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In book club, we recently read a very interesting book entitled Packing for Mars. It was an in-depth and often graphic explanation of how astronauts live and work in the tight quarters of space exploration vehicles. The stories in the book were fascinating and our book club loved it.
My recent trip on American Airlines made me think again about Packing for Mars and how travelers of all kinds need to strip their packing down to the bare essentials. I dragged around a 24″ roller bag, a small roller briefcase, and a large Vera Bradley tote stuffed with my purse and carry-on items. It was just too much.
Music Man and I aren’t packing for a trip to Mars, but we do pack for air travel several times a year. I freely admit to being one of those people who overpack, no matter how hard I try to slim down the contents of my suitcase. In the past, I would have considered it a personal victory when my suitcase weighed less than fifty pounds. I bought a luggage scale similar to this one and usually my suitcase now weighs in at about 42 pounds. That’s still too much weight for me to sling up stairs at train stations or at hotels when the lifts aren’t working or non-existent. I’m getting too old for that.
I need to pack fewer items and pack lighter
Travel writer Linda Dini Jenkins recently linked up this post on her Facebook page — 10 Reasons You’re Packing Too Much — and I read it as if I were being offered a lifeline. While it didn’t give me any new information, it did make me think that I should try to pack in my carry-on suitcase rather than my 24″ luggage that I have to check.
That article led me to this one — How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-On Bag. I did that once when we went to Austria over spring break. We put everything in those compression bags and it worked relatively well, so I know it’s possible. Unfortunately I have fallen off the light-packing wagon.
The two articles as well as the commenters offered some excellent advice, but these rang especially true for me.
- Everything in your suitcase should go together. I was patting myself on the back when I viewed the first photo in the carry-on article — a suitcase full of blue clothing. That is exactly how I packed for our trip to Chattanooga and Atlanta. Everything was supposed to go together. And it did — kind of. (This photo make me a little sad– we don’t have a cat to impede our packing anymore. Our Spike went to cat heaven a few years ago.)
- Bring more shoes — less clothes. This one rings really true for me. I’ve learned over the years that I need four pairs of shoes for just about any trip: sturdy walking shoes, dressier but comfortable flats with a thick sole, sturdy flip-flops, and something to wear on the plane. This one varies by the weather; I would wear boots if I had to, but I prefer shoes that are easy to slide on and off without struggling with laces or zippers. My current favorites are the SAS Clogs, which I wore during several days of sightseeing in Atlanta as well as on the plane.
- Bring your prescription medications with you on the plane. There used to be rules about bringing your prescription medicines in their original bottles, but I don’t do that and haven’t had any problem. I do get a printout from my doctor of all my prescriptions in case I have to refill something while traveling. Be sure that you have enough of your medications to last you a few days longer than your trip, in case you lose a pill down the drain or encounter travel problems.
- Bring fewer gadgets. I usually travel with my DSLR camera and three lenses, my notebook computer, my iPhone, and chargers for all of those electronics. This requires me to pack an extra carry-on just to handle my gadgets. My goal for the next six months is to eliminate or replace these items with smaller versions and to have universal chargers whenever possible. A friend has recently purchased this amazing pocket camera for his next trip to France; I am looking forward to seeing his photos. There is a new Canon version coming out soon which I might check out as well. I’m also seriously considering replacing my notebook computer with a tablet. I already replaced my large noise cancelling headphones with Beats earbuds. They are comfortable and come in a small case. All of your gadgets and your purse should fit in your carry-on; if they don’t, you are bringing too much.
Be sure that your fashion matches your need for comfort
In my zest to appear more fashionable, I packed three pairs of skinny jeans in khaki, black, and dark blue. Unfortunately, they didn’t look right with my sturdy shoes that I ended up wearing several days because it was raining. I did not take into consideration that my jeans needed to go with every pair of shoes and didn’t end up wearing two of the pairs of pants. That was just dumb packing. I realized that my travel pants all need to have boot cut legs so that they can be worn with all the shoes, and in the future will pack that way.
I also brought two dresses which I thought I might wear, even though I knew that the weather was going to be rainy and cold at least half of the time. There was no way that I was going to wear both dresses on the trip; I should have only packed one “just in case.”
No matter how hard I try, I am always going to look like a tourist
There is much that I can do to fit in with the cultures that I visit. As a woman of a certain age, I am unlikely to wear garish tee shirts, white sneakers in Paris, or inappropriate shorts. In the end, though, I look like a tourist because I am a tourist. I sound like a tourist because I don’t share the language or the regional accent. I need maps to get around and Music Man and I often review the guidebook as we eat meals.
What I can do, however, is to pack lightly and carry home my souvenirs in my camera and in the extra five pounds around my waist from all the fabulous food I eat on vacation. What’s your favorite packing tip?