Packing (Mis) Adventures

Travel expert Catherine Adde provides some packing advice by way of examples you don’t want to repeat.

Whenever I used to travel, it seemed that I over packed and often left something important behind. The moment the plane/train/ship had just pulled away, I was filled with dread: What medicine did I forget to pack? What should I wear with what? And what if the plane catches fire due to my vanity (my thoughts on a flight to Africa once with my butane fueled curling iron; they’re now banned, thank goodness.)

On one trip, instead of a carefree stroll down the Champs Elysses in Paris, I was frantically searching for a pharmacy. I had a bad tummy ache and forgot the TUMS that I usually traveled with as well as an array of other necessities that made my carry-on it’s own pharmacy: Headache and cold medicine, knee brace, foot inserts, sleeping mask/eye pad, woolite wash packets, ear plugs, disinfectant wipes, etc. Random thought: Why is it that years before that trip, when I was seventeen, tanning lotion was the most important item and there wasn’t so much as an aspirin in my toiletry case?

But I digress, I did find a drug store that day, and purchased what I hoped was their version of TUMS. My travel insurance company directed me to the pharmacy which was nearest to my hotel. (Today there’s an app for directions to such places.)

On that same vacation, my feet ached really badly. I forgot to pack footwear best for sightseeing via cobblestoned streets and climbing winding staircases. A friend steered me to Arche, a shoe store in the Madeleine district where I purchased (for what seemed at the time an ungodly sum), a pair of shoes that looked stylish AND were for walking. Voila—this is Paris, I thought, it seemed that even the street urchins and bag ladies had style here!

On my first trip to Alaska, I failed to research the weather forecast in advance, and thought I needed to take a coat fit for the Arctic. This bulky item was an army issue Arctic weather proof coat and was so stiff and heavy that it could not even be folded. I carried it on the plane. I remember feeling smug and thought that I’d be warm and the rest in my group will be so envious. However the weather was 50 to 60 degrees most of the time, no storms were brewing and it was a beautiful Alaskan summer. I was embarrassed when I put on this over-the-top garment, for my traveling companions poked fun at me, calling me “Nanuck of the North”. During the trip, I bought a more appropriate jacket and donated Nanuck to a thrift store. Lesson learned – A little research goes a long way when deciding what to wear and pack!

Packing dilemmas used to plague me, my friends and family. One friend advised: “Catherine, you should have three outfits: One that you’re wearing, one in the wash, and one in the suitcase”. Right. Little did she know I was about to take a trip which had me in a panic with regards packing: I was leaving for an adventure that spanned four weeks with two different climates, warm, then cold. A part of the time formal wear was required (a 5 star experience) and then there was a casual trip (almost ‘glamping’) followed up by a business trip.

So, instead of following advice, I over packed. All of the rules of packing were lost on me. Such as wear your heaviest shoes on the aeroplane. Or dress in neutral colours to accessorize and dress up or down for different looks. The golden rule was ignored: Put all of your clothes on the bed you’d like to wear and then only take half that amount. Luckily, I found out about the ship-your-luggage-home service which I now recommend to anyone going on an extended trip. This service can also be useful if you are taking a land based vacation pre or post with a cruise. You just pop that formal wear into a suitcase and ship it home.

Today what we pack and how much we leave home are sometimes determined by our friends at the airlines i.e. their regulations. On many domestic flights one is charged for any suitcase let alone two. And puddle jumpers have strict weight requirements. But did you know you could take as much luggage as you’d like on a ship or train? This is one reason why I prefer not to fly if possible: I still like to take lots of luggage, and with ship and train travel it doesn’t matter how much I bring.

Some years ago I was at the airport and witnessed an unfortunate incident that I’ve heard still happens too frequently: Travelers were about to board a plane only to realize they could not because they checked their luggage and inside it were their passports. Oops. I wondered if the couple realized that they could miss their flight and hotel reservation or maybe even a ship if they were cruising, due to the delays this error would cause. It would not be a fun way to start a vacation, would it?

Thankfully I have never packed essentials into checked luggage. Passport, credit card(s), medicine, and a change of clothes are with me, in my carry on case. And this is the advice I give my clients today as well. As for my regular suitcase, I still find it hard to economize, so it’s a good thing my carry-on, with its limitations, cannot be over packed!

Catherine Addé is a native of Pasadena, a Certified Travel Counselor affiliated with TravelStore and Signature Travel Network She has a Master’s Degree in Tourism Management and has held executive positions with Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Windstar and Cunard Line Ltd.

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