Monday, August 9, 2010

Packing Tips from An Expert: Never Check Luggage Again

Travel and Food Notes welcomes guest blogger and freelance travel and food writer Jeanine Barone, the expert when it comes to packing the smart way.

There’s no doubt about it that packing for a trip has become nothing but one big frustration. First there were the charges for checked luggage – but, I never check luggage, even when I’m on the road for 6+ weeks. Then there’s the soon-to-debut new carry own charges that Spirit Airlines will be imposing. The only free thing that will be allowed on board is a personal item that measures 16”x14”x12”. To me that was the last straw. So when I had to buy a ticket on Spirit Airlines recently, even though the new fees were not in effect, I decided I would do a test run and subvert their system. Since I was going on assignment in Alabama and Georgia for six days, I carried onboard only a purse.

You’re probably thinking the only way I could do that was to wear the same outfit every day. Wrong. Watch the slideshow below of all the outfits I pulled out of that purse that measured 15"x14"5". Well, they weren’t all in the purse – I wore a lot of them on board: 7 tops and 2 pairs of pants, to be exact. Sounds hilarious but if that’s what it takes to get around a ridiculous $45 charge for a carry-on, so be it. And I didn’t look like the Michelin Man nor was I hot on the plane. In fact, you’d never know that I was layered to the hilt. And, because I'd be running around the cities during the day, visiting museums, parks and gardens and meeting public relations people, and going to nice restaurants and bars at night, I had clothes that worked for all these occasions. Check out the slideshow and see for yourself:



Of course, this all required quite a bit of pre-trip planning. The clothes are all light weight, neutral colors that mix and match well, many are high-tech fabrics that are wickable and dry quickly when washed, they don’t require ironing and many have pockets galore. (In fact, if you add up the pockets on my photo vest, pants, hoodie and scarf, I have a total of 18 pockets!) Yes, even my scarf has pockets. It’s a special scarf called the XUBAZ with four hidden pockets that I bring on all my trips to carry my valuables because, after all, who’s going to steal a scarf? Among the companies who manufacture the high performance clothing I love are: Mountain Hardwear, ExOfficio, SmartWool and Icebreaker.

Most of the dresses come from a small New York City-based boutique called Pookie & Sebastian . No, their fabrics are not high-tech, nor were they made of merino wool, like the Icebreaker dress I adore. But they are light weight, they pack small, they don't wrinkle and they paired well with other high-tech items I brought along. Plus, they fit with my color scheme. And, because I love clothes that are convertible, e.g. pants that become shorts or long sleeve shirts that become short sleeve, I especially loved the black dress I packed that transformed into at least three different dresses as well as a blouse that I could wear with my tights.

Other ultra-light packing tips: I bring little in the way of toiletries because I can grab some at the hotel. All the toiletries I do bring are in sample sizes. I don’t carry my laptop which just weighs me down anyway. Instead, I find Internet cafes or I use the business center at my accommodation. I’ve rarely had a problem finding computer access when I’m traveling. My itty bitty black purse that I packed with my clothes contained my notebook, pens, credit cards, money, and camera. (It has several deep zip compartments that fit all these items.)

The three zip lock bags you see in the slide show were divided this way: one contained liquids such as shampoo, toothpaste, sunscreen, first aid gels/liquids like cortisone cream and anti-itch ointments; one contained makeup (a luxury for me but I had room, so why not), and the third had vitamin supplements plus non-liquid first-aid supplies/toiletries, such as band-aids, blister pads, gauze, toothbrush, and dental floss.

On my trip, I was expecting warmish days and cool nights, so I had layers that would work for almost anything: from hot days to even cold nights. (I carried a small, light weight Mountain Hardwear rain jacket draped over my arm in case of rain -- but this isn't pictured in the slide show.)

The only shoes I brought were the ones on my feet, by Keen . (They’re in black, of course.) They're comfortable for lots of walking during the day and they work well at night too.

Packing everything in a purse probably won’t work for everyone. But I found it a very freeing experience. Just think, no lugging or wheeling around bulky pieces of luggage that slow you down. No lost or damaged bags, and no waiting around for half an hour or more for your bags to arrive. Instead, you just step off the plane, run through the airport and hit the road in your new destination with just your purse in hand.

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