Following the philosophy that each traveler must be responsible for his or her own luggage and that we should prepare ourselves in order to try to keep our sporting spirits alive when things go wrong on an airline trip, we will advance to checked luggage, the luggage that gets thrown into the cargo department of whatever aircraft you are flying.
Most airlines no longer allow overweight luggage, so we have to be careful while packing; we can no longer just stuff our purchases into suitcases and pay an insignificant overweight fee as we used to. I know from experience that if you check in with overweight baggage, you will find yourself center-stage in a humiliating scene in which you are kneeling on the airport floor, your suitcases open, and trying to juggle their contents in order to make the 32-kilo weight limit for each. I am pretty sure that scene includes other travellers looking down at you with contempt, but have never lifted my head to verify this. Find a way to weigh each of your suitcases before leaving for any airport. You can buy one of those portable luggage scales, but it is not easy to lift a 32-kg suitcase off the floor with one hand in order to weigh it. Before you leave home, you can easily weigh your suitcases on your bathroom scale by holding it kind of on your feet and subtracting your weight. Many hotels have luggage scales, just call the front desk and ask; it will be a good opportunity to practice your English.
Now, on to packing. To begin with, choose your travelling outfit. It should be 3-piece, and go with your bulkiest shoes, which you will wear for the trip, round trip. Ideally, the jacket you wear on-board will go with other outfits that you will pack for your trip. It would be good to take a neck scarf on board; the cockpit crews are the ones who decide on the cabin temperature, and it seems to me that lately, a lot of pilots are having hot flashes and keeping the temperature overly cool. But then again, you might get a pilot who has low blood pressure and keeps the whole airplane overly warm. Just don’t expect the temperature to be one of your choosing on any long flight.
Everything you choose to pack should be able to do double duty. I personally think that you shouldn’t be trying to make a fashion statement when traveling. Instead, make the statement that you are the savvy traveler, one who couldn’t care less about what kind of impression he or she is making. Savvy travelers are unfailingly admired by the rest of us.
I always choose sleepwear first because it’s the easiest choice. Two changes are always enough, and if it turns out not to be, it’s fun and inexpensive to buy sleepwear overseas. Secondly, I chose underwear and separate it to make sure what I want to take is clean and dry. I choose my underwear according to how long I will be staying in one place. If you are going to be hopping around on 2-day stops, your underwear might not dry if you wash it out in a shower. If you are staying in one place longer than 2 days, it will dry if you take the trouble to wash it and you don’t want to take up much suitcase space with such mundane items.
For the next step, decide on a neutral color and then build around it. Be sure to choose clothing that you can layer. By that I mean you might go out in a shirt, pants, a jacket and an overcoat in the morning. You will probably want to remove your overcoat in the first museum or department store you visit, but you might still need the two layers underneath. If you are packing for summer, you will probably still need to layer, but you can skip the overcoat. Air conditioners might be turned on too cold for your taste, and there are places like San Francisco that are quite cold in the summer. Pack a windbreaker. They are lightweight and are made so that wind cannot penetrate.
If you are going on a trip for about a month, you should pack 4 bottoms (pants or skirts) and 12 tops (shirts or blouses). Every bottom item must match at least 4 tops. If you are going on a shorter trip, around 2 weeks, take about half that, keeping in mind that 10 clothing items should be able to turn into 14 outfits. Since you have decided on that neutral color, choose some neck scarves to give yourself some color and to prove in photographs that you occasionally did change your clothes. Pack a wrap that goes with everything and can be used throughout the whole trip, if you have one. But if you have a genuine shahtoosh from Tibet, don’t bring it; they are illegal and you might get caught. Don’t bring a genuine fur coat or jacket either; they are not illegal but so many people think they should be that you might be seriously harassed. But if you have a Tibetan wrap made of pashmina or even one your grandmother made you, by all means take it and use it. A wrap is lightweight but can eliminate the need for a jacket.
Now, on to shoes. Pack flip-flops, because the can double as slippers and also be worn to a pool or beach. You will be wearing you bulkiest pair of shoes, so all you need is a casual pair, a dress pair and athletic shoes or boots if you wear them. You will be tempted to pack more just because you have them. Don’t give in. You won’t care at all about variety after you get to where you are going, and there is the chance that you need to leave room to purchase a great pair of shoes while on vacation.
Now that you have gathered all your things, you need to decide how to pack it. You can choose to pack in rolls, or to fold everything. You can choose to be creative and mix the two packing methods. In that case, roll clothing such as underwear, tee shirts, jeans and knitwear. If you roll these garments tightly, they won’t wrinkle. Then you could stack long garments, such as pants or blazers, on top of each other, alternating waistbands and hems to make less bulk. Fold these clothes as little as possible and position them flush with the rim of your suitcase. The less you fold things, the less room they will take. If you really need room, fold your things over once, and no more.
Don’t stuff your suitcase, you need to leave room for your laptop or tablet in case you have to check them unexpectedly because of a terror alert. You also need to leave room for a toiletry bag, which most Americans call a dopp kit. We just don’t have a fancy word like nécessaire for our little bags, unless you want to say cosmetic bag, and that is too feminine for guys. A leather craftsman named Doppelt designed the type of bag pictured here in 1919, and later they were issued to service people during WWII. The name Dopp kit just caught on.
If possible, pack a contingency bag inside your suitcase. That would be a lightweight bag in which you could carry something you unexpectedly acquired while abroad. It is definitely a sign of a successful trip when you find something that you absolutely must purchase that you didn’t know you needed.
Tattoos have been around for more than 5,000 years. Egyptians, for example, used tattoos to differentiate between peasants and slaves, a kind of social branding. But ink art, which is what some fans like to call tattooing, has really exploded in the past 25 years. But not all of us have succumbed to this fad. And many of us who don’t have a tattoo have a favorite mug. Having a tattoo or becoming attached to a mug are not dissimilar. According to research, 60% of Americans say they have an emotional attachment to a favorite mug. And about 40% said their special mug was irreplaceable, and about 1/3 of those said they would be devastated if it broke. Personally, I think that most of these people don’t have tattoos. Mugs and tattoos are both an extension of our personalities, and both express the way we would like the world to perceive us. That is not to mention, of course, that those of us who have tattoos or mugs are often irrationally attached to them.