Tuesday, November 15, 2011

You're Going on a Trip and You're Going to Pack...

Are we there yet?

Remember the car game "I'm Going on a Trip?" The first person would start with "I'm going on a trip and I'm going to pack an armadillo." The second person would name something beginning with the letter "b". "I'm going on a trip and I'm going to pack an armadillo and a bicycle". The next person would add something beginning with "c". "I'm going on a trip and I'm going to pack an armadillo, a bicycle and a cantaloupe." And so on ad infinitum until someone got carsick or you reached your destination.

Packing for a trip in real life rarely calls for an armadillo, maybe a bicycle, but never a cantaloupe due to FDA regulations. Packing is fraught with its own ABCs: Aggravation, Bureaucracy and Confusion.

Packing is an aggravation because you're never sure what to bring. No one can predict the weather for certain. You really don't know exactly what you'll be doing. You don't want to forget anything important. You haven't left yourself enough time to pack.

Packing is beholden to bureaucracy on account of the TAA, the aforementioned FDA and the airlines themselves as they charge us for bags and charge more the heavier they are.

Packing is one big exercise in confusion as you mix and match, fold and stuff, squoosh and sigh as the last piece makes it in.

Are you sorry yet you decided to go anywhere?

Variety is the spice of life— when you're in one place.

> For someone who likes a lot of options and not a lot of black, I tend to travel mainly in black and grey. I almost feel as if I am a stagehand in the Japanese kabuki; I'm not there to be seen. For once it isn't about me. It's about observing and absorbing a new place. Black and grey work better in the city than in the country though. For casual vacations I think "safari"— khakis or jeans, t-shirts and jackets to mix it up.

> I hate the thought of losing jewelry so I take less than I probably should. I have some "second best" gold hoop earrings that are small and secure enough to wear all the time. I usually decide on one chunky necklace and wear it with everything. Conclusion: don't travel with family heirlooms or anything you would feel terrible about losing.

> I find my packing is far more efficient if I'm challenged to fly carry-on only or am otherwise very limited. I get in trouble when I can transfer the contents of my closet to the rack we put up across the back seat of the car. I've been known to fill a duffel bag with shoes alone.

Wear it again, Sam.

> Over time I've learned my lesson about bringing new clothes, especially shoes and underwear. Bringing well-broken in shoes should be a no brainer. Just because they are comfortable, though, don't plan to wear the same pair every day.  I once invested in paper underwear for a trip to Europe. OK, I was young and foolish and lazy. That paper underwear was as uncomfortable as it sounds. I threw it away on day 3 and spent too much time in France and Italy buying cheap pantaloons. Even the new sweater you bought for the trip may ride up or the collar of that shirt won't lay flat. Pieces you thought would work together somehow don't. In other words, don't travel untested.

> If you disregard this advice, at least take the tags off anything new. I know someone who travelled with new pieces from a fancy boutique chain. She had not removed the tags; in transit the clothes were stolen from her suitcase (only those). 

> I've read the suggestion you should wear your oldest clothes on a long trip and just throw them away. Let's not go there.

Create a battle plan.

> As uncertain (and thrilling) as travel can be, do your homework about possible weather conditions, what activities to expect and what your travel companions may be bringing. If "the gals" are thinking a dress-up night will be part of the fun, you need to include those options.

> Carry an inexpensive pair of synthetic material shoes with you in case of rain. It's no fun to sightsee barefoot so as not to ruin your Jimmy Choos. And if you bring a (small packable) umbrella on your trip it surely won't rain!

> Check any backpacks or purses for outside openings that you were unaware existed. If you are in the habit of carrying an open tote or bag, put the contents in a zippered inner bag to discourage sticky fingers or other loss.

> Likewise clean out your cards to only the essentials: credit card (or 2), driver's license, health insurance, AAA. Do you really need your Houston public library card in Seattle?

The value of plastic (not for credit only)

> Pack cosmetics in zip-lock plastic bags. When you travel with liquids you run the risk of something spilling.

> Lay a dress or blouse inside a dry cleaner's plastic bag and roll it up loosely like a sausage. No wrinkles.

> Dry cleaner's bags or a couple of those plastic newspaper delivery sleeves are great stuffed into the toes of shoes to help keep their shapes.

> Pack groups of similar items like workout gear, bathing suit and coverup, lingerie, etc. in plastic sweater storage bags (often given to you by the dry cleaner or a reasonable one-time investment). Makes packing and unpacking a breeze especially if you're living out of a suitcase.

Last but not least

> Pack a small folding travel suitcase, especially if you'll be shopping. It's usually cheaper to pay for an extra bag than to pay overweight charges on the one. And remember: books are heavy!

> Make a master list of health and beauty essentials. I keep one on the computer and print it out. Tick the items off as you put them in your travel bag. I've expanded the list to include "airline tickets". Yes.

> Thanks to Ellen Greene for this sage advice: bring half as many clothes and twice the money. 


  1. Such great tips, Michelle! Perfect timing, too - we just booked tickets for Australia (and even though the trip isn't until next year), I've already been thinking about what to pack! :)

  2. You have the advantage of knowing what the weather will be like— and plenty of time to "break in" shoes!

  3. This is in perfect timing for our trip to New Orleans next week! Thanks for all of the advice! :)