Category Archives: Packing Tips

A Mini Travel Re-Do

For those of you amused by my return-to-Paris plans, here’s another good one–I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow.  I’ll only be there for the weekend, and I’m going to attend a conference, but still.  You may remember my I Hate New York post from last July, which turned out to be merely the amuse bouche of the eight course tasting menu of suck that was my Europe experience.  If you do remember that post, you are likely laughing and, again, rubbing your hands together in anticipatory glee.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned from my mistakes.  We’re staying at a hotel that is walking distance from the bus station and from my main destination–a conference I’m attending.  We have dinner reservations for both nights–at Le Colonial tomorrow night and at The Modern on Saturday night.  I’m super excited about the second one–I’ve wanted to go there for some time.

Another exciting part of this trip is that I may finally get to visit the Met.  It is open late on Fridays, so depending upon what time we arrive tomorrow, it may be possible.  This is me crossing my fingers.

If you can’t wait to see how badly…er, well…the weekend goes and  want to follow along, check out my real-time travel blog, Virtual Passenger.  You can subscribe, and my updates will appear in your inbox in all of their awful…er…awesome glory.


Packing Practice Results Plus

Backpack after the husband packed--and he carried two shirts on hangers as well!

The packing practice trip was interesting.  While it was not intended to be a trip just to practice packing light, I’m glad I used the opportunity, as I learned several things.  First, my husband packs more than I do.  And even given this fact, he still forgets more than I do–and when he forgets something, it is a bigger deal.  For example–I only brought one change of socks–having two would have been nice.  He didn’t bring enough socks OR underwear.  I dealt with the sock ‘issue’ by wearing the same socks twice in a row (I do not find this gross–he does); he dealt with his sock/underwear ‘issue’…by going to Macy’s.  Which brings me to the next thing I learned–packing light on a short, close trip is kind of silly, especially when it means spending $30 on socks and underwear for your husband.  On a longer trip I would have just washed the socks and underwear for him (this is something I agreed to do for him for the entire trip–though, to be fair, in return, he agreed to go on the trip!).  But, because of his insistence on Macy’s, I got to go to the really nice Macy’s next to our hotel in Center City Philadelphia.  It was a really nice Macy’s–I spent the time he used to find socks and underwear to ponder buying a designer handbag (I refrained).  Also, I learned that there’s a giant organ in said Macy’s.  It sounded like we’d walked into Phantom of the Opera.  And again, this is just a Macy’s and it was just in Philly–I could see how having to buy sock and underwear in England or France would be even more of an interesting–if annoying and expensive–experience.   Finally, I learned that having lots of outfits is really not all that important.

Which brings me to my next story…the new smaller backpack I ordered arrived today–a Kelty Redwing 2650.  I am keeping it because it is what I was looking for–it is comfortable, sturdy, and reasonably priced (with a 25% off coupon code).  It meets airline carry on restrictions unlike the excessively large Redwing 3100 that I’ve already returned.  The zipper opens all the way down in the

Slightly smaller than a school bag Jansport bag next to slightly bigger than a school bag Kelty bag. And yes, I really like yellow.

front, making packing and unpacking (seem) easier.  But it is frighteningly small, considering it has to hold every single thing I will be taking across the ocean for five weeks–and I’d like to have room left over to bring back one or two things as gifts for the people looking after my house, dogs, and gardens.  If any of you are reading this–and you know who you are–you can look forward to your commemorative shoelace, because that’s all that’s going to fit!  I took a picture–right–to show the size of this bag in comparison to the one I packed for the Packing Practice Trip.  Clearly it is much bigger, and we will be taking two, not one, so there’s some comfort in that.  My husband, however, is not deciding on whether or not I’m ordering a matching bag for him–he’s waiting to check out the eBags Weekender that is currently on back order.  I can’t see it being comfortable lugging around what can only be described as a suitcase with straps, but he needs to figure that out for himself.  I think he’s hoping it will hold more–and he might be right.  And he probably needs the extra space, to avoid a 30 euro trip to the department store–and with the exchange rate right now, that’s probably a good thing.

Finally, I’ve officially determined that even if I’m not planning on taking one ounce of makeup–and I’m not–I will be taking one thing…a computer.  Or, more specifically, a netbook.  I need to write about things that I do (clearly!) and I like to do so whilst I do those things–I cannot imagine having to come back from over a month overseas and just then start writing.  I also cannot imagine coming back to the hotel or apartment or, in the case of my trip to Scotland, dorm, at the end of the day and not sitting down to write out at least a little of what I’ve done.  I’m a writing addict.  So now the netbook research begins!

Weekend Getaway

I’ve realized that blogging serves a very important purpose–it allows me to remember things I’ve done.  It sounds simple, but really, it is quite important.  For example, I didn’t write a blog post for the third day we spent in D.C.  And I don’t remember the details as well as I’d like.  Which is upsetting.  For example, I know we went to the National Gallery for a while, but I don’t remember specific things I liked about it–and I know they were many.  I know we went out for dinner, but I don’t remember what I had, aside from the fact that it was some kind of fish with some kind of foam on it.  I know I took lots of pictures, but as I never plugged any of them into a post, I don’t remember the specifics.  And so, I continue to blog about my travels, even when I can’t or don’t do so directly on my phone, directly from said travels.

All of that being said…ahem…

My husband and I spent this past weekend in Philadelphia.  We went to go to the flower show, but ended up also having dinner with a friend of mine (who I was shocked to discover I’d not seen in YEARS); we also made it to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which I can’t believe I’ve never visited).  We started out with a valiant plan–we’d leave IMMEDIATELY after work, make it down there before five, spend the evening at the museum, hit the flower show on Saturday before drinks with said friend and a nice dinner.  We forgot to factor in one thing–Friday rush hour traffic.

I stupidly thought that everyone would be leaving the city at this time, rendering the road in front of us blissfully empty but the lanes to our left mind-bogglingly clogged.  How wrong I was.  All of the lanes were mind-bogglingly clogged–ours included.  It took us 2.5 hours to make the 50 mile trip; we checked in to the hotel after 6:30pm, rendering our Friday night museum plan completely void.  But, fortunately, said friend was available for dinner that night, and we had a fantastic time.  Though note to self–never allow the husband to go out for dinner anywhere when he’s THAT hungry.  We went to a very reasonably priced BBQ-esque place, and ended up spending way too much, as the starving husband ordered half the menu.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we made our way to the art museum from our hotel located behind city hall–if they look close together on a map or even on the skyline, they are NOT–we took a cab for the return trip.  But the museum itself was amazing.  I’ve never been to a museum like that–though, to be fair, most of the museums I’ve been do have been various Smithsonian run establishments (which, again to be fair, are deservedly impressive in their own right).  Aside from the amazing (but temporary) Picasso exhibit, this was less a museum of art and more a museum of culture–the second floor was a maze of the best of eastern and western culture, set up in a series of rooms complete with period furniture, lighting, and accessories.  Entire temples and chapels were installed exactly as they once stood in all parts of the world.  It was beyond anything that I could have hoped for.  At one point I actually thought–screw going to Europe.  I’ll just come back here.

The added bonus–the museum was empty.  Note the picture to the left–there’s no one else there.  For rooms and rooms, my husband and I roamed alone, with only the occasional security guard for company.  This was because EVERYONE ELSE IN THE ENTIRE CITY WAS AT THE FLOWER SHOW.  I’d write more about it, but really it can all be summed up with this: it would have been really beautiful if not for the thousands of people milling about.  Large masses of people are typically not very picturesque, not even when surrounded by thousands of plants and flowers.  But I managed to get a few good shots–see below.  Next year I will either not go at all, or go on a week day.

That night we went to Parc for dinner, as per the suggestion of my ever-wise uncle (whom I’ve not seen in real life in WAY more than two years–it has been maybe eight or nine?  Thank god for facebook!)  We had an amazing meal–my husband couldn’t decided if he was more thrilled with the fries or the steak smothered in herb butter (butter and steak–his two favorite things), and I was in heaven with a dish of seared scallops over black lentils in a wild mushroom sauce (which, to be fair, must have contained at least some butter, and did in fact contain a few pieces of thick cut bacon).  Best dinner ever.

The given purpose of the mini-trip was to go to the flower show–the actual purpose was to get away from our life for a while and have fun.  And we achieved both goals–the latter more so than the former.  I think all couples need to do this sort of thing from time to time, on whatever scale they can manage.  We simply went to the nearest metropolitan area.  The nearest campground or the farthest, most exotic island, the most obscure small town–all would work equally well, and at some point I hope to visit each of those…and then some.

Packing Practice Post #1

I turned on the news on Sunday night and saw a 90 second story about the Philadelphia Flower Show–I immediately paused it, made my husband watch it, and asked him if he’d go with me the following Saturday.  It is now Thursday, and we’re leaving tomorrow immediately after work for Philadelphia–only 50 or so miles away–for two nights.  We’re going to the art museum for Art after 5, staying over, sleeping in, going to the flower show, hopefully meeting a friend for drinks, going out for dinner, staying over again, sleeping in again, and coming home.  I could not be more happy about my weekend.  It would be impossible to be more happy.  The only way I could be more happy would be if I was doing this for almost no money–oh wait–I AM!  Thank you Priceline’s Name Your Own Price.  For the money I”m saving by not going to happy hour tomorrow after work, I’ve paid for a night at the Mariott.

So of course, I thought this would be a good opportunity to practice packing light.  I’ve already packed–it took a total of 12 minutes, another bonus of light packing.  Here is what I will be taking:

–A small toiletry bag (already packed in bag shown) with about an ounce of my own shampoo and conditioner, travel sized deodorant and hairspray, a small tube of tinted moisturizer, and a toothbrush.

–A black dress, a brown necklace, and two pairs of underwear (already packed in bag shown).

–A pair of brown tights and a brown Old Navy stretchy skirt (already packed in bag shown)

–And…that’s it.

I’ll be wearing a top that can go with the skirt if it has to, depending upon where we eat, and the best pair of boots ever (in front of and to the right of bag shown), that will match the outfit I’m wearing down (to the right of bag shown).  They will work for jeans, with the skirt if I have to wear it, as well as with the dress.

I honestly feel that packing light starts with one really great pair of shoes.  One pair.  Of really great shoes.  Just one.  No more.  This is, in my opinion, where many women go wrong in wardrobe planning.  I took something like six pairs of shoes to Vegas for a week last summer.  And I wore the same pair everywhere–to the pool, to Cirque du Soleil, to dinner, to Red Rock Canyon.  And why?  Because they were comfortable.  And really, comfort conquers all.

Again, I could be very, very wrong.  I will report back with this possible–nay, probable–wrongness in Packing Practice Post #2, most likely subtitled ‘things I should have brought, but didn’t’.  Though, hopefully, practice really will make perfect.

Please note:  ‘Bag Shown’ is shown unzipped to emphasize the fact that it is still, for the most part, empty.  I’ve already packed a toothbrush for my husband–other than that, he’s good with hotel toiletries or sharing mine, if need be.  He needs only pack bare essential clothing.  I’m interested to see if he can out-downsize me.  This should be interesting.


Kelty 3100 BoxIt actually hurts to type those words.  I…was…wrong.  And it does not get easier each time.  Sigh.  Oh well.  Backpack #1 was, in fact, too big.  I was afraid when I saw the box it was shipped in–see picture to the left.  Even the box looked big.  And that was from the street as I pulled into the driveway–not a good sign.  I thought maybe it was just Kelty 3100packed in a really big box–nope.  Exactly the same size as the box.  See picture to the right.  And even if it would fit as a carry on–or even if we didn’t care if it would–it was just too big.  Empty, it covered my entire back, from mid-butt to mid neck.  Not what I was going for.  Oh well.  This is why we started the ‘order and return’ experiment several months in advance.

I’ve since printed the return label–which was actually very easy to do–and ordered another one, the same bag, but the 2650.  I’m thinking that might be a better size–though it is scary to think I’ll have to fit everything I’m taking for five weeks into a bag that has been reviewed as a book bag.  I keep telling myself that I wear the same three outfits all summer anyway, so it shouldn’t be any more difficult to do so on a different continent.  Because really, what do I have to bring with me?  A wallet-sized toiletry kit–three ounces each of my shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush, travel sized toothpaste, and deodorant–three skirts, three tops, a pair of pants, a summer dress, four pairs of underwear, and an extra bra.  My kindle, my camera, chargers for both, an outlet adapter, and maybe a tiny fold up poncho.  That’s it.  That really does not seem like that much.  Right?  Someone please tell me I’m right!

Bag Lady

Thanks to the dozens of email lists I’m currently on, I received an email today that eBags was having a 25% off sale.  So I bought a bag.  Ok–actually, I bought two bags.  You see, I stupidly gave my husband options.  Men don’t need options.  Men don’t want options.  And when you give a man an option, you are bound to be annoyed.  So I was forced to buy two different bags to compare them to each other.  The first was the one I’d already picked out for myself–a Kelty Redwing 3100 (pictured left).  It got great reviews, many from people who used it as a carry on.  Which, for me, is its purpose–as well as ‘only piece of luggage for a five week trip’.  I’d already decided on this bag for myself, as it looks more comfortable than the other option–an eBags exclusive, the Weekender bag (pictured right).  My husband was wary of the Kelty because, quote, it did not come with the Carry On Seal of Approval.  I tried explaining to him that of COURSE it had a little seal of approval–it was being sold on its own company’s website.  But he got all twitchy and uncomfortable.  What if the Kelty doesn’t fit?  Huh?  Huh?  What then?  I decided against ripping my hair out, and just ordered both of them.  Thankfully eBags accepts ‘Bill Me Later’, so I’ll just return the one we don’t want without ever having paid for it…and then order another of the one we like.  I’m putting money on it being the one I chose–once he sees they are not only the same size, but that the Kelty is much more comfortable.  And I’m such a big person I’m willing to admit publicly, right here in a future post, if I am wrong.  I shall title the entry ‘I Was Wrong’.  But don’t hold your breath.