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If traveling is a skill, I believe I’m well on my way to mastering it. I actually enjoy scouring the internet for cheap flights and having my inbox fill with travel deals. I spend hours reading articles with titles like “12 Multi-Purpose Travel Essentials You Need For Your Next Adventure.” And I’ve successfully bartered at a market in Jerusalem, driven a car over a speed-bump-laden highway in Mexico, and found my way home after a late night on Australia’s Gold Coast.

But no matter how much I’ve traveled—five continents, 18 countries, and 25 states, so far—there is one big obstacle (besides my bank account) standing between me and that pro-status travel badge: packing. Without fail, I suddenly forget the cardinal rule of layering and arrive at my destination to find I’m going to be chilly for a week. Or I continue to weigh down my beach vacation bag with a pair of jeans, “just in case”—even though “just in case” has never occurred. I’m flabbergasted (and, truth be told, jealous) by those who can put together fabulous ensembles for every day of their trips.

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As I write this, I’m preparing for a 10-day tour of Paris, Amsterdam, and Brussels. It’s my first extended vacation of 2018, and I’m determined to master my suitcase once and for all. I purchased a set of packing cubes to help keep my effects organized. I plan to lay out what I’m bringing a few days in advance so I have time to edit my selection. I also started keeping a shopping list on my phone, so whenever I’m on a trip and realize, for example, that I need a supportive pair of walking sneakers (which I did, in fact, have to buy on day two of last summer’s jaunt to Vancouver), I write it down and make sure to get said item before my next adventure.

Within the pages of this, our seventh edition of 5280 Traveler—a compilation of the best of the best of 5280’s regional travel coverage*—you’re going to find plenty of ideas for paddling excursions, where to plan your next ski trip, and how to explore Jackson, Wyoming, without fighting the crowds. As you plan for these outings, I hope you are able to conquer whatever your particular travel obstacle is—your proverbial suitcase. Because I’m certain that you, fellow wanderluster, deserve that travel badge as much as I do. And because I want you to spend your precious vacation days experiencing a new place—not freaking out because you forgot to pack underwear.

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