When in Doubt, Pack Everything!
by Patricia Montgomery
hen it comes to travel packing, I am not one of those women that believe less is more. In fact I would prefer one of those Victorian steamer trunks that were wider than the average person and almost as tall. If I could put one of those trunks on modern-day rotating wheels, I would be ready to roll. Even after traveling for more than 30 years, I still think the largest modern suitcase is simply too small. For years, the hubby would straddle one end of the suitcase while I sat on the other to snap locks or run the zipper. His polite suggestion that perhaps I should pack less always went unheeded. Each time he would shake his head and warn, “It could explode.”
My mind still plays re-runs of my luggage exploding at the airport’s outdoor check-in desk, raining down clothing in a puddle at my feet. I stood in absolute horror and embarrassment with a hot pink bra laying askew in my hair and the matching panties atop my shoulder. I prayed for a hole to open up and swallow me, hot pink underwear and all. To the amazement of bystanders, a hole did consume me and the sidewalk closed as if I had never been there. Yes, this really did happen: in a far too realistic, recurring nightmare.
To eliminate the real possibility of raining underwear, I ordered a yellow luggage strap and had our last name embroidered on it. The bright yellow color also made our standard black luggage easy to spot in baggage claim. Two problems solved with one handy-dandy gadget.
Packing light is just not in my nature. Even with all the expansion zippers open, I quickly run out of space. I learned about rolling each piece of clothing and found it does take up less space. After two trips where I ended up mailing my dirty laundry home for a costly amount, I now try to leave some extra room for those souvenir tee shirts and other cool things.
Did you know shoes can be packing containers for your underwear and other small items? Bear with me as I explain. Place your small items inside a sandwich baggy. Be sure to squeeze out all the air in the baggy before sealing. Line your shoes with one or more dryer sheets and stuff the baggies inside. Place your shoe “containers” inside a plastic shopping bag and tie off. The dryer sheets will keep the air fresh inside the plastic bag, and I promise your sealed undies will come out smelling as fresh as the day they were laundered.
Packing jewelry for trips used to make me lose my religion. Upon arrival at our destination, I would find that two of my necklaces had “tied the knot.” Anyone who has spent untold time with a pin or needle trying to “divorce” two chains knows what I am talking about. Plain tissue paper can work as well as a velvet jewelry roll. Stretch out one necklace on a piece of tissue paper and carefully roll in a long roll. Fold in the ends and jot a description on the outside: i.e. pearls, turquoise, etc. Lay each rolled necklace flat in the suitcase for a tangle-free trip. I also stash my rings and earrings in the compartments of a dollar store “Day-of-the- Week” pill box for a week’s worth of jewelry choices.
On our spur-of-the-moment road trips, we will grab our bags, jump in the car, and stop at the end of the driveway to flip a coin for north or south. For anyone who travels by the seat of their pants like we do, or has to travel often for business, it can be a real timesaver to keep an extra bag packed. Our soft duffel bag is always packed with jeans, tees, underwear, and socks, just enough for overnight. On longer trips, it is quick to add an extra outfit or two. I personally don’t recommend hot pink undies, but that’s just me.
My vintage toiletry case, a 1960’s hot pink (gasp!) Royal Traveler, is always fully packed. My favorite item is an inexpensive magnifying mirror with a suction cup to attach to bathroom mirrors because it’s a lifesaver for putting on eye make-up. Inside you will also find travel size bottles of shampoo, conditioners, and lotions. There is a spare toothbrush in a plastic protective holder. Other travel-size items included are cotton balls, hairspray, toothpaste, deodorant, disposable razors, feminine care products, first-aid kit, sewing kit, etc. I bought a small, cheap hair dryer and curling iron, both dedicated to travel. Granted, there is an expense to duplicating items you already have on hand, but I purchased things over time until my case was fully stocked. Now, before leaving home, the only two things to add are meds and my makeup case.
Take time to create your own personal travel checklist so that you can refer to it each time you are packing for a trip. List the basics: meds, toothbrush, vitamins, camera, chargers, passport, sunglasses, etc. Then, list anything you don’t want to have to duplicate once you arrive at your destination. I know from my own forgetfulness that having a basic checklist before you leave home can save you money.
I shall share my last tip with a story about our stay in a tiny town near Mt. Rainier in Washington State. On our first night I awoke about three a.m. for a potty break. I lay there for a few minutes, expecting my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I waited what seemed an eternity but still could not make out furniture outlines nor see my husband next to me, although I could hear his light snoring. Our room was filled with an all-encompassing blackness. I frantically waved my fingers in front of my face but could not see my hand. Eventually, I sat upright in a panic, screaming my husband’s name, “I’m blind! I can’t see!” He couldn’t see anything either, but in his usual calm manner realized that the power was out. It was fun to chuckle about later, but at that moment I truly feared I had gone blind. It was darker than black, I tell ya!
My hubby moved blindly around our room, bumping into furniture, in an attempt to find the suitcase where I packed our small flashlight. Fumbling in the pitch black, it took him more than a few minutes to locate. When he turned it on, clothing was strewn on every inch of the floor. In searching for the flashlight, he had begun throwing pieces of clothing upward, left, right, and over his shoulder. It looked like a bomb had gone off, a scene very similar to the exploding suitcase in my recurring hot pink nightmare.
- Create and use a travel checklist.
- A luggage strap works for
- Rolling up your clothing
- Stuff your extra shoes.
- Use dryer sheets, baggies, and plastic shopping bags.
- Dollar store pill boxes and tissue paper for jewelry.
- Invest in a magnifying mirror with a suction cup.
- Pack a small flashlight.
- Keep a toiletry bag and/or suitcase packed at all times.
- If all else fails, put a steamer trunk on rotating wheels.
At breakfast the next morning, the locals informed us that a fuse had blown. Not in the plural. As in: one single fuse had blacked out the entire town, including the streetlights. So, remember to pack a small flashlight, which can be handy when you least expect it. Oh, and don’t leave it in your suitcase. Put it on the nightstand.
Patricia Montgomery is a photographer at NW Georgia Living magazine. She also works with her husband, Monty, on their farm near Cave Spring. During summer months, you can often find her running a tractor, backhoe, or bulldozer. During their free time, the couple loves to take impromptu road trips or go on longer trips across America. To date, they have visited 48 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as eight provinces in Canada.