Packing Secrets Revealed

Comedy sketches have been written based on women packing for trips. If we could fit in the kitchen sink, we’d probably consider taking that, too. It’s never too late to get a handle on the process so you can carry exactly what you’ll need, not a shred more. A well-packed suitcase also takes the stress out of dressing when you’re on the road.

Heed these packing tips from Monica Escamilla, Ming Wang Product Specialist, and you’ll take a load off your mind, not to mention your hands.

Women usually over pack their luggage. How do we avoid that?

I think it’s important to always have a set of basic foundation pieces that work with multiple outfits. Instead of packing several pairs of jeans or black pants, pack one of each that looks good with all tops and jackets. The two pieces will give you dressy and casual looks. As for shoes, I recommend packing a casual flat pair of shoes, such as ballet flats, and a dressier shoe, perhaps a black pump or boot (depending on the weather). Shoes take up a lot of space in your suitcase, so the fewer you take the better. Also save space by wearing your bulkiest items on the plane, such as boots or coats.


{Big Monthly Giveaway} Women at Woodstock Getaway

Rest, relax, and restore!

FOF is excited to attend another sensational getaway with Women at Woodstock East! Join FOFs from across the country this October for a transformative fall retreat in tranquil Woodstock, NY. Enjoy empowering workshops, performances, and great networking at the luxurious Emerson Resort & Spa. Your retreat also includes three nights at the resort, as well as gourmet meals and a luxe gift bag. You’ll leave inspired, relaxed, and rejuvenated. ONE FOF WILL WIN!

The reinvention retreat includes*:

• 3-nights private accommodations at the Emerson Resort & Spa

• Full admission to the Women at Woodstock retreat, including a ticket to the opening night performance of Alice and Elizabeth’s One Woman Show, a welcome party, intimate workshops and speaker presentations.

Dates: October 6-9, 2013

To enter to win, comment below to this question:  Why would you like to attend the WAW retreat?

1 FOF will win. (See official rules, here.) Contest closes August 20th, 2013 at midnight E.S.T. Contest limited to residents of the continental U.S.

*Does not include transportation.

{Travel} “I’m traveling the world for free–and you can, too.”

Would you ever do a home swap?

The risks: Virtual strangers move into your home, cook in your kitchen, sleep in your bed, use your phone . . . even look through your drawers and medicine cabinets.

The reward: A free stay at a destination like the one pictured above, a private villa in the South of France, with a pool, tennis court, and views overlooking a cherry orchard and the breathtaking Luberon Mountains.

FOF Sandra Harris did her first “homeswap” in 2005, trading her house in London during the dreary winter months, for a charming cottage on the beach in Apollo Bay, Australia. Since then, Sandra has traveled back to Australia several times as well as to Cornwall, Santa Monica and Sicily, all through home swapping with other eager travelers on

She spoke to us from her latest homeswap destination, an Italianate apartment in the heart of Palermo, Italy.

Tell us a little about yourself so that we know you’re normal.
I am in my late sixties. I’ve lived in London for the past 40 years. I am married and we have three children, all adult, and three grandchildren whom I am dotty about. I work as a reporter and freelance writer.

How did you get started with your first “home swap”

Friends of friends in Melbourne had mentioned that they wanted to spend the winter in London. (Strange but true). My husband and I moved into their house for three months while they moved into ours.

Do you have to swap for that long?
No, although I personally recommend taking a longer trip when you swap. But I’m here in Sicily for just five days.

Were you nervous the first time you did it?

Oh yes. Mostly about spending three months somewhere we’d only seen in emailed photos, in a city we didn’t know. We’d be unable to change our minds.

Clearly it went okay, since you’ve now used this method of travel many times. But tell me why it worked.
That first experience was truly life-changing. We lived like locals. When we arrived in our new “home” in Melbourne, Val had left us a lovely bottle of Australian red, along with a detailed list of the best local restaurants, where to shop, how to take the bus–everything. Within a few weeks, we knew where to get the best croissants; I had joined the local pony club and become a proxy in Val’s cinema group. We made lifelong friends. . .

But what about the other side of the coin? Weren’t you nervous about people staying in your home? Using your things?
People who mutter about it being ‘a bit of a lottery’ just don’t get it. It is not a gamble at all, but totally reciprocal. You look after my house/pets/car/plants and I will do the same for yours. People don’t take advantage because they’re in the same position. Ed Kushins, the director of, told me that over 9 years and thousands and thousands of home swaps, no one has ever reported a theft of abuse of property.

Would you ever go back to hotel-based travel?

When it’s just for a short time, yes, I would. I like hotels. I like being waited on and ringing up room service. But it’s a totally different experience. It is about visiting a place and taking in the sights. Home exchange is about digging your heels in and becoming part of the life of a place.

Can you tell me a typical day during your homeswap in Sicily?
We start in a cafe with our daily cappucini and pastry, my favourites are the little horns ‘cannoli’, filled with custard cream and dusted with icing sugar. Today we visited a totally unique shop called Modusvivendi (The Way To Live, in Latin) a book shop that also sells glorious scarves and pashminas in intense Medici colours, the sort of thing you imagine Catherine Medici or Lucretia Borgia would have worn. The owner, Marcella, was providing coffee and cornetti for her customers. We visited the local food markets to buy ingredients for soup. Oranges are everywhere; pears bursting with juice and taste, and fat, round grapes. In the evening we went to Teatro Garibaldi for a Beethoven concert. And bed at 11 with a good book!

Any tips for an FOF who wants to try this out?
The secret it is that no money changes hands.The gas bills, phone bills etc–forget them. Once you start totting up bills and arguing about small change you’ve lost the plot. It becomes like a rental and that is a whole different bag of beans. Home exchange is exactly that.  Exchange.

Ed’s note: We became mildly obsessed with searching after we interviewed Sandra, and found incredible homeswap opportunities in Turkey, Mexico, Bali, and many, many more (including all over the United States). Other sites worth searching include and

{Travel} Money-saving travel tips from FOFrequent Flyers

4 FOFrequent Flyers share their secrets to trotting the globe without burning holes in their wallets.


{Travel} 5 Life-Changing Trips… You can take for FREE

FOF Sheryl Kayne was living in Weston, Connecticut, working as a teacher and education writer and raising her children. But deep down, she harbored secret dreams: to drive to Alaska, to become a park ranger, to immerse herself in the culture of a new city, to work with horses…to have adventures.

In 1992, she got divorced, and by 2001 her kids had left home. Sheryl realized, “This is my chance to step out of my life and make great adventures happen.” She wanted to travel but had no desire to take a packaged trip to Cancun and lie on the beach. “I wanted to immerse myself in a location–get to know the people and the culture. I wanted to challenge myself, contribute, grow and learn.” The result is her award-winning guide, Immersion Travel: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living, and Learning Excursions. The book chronicles her own “immersion trips”–as a breakfast cook at a lodge in Stehekin, Washington, and as a tour guide in Denali National Park, Alaska–as well as the life-changing trips other men and women have taken to accomplish long-held dreams.

A word of warning: These trips are not pleasure cruises–literally. They can be mentally and physically challenging, but according to Sheryl, that’s all part of the journey. The best part: many “immersion” trips are completely free.

Here, Sheryl shares five fabulous and free(!) opportunities for life-changing travel.

1. Learn Fly Fishing With Friends

Imagine standing in a cool, clear mountain stream, learning to fish with a group of friendly, supportive FOFs. Casting For Recovery provides fly-fishing retreats for women who have or have had breast cancer. It also accepts 1500 volunteers each year to attend and assist the participants. These no-cost retreats are offered at bucolic locations across the country, from Vermont and Alabama to Montana and Colorado. “One of my clients, Sema, attended as a participant and later returned as a volunteer. She credits the trip with giving her a ‘week-long ‘a-ha’ moment, and inspiring her to create her own business helping breast cancer survivors,” says Sheryl.


2. Create Art in a Breathtaking American Setting

Spend the summer ensconced in a cozy cabin, sketching, writing or painting as you gaze upon some of the most breathtaking views America has to offer. The National Park Service’s Volunteers-in-Parks program accepts thousands of applicants a year to volunteer in exchange for housing and VIP park access. If you’re a professional or novice painter, poet, photographer, writer or crafter, consider the artist-in-residence programs. Artists are invited to live and work in the park in exchange for offering a workshop to park visitors or donating a piece of art.

“I volunteered as the writer in residence in the Everglades National Park in 2007 and 2008,” says Sheryl. “It’s exciting to visit a national park, but it’s a lifetime experience to live inside one for an extended period of time.”


3. Work with Primates in Saugus, CA

Indulge your Jane Goodall fantasies when you volunteer to work at the Gibbon Conservation Center in scenic Saugus, CA. Resident volunteers are required to commit to one month of services–accommodations are humble, but included. You’ll work with the researchers to feed, water and care for the gibbons. Says FOF Fiona of her stay: “For anyone with a love of animals wanting to get ‘up close and personal’ with primates, GCC is a wonderful opportunity. I volunteered at the center for four weeks and thoroughly enjoyed becoming part of the gibbons’ day-to-day life. I learned new skills, made good friends, and took away experiences that very few people can match.”


4. Advocate for Wildlife on Hawk Mountain

Experience a wonderful immersion excursion and a sight rarely equaled elsewhere–18,000 hawks, vultures, falcons, and eagles fly directly by Hawk Mountain between August and December.

Hawk Mountain is part of the Blue Mountain Ridge, which has been named a critical corridor by the Pennsylvania Game Commission–State Wildlife Management Agency.  Volunteers and interns are needed throughout the summer to help track and protect the hawks. If you’ve got a green thumb, they’re also looking for people who can help give tours of their Native Plant Garden and run their Native Plant Sale.

Long and short-term volunteer opportunities are available in research, monitoring, and environmental education, along with internships.


5. Become a Lighthouse Keeper in the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin

If you’ve ever seen Nights in Rodanthe, you’re familiar with the inn-keeper fantasy. A lonely FOF is taking care of her friend’s seaside inn and welcomes a weary traveler…who just happens to Richard Gere. Well, we can’t guarantee Gere, but we can guarantee that you can enjoy gratis accommodations when you volunteer as a lighthouse keeper in the awe-inspiring Apostle Islands of Wisconsin. Spend several weeks to an entire summer at one of five island locations, greeting tourists, performing light trail work, and maintaining the historic residences.

{Travel} “What’s in my travel bag”

Talk about emotional baggage! Three of the greatest FOF packers we know share what’s stowed in their carry-ons. From moleskin to powdered peanut butter…  their packing lists might surprise you.

1. Nancy Friedman is founder and CEO of an award-winning travel and hospitality P.R. agency based in New York. Her clients have included the island of St. Lucia, Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, Westin Hotels and Resorts and more. Nancy travels a few times each month for work and leisure. Her favorite travel destinations are Vermont, Spain, Denmark and the Dominican Republic.

Her luggage:
TUMI suitcases
in silver, brown, red and black.

What’s in her bag:
Lightweight sweater
— “For when it’s chilly on the plane. Or sometimes I’ll pack a pashmina or light jacket.”
Eye mask
— “For sleeping on the plane. My current one is leopard print.”
3 FDA-approved, clear bottles — “I put shampoo in one, conditioner in another, and Woolite or mouthwash in the third. My P.R. agency developed and branded these.
Soft Surroundings wrinkle-proof pants in black
— “They’re easy to wear on the plane, lightweight and super soft.”
Flats — “I rarely wear boots or sneakers at the airport because you have to take your shoes off to go through security.”
Books — “Currently I have one book for light reading, I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson and one that’s a little heavier, Even Silence Has an End by Ingrid Betancourt. I switch back and forth between the two.”
KIND bars — “I never want to be stuck hungry without healthful options.”
Nike bike shorts — “I love biking in different cities.”

Her travel packing tip:
“Pack clothing in one or two color schemes and accessorize.”

Her ideal vacation spot:
“It’s so hard to pick! Spring Creek Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, has the best views in the Tetons. In Prague, I love the Hotel Aria for its music theme. The Postcard Inn in St. Petersburg, Florda, is a fun and affordable beach destination.”

2. Marybeth Bond, “The Gutsy Traveler,” is the author of 11 travel books for women including the bestsellers 50 Best Girlfriend Getaways in North AmericaA Woman’s World and Gutsy Women. Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries, from the depths of the Flores Sea to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. She’s appeared as a travel expert on Oprah, CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.

Her luggage:
Samsonite Spinner
in black or blue.

What’s in her bag:
Magellan’s hang-up toiletries holder
— “It has clear pockets so I can see what I packed at all times.”
Eye shield
— “If the person I’m traveling with wants to stay up late reading or I have a chatty neighbor on the plane, it’s great.”
Clothespin or large safety pin
— “Before I go to bed, I pin closed the curtains in my hotel room to keep it dark.”
Taupe-colored pashmina— “It goes with everything and it’s so warm. I use it as a night shawl, a throw, or a warming wrap in a chilly restaurant.”
Ann Taylor black open-toe, slingback heels
— “They’re dressy, but comfortable.”
Clinique or Olay face cream with SPF — “It’s very important my face cream has sun screen with a minimum of SPF 8. You can get sun damage without knowing it, even when you are driving.”
Moleskin — “I cut a 1-inch-by-1-inch piece and put it in my shoes. It prevents blisters.”

Her travel packing tip:
“Don’t pack a hairdryer. It’s what I call a ‘baggage buster.’ You don’t need it, every place has them.”

Her ideal vacation spot:
“I love Racho La Puerta — I’ve been there 3 times. It’s an all-inclusive spa resort in Mexico. I love their facials and hot river stones massage. They have more than 300 gym classes a week, a cooking school on an organic farm and Pultizer-prize-winning guest speakers. You stay in terra cotta cottages with private patios. The resort sits on 3,000 acres of preserved land. But, my favorite thing about it, is they have 36 hammocks that dot the property.


3. Debbi Kickham has been a travel writer since 1984. She is the former editor of the Robb Report and has written travel article for magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Glamour and Cigar Aficionado. Her new book, The Globetrotter’s Get Gorgeous Guide, is the world’s first beauty book for traveling women.

Her luggage: Travel Pro Platinum 6 in blue.

What’s in her bag:
A jump rope
— “If your hotel or resort doesn’t have a gym, you can still exercise in your room with a jump rope. I’ve done it many times even when I stayed at in an over-water bungalow in Bora Bora.”
Skirt Sports workout wear
— “It’s a little skirt with shorts underneath. I love wearing a skirt when I workout. It puts a little pizazz in your step.”
FitNutz Powdered Peanut Butter
— “All you do is add water and you have instant peanut butter. It gives Skippy a run for its money. Two tablespoons of Fitnutz is about 45 calories with 1 gram of fat. Two tablespoons of Skippy is about 130 calories and 50 grams of fat. It’s great if you need a little energy.”
En Passant by Frederic Malle — “This fragrance smells like lilacs. I’m crazy about it. On the plane I go fragrance free, but I always pack this to wear once I arrive at my destination.”
“Basket Case” by Orly nail polish— “It’s bright pink, my favorite color. I wear it constantly.”
A satin pillowcase
– “Satin is much more forgiving on your face and hair and doesn’t cause wrinkles like a cotton pillowcase does.”
Oscillococcinum— “This is a wonderful homeopathic remedy that you can buy at any pharmacy. Whenever I travel, I’m very susceptible to getting sick. The minute I feel like I’m coming down with something, I take it.”
Landau costume jewelry — “I think it’s a good idea to invest in some nice costume jewelry for traveling. I’m a big fan of Landau jewelry.”
Bass Weejuns tassled loafers with a rubber sole — “I swear by them for the airplane and sightseeing. Tomorrow I have a 3-hour layover in Miami. I’ll walk for exercise in the airport. I’ll wear loafers instead of sneakers so I don’t look like a slob.”
Magazines – “I love reading Allure, InStyle and spa magazines on the plane.”

Her travel packing tip:
“Instead of packing beauty products, check out the local pharmacy at your destination. Often you can find locally-made skincare items that are climate and temperature specific. These products also make great gifts.”

Her ideal vacation spot:
“I go to Hawaii once a year for two weeks. My favorite resort is the Fairmont Kea Lani– they have a fabulous beach, gorgeous swimming pool and all of the rooms are suites.”

{Poll} If money were no object… Which lavish celeb vacation would you take?

Earlier this year, on the premier of the 25th and final season of her eponymous talk show, Oprah Winfrey surprised 300 audience members by announcing she was taking them on an eight-day, all-expenses paid vacation to Australia. But even that epic trip doesn’t hold a candle to some of the more extravagant vacations the FOF daytime queen has taken herself. And Oprah’s not the only FOF star who splurges on over-the-top trips. Read about 4 lavish celeb vacations then decide: Which one would you most want to take?


Oprah Winfrey – Necker Island, British Virgin Islands
PRICE: $54,500 – $56,000 per night for up to 28 guests (5 night minimum)

When Oprah wants to live out her Blue Lagoon fantasies she knew exactly where to go: Sir Richard Branson’s 74-acre,  completely private island. There, she and her friends had access to every water sport under the sun, plus a private, high-speed submarine, the Necker Nymph. The 2:1 staff-to-guest ratio makes this island truly fit for royalty, and the Queen of Daytime Television is no exception–while visiting the oasis, she and her “court” were waited on hand-and-foot by the island’s 60 staff members.


Madonna – Christina O Yacht in the Caribbean
PRICE: $64,000 – $93,000 per day

In the 1960s, Aristotle Onassis and Jackie O used this super-yacht as their own floating mansion while entertaining the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill. In 2009, when Madonna chartered a trip, it had long-since been converted to a private playground for celebs at sea. On board, the Material FOF enjoyed Michelin Star cuisine, massages at Six Senses spa, and the legendary pool with mosaic floor – which rises to form a dance floor at the flick of a switch.


Jodie Foster – Hotel Martinez Penthouse Prestige Apartment in Cannes
PRICE: $37,000 per night

For those who like to feel as if they’re living in a 007 movie, consider this palatial penthouse on the French Riviera. When FOF-in-waiting Jodie Foster stays here, she enjoys 24-hour butler service (helpful in case she’s in the master bedroom and too tired to walk all the way to the kitchen for a snack – the suite is, after all, 2,000 square-feet). Should she work up a sweat visiting the linen closet, she can rejuvenate in the in-room Turkish steam bath or enjoy jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean.


Victoria Principal – Virgin Galactic Spaceflight in sub-orbital outer space (in planning)
PRICE: $200,000 per person

If a stay on a private island is still too terrestrial for you (Necker Island does, after all, share a hemisphere with countless Best Westerns and Days Inns) Sir Richard Branson would love nothing more than to shoot you into outer space. FOF Victoria Principal is among the luminaries who have expressed interest in a Virgin Galactic spaceflight, which would comprise a six-passenger, two-pilot spacecraft taking you 70,000 feet above Mother Earth and back into her warm embrace in around 3.5 hours. The trip will most likely include six minutes of weightlessness, a perk no matter how many carbs you’ve been eating.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Images via Zimbio: Oprah, Madonna, Jodie Foster, Victoria Principal
Destination images via Travelet, My Christina O, Hotel Martinez, Cube Me

{Giveaway} 5 Molton Brown Travel Beauty Bundles

FOF is giving away 5 Molton Brown ‘Travellers.’ To enter, ask a travel question here.

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

Frequent FOFlyers, rejoice! You can look great and get through the gate with this adorable bundle of TSA-size-approved bath, body and hair products. Molton Brown’s ‘Traveller” bundle includes shower gel and lotion in Pink Pepperpod, “hairwash,” “haircondition,” hand cream (from their just-released Body Remedies Collection for 2011) and moisture mist.

Molton Brown salon opened London in 1973 and became an instant hit for it’s “natural,” finger-styled cuts–a reaction to the structured styles of the 1960s. Their plant-based products were hand-mixed in a kitchen upstairs and sold only to those “in the know.” Today, their complete line of luxury products for body, skin, hair, men, home and travel is available in the U.S. and over 70 countries as well as many of the world’s luxury hotels and spas.

Ask the FOF gurus a travel question here and you’ll be entered to win a Molton Brown ‘Traveller.’ Five FOFs will win.

(See all our past winners. See official rules. Five winners are chosen at random from all those commenters who answer the question. Contest closes May 18, 2011.)