How To Pack For a Flight: DON'T BOTHER
Seasoned air travelers have always known to pack light, but now it's more important than ever to consider what NOT to take on your next flight.
It wasn't enough when full-size containers of favorite toiletries were banned from the passenger compartment, and TSA decided 3 ounces would be the maximum allowed, in ONE one-quart-size Ziploc bag per passenger.
I don't know about you, but even using 3-oz sizes, the liquid and gel items I absolutely have to have will not fit into a quart-size Ziploc bag. As the photo shows, that's 8 inches X 7.5 inches. Puhleeeese... The logical solution being to take full-size anyway, in checked baggage.
Well, thanks to rising fuel and other overhead costs, most airlines now charge for checked bags...at $100 per.
You're still allowed one "personal" bag such as a purse, laptop or tote bag, plus one rollaboard, as long as its total linear measurements (length + width + depth) don't exceed 45 inches. My own trusty rolling traveler, "Little Blue", is in that range: 22 inches + 13 inches + 9 inches.
Unlike a certain daughter who shall remain nameless - she knows who she is - I'm not the type to haul my entire wardrobe onto a plane for a four-day vacation. (Okay, I confess. Once, I pretty much did take my entire wardrobe...in five checked bags. But I was moving, not vacationing. That trip, of course, is the only time I and my luggage did not arrive at the intended destination on the same plane.)
When I bought Little Blue prior to my first trip to England, I thought 'no way' will everything I absolutely must take fit into that.
And it didn't...
The rest was stuffed into a tote that slipped over Blue's handle, and one collapsible nylon shoulder bag that would double as a day bag.
Oh, and I was carrying an enormous striped, supposedly wind-proof brolly... umbrella to you non-Brits...which a rather puzzled airline CSR assured me was not on the Banned Items list. Things such as knitting needles, nail clippers (since un-banned) and manicure scissors were on the list, but a near-beach-size brolly containing a dozen 3-foot-long wires easily removed for garroting flight attendants and the cockpit crew wasn't.
Well, everything I'd soon learn I truly needed would've fit into Blue, with plenty of room left for the day bag and the tote. Since then, it's become a game to see how much more empty space might be hiding there.
Travel catalogues like Magellan's exist to sell you anything you might possibly need - or think you need - while you're away from home. For instance:
Feather-light clothing that doesn't wrinkle no matter how you pack it.
Undies that can be washed in a hotel sink and dry almost instantly.
Socks that wick moisture away from your feet while you trek around the city of your choice, and dry almost instantly when hand-washed.
Undershirts that wick moisture from the rest of your body...which I suspect is also why they dry so fast after hand-washing.
Soap to wash said socks and undies, and a nifty clothesline to hang them on.
Tiny towels that "grow" to absorb as much moisture as that full-size bath sheet you left at home, and dry almost instantly. (Do you notice a pattern here?...)
Special Zip-loc bags to compress non-wrinkle clothing to a fraction of its uncompressed size.
Shoes for all occasions that weigh next to nothing but oddly, cost twice as much as any pair you'd normally buy.
Travel alarm clocks.
Travel alarm clocks with built-in radios and world maps, in case you forget where you are and want to dial up a local station to find out.
Collapsible hats and walking sticks.
Cases for jewelry and prescription meds.
And my favorite...the triple-fold toiletries bag with compartments for full-size containers of shampoo, etc. that you can only pack in checked luggage - with a hook for hanging in the hotel bathroom that has a shower but no towels.
If you buy all the recommended items for "savvy" travelers, besides spending as much (or more) than the cost of your lodging for the entire trip you certainly will need to check a bag or two.
But more importantly, wearing clothes that only "savvy" travelers buy, you'll be instantly recognizable in any major city on the planet as a T-O-U-R-I-S-T.
Might as well wear a sign saying "Pick my pockets".
If you're naïve enough to think professional pickpockets and theives don't know how to separate you from your "theft-proof" wallet or purse, don't leave your hotel room, because they do and they will.
Truly savvy travelers don't draw attention to themselves.
Don't advertise you're a tourist by wearing "touristy" clothes or trying to manuever several large bags to another hotel "only a couple of blocks away" after being told your hotel "lost" your reservation.
If you stick to a rollaboard and a tote, you'll minimize the chances of becoming a target for pickpockets and muggers.
First, only pack a couple of outfits, say two pairs of slacks...one khaki-ish and one dark for dressier occasions...and a few tops (shirts or blouses). The most comfortable but sturdy pair of shoes you own...which for me is Crocs...and one dressy pair to wear with the dark slacks. A pair of silk pajamas or robe, because silk doesn't wrinkle, takes up no space, and adjusts to the climate...i.e. cool in warm temps, warm in chilly climes. Crocs, which weigh nothing, can double as shower shoes if the shower is down the hall. A flashlight in case the power goes out. Labels pre-printed with friends and family's names and addresses for the postcards you'll inevitably buy...don't forget to print a few with your own name and address.
Underwear and socks from home are optional. Unless you're traveling to a third-world country that has no stores, shop local. Assuming you're already wearing one set on the plane, you only need a couple more of each no matter the length of your trip, meaning you'll never have to hand-wash more than 3 pairs of anything. Toss the newbies before going to the airport for the return flight home.
As for new clothes, why bother?
Unless you've been invited to dine with the Queen...not very likely...or have a reservation made months ago for tea at the Ritz...sucker!...who'll know or care if your clothes are new or ten years old, or that you picked them up at a charity shop or a thrift store or a weekend street market.
Who knows, you might even find something you like well enough to take home in that half-empty rollaboard.
But if you absolutely must buy new, wait until you get to your destination and buy locally.
This doesn't mean over-priced boutiques catering to tourists. Find out where the locals buy their clothes. This is a wonderful way to see parts of a city that most tourists never do.
As for the full-size toiletries at the beginning of this hub, buy those locally too, and then toss them before leaving for the return flight.
Most American chains now have branches all over the world. Americans visiting England will find familiar brands at any Marks & Sparks...uh, Marks & Spencer...or Boots the Chemist ("chemist" being Brit-speak for drugstore). Of course there are others...ask a local. Europeans visiting America: look for a CVS. If you happen to be a Wal-Mart fan, in England look for ASDA stores.
If for some reason you can't find your favorite brand, again, be adventurous. Try a local brand.
You're on this trip to experience new cultures, right?
Nylon collapsible day bag: $30
Over-the-handle tote: $60
Never having to wait at another baggage carousel: PRICELESS!
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