TRAVEL THERE: PACKING LIGHT VS. PACKING WHAT YOU NEED
Have you ever been to one of those travel demonstrations where someone packs four items into a knapsack and has everything she needs for a twenty-six day tour of Europe? Well, I can assure you, that woman is not me, but not because I haven’t tried.
My Best Effort at Packing Light
The closest I ever came to this kind of packing was two weeks in England with one bag. Well, actually it was a hang-up bag that hooked to and wrapped around a sort of tote bag. I carried two pairs of pants, a skirt, one pair of shoes, several tops and a fold-up raincoat. According to The Packing Lady I was ready for anything. I arrived at Gatwick wearing a snappy straw hat, a navy knit shirt, a cozy cardigan, navy trousers, navy espadrilles and strappy red sandals.
Let’s start with the hat. I’d been assured England would be balmy and dry in June. Certainly there are no guarantees, so I was told to bring a fold-up raincoat, also. Most days had several hours of sunshine, but every day also had fog, most were misty and the rest were downright rainy. In the damp weather, the straw hat grew, the hat band shrunk and a perky feather gave up and rolled over.
Then there was my sweater. I bought a thick, soft, cable-knit fisherman’s cardigan with a wide collar, generous pockets and leather buttons especially for the trip. In the projected balmy weather I planned to keep this sweater handy, for the few times I might need it. Instead, I was so cold I wore it every day, all day long, and a time or two I wore it over my pajamas to bed. The sweater grew every day. This growth did prove to be beneficial. You know how you can sometimes sort your photographs by what you wore on a certain day. Well, since the sweater made it impossible to tell what else I might be wearing on any given day, the increasing size of the sweater had to provide the satorial sorting hints.
In the final picture I had on the same navy trousers I wore in the Gatwick picture, but it was the last time I wore them – ever. I was so sick and tired of those pants after the trip that I could never talk myself into wearing them again.
The navy blue espadrilles didn’t make it to the final picture. More than anything else I’d selected to bring to England, they’d done their job. They coordinated reasonably well with everything I wore. They were also quite comfortable as I dallied in the marble halls of museums, pounded the pavement and crossed cobblestones. However, we spent the last few days of our trip in London proper and it rained – a lot. At the end of the second day of schlepping around in the pouring rain, I had to say farewell the espadrilles. That left the strappy red sandals which were supposed to dress up my outfits for evening wear.
I don’t care what The Packing Lady says, it takes more than a pair of strappy red sandals to feel dressed up. As I’d wandered around the other parts of England, Dover, Arundel, Brighton, Stratford-upon-the-Avon, the Cotswold, the Potteries and even a day or so in Edinburgh, the strappy red sandals and my nice black slacks did the trick for the evening, but London was a different story. I felt particularly dowdy among the fashionable Londoners. We went to the theater, ate in a swanky restaurant and even visited the Savoy – but all the time I felt like a bag lady who might get booted out any moment.
And for the last day of sight-seeing? Fuhgeddaboutit! The rain had stopped, but water was standing everywhere. The wheels of every vehicle aimed a spray of water right at my feet. It’s a wonder the poor sandals stayed together long enough to get me back to the US with shoes on.
There’s another problem you can’t see in the picture, my unmentionables are damp. Yes, The Packing Lady convinced me to only carry a few pieces of lingerie in my bag and rinse them out after I’d worn them each day. After the first four days, I’d washed out all my lingerie and none of it ever dried. Ever.
The only item of this travel wardrobe that still graces my closet is the fold-up raincoat. Instead of buying the plastic disposable kind The Packing Lady suggested, my mother talked me into forking out the money for a navy blue nylon number. Mom assured me it was a good investment and would last for years. Well, it’s lasted for years and it’s taken a lot of trips with me, but I don’t think I’ve worn it since London. It’s huge. It’s shapeless. It has a hood. Need I say more.
Now I Pack Heavy
So, I’ve expunged The Packing Lady from my list of travel experts. I no longer try to cram everything I need into a single bag. Instead, I research the maximum luggage allowance.
For any trip, I pack every possible sleepwear combo from a sexy babydoll to flannel jobs with feet in them. I plan two or three outfits for every day and if some of them mix and match fine, but I’ll never wear a pair of navy trousers eight out of fourteen days again. One of those daily outfits is always a knock ’em dead dress. And I don’t have to tell you that there’s a pair of shoes for each outfit. Just in case, along with my navy blue nylon raincoat, I have everything from a light shawl to a quilted ski coat. And lingerie? Heck I dump all the drawers in my lingerie chest into my tote bag. No more damp cheeks for me!
Forget The Packing Lady! What are your secrets to packing for a trip?