Friday, April 11, 2008

Pack light, travel happy.

I'm just back from Zurich and London, and want to get this down for you post haste! Culled from a lifetime of travel to save you agonizing hours of lugging impossibly heavy suitcases up and down steps, of black and blue knees, of returning home to unpack clothes you never wore once, declaring, “I’ll never pack like this again.”

If you have packed correctly, you should hate all your clothes by the time you get home.

This isn’t about packing to go away for college, or packing for a road trip. This is about packing for touristic travel: the classic two-week trip to Europe. I’m talking airplanes, subways, buses, trams, getting lost wandering long blocks to your hotel. Travel is exhausting enough without having to cart too much stuff around. Also, with all the restrictions on suitcase weight for air travel and the one carry on rule…you’ve got to travel smart.


One great wheelie. On the smaller side.

Two pants: one pair jeans; one pair black pants.
One sweat pants: to sleep in, to exercise in.
One skirt if you're a girl; another pants if you're a guy.
5 undies
3 undershirts or bras
3 pairs socks
1 pair tights (for skirt)
1 nice sweater, preferably black
1 hoodie or a second sweater
2 long sleeve t’s or shirts
3 short sleeve t’s or shirts
3 pairs of shoes: one you wear, the other two you pack. Daily walking (can be joggers); “opera” sneakers (a black shoe that is comfortable, that when paired with your black pants or skirt, you could actually wear to the opera!); Birkies or Crocs: super comfort, to give your feet a rest, to wear around the hotel room or dash down the street to pick up a baguette.

You’re either wearing or you packed your jacket.

Carry On Bag

- Travel umbrella
- Packable raincoat or windbreaker
- Underwear in a baggie
- Teensy flashlight. You have NO idea how this can help you. Fixing a car in the dark of a deserted highway…Signaling someone for help…Reading the phone book to find help…
- Toothbrush
- Tissues
- Lipbalm (airplanes are dry!)
- Airplane needs: travel socks (yes, take your shoes off in the plane), inflatable travel pillow, earphone, eye shades (a must!) Being comfy on a long distance flight is everything.
- Little travel notebook & pen
- Your paperback book. Key to have something to occupy your mind when your plane is sitting on the tarmac for hours.
- Tiny digital camera
- Pashmina. For both men & women. Use as a scarf, a blanket, a pillow, a sarong.
- Granola bars and candy
- Glasses, sunglasses, baseball cap
- Your meds. When you catch a cold on a trip, you want familiar remedies at hand. You know how they work and the proper dosages. Running out to a pharmacy in the middle of the night, when you're running a fever, with bad German, is not an optimum situation.

12 Travel Tips
1. Don’t worry if you forget something – you can always buy it there. Buying abroad is part of the fun.
2. Heaviness matters. Heaviness adds up. Travel size toiletries to get you started. Then, see #1. It’s fun to come home with Swiss toothpaste.
3. Guidebooks are extremely heavy. Copy the pages you need and leave the book at home. Magazines are heavy. Read and shed along the way. Bring a cheap, mass-market paperback to read on the plane and leave behind.
4. Travel makeup: minimal! One lipstick that you use also on cheeks. One balm. One mascara. One powder compact. One eye pencil. See #1. Save the drama and artistry for when you're home.
5. Don’t pack jewelry. Wear “travel jewelry” – which is jewelry that if you lost, you wouldn’t be hysterical. (I wear my Tiffany silver ring, necklace, watch and earrings, and leave the rest in the safe.)
6. Really DO pack an extra set of undies/socks in your carryon bag. Until you’ve been stranded after a 10-hour flight without your luggage, you have no idea how much you will want this. To arrive at a hotel and be able to change into fresh undies is everything.
7. Europe is always colder and rainer than you think it will be. Summer or winter.
8. The carry on rule really is one bag. Your handbag should fit into your carry on. Do you really need a handbag? A small, hands free, cross shoulder bag is good. Laptops are heavy. Don't live on line when you travel. Internet cafes are everywhere.
9. Dollars, pesos, pounds, euros, Swiss francs. In your wallet, carry the currency you currently need. Put everything you're not using in a little flat pouch.
10. Wash your hands all the time. Doctors have said that 95% of travel illnesses can be avoided by washing hands -- after handling money, holding the subway railing, opening doors. Washing your hands before you eat can keep you healthy.
11. Don't take perfume and body lotion. Just take a small bottle of perfumed body lotion. Takes care of two needs at once.
12. Mail it home. If you buy clothing or souvenirs and they don't fit, just mail them home and save yourself the hassle.

The Seth Gopin test. Pick up your packed carry on and suitcase. Walk down the stairs from your bedroom and out of your house, then around the block twice and back upstairs. If you can’t do that with a smile on your face, go back and start over.

Bon Voyage! And send a postcard!

1 comment:

mayajuliana said...

You wrote this thinking about me, didn't you? After traveling for my job at least 10 times a year, I can't seem to grasp the concept of packing light! I read this post prior to me leaving on business to Seattle, and boy was I much happier than when I was in Hawaii the month before. Why oh why do I need so much stuff with me??? Needless to say Seattle was much easier to navigate with less baggage. Thanks, E!