Saturday, February 7, 2009

Everything in one (pink) backpack - for one weekend!

#10 in Travel Series

The famous pink backpack

I recently took a weekend trip and packed everything I needed in one backpack. It was my one and only item of baggage, and I was so smug about it! I was on crutches (and I still am), so having only one bag to manage was helpful - - - especially one that fit on my back. Not that I had to lug it; my husband carried it for me, gentleman that he is. But it was the principle of the thing. Next trip I can manage it on my own, if I need to.

I was also determined to bring nothing more than a carry-on bag because most airlines now charge for your first checked bag. Additional bags cost even more, so downsizing can eliminate baggage charges. Oh - and our Delta flight did offer wireless internet - - for a charge. Their "Go-go" internet pass is $9.99. Presumably that is $9.99 per flight.

The secret to my bare-bones packing was that I wore the same pair of wrinkle-free black pants all three days. I wasn’t there to impress anyone with my wardrobe, anyway, and black goes with everything, right? I tucked two knit tops, underwear and socks into my backpack and wore a black wool blazer on the plane. A lightweight jacket that layered over it was rolled up to fit in the backpack. I didn’t bring extra shoes either; the black ones (well, technically I wore only one shoe and a clunky orthopedic boot) were just fine for all three days. So my clothing needs were minimal. I’ve found that rolling clothes tightly is the best use of packing space. Every cosmetic item I needed fit into the required one-quart zip-log bag that's inspected at security.

I only took two paperback books, which did require self-discipline.

But I've ordered a Kindle e-book reader, so very soon that will contain all my reading needs when I'm on the go.

Every cosmetic item I needed fit in the one-quart bag I pulled out for inspection at security.

I brought an empty fanny-pack that fit into one of the pockets of my backpack, and after we passed through security, I put some items in it that I wanted to have with me on the plane, and buckled it around my waist.

What I didn’t Use

We didn’t shop on our trip, so there was nothing extra to bring home. There were two items I packed but didn’t use: one was an extension cord. Many hotel rooms don’t have plugs that are easily accessible; if they are, lamps and other items may already be plugged into them. An extension cord with several plugs allows you to recharge your phone or mp3 player or to use your laptop. On this trip, our room was set up for computer use, so there were plenty of accessible plugs, and I didn’t need the extension cord.

(Be sure when you do travel with your laptop that you always have a spare three-prong adapter with you. They cost about a dollar and they're invaluable when you only have a two-prong outlet.) The other item I didn't use was the extra set of earphones I accidentally packed for my mp3 player.

Otherwise, I packed only what I needed, and I used everything I packed.

My handy pink backpack also has a padded sleeve for my laptop, but we didn’t need it on this trip, so we didn’t bring it. Our hotel had a free business center with several computers for guests to use, and we were able to print our return-trip boarding passes at no charge, a great convenience. Airlines also require laptops to be carry-on items; they should not be in your checked bags. They must also be taken out of their cases and placed in separate bins at security.

Remember: Nothing valuable should be in checked bags, including medication.

You can learn if your hotel offers these services before you leave, so you’ll know what you need and what you don’t. Usually you can find this information on their website. If not, call the hotel and see what they have on hand for guests. For example, many have hair dryers and can also provide irons if requested.

“Mandy,” my GPS device, stayed home. We visited our son on this trip and he was our able chauffeur and navigator. If we’d been on our own, Mandy would have come, too. She’s invaluable when we’re trying to find an address in an unfamiliar town.

I’ll do it Again
Overall, I’d say I did very well on our trip. In the future, whenever possible, I plan to pack the absolute minimum when I travel. I’ve always said I would do this, but inevitably I’ve packed more than I needed. I used my master list (see last week's post) when I packed. This time, instead of feeling anxious about what I could have brought or didn't bring, I felt just fine about what I did bring.

Pretty in Pink
It’s always wise to have more than one distinctive tag or strap on your luggage. As the airlines remind you, many bags look alike. But very few people are going to mistake my pink backpack (it also has an orange ID tag on it) for theirs. Even my husband has to agree with that. After all, he was the one carrying it. Pink looks good on him.

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