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Tuesday, 11.16.04: Packing Principles (Woman's Perspective)

I think that 1990 was the last time I packed a big suitcase for a vacation. Since then, I've figured out that -- within some basic parameters -- you can travel forever out of a single carryon bag, plus a large purse/shoulder bag.

There are two parameters:

(1) How many different types of activities will you engage in?

(2) Who is looking at you?

In other words, if you are going to your sister's wedding followed by a few days of camping, the challenge might be overwhelming. Too many clothes changes and cameras flashing in Activity 1. Activity 2 has a completely different wardrobe and possibly small equipment demands. (Faced with squeezing binoculars into an already packed bag, a grown woman can have a serious meltdown.)

Here are my principles:

For civilized places (e.g., San Francisco), pick a color scheme to allow lots of interchangeability without much pre-trip visualization. Black works. On the other hand, if you are going strictly backwoods, then who cares? We traveled through Thailand with an English women who packed her ugliest outdated clothes only and threw them away as she went along. This made room for souvenirs.

Two - three sets of pants. Dark colors are better. While your khakis might never show a spot of dirt in suburbia, tramping around ruins or prowling the antique shops of smoggy world capitals is dirty work. Third pair -- really just a back up in case of torrential rains. Most hotels can provide excellent laundry service if the trip is long and grunge sets in. Alternating pants with a skirt might work if you can wear the same shoes with either.

Tops. I usually go with 5. Extravagant to my husband's two. Layer from short sleeve to long sleeve. Washable (rather, fast dryable) t-shirts for the underlayer.

Shoes. Important decisions here. Wear your big comfortable walking shoes on the plane. Pack squashable sandals or flats. I have found myself wearing army surplus jungle boots at fine restaurants in Indonesian 4-star hotels. But, per parameter #2, how much do you care?

Socks. Thick cotton most comfortable, but forget about waiting for them to dry hanging over the hotel shower bar. 3-4 pair.

Underwear. 3 sets. Washing out with hotel bar soap is easy. Waiting for them to dry is the issue. My mother gave me the hint of washing the crotch only, which almost guarantees their being dry by morning.

Cold weather. Avoid having to pack sweaters. I have a microfiber pullover (one of those miracle fabrics) that has gotten me through many chilly climes.

Rain. Tiny travel umbrella that will also fit in shoulder bag during trip. Raincoat -- a smashable shell is a great warmth layer.

Sleepwear. T-shirt. Extras depending on who your companion is and your tolerance for nudity.

Sarong-like scarf to wrap around waist on walk to swimming pool, or around neck if cold, or around head in the vicinity of holy places.

Men's suit jacket (for cities) or travel vest (the kind with lots of pockets, for who-cares-if-I-look-like-a-dork areas). Can't have too many pockets. Bulky, so wear on the plane.




Travelsmith is a treasure trove of wonderful things in packable, smashable, fast-drying form.


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