Packing: Why I Always Have the Largest Bag at the Baggage Claim

Packing.  Oh how I HATE YOU.  The worst part of any vacation—even worse than the pile of crap that is inevitably waiting for you on your desk—is still better than packing (not to mention its ugly sister, Unpacking). I recently tagged along with my husband to Barbados for a few days (Thank you honey! Sometimes there are SOME perks to an otherwise ‘challenging’ job!)).  If you had seen my luggage, you would have guessed that I was leaving the country for several WEEKS, not DAYS.  (I was prepared for fancy dinners, causal lunches, pool side/beach lounging (drinking fruity drinks) and day adventures into town. I also had lounging clothes, gym clothes, PJs, and beach wear. And some backups in case I hated what I had packed for each activity. Hey, I was a Girl Scout!) In a rare case of “beating the system,” I avoided baggage fees by volunteering my husband to transport my suitcase on the airplane he was flying. As you might imagine, I was thrilled. It did however cause a lot of confusion for TSA and customs. (“Ma’am did you forget your luggage?” No, thank you.  “Are you sure?” Yes, I would remember if I had a bag. Really? AGHH!) He also was volunteered for the snacks, wine, beer, and straw hat that I had packed. He wasn’t complaining later when he was drinking free beer, though, I promise you that!) My husband was also volunteered to bring his co-pilot’s girlfriend’s luggage, as she lives much closer to us than to her boyfriend.  After we got back, she called to thank my husband for schlepping her bag. (I love you! You Are The Best!), She apologized for packing so much (she had twelve pairs of shoes. Even I think that is ridiculous) but she also apologized for me packing too much. Say what? I wasn’t sorry at all! In fact, I would do it again because I Was Prepared (although, I did wish I had packed another pair of shorts, and a couple of different sundresses.)

The packing process is very painful for me. I labor for days, trying to figure out the perfect combination of outfits: casual yet sassy, comfortable yet not homeless chic.  Yet I always always get it wrong.  Ironically, I have professional status when it comes to traveling.  There was a time in my life I was on an airplane at least once a month. Conservatively, I flew one hundred and fifty round trips from 1998-2008 (oh pre 9/11 travel, how I miss you!). So, it’s not like I don’t have any practice packing. This should be quick and easy.

I remember when (and why) I assumed the job of packing for myself.  As both sets of my grandparents lived out of town, our vacations were spent visiting them in Knoxville, TN or WashingtonDC.  (I am now beginning to understand what heroes my parents were for traveling with my sisters and me. Back in the day, my sisters and I got along as well as Iraq and Iran.  On a good day. I have since sat down with my parents and explained to them that for all its wonderful parts, St Louis is not and never will be a vacation destination and if they want to see their favorite (only) (she is still totally their favorite, though) granddaughter, they need to make Atlanta THEIR vacation destination.) My packing karma was forever changed on a trip to DC when I was eight. My parents weren’t stupid (just macho sadist) and they knew three active daughters plus one tiny hotel room plus grandparents and a house full of non-kid friendly items equals DISASTER. As a result, our trips were always methodically planned out. When we were in Washington, we took full advantage of the museums on the National Mall.  (Which is not a mall, as a friend of mine learned in the 8th grade on a visit to DC when she demanded that we leave the park and go to the mall.  Sad day for her!) When in Knoxville, we shopped the local Big Lots. (If we were good, we were given five dollars to spend on anything we wanted in the store. Even candy!) On the first day of our trip, I excitedly laid out my clothes for my full day of museums and sightseeing…but…I didn’t find any socks. Anywhere.  This wasn’t good. My mother had forgotten to pack socks.  In fact there were no socks, for anyone. For an entire week of hot, sweaty, summer vacation.  I don’t remember a lot about that trip, but I do remember stinky gross feet. (Not as bad as my sister’s feet. When she came to visit once, I thought we had a dead dog. Remember those squiggly lines that came off of Pigpen in Charlie Brown? That’s what was coming from that room.  Yep, we had gym shoes festering in my guest room. IF SHE WOULD JUST WEAR SOCKS…) I have packed for myself ever since.

I cannot pack for trips in a way that would maximize space and limit unnecessary items.  I do all the right things- I make lists, I plan ahead, I query my host about what clothing would be appropriate.  I always wind up packing with the mentality that More Is More; and one might conclude that my ultimate goal is to be a well stocked Super Target (Super instead of regular because I always pack my own breakfast, snacks, and wine).  If I get a headache, a stuffy nose, the sniffles, a stomach issue, even a sore muscle, I am prepared.  I won’t be hungry (or sober).  And, I can guarantee I will be well dressed (with a couple of changes of clothes.)

My husband is a pilot, and a natural consequence of his career is a lot of time away from home living out of a suitcase. While the man can pack quickly (a week trip in under five minutes), and efficiently (small carry on suitcase), he too suffers from Can’t-pack-itis.  I can count on one hand the number of trips he has successfully completed by the criteria of 1. Remembering to bring everything he needs, and 2. Remembering to bring HOME everything he needs.  That man has left Blackberry chargers in hotel rooms all over the world. (Literally. And, there is nothing more annoying that needing a charger and the only one you can find is for a European plug. So Frustrating!)  If you found one in your hotel room, you can send us a check. The poor man always forgets something. I remember a trip with a suit but no shoes (for a funeral).  Pants with no belt (for a wedding).  A trip north, in winter and he forgets a coat… the list could go on. (For a couple of years he had a nasty habit of “accidently” losing his Oakley Sunglasses every time we went somewhere.  That got expensive and really old really quickly. The only part more annoying than buying new sunglasses every time we turned around was listening to the WHINING about sun in his eyes (to be fair, the sun might possibly be a little brighter at 35,000 ft.)

I am definitely the girl you want with you when you travel.   One of my sisters has a policy of not packing  anything when she travels with me because she knows not only will I have whatever they need, I will have several choices.  If anyone is planning a trip, I am available! And, as an added bonus, I have gotten the airport security line down to a science (see Airport Security: How I Learned To Stop Judging Others).

Happy Packing!

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