Travel: Some Thoughts on Packing

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I am anxiety-prone and claustrophobic, which is not a great combo for someone who travels as much as I do. The anxiety convinces me that I should take pretty much everything I own with me (you know: just in case), and the claustrophobia kicks in when I climb into a metal tube in the company of 700 other people. I’m a wonderful flying companion. Just ask R.

Seriously though, I’ve been on one of those – what is it the MBAs call it? – “constant improvement” kicks for the last few years to reduce the amount of luggage and stress that gets tacked onto our trips as a result of what are, really, manageable issues.

In the interests of helping others who are similarly handicapped, here are a few of my top-line tips.

One, trying to trap myself into wearing things I never wear at home by taking them on vacation with me is a losing strategy. That is, unless you’re planning on leaving your plaid pants, your pith helmet and your mint green Members Only jacket in your hotel room on the other end, in which case, go for it. Who’s to say that the Salvation Army in Boca doesn’t need your castoffs more than the one around the corner from your apartment?

Two, I’m not a boy, which should have been obvious to me a long time ago, but apparently wasn’t. When I finally owned it, I stopped trying to pack the way R does, namely in ten minutes the morning we’re leaving. You are who you are and you gotta do what you gotta do.

Three, for me, what I gotta do is pack at least two days ahead of time so that I have a couple of mornings between me and departure when I can wake up in a sweat remembering that I’ve forgotten to put any pants in the suitcase or that I’ve accidentally included a parka for a beach holiday. Give yourself a break on the day of the trip: pack early, re-pack often.

Four, save your complicated, one-time-wear costumes for events happening within driving distance of home. Simplicity and interchangeability are key on the road. Your glitter jumpsuit needs to stay home, as do complicated hats, and that layered look that involves a bolero jacket, a fur cape and two or three turtlenecks. You might think you’ll look cool when you get there, but that’ll be offset by how uncool you look schlepping a steamer trunk into JFK.

Five, related, unless you’re going to a wedding or a formal event, don’t take shoes that can only be worn with one outfit. Five-inch heels don’t go with running shorts, ever, not even if you’re on Sex and the City. (God, I still remember that one outfit all these years later? That’s called scarring, right?) Take as few shoes and boots as you can manage. Once you’re at the number, eliminate at least one more pair. If you can’t get down to three pairs, you need to buy some new shoes that are more outfit-interchangeable. (I’m here to help. Really.)

I have more tips, of course, but I need to pace myself, so more later. One of them involves stacks of Post-Its, a radio show, quite a lot of detailed list-making and sedatives. If you’d like to get a jump on that one, maybe that can be a fun weekend guessing project for you and the kids. Enjoy!

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6 Comments on “Travel: Some Thoughts on Packing”

  1. em
    August 7, 2009 at 8:58 pm #

    you had me at “you need to buy some new shoes…” I think I shall share your fabulous thought process with my husband

    • August 8, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

      Do it. I’m sure he’ll agree.

      (Did you come to San Francisco? Did you partake of cheese? Was it wonderful?)

  2. Em
    August 10, 2009 at 9:52 am #

    We arrive Friday. My husband swims Saturday in the Sharkfest then we’re off to The Blue Barn for lunch. When we travel, we very much enjoy “doing as the locals do”. Have you any other musts we shouldn’t overlook? I shall persuse your archives for the wee bit you like about SF.

  3. Em
    August 10, 2009 at 4:17 pm #

    You are such a love. My husband is Chinese and adores the *authentic* Chinese food of his youth. I can’t even speak of such things let alone prepare them. His mum used to have that area covered, but she is now incapable of cooking, so…to Chinatown we shall go. Suggestions in that area are most appreciated – especially for my more Americanized palate. We love excellent sushi, hard to find, so again, your expertise will prove invaluable. We are bringing my mum, so one night we shall have dinner sans children at a very pricey, quiet, many starred restaurant; have you any thoughts on this? We’re taking the little ones to Alcatraz at night and the Cal Science Academy, and if the weather proves accurate, the beach shall fill the rest of their days. My mum and I shall shop plenty, but I’m quite sure we have that covered. So pleased you quit your job so you can attend to my family’s needs.

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