Monday, October 27, 2008

Packing Light

We learned the hard way . . .

When Terry & I went on our 11 day cruise to Alaska in 1999, we each packed a ginormous suitcase along with a garment bag for our formal night attire. I swear my suitcase was almost as tall as me and much wider. We trudged to the airline check-in counter and the lady informs us, "Your bags are too heavy and considered oversized, $80 please. "HUH?? Boy, were we in shock having to shell out extra $$ for our clothes!

After that incident, we decided to learn how to pack light. Every article and book we read reiterated limiting each person to one carry-on bag. Oh right, says I - no way, it can't be done.

At this point we were planning our first European road trip to England, Scotland, Wales, and Paris in 2001. Not only did we certainly not want to repeat our last luggage faux paux, but we would be on the move constantly for 30 days. Juggling luggage is NOT our idea of fun. We knew we would have to pack X amount of days and spend time in the laundromats. We decided a week's worth sounded about right.

Next, we went out and bought the largest carry-on size backpacks we could find. Came home, only to find, 7 days of clothes won't fit, plus we still had maps, books, power adapters, toiletries, meds and all the incidentals yet to pack. Back to square one. 5 Days? Still not enough room. We came to the conclusion that we could take our large backpacks each and in addition carry the other stuff in a purse/messenger bag sized allowed carry-on. Done deal.

Our trip came and went, and we learned a lot more than we realized as we traveled.
1. I can't do a back pack, it was way too big, too heavy on my back and too long for my 5' frame. I switched to the max size roller bag and still use it. Terry still loves and uses his backpack.

2. The type of clothes we packed were not suitable for washing and drying quickly. Although, we met a lot nice people and had some very interesting conversations while waiting for the spin cycle. It also gave us some much needed downtime to sit, relax and regroup. But still, cutting our time in the laundromat, would be next on our to-do list.

3. Ziploc bags & plastic grocery bags are your friends. We carried many new empties with us and wish we had packed more. They weigh nothing, pack flat and we used them for everything.

4. Take ONE pair of very worn in, comfortable shoes, that is all you'll need.

As we planned for our 2004 Germany, Austria, Switzerland trip, we took what we learned and applied it.

1. We bought quick dry, travel clothing, head to toe. Plus being lighter in weight, they take up 1/2 the space of normal clothes. Everything we bought was similar color and mix & match, If needed, we were able to wash in the bathroom sink and hang overnight. The beauty of quick dry clothes.

2. Waterproof. lightweight, jackets with hoods rather than cart an umbrella, a waterproof sling purse or messenger bag for books and maps, and sprayed our shoes with waterproofing.

3. Toiletries - take the bare minimum to get by a few days, you can buy whatever you need over there or the B&B/hotel supply them.

4. Wear layers if it's cold, I wear a fleece vest when needed. I wear my heaviest clothes and carry my jacket on the plane.

5. Always wear a money belt or hidden, zippered pocket for money, credit cards and passport.

6. Souvenirs are space hogs. If you must, buy and ship home. I carried the cuckoo clock on the plane from Germany, I'll never do that again. Now I stick to postcards, small trinkets to make photo frames. My memories and photos are good enough for us. Terry LOVES that I'm not a big shopper.

By 2006, when we planned our London, Paris, Italy trip by train, we had it down to a science. I even had room to pack my nebulizer, and meds in the roller, leaving my carry-on purse for actual purse things. We're getting it now.

Planning for this upcoming trip, I will resort back to a larger hand carry-on in addition to my roller. My health needs require more to tote around and they will definitely fill it. Since I have it marked 'Medical Supplies', it doesn't count as an extra carry-on. Kudos to the airlines recognizing this need for the disabled. But I still get the third degree at security, bomb sniffing my electronics and inspecting my refrigerated liquid meds and syringes.

I can honestly say, that since I've learned to pack light , I wouldn't travel any other way. In fact, now I'm always trying to see what I can eliminate. Even when we take a week or two week trip, our luggage remains the same. It's very 'freeing' not to have to hassle and juggle luggage.

I suppose I can tell myself I told you so, it can be done.

Speaking of packing . . . I better get to it!

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