« More mail: my brain, your brain, travel and Boggle. | Main | Beware the ides of March! »

March 6, 2009

Mo' mail, mo' monkeys.

Beth C. I looovvvvveee reading about your adventures both in travel and on your life journey. I have traveled abroad alone once (to Germany in the mid 90s), but it was such an awesome experience that I can definitely understand why you would travel when and where ever you could afford at the moment.

I still travel (now with my DH) and you have inspired me to go all "carry on only" on upcoming trips. My question is...how do you fit all the things I saw in your closet (in the safe pic - 3.6.9) into a carry on? I know you utilize the cube theory, but also know this is more for organization than for space. I'd love your input.

Here is the picture of the hotel closet once more:

And here are my cubes and luggage:

Yup, all that stuff fit inside that one little 17 inch carryon bag. Also if you closely in the closet picture you can see my littlest packing cubes there on the shelf beneath the hotel safe, and inside those cubes I have my t-shirts, pajama shirt & pants, undies and socks and a hat and scarf.

So here is what I have found works for me (I have really only traveled to cold places or cities in winter or fall, so this is my cold-weather list) for a trip of three to five days.

Three thin sweaters (these are the inexpensive but awesome Mossimo sweaters they had on sale last year at Target. They're thin but quite warm.)

Four thin-ish T-shirts for layering underneath (by the way, I am a human heater so I generally tend toward hot flashes and not so much toward always being cold)

Five pairs of undies and five pairs of socks, I ended up washing out a couple of things in the sink and letting them dry on the heated towel rack overnight which was fine.

Four pairs of black pants, one is a pair of black jeans.

One pair of yoga pants and a long-sleeved T-shirt for sleeping (hotel heating in some European cities tends toward the "nonexistent" side, plus I love lounging in my PJs. Yoga pants can also double as pants for the plane ride home if needed.

On the plane ride to my destination I layer. Pants, dark-colored 3/4 length-sleeve T-shirt, sweater on top and I wear or carry my coat on the plane. I put my gloves in the coat pockets if I can, and I try to take my scarf on the plane, too, unless it's 300 degrees in Los Angeles the day I leave. My little Asus eeePC laptop fits into the zippered front pocket of my rolling bag, along with a book. I pack my guidebook and map at the bottom of my suitcase and stuff in a small travel umbrella and a couple of snack bars. One should always travel with a snack.

In my carry-on shoulder bag I take:
Headphones (I have the noise-canceling ones that make commuting on the bus so much nicer)
Spiral notebook and pen
Stupid ziploc baggie of 3-oz liquids -- usually a travel size conditioner (hotels seem to have shampoo but never conditioner) plus contact solution, lotion, toothpaste, etc.
One clear zippered cosmetic bag with my other necessaries, such as deodorant, soap (yes, I bring a small bar of Dove unscented white soap in a baggie), travel-size kleenex, wet wipes, my comb, toothbrush, lip balm, ear plugs, eye mask, and a little selection of medicines like Motrin, some sleeping tablets, Xanax because I am a nervous flier, antacid just in case and sudafed. For traveling light I am surprisingly well-prepared.
My travel documents -- printouts of my airline confirmation or e-ticket, hotel details and confirmation, and any other useful papers. I usually take my phrasebook on the plabne and I always load my ipod with Pimsleur Language stuff from the library before I leave.
A gallon-size ziploc with my knitting yarn, needles and blunt scissors (More on the TSA's guidelines for knitting and needlepoint here.)
Inside my shoulderbag is my little travel purse with my wallet, US Dollars, Euros or local currency, passport and phone. I carry chargers with me for my ipod and phone and include the converters. Sometimes if I have room I pack the converters in my rolling bag. I use the Euro Surge most often, and I carry this multi-region converter with me as backup. You MUST be sure your appliance chargers are dual currency before using them, though, or you woill also need a currency converter (the plugs I carry just convert American plug sized into foreign plug sizes, they do not adjust for currency.) You can check your battery power pack and it will tell you, like so:

I think that's about all I carry. I leave my keys at home and just travel with my house key. I bring along one of my trusty Envirosax bags, and I have a small makeup bag in my purse, too, with powder, lipstick and mascara. I usually only take a pair of earrings on vacation and I wear them on the plane, and I have a little necklace with a clock that I wear.

There are two things I keep meaning to pack and keep forgetting:
1) My small travel alarm clock. It's a great thing to have since a lot of hotels don't have clocks (weird) and I've been using my cellphone as a wake-up call because I don't always trust the hotel's wake-up call.
2) A washcloth! I have yet to visit a European hotel that provides face cloths. And I love using a washcloth.

So that's what I pack. It sure sounds like a lot but it all seems to fit. I generally pack the night before and I make a list as I go of things I don't want to forget, like my passport and eyeglasses and I cross them off the list as I pack. Without my list I would be lost.

Mara T. said: I use a small nail clipper (with no file attached)for snipping yarn when I fly.
After losing a number of scissors (folding, small, rounded, it didn't matter) and a
nail clipper that had a fold out nail file, I started taking a baby nail clipper and
that has worked well for me.

That's a great idea! I have also heard folks say they use a dental floss cutter to cut yarn, though I haven't tried it.

One thing I kind of realize as a trade-off for traveling light is that you just can't take everything. As soon as I get into a new place I settle in and then head for a local grocery store and buy water, a few snacks, wine and a wine bottle opener. I have learned to say "wine bottle opener" in five different languages! You just can't carry a corkscrew on an airplane. So I buy a cheapy one when I get somewhere, because I love having a glass of local wine at night before going to bed, watching some local TV and relaxing in the hotel.

I just had to accept that if I wanted to keep on with this little tradition AND also do carryon only, I would have to buy corkscrews all over the world. I am fine with that. Ditto scissors, if I had my tiny blunt knitting scissors confiscated I would just buy another pair.

I used to think there was just no real upside to traveling light and only taking a carry-on bag plus your personal item (purse, shoulder bag, whatever.) I kept thinking I would forget something or I wouldn't have enough clothes and there have definitely been toimes where I've forgotten stuff. And I have run out of clothes and found myself washing out socks in the hotel sink.

But the major upside of the carry-on only situation comes when you have a short trip and you can rest easy about a tight connection because you're SURE your luggage is on the plane with you. I can't tell you how many times I have stood there at the luggage conveyor belt just waiting anxiously and never seeing my bag.

And when you come back to the U.S. you have to collect your luggage at the first arrival city -- meaning if your final destination is Los Angeles and you fly from Paris to Dallas to L.A., you have to get off the plane in Dallas, go through Passport Control, wait for your bags to arrive on the luggage belt, collect your bags and go through customs, then re-check your bag after customs and then go find your connecting flight. With just a carry-on, you go through passport control, continue on to Customs (as your fellow passengers await their luggage) and breeze off to your connecting flight. You don't have to worry if your bag will make it home with you. And when you arrive at your final destination city, you get off the plane and you're done! You just go home.

I never in a million years thought I could travel light but now that I've started it seems to get easier with every trip. If I were going on a long vacation to one place I'd probably check a bag, and of course if you want to have a wardrobe change twice a day and take multiple shoes you have to check a bag. But for my brief weekend-plus trips, the carry-on method seems to be working great.

- - -

hristina T. asks:

message: All right, I'll bite since no one else has written to ask you this. (Or
they have, and you're just not answering it on the blog. What type of
question-and-answer service do you think you're running?!) What type of purse or bag
do you carry when you're sightseeing? I'm off to France at the end of this month,
and I've yet to find anything that fits everything I need, looks remotely
fashionable, and allows me to be somewhat hands-free when necessary. Additionally, I
have a gimpy, cartilidge-less, painful shoulder on one side, so if I take a handbag
I am FORCED to carry it in my left. I just don't want to carry a handbag around all

Were you carrying your Envirosax in your Madrid picture? I'm thinking about taking
one along on my trip for incidentals.

My necessities are: camera, smallish notebook and pen, Chapstick, small wallet, and
maybe a little room for stuff I pick up along the way.

You know, this is so much fun I think I want to abandon my real-life work and just write travel stuff all day. Wouldn't that be the coolest job ever? I'm not an expert but I would certainly travel to become one.... doesn't sound like hard work to me...

Ok, the purse. I fluctuate between wanting to look chic and wanting to be mostly hands free for walking all over town and drooling over art all day in a museum.

Sometimes I take a handbag and sometimes I take a bag with a cross-body strap. The handbag is way cuter and more fashionable but the bag with the cross-body strap is just so much more efficient. You can see it in this picture:

It's from Banana Republic, I bought it about eight years ago and it has a wide webbed strap that's adjustable. It's actually a men's camera bag, I think, but it works great for travel.

As far as handbags go, I only travel with a handbag that has a secure zippered closure (if it doesn't zip closed I won't travel with it) and also the bag must have an interior zippered pocket large enough for my wallet and passport if needed. I also don't travel abroad with my favorite beloved patent-leather black Coach bucket bag. I usually take a cute little bag I found at Target for $20. After all, I don't want to spend my vacation worrying about my handbag.

Posted by laurie at March 6, 2009 11:02 AM