Packing for the Lost Trip Somewhere

I always face every trip with the excitement of a teenager getting ready for her first date.  You’d think I’d have outgrown this at the ripe age of 67, but there you are – I love to travel and absolutely nothing diminishes my eagerness and anticipation of the known and unknown that lies ahead. 

Except the return home when I begin to unpack, then I assail my self with questions: “Why did I think I’d need this many pairs of shoes?”  ” Why in the devil would I have thought I’d need two packages of cold medicine?”  “Have I ever been on a trip when I needed to mend a tear?”  “When was the last time I needed to pack a flashlight?”

Actually I have made trips in the past when I’ve needed these things so I keep adding them to my Items to Pack list.  I do remember hiring a car and driver to haul me all over New Delhi to find a curling iron.  Then there was the time I searched Florence for rubber bands to pony tail my hair.  Tip: twist rubber bands around bottles, especially helpful to grip a shampoo bottle in the shower.

But I’ve learned a trick or two and I’m beginning to develop some real savvy moves now that those pesky airlines have limited weight, size, and number of bags.  In days gone by I always traveled with two big suitcases, each half full so that I’d have plenty of room for purchases.  Now I’ve reduced my load to one suitcase and purchase mainly jewelry, not the cheapest buys, but they don’t take up much room in my carry-on.

On the other hand, now that one has to handle her own luggage, I can barely handle my one big wheeled bag and a carry-on. 

From numerous trips through the years  I’ve learned to pack dark clothes; they don’t easily show dirt.  Even if I’m going to be gone for a week or three weeks, I never pack more than four outfits, not counting the one I’m wearing, all mix and match.  Cruises are the exception to my four outfit rule.  Jeans seem to be accepted every where and until the spandex gives, they’re good for several days of wear.  I roll every thing and line up columns in the bottom of the bag.  I pack as many bottles, socks, underwear, etc. as I can inside shoes.  I lay a pair of shoes in a hotel free shower cap or a plastic bag to keep dirty soles off clean clothes.  I always pack a small across the body purse; across the body is by far the best style to thwart purse snatchers.  Even if they grab it, they’ll have to drag me several blocks before it’ll come off my body.  The truth is I think purse snatchers look for easy victims.  Shoulder bags, hand bags, and open bags are much more likely targets.

I’ve learned a good lesson, but it took me about 10 years of marriage to do so.  I always carried a big bag and you can probably figure out that my husband would decide to put twenty to twenty-five pounds of camera gear in it.  He was always willing to carry it no matter how feminine it was.  But I’d find us briefly separated, needing my money to make a purchase and that clever boy would be no where in sight.  Finally, one trip I gave him a murse.  Yes. 

It looks like a soft-sided, leather messenger bag.  And I don’t care what any man says, it doesn’t have a girly inch on it.  Now I’m the one who says, “I can’t get this travel book, map, binoculars, and my camera in my purse.  Would you put these in your bag?” (Ha!) 

I wear a small line of cheap, and I mean cheap, Walmart jewelry just to keep me from feeling naked.  Out of my time zone, I wear a dual face watch. Unfortunately, I’ve been known to miss the time I’m calling home and take four in the morning to be four in the afternoon.  I haven’t always felt the love either when my daughter answers the phone and says, “Good Lord, do you know what time it is?”

Another trick we’ve learned is at the first convenient minute, we find an internet cafe and email everyone we know about our whereabouts.  Even if they don’t care to read it, at least they know we are thinking of them.  I’ve just purchased one of those new IPads yesterday and if I figure out how to use it, then I won’t even have to hunt for an internet cafe.

By the time I get all the cosmetics, bottles, and what ifs in a suitcase, I  have little room for my clothes.  I finally purchased one of the little scales that you attach to your luggage, lift, and read the weight.  Forty pounds doesn’t sound like much until you have to lift it off the carousel.  John even staggers around the bathroom while trying to lock in a stable reading.  That’s when I know I need to unload or pay overweight fees.

Once in 1985, when a friend, Dixie, and I were in London, we found a really good deal on furs.  Unfortunately it was in the summer.  Try as we might, absolutely no way could we pack them in the luggage.  I bought a beautiful white fox muff and long red fox vest.  She purchased a luxurious green dyed  three-fourth length fox coat.  I still drool when she wears it.  

I told Dixie, “Shoot, we’ll wear them home on the plane. They’ll be comfortable to sleep on.”  And we did.

While her husband searched for the lost car that afternoon at the airport, Dixie and I stood in the front of a DFW terminal facing west wearing our furs.  I had my muff run up and stuck to my right arm.  I thought we’d die.  Holy polecat!  The temperature was 112 degrees.  I wondered if our great buys would survive.  Would the fur start dropping off hair by hair before we could cool them down?  Must have been good furs because we still wear them when Oklahoma weather warrants.  I don’t regret the purchases, neither does she.  In fact, to this day she languishes that she didn’t buy the rose dyed fox coat too.

My packing strategy is that about a week before we leave on a trip, I throw open a suitcase on the floor.  I start putting stuff in and checking it off my Items to Pack list.  The day before we leave I sit in the floor and take out absolutely everything I don’t think I need.  In spite of all my good reasonings, I can still miss the mark.

Of course as I’ve gotten older, I now must travel with a load of meds.  I pack each day’s pills in those tiny zip lock bags.  If need be, I’ll label the bag if it has a pill I must take on a certain day.  I know.  I know.  You’re supposed to take all your prescriptions in the original bottles.  But do you know how much space that takes?  All these little bags go in a zip lock sandwich bag that’s in my carry-on.  So far, I’ve never had a problem.

At the airport security, I really try not to let the officials rattle me.  I lost my passport once that way.  I just act like I don’t hear them and go about my own task in a reasonable amount of time.  I try to wear the heaviest stuff and I try to stay with my goods as they travel down the belt.  A friend got her purse stolen off the end of the belt while she was held up behind someone going through the body search.

When I get home, then the dreaded task of unpacking begins.  First I get everything I can ready for the cleaners.  Easy to tell as sort of a ripe smell seeps from the clothes.  I’ve also learned that if the next trip is within the next couple of months, I don’t unpack everything.  I put up the suitcase and figure I’m a few steps ahead on my list.  I keep a quart size bag full of extra make-up so I’m always ready in that regard.

I’ve compiled a list of items I must make sure to take.  If an item on the list does not fit the trip, I put “n/a” in the box and check marks for the items I’ve packed.  I don’t know why I don’t mark “d/n” for “don’t need,”  but old habits are getting harder for me to break.  Until I went to South Africa, I’ve always said that the best trip is the next one.  Kruger National Park changed my mind.

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