Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Planning - T-Minus 48 Days

Lifting the Load - For the Inexperienced or First-Time Foreign Traveler

I'm not this overly experienced world traveler and there are many many individuals far more qualified than me to speak on the subject of packing and what-not.  BUT, I have made numerous trips to Italy, Africa, England and other countries not of my birth, as well as many states in the US.  Here's the most important thing I learned:

  • No matter how well you believe you've packed, no matter how conservative you think you were with your selections - you have packed too much!  I'm not joking!.
You may think that 10 pair of underwear, four pair of pants,  four tops and three pair of shoes is conservative for a two week stay.  It's not!  You have over packed, especially since you know you're bringing small bottles of shampoo, your blow dryer, make-up, deodorant, a jacket, a sweater, pj's, your laptop and/or Kindle, snacks and heaven knows what else and every little item takes up space and creates the enemy of all travelers - weight.

Read any travel blog or travel book and they all say the same thing.  Pack light and when you think you've packed light, remove some things anyway.  It's a given that unless you are always staying in very swank hotels where you send your laundry out for overnight cleaning (at a hefty cost), you will have to wash socks and underwear out in the sink or tub and hang them to (hopefully) dry. 

Some additional thoughts on the matter:

It is embarrassing, not to mention an inconvenient delay, to have to spread your belongings on the floor of the airport while you try to redistribute your stuff because your bag is overweight.  Do you want your underwear out there for everyone to see?
  • If you are traveling to Italy or Europe (which is perhaps why you stopped by this blog) know that cars, buses, trains and hotels do not accommodate large luggage very well.  You are better off with smaller luggage and a light weight carry on.  I have made the mistake of using big luggage and then regretted it on arrival when I had to lug this insanely large bag everywhere I went.  It's awful!
  • All flight attendants and people who travel a lot will tell you that rolled clothing fits better than folded clothing in suitcases.  And it is true.  I've packed both ways and you get a lot more in a suitcase when you roll your clothes.
  • Maximize Space. Take advantage of all space.  Pack small items inside your shoes and jacket pockets.
  • Just accept that your travel photos will portray you in the same clothes over and over again.  It's not a fashion show - it's an adventure!
  • Hair Dryers etc.  Many travel books will advise you to leave your blow dryer and flat irons home.  I refuse!  I travel with all that stuff and a couple of good converters because I'd rather have those items than another pair of shoes.  That's just me.  I KNOW I will blow up the converters so I always carry more than one.  Just me - if you have a wash and wear haircut then bravo!
  • Shoes -  really.  A comfortable pair of walking shoes and perhaps some sort of closed shoe that you can wear into a good restaurant, the opera or whatever place that isn't casual.  Maybe a pair of sandals depending on the time of year you are travelling.  Leave the rest at home.
  • Bag It! - You probably already know this but just in case - bag whatever you can like socks, underwear, etc.  They  pack better and if your luggage is inspected and they paw through your stuff it won't be quite a disaster afterwards.  The bags also come in handy for dirty laundry.
  • Be sensitive to the cultureYou've heard all the stories about the ugly Americans who travel the world in shorts and flip flops, with butt cracks and big bellies hanging out.  Don't be one of those people even if you have a nice butt crack or a small belly.  Many churches, and certainly the Vatican will not allow you to enter unless your shoulders are covered, and do not allow shorts above the knee. (Meaning that leggings or Capri pants are OK - men or women in short shorts - not OK). Men and women - leave the tank tops in the suitcase.
OK so enough said - this is starting to sound like a lecture and all I really want you to know is that you are most likely thinking of taking too much stufffahgetaboutit!  If you forget something, break something or run out of something - you can always buy it somewhere. 

Let me leave you with this story:  OOPS!  Real Life "Home Alone"

In 2008 a family was flying from Tel Aviv to Paris with their 5 children.  When they were settled in and watching the in-flight movie, they realized that their 3 year-old was missing!  Really!

The child was found in the duty free shop at the airport where the family had apparently left her and to her credit she was actually able to articulate what had happened to her.  The child was placed on a flight to Paris with a flight attendant and reunited with her parents.  Moral of the story???? 
  • Plan ahead, count heads, don't get distracted while waiting for flights, go the boarding gate early and avoid having to run for "last boarding call" and everything - and everyone - will be great! 

 Buon viaggio!


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