This is an especially good hack if you’re staying longer in a hotel that doesn’t have a mini-fridge. This’ll allow you to not spend every meal or afternoon snack in a restaurant. When you travel a lot, this can make your room feel much more homey. NOTE: some trashcans aren’t solid plastic and can leak, so either stick it in the bathtub or grab a plastic laundry bag to line the can (make sure, too, that there aren’t any ventilation holes in the bag.)

Bring a roll of duct tape.

Oh, there are SO many uses for this in a hotel room. My favorite is to tape the curtains to the walls to make it extra dark for a nice afternoon nap or to combat early morning light. In the theater, we work into the late night hours, so sleeping in in darkness is real nice. You also never know what kind of dumb exterior light a place will have shining right on your window. Black out curtains only work for what they cover, so if they aren’t taped to the wall you’ll get that piercing border of light anyway. Lame. Hence the duct tape move.

Trouser hangers aren’t just for trousers.

The only redeeming thing I learned from a showmance I had once with a bass player was to keep the morning light out with a hotel-provided trouser hanger. Clip those babies together, and coupled with the duct tape trick you’re in total darkness. Did I mention I might be a vampire?

*I also discovered you can use these trouser hangers to keep snack bags closed like a giant, awkward chip clip. Totally works.

I hate smoke alarm lights with a fiery passion. No pun.

I cannot tell you how often hotels choose to install their smoke alarms DIRECTLY over the bed. So, there you are, all snuggled up in your giant hotel bed surrounded by what’s essentially a pillow fort, and “blink.” That damn smoke alarm that’s 8 feet above your heard is BLINKING every few seconds. It’s bright red, and it’s blinking. Sometimes it’s bright green and it’s blinking. Any fast and it could be a strobe light. This is my WORST. I’ve used a little piece of duct tape over the light, which has worked, but one time in an act of insomnia-induced desperation I pulled out a piece of gum, chewed it up, and stuck that sucker right on top of the little blinking light. It might have been my proudest moment as a gypsy. Just don’t be a dick…remember to pull it off before you check out or someone else is gonna wonder who the hell put a piece of chewing gum on the smoke alarm.

Always bring earplugs.

Just promise me. Promise. Me. Two pair even, in case one goes missing. Housekeeping staff Are-So-Noisy. So is the couple knocking boots next door. Ew, just always bring earplugs, friends.

Unpack a little.

When I’m going through long road warrior periods, I start to feel like I don’t have a home. Living out of suitcases can be kind of a bummer. I’ve found that I feel settled and grounded much, much faster if I unpack, even just a little bit. I’ll put my shoes in the closet, all my bathroom stuff out in the bathroom (I’m not beyond organizing my make-up on a hand towel like I do at home), and if I’m somewhere for at least two nights I’ll unpack completely and stash my luggage in the closet. “But won’t it be a hassle to repack after such a short trip? What’s the point?” Nah, you probably won’t have that much stuff, and most of it will be in a laundry bag when it’s time to move on, so repacking to go home or to your next destination is actually easier! It forces you to refold and reorganize so everything fits again. Plus you don’t feel like a stranger in a strange land as much. That aforementioned travel candle helps, too.

Ask the hotel for a mini-fridge and a humidifier.

Sometimes you can unload the mini-bar and make room for your own stuff, but sometimes they either won’t have one or you’ll be dealing with those sensor ones where if you move the mini bottles of Smirnoff they charge you instantly. If you want to have your own perishables and you don’t wanna do the trash can ice bucket trick, most hotels will have a small number of mini-fridges they can bring up to your room. Usually it’s free, but if they try to charge you, cash in some karma chips and follow the advice of one of my former castmates: tell them you have medication you need refrigerated. I know, I know, so wrong, but they might be guilted into providing you with one for free. And, hey! Some people need Activia yogurt for, ahem, medical reasons….and also for a healthy breakfast option.

If you’re traveling in the dry, cold winter months or you’re in a dryer climate than you’re used to, call down for a humidifier. Most hotels have a few. As a singer, this is a must if I’m working during the winter and have to run the heat all night in my hotel room. Your skin and mucous membranes will thank you! In the most desperate of moments I’ve let my shower run as hot as it will go for a few minutes and used the bathroom as a makeshift steam room.

Take advantage of the gym/fitness room filtered water dispenser.

This might be the most important hotel hack I have discovered. Most hotels generously provide their guests with the option to buy overpriced bottled water right in their rooms! How kind. I love buying a small bottle of Dasani for 5 bucks. Not. There’s a hydration loophole, guys. Most hotels also have fitness rooms. Most of these fitness rooms have filtered water dispensers. Free filtered water comes out of them. Remember that giant bottle of water I advised you buy in the airport? Yeah. You see where I’m going with this. Most of these fitness rooms with free filtered water dispensers allow access 24/7. Don’t worry about seeing this as “stealing” water…you paid for the room and the taxes and all that, and those fees cover use of the facilities like the pool, gym, etc. Never pay for overpriced hotel water ever again. Ever.

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Whitney Claire Kaufman

Whitney is a professional singer who travels the world performing with symphony orchestras. After practicing yoga steadily for 3 years, she purchased her first travel-ready yoga mat in 2012, and now it's one of her must-haves for any journey... alongside earplugs, coffee, and a good book.
  1. I loved it! Thanks for sharing! Definitely grateful for your share.

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