Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nuts and Bolts - Packing

We've had some questions about how we travel. In this blog I will discuss packing.

I'm standing at the door of our exchange house just as we left to walk to the station to catch the train to the airport. This was our luggage for the three weeks. I had a smallish suitcase on wheels which I check at the airport. I use this bag if I expect to be using public transport. If I am renting a car for the entire trip, I use a larger old ordinary bag from Lands End that is about 20 years old. It is very lightweight but very strong and it holds quite a lot if necessary.

Marianne used the small blue suitcase (Lands End) which she checked and the white bag for carry on. We knew that the house was close to the train station so she did not have to carry it very far. It only weighed 13 pounds.

When you are standing at the luggage carousel, it really helps if you can distinguish your bag from 10 yards away. If you have a black bag with wheels that looks like all the other black bags with wheels, tie a piece of coloured yarn to the handle.  Put some identifying coloured tape on the front and back of the bag. It helps you identify your bag easier and may prevent somebody else taking your bag by mistake.

Unless you have the special locks that allow security personnel to examine your suitcase, I recommend using twist ties to fasten the zips together. I actually keep a spare twist tie on one zip as well.

The blue duffel bag came from Lands End probably about twenty years ago and that is what I take into the cabin. It has a zip pocket at one end where I keep important documents that I know I will need at the airport such as a passport and tickets. This bag also holds my little netbook, camera, a jacket, a spare set of underwear, sox and shirt for the occasion when I miss a flight across the ocean and have to catch the plane 24 hours later. Marianne does much the same with her white bag.

It doesn't look like much for three weeks of travel but we try to travel light. We never have to worry about the airline luggage weight limits.

The main objective in packing is to take as little as you can get away with.

The first thing to do is analyze your trip. It makes it easier to decide how you are going to do your packing. How many days? How much public transport? What if there are no elevators (lifts)? How will I wash clothes if necessary? Is the weather going to be hot or cold? Dry or rainy?

The second objective is to take only what you absolutely need. Remember in most places you can always buy what you didn't bring and now need. If in doubt, leave it at home. If you only plan to wear something once, really consider leaving it at home.

The third objective is to wash often. That also means to dry often, so you need to think about that aspect as well. I have run some experiments and have found that seersucker dries the fastest. Because seersucker is already wrinkled, I don't have to iron my shirts.

Read the various travel guides which are full of good advice about what to pack. 

Consider this statement:

Nobody knows who you are. They will never see you again.

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