Los Angeles, CA
Packing is constantly on my mind while pondering my travel schedule for the last 10 weeks of 2009.... LA > Palm Springs > LA > Las Vegas > LA > Costa Rica > LA > NYC > Albany > NYC > Richmond > NYC > LA > Las Vegas > LA > NYC > Miami. The Palm Springs leg included a camping trip and over the next few weeks I'm heading to contrasting climates and different social situations (beach vacation, work functions, Phish, family holidays) so I need to pack wisely and effectively for each leg of my journey. At this point, I have a routine down pat. Lots of packing. Unpacking. Laundry. And re-packing.
It's time to share some pearls of wisdom...
1. What you wear to the airport is extremely important on your travel day. If you want to pack light, you can knock off two days of clothing by wearing the same clothes on your travel days. During flights, I prefer to wear comfortable clothes in multiple layers. There have been instances when I wore the nicest outfit in order to save space or not wrinkle my suit jacket, and I recommend that if you're on a business trip. On a roundtrip flights, I usually wear the same outfit inbound/outbound. Most of the times I have a standard travel uniform. There's a specific pair of pants that I only wear for traveling because it has a zipable pocket to keep my passport which means that it will never fall out of my pocket. My girlfriend wears her biggest piece of outwear (w.g. sweaters, jackets) and shoes (e.g. Uggs) on her travel days.
2. Carry-on luggage can be deceptive. Be realistic about the size of your bag. Never pack it more than 80% (save some room for items you acquire on the road). I'm shocked to see how people try to use every single inch of their bags and then the fucker won't fit into the overhead. These days, overzealous agents might force you to check your bag at the gate because it looks overstuffed. Plus, they're onto the scam where cheap passengers try to sneak a large bag onto the plane instead of paying to check the bag. Also know about the types of airplanes that you're flying and pack accordingly. Puddle jumpers have less overhead space than wide-body planes. And of course, know what times you are traveling. Holiday season is the time of the year to travel as light as possible. Ship your presents and go with a light carry-on.
3. Keep warm at 34,000 feet. On long flights, I always take a hoodie even if it's in the middle of summer. Airplanes flying at high altitudes get cold. Never rely on the actual airline to provide a blanket, and half the time I refuse to touch those disease-ridden rags. If you are a female who prefers open-toed shoes or a guy who always wears flipflops, I suggest bring a pair of socks with you. Nothing is worse than cold toes.
4. Packing cubes save space. I can't get enough of the cubes which help condense my clothes. About ten years ago, a couple of Japanese friends introduced me to space-age air tight vacuum bags. I used those for years (those are amazing space savers for bulky winter clothing) but now I'm hooked on the cubes. However, I prefer the vacuum bags to seal up dirty clothes - it contains any foul odor of smelly clothes.
5. Plastic clear baggies are your friends and they are TSA friendly. If by chance you get pulled out of a line, your inspection will go much faster if most of your shit is in clear baggies. I primarily use two baggies; one for toiletries and the other for electronic shit. Pre 9/11 I had a really cool toiletry kit but in the post-9/11 travel world, I opted for a simple ziplock baggie because it is see-through. I pull the baggie out and put it in a bin for x-ray. The other baggie houses all of those smaller wires and chargers for my iPod cellphone and other miscellaneous electronic equipment. It takes only five minutes to neatly pack these items before you arrive at the airport. It can save you valuable time if you get flagged. Also, don't skimp and spend the money and buy the top of the line Glad ziplock ultra strength bags. Those bags are waterproof and you won't realize how clutch they can be until one of your liquid-based toiletries breaks open in transit.
6. If you check your bags, bring at least one pair of clothes in a carry-on. Airlines lose luggage so make sure you bring an extra outfit. Never underestimate the significance of bringing an extra pair of underwear with you. I can go a week wearing the same outer clothes if need be. But dirty underwear starts to rot after the fourth day.
7. In the age of cellphones, it's important to remember specific phone numbers. I also write down key phone numbers of business contacts and hotels just in case I lose my phone or my battery runs low.
8. Charge everything before you travel. Never leave home without a full charge. You never know when you might get a chance to do it again. This includes laptops and especially iphones and those fancy noise-canceling headphones. What good is having Bose to drown out crying babies if you forget to charge to suckers? For work assignments I bring a backup battery for my laptop and on camping excursions, I bring an extra battery for my cellphone.
9. Bring your own converters and ethernet cables. Make sure you have the proper power converter if you are an international traveler. I always have at least two travel converters because sometimes hotels don't provide them for free and I have to charge a cell phone and a laptop. Also, a friend of mine is an professional poker player who makes the bulk of his income playing online poker. He's never without a wireless aircard and an extra long ethernet cable. Most hotels provide cables -- but more often than not, they are torn and frayed and often very short. If you bring your own, you never have to worry about that hassle.
10. Bring a book. You never know when you'll get stuck and bored to death. Long security lines. At the gate waiting for a delayed flight. Stuck on the tarmac. Backed up in an immigration line. Waiting for a taxi. Random idle time can be frustrating and utter torture for travelers, so take advantage of the forced free time and read a book.
11. Have cash especially small bills. This seems so simple especially when traveling abroad. Get some foregin currency before you arrive and avoid changing cash in airports. They will fuck you with horrible exchange rates... because they can.
12. Think light, travel light. Don't be afraid of under-packing. After you pack your bag, re-pack and remove five items. You don't need three books and five magazines. You don't need three suits or seven pairs of shoes for a weekend away.
13. You can buy almost everything you need where ever you go. Unless you're going to the fucking jungle. Then again, I'm sure you'll be able to buy machetes there.