Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Packing List Revelations

I'm getting ready to go on another trip. Not counting staycations (I think we did one of those, traveling about two miles and staying in a hotel for two nights) I have been on five trips this year and I'm heading out for another this week. Los Angeles, New Orleans (with a stop in Houston), Manhattan, the North Shore above Boston plus the Hamptons, Denver suburbs to visit family and now, this week, Portland, OR and environs. When I retired I thought it would be wonderful to travel without worrying about work. (In 2000, I went to Geneva, several places in Australia and Las Vegas for work in a short space of time. Probably made several other trips that year.)

I'm eager for this getaway to Oregon, a regular trip for us in August and one I look forward to all year long.

But another part of me is tired of pulling out the packing list and checking things off and organizing it all. Again.

The packing list.
At some point before that busy working 2000 year I decided to make a master packing list as a WORD document. The idea was that I'd copy it for each trip, edit it to eliminate things I wouldn't need for a trip, add special items and then check things off as I packed. As my life and the world evolved, of course, some things were added to or eliminated from the master list. The master list no longer calls out a PDA and spare stylus but does introduce the possibility of taking along a laptop, an iPod, an IPad and and iPhone or other cell. I've dropped off pantyhose and feminine sanitary supplies from the list. I no longer take a spare watch because, after all, doesn't every gadget tell time?

A few things are still on the list but get eliminated from the list almost every time: formal wear, robe (if the hotel doesn't have one, too bad), hair dryer (I try not to use one now and hotels usually have them). I almost never take our iPod either but sometimes it's a good thing to do.

A Downsizing Every Time
Most of us have too much stuff. But packing, particularly for a trip involving airlines, will focus one on what is really needed. If you can live on what's in that suitcase for a week or ten days, what do you really need?  I always sort of test myself out on whether I actually use everything I take. Of course, one gets a pass on emergency supplies. I always hope I don't need bandaids, Advil, stomach remedies, my tiny umbrella, spare credit cards and photo ID (kept separately from wallet), cough drops, stuff like that. But it's good to get home with almost all your under things and other clothing having been worn. If you took a book, you ought to have read it. My current dodge is to have reading material on the iPad and then to read one of the books FFP takes along. We always, always seem to visit a bookstore. And buy something. We buy papers along the way. We are never without something to read. But at home, of course, it's much worse with unread books, papers and magazines always threatening to topple from every surface.

If you have to carry it, you'll have less!

Always Take the Time-Tested
It's OK to take something new on a trip, I guess. (I'm bought a new carryon for this trip. And, yes, my packing list lists all the possible 'containers' that I might take.) But for clothes and shoes I like to take things I've comfortably worn at home. Walking shoes need to have at least fifty miles on them, preferably with some five mile stretches. Dress shoes need to have gone a few miles, too.

Money, Ticket, ID, Prescriptions
I don't take prescriptions. FFP does. The theory is that if you have money (and credit cards), your ID, tickets and prescription drugs that you can buy anything else. It's a reasonable theory, but FFP can't buy some things off the rack and it is tough for me to find clothes. Short sleeve shirts, polos, underwear, maybe shoes (but see above) could be replaced.

These days you'd be kind of lost without your smart phone. Or an iPad or something. Or both. But still, there are essentials and there are other things. We go on the plane wearing sturdy walkers, a decent shirt, nice jeans and a black blazer. Dress shoes are in the carryon (although FFP has come up with sturdy walkers that  also pass muster as dress shoes). I usually pack my dress shoes, a few under things and socks, a change of pants and shirt, prescription drugs, electronics and chargers, emergency stuff and tiny light umbrellas and lightweight anoraks in carry ons. We check one bag with more clothing, toiletries with liquids and sharps and such. I close the main compartment with a cable tie, cut off the end and place my trusty Swiss Army knife in the front pocket. If the inspectors (or thieves) open it, I'll know (unless they very carefully duplicate my cable tie color and trim). And if they steal the knife, I'll buy another. But I always have scissors, openers, etc. if my checked bag arrives.

Will You Remember What You Wore?
If the shoes hurt or you were cold or too warm, you might remember. If someone takes a photo of you, you might remember. I guess if you felt really out of place, then it might stick with you. But mostly if you were pretty comfortable, it's not what you remember about a trip. If someone takes a picture of me on a trip, I'm likely to be wearing...a black blazer!

A Trip to Regret
I am almost burned out from the traveling this year. The security lines, airline snafus, packing. But I have been trying for weeks to think of a trip I really regretted taking. Oh, there have been times I didn't mind leaving a get home or go somewhere else. But later I never remember wishing I hadn't been there. I always saw something new, learned something new (sometimes about packing) or met some interesting person. So I'll keep on printing my list, packing and going.