Packing Light — with a few extras
I am a card-carrying member of the “pack light” religion. I recently returned from three weeks abroad — two of them on a cruise ship that had several formal nights — and I traveled with one 22-inch carry on bag and a daypack. Photo or it didn’t happen? That’s a photo of my luggage, above.
When I return from a trip I make it a practice to make a list of things I did not need during my travels. This trip, for instance, I took too many shirts. I know, hard to believe looking at my minimal packing, but I did. I ended up mostly using a cotton shirt that had chest pockets. The weather was warm, my trousers had no pockets, and the shirt pockets had button closures and were handy for the cruise ship key card (that it seems you are always needing to show for one reason or another), five or ten Euros (so I could make a small purchase without digging in my pack), etc.
(I will digress slightly here to remind you: ALWAYS wear a money belt or other “secret” security storage. Never walk around with your passport, credit cards and cash in your pocket or purse. Someone will pickpocket you. Don’t even think about not having a security stash.)
There are six items that have survived many trips without getting to that list; items that I have no regrets about taking with me. I share them here.
A Portable Fan
I can hear some of you saying “Are you kidding me?” If so just skip this. However, I know some of you, like me, live in dread of having a stuffy room or a room that is too warm. This type of fan weighs very little — it is made of plastic and folds flat (more or less). The batteries weigh more than the fan. This one requires 2 D size batteries. I invested in rechargeable batteries. One set lasted the entire trip without needing recharging, and I used this fan part of every day. At one location I purchased some LUSH bath products — you know how wonderful they smell! — and placed them where the fan could disperse the scent throughout the room. Heavenly!
Camping and backpacking taught me the value of packing duct tape, but it has come in handy in city travel, too. Did you see the episode of Orange is The New Black where one of the inmates fashioned flip-flops using duct tape? I haven’t been that creative, yet. My uses are more mundane, like repairing a broken suitcase handle. Duct tape is one of those things that when you have it handy you will find a million uses for it. Camping supply and travel stores sell little rolls like the ones pictured. Buy a pack, take a roll with you. You’re welcome!
A friend of mine, who travels with two small children who are terrified of self-flushing toilets (seemingly installed in all airports), uses a sticky note to cover the little red sensor light on the toilet. That way her kids can use the facilities without fearing the unexpected flush. (Remember to remove it before you leave the stall.) I have used the notes most often for communicating with housekeeping at hotels. Traveling alone I don’t always need to have my room done, so I leave a note over the door lock notifying them that I don’t need service. (The privacy sign works, but it leaves the housekeeper wondering if they need to return later. A note allows them to know you are off the roster for the day.) Like duct tape, you will find all sorts of uses for sticky notes when you carry them with you.
Locking Plastic Bags
The TSA has provided a boost for the market for quart sized bags with their 3-1-1 protocol for carry on liquids. Bags are very portable, and bringing an assortment of sizes will allow for a multitude of uses — saving leftovers, storing wet clothes, organizing packing items and, when sealed with air, they provide a bubble of protection for fragile items. I have even used them for hotel room “cooking.” I have sealed food in a bag, inside another bag (just to be safe), and immerse in a sink of hot water.
And be conscious of our environment: reuse the bags.
Speaking of “hotel room cooking” — foil will be your best friend. If the room has an iron you can grill toast, sandwiches, etc using foil. (OK , OK — not all of us stay in five star places every visit.) Please be considerate and use foil, keeping the iron and ironing board from getting dirty. I have seen photos of people “grilling” using naked irons which I hope elicits from you, as it does from me, “Ewwww!” And, who wants to go to iron a shirt to find the iron greasy from leftover grilling? (“Ewwwww!” is too mild for that situation). Foil allows you to be creative. Need an incense burner or candle holder? Need to stop a draft? Patch an umbrella? Make a funny hat? Foil will provide you with many “voila” moments. By the way, I do not haul a roll of foil with me. I pack a few pieces of foil folded into 6 x 6 inch (or so) squares, and pack with the little bags.
A few of these stashed in your purse or pack will be endlessly useful. I use these to secure my pack zippers. Yes, they are not as secure as a lock. I use locks, too. But, for ease of use I find twisting the zippers together works to deter pickpockets. The thing is — I do not keep anything of value in the outside pockets of my pack, so if a pickpocket gets their talented fingers inside they will be disappointed. Still, I would just as soon not have my hairbrush or loose change stolen.
Slash proof purses and packs have their place, too…but that is a different article.
Comments & Discussion