Thursday, March 13, 2008

Travel Advice Part One:- Pack Light and Plan to Wash

Number One in a series of five articles on traveling - for

How to pack: There is an art to planning what to take and how to pack it. I’d elaborate, but instead, I’ll refer you to this very helpful article at the following link:

The truth is, baggage gets dropped and squashed and tossed around. Passengers who have looked out of the window while waiting for takeoff have watched baggage handlers load suitcases onto the plane and can verify this statement. Perhaps you’ve even seen your own bag on the conveyer belt. Maybe you’ve seen it fall off onto the cement and be thrown back on. Maybe you’ve seen it squashed below half a dozen other suitcases. I have. I remember a commercial that showed guerillas as baggage handlers, gleefully lifting and tossing suitcases onto the carts that take them to the plane. That’s not far from the truth. Bags aren’t handled with care. Your suitcases may show signs of wear after a single journey, which is why we don’t buy expensive luggage. Plan accordingly.

What to pack: Always use suitcases with wheels. My world-traveling neighbor never takes more luggage than she can handle by herself. There will not always be porters or baggage handlers available, and heavy, bulky bags that you can’t lift or carry are not a can be very inconvenient. Instead of one heavy suitcase, consider two smaller, lighter bags that you can lift by yourself. If you have more than one suitcase, make sure you can hook one handle to the other, so they will “piggy-back” and roll easily. It’s also very helpful if your carry-on bag can be attached, too, so that everything can be pulled as one unit. If you plan to shop at your destination, put several layers of bubble wrap in your suitcase. This also keeps items from shifting during transit and will help to protect more fragile purchases on the way home.

Some other advice on luggage you plan to check:

Know your airline’s rules and regulations on baggage before you pack. There are limits on number of bags allowed, and on weight and size. Knowing this information ahead of time will avoid delays and extra fees when you check in.

Example: We went on a cruise with a group of friends, and one couple discovered at the airport that they had over-packed. They weighed their bags on the scale provided by the airline and found that their suitcases were significantly overweight. When we arrived at the airport, they were frantically re-distributing their clothes from one bag to another, stuffing them in their friends’ lighter bags, or jamming them into their carry-on bags.

One traveler in the group, a hat aficionado, wore his six hats stacked on his head on all the flights, rather than packing them, because he didn’t want them to be crushed. I don’t know if I have a picture of this unusual sight, but our friend reminded me of the wonderful children’s book, Caps for Sale, where the hat peddler wears all his hats in a tall pile on his head. I’d suggest taking one hat, if you can part with the rest and leave them at home.

Inside each suitcase, it’s a wise idea to include your personal identification (such as a business card) as well as a copy of your itinerary. These should be on the very top of your belongings, so they can be seen immediately when your suitcase is opened. Should your baggage tag be snagged and torn off in handling, you can easily identify your bag by checking inside. Your ID and itinerary will be most helpful if your luggage is lost or delayed. With your information easily found inside your bag, the airline can locate your bag and deliver it to your destination more promptly.

Do not lock your luggage. All bags must be subject to search. Locks will be removed by baggage handlers.

Airlines are becoming more restrictive on suitcase sizes and weights, and will charge hefty additional fees for heavy or oversized bags. Resist the urge to take more clothes than you really need. No one cares if you wear the same outfit more than once when you’re on a trip. Pack clothes that are less likely to show wrinkles and minor spills, etc. Choose a color scheme and pack clothes that can be mixed and matched to create different outfits.

Pack lightweight clothes that can be washed in the hotel sink and hung to dry overnight. Shampoo is a good substitute for liquid detergent. In a pinch, a blow dryer will help to dry your clothes more quickly, and so will a hot iron.

Use the hotel’s laundromat if they have one. Plan ahead and pack quarters and powdered laundry soap in small zipper top bags. Most hotels will have an iron and ironing board in your room. If they don’t, request them. For a fee, hotels will do your laundry for you.
I pack quarters in empty 35 mm film canisters. They are handy to have on hand for laundromats, vending machines, etc.

If you’re staying in the home of a friend or relative, plan to use their washer and dryer.

Pack good walking shoes and never take brand new shoes that you haven’t worn. Blisters and other miseries may result.

Some travel experts recommend packing everything in large zipper-lock plastic bags. Then, if your luggage is searched, the process is much easier. And coming home, you can separate dirty clothes from clean, or wet swimsuits from dry items.

Do not pack any valuables in the bags you plan to check. In fact, if at all possible, leave your valuables at home. I never travel with my wedding rings. Instead, I travel with inexpensive jewelry. An imitation diamond looks enough like the real thing to satisfy me. If it gets lost, I won’t be upset. Sadly, items in checked bags can simply disappear before you claim them at your destination, and the chances of recovering them are very slim. Our friends have had items stolen out of their baggage. It happens.

Example: An older wealthy woman in our community had a stunning and very costly collection of Native American jewelry that she loved to wear. When she traveled, she took the entire collection with her in a special case. She didn’t trust its safety in her hotel room, so the case went everywhere she did. She put her son in charge of watching the case one day. At an outdoor cafĂ© somewhere in Europe, he set the case on a chair, and sometime during their meal it disappeared. It was never found.

Do not pack essential medications in your checked bags.

Example: A relative’s suitcase didn’t arrive at the airport when he did, and his blood pressure medication was in it - - the whole bottle. He didn’t have any pills at home, so they waited anxiously for about eight hours, making several trips back to the airport until the bag was found. He wasn’t supposed to miss a dose of his medication, so packing it in his checked bag was a big mistake. He’s a traveler who doesn’t want to be bothered with any carry-on bags, but his wife now packs his medication in her purse.

Example: On one recent flight, a student with a peanut allergy ate an airline-prepared snack. A trace of peanut product must have been in her snack, for she began to have an anaphylactic reaction, and she didn’t have any medication on hand. Soon anxious flight attendants were hurrying down the aisles, asking if any travelers were physicians or if anyone had Benadryl on hand. Fortunately, a dentist had Benadryl in his carry-on bag and the girl’s allergic reaction soon subsided.

Again, do not travel with your valuables. The exceptions would be your friends and family, the most irreplaceable “items” of all.

There is a sign at airport baggage carousels that reads: “Many bags look alike. Make sure you have your own bag.” It’s true. Some travelers take photos of their suitcases in case they have to file a claim for missing luggage, and they keep this information in their carry-on bags. Write down the dimensions, color, logos, and any other markings that make your suitcases distinct. We use brightly colored luggage straps that wrap around the outside of our suitcases, and we also put multiple ID tags on the handles. Other travelers tie colored ribbons or yarn pompoms on the handles. Put something unique on your bags that will help you identify them quickly, and others will be less likely to confuse your suitcase with theirs. The numbers on the long tag the airlines put on your bag should match the stubs they give to you. Keep these stubs handy to help locate your luggage.

Next Week: Your Carry-on Items

1 comment:

Candace E. Salima said...

Good advice. I have really come to hate traveling. I prefer to drive, if at all possible, then I can take anything I want.