On board the plane, we bring only my purse and a backpack for camera and other electronics and valuables, material we might want during the flight, medications, light jacket, and important papers. Rather than reading a book on the plane, I pack my guidebooks. Some people include a change of clothes and essential cosmetics in their carry on incase their baggage is delayed. One time flying to Spain, our smaller checked bag was delayed for 23 hours. I still haven’t figured out why one bag made it and the other didn’t, but we quickly learned that anything we really needed could easily be purchased at local stores.
Travel advisors suggest that a week before you leave place everything you think you want to take on a spare bed. Then, remove half of it. I used to follow that advice, but, after many trips, I usually know just what I will needand intuitively can pack a bag under the 50 pound limit.
Although hard-sided luggage may offer more protection, I prefer 4 wheeled, semi-soft cases because they can be expanded and I take advantage of their “nooks and crannies”. Handles on the top and side facilitate lifting the bag. Regardless of the type of bag you use, remember to put a slip of paper inside of it with your identifying information including a contact at your destination. Identifying information on the outside luggage tag should be concealed; you don’t want to advertise the address of your unoccupied home.
I also pack a small day pack for sightseeing and use it to hold items such as umbrella,windbreaker, water bottle, string shopping bag, guide book, or anything else we might want with us during the day. It’s then available to me for the return trip to pack purchases that I carry on the plane.
Because we like trying to live like a local and blending in, I choose neutral colors and don’t use a fanny pack, shorts, or white athletic shoes. I build a wardrobe around either black or beige and choose wrinkle free materials. Unless hiking, I try to limit myself to 2 pairs of shoes, one for walking and another for “dressier” occasions. Sometimes I sneak in an extra pair ofcomfortable but attractive sandals that can be used for day or evening wear. I always bring a pair of flip flops to avoid having to walk barefoot in apartments or hotel rooms.
As electronics become more and more a part of our life, I make certain any battery chargers needed are dual voltage and then only need to bring a plug adaptor when traveling to a country that uses voltage different from the United States. Dual voltage means that the input is both 110/120V and 220/240V and will be labeled as such. Cables and chargers are placed in clearly labeled zip lock bags.
I have become a fan of using Space bags for packing. You can purchase them at stores like Target or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Be sure to use the ones you roll, not vacuum, to remove the air. These do save space, but be mindful of the weight. Tissue paper or plastic can be used when folding clothing to reduce wrinkling.
If you don’t use space bags, rolling clothing, especially if you layer the clothing, also can reduce volume and protect against wrinkling. If you roll or fold clothing, place it in giant zip lock bags for protection against any water damage…and for better organization. They can be purchased at places like Ace Hardware.
Bulkier clothes should beplaced in the suitcase first, and heavier items should go at the bottom near the wheels to sturdy the suitcase. Top heavy front pockets can cause a bag to topple over. Use shoes as packing crates for small items and stuff the corners of the suitcase with rolled or smaller items. If you are so inclined, throw in a dryer sheet or two as a freshener. Put umbrellas or other weather gear in the front pocket of your bag for quick access if needed upon your arrival.
Everyone has his/her own favorite packing tips and here are some of mine.
Altoid mint tins are great to protect earbuds, camera SD cards, jewelry. The plastic bags newspapers come in are good as shoe bags; put one in your purse to use to wrap a wet umbrella.
I use a hanging shoe bag to organize our cosmetics once we get to our location. Toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. fit nicely in the pockets. I hang the bag over the bathroom door and everything is easily accessible without creating a lot of clutter around the sink. I also pack a plastic over the door hook to use for extra towels or clothing.
Some people always bring duct (duck) tape for emergencies such as a broken suitcase zipper, hanging hem; others include dental floss for fixingthings. I’ve never had the need for either, although I did use super glue once for a quick repair to my favorite walking shoes. I always include safety pins and zip ties in my essentials. The zip ties help keep suitcase zippers shut and I’ve used them a few times when the tabs fell off the zippers.
A small flashlight is indispensable, and has been used to find our way on a dark night, to negotiate a dark hotel room, and during power outages. If you are going someplace prone to power failures, you might want to include a votive candle.
A small notebook and pen can be useful – not only to jot down a note, but also to help communicate prices, transportation times, or needs by drawing an item.
Finally, I always pack something in a plastic or tin box that I can then use to protect fragile purchases on my return trip. Happy Traveling!
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.