Back in my financial analyst days, I logged an alarming amount of frequent flier miles. In 1997, when I was pregnant, my OB cut be off from travel in September, and I still managed to qualify for United’s Mileage Plus Premier Executive level.
I’ve been thinking a lot about packing lately as I prepare to spend six weeks in China this summer. I need to bring clothes for my stay, materials for my classes, and stuff to keep me occupied for 24 hours of flying time each way. Yikes!
Here are my basic packing tips:
- You need to be able to handle your own luggage. The more transfers between planes, trains, and automobiles you’ll be making, the lighter you need to pack. Wheeled luggage is the best invention in the history of travel, followed by the backpack.
- You don’t need to worry about wrinkles if you’ll be in one place for a while, because you can hang out the clothes in a steamy shower. If you’ll be packing and unpacking frequently, like if you will be staying at a different place every night, you do need to worry about them. The best way to avoid wrinkles when packing is to put the clothes in plastic dry-cleaner bags before folding them.
- Wool doesn’t wrinkle, it doesn’t smell, but it takes a long time to dry. Polyester doesn’t wrinkle, it dries fast, but it holds odors. Pack a mix of the two to get the best of both worlds. Cotton is comfortable, but it’s not wildly practical for travel. The exception is denim, which has all the advantages of wool.
- For the most part, if you forget anything, you can buy it when you get there. That can add to your travel adventures, too. One of my favorite memories of Kyoto was asking a non-English-speaking pharmacist for a treatment for insect bites. That being said, I’m taller than the average American woman, so I will be a giant in China. It is difficult for me to find clothes that fit in Asia or in most emerging markets. In England, though, “forgetting” a shirt is just an excuse to shop!
- Don’t agonize too much over how the amount of clothes you pack, because the clothes aren’t what weigh you down. The heavy items to watch out for when packing are shoes and work materials. In my banking days, I would spend a week visiting customers in six different cities carrying just two wool dresses, jeans and a sweater, and two pair of shoes (one dress, one casual). But then, I’d have a massive stack of handouts for customer meetings and materials for working on airplanes. That was the killer. If you can reduce the heavy items, you’re set.
- On the plane, wear cotton or wool to be comfortable. Wear comfy shoes and DO NOT TAKE THEM OFF! Your feet will swell on a long flight, and you’ll have trouble putting them back on. Get one of those inflatable neck pillows. Bring a pashmina to use as a blanket. Try to sleep on the plane. It makes a huge difference.
- Carry on all your luggage, if possible. If you can’t do that, make sure to carry on your medications. A change in clothes is a good idea for a longer flight, in case you spill your dinner or find your flight diverted. Also, putting on a clean shirt will make you feel refreshed after a long flight. Bring a water bottle and food, and don’t rely on your e-reader. These are wonderful for reducing the amount of stuff you have to carry, but you don’t want to be bored silly on a long flight because your reader isn’t charged or got dropped or something.
- Leave stuff behind to make room for souvenirs. I sometimes pack old clothes and leave them in the hotel to create room for my bounty. Paperback books and magazines can be left behind, too. That way, you can still manage your luggage by yourself on your return trip.
I’ve been buying miscellaneous items for my trip at a great local store here in Chicago with a mail-order division, Uncle Dan’s. The people who work there are really nice, and they have everything you need to prepare for a Chicago winter or an extended journey to tropic climes. I especially like the pricey but comfy Icebreaker line of lightweight wool clothes.