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Let's Talk About...Packing

Ok. Travel season has officially begun. Whether it is a trip to the Bahamas, Tokyo, Disney World, the Grand Canyon or Denali National Park, many of us are planning, buying and packing. It is the packing part that is most vexing.

I have been packing for a trip to Arizona for two weeks. Well, when I say "packing," I mean packing in my head. I tend to overthink these things.

I have found if I put things in the suitcase too early, I tend to take something out to either use it or exchange it for something cuter and then I mess up the whole system.

That is how I inevitably end up for a week in New York without a pair of walking shoes, only one pair of pants, ten tops and no jacket.

I know they say, "less is more" but I have found "more is better."

Do you use those "packing cubes*" to compress all your shirts so you can fit in five more than you need? Do you put your shoes in your suitcase or in the outside compartment? How about toiletries? What can you put them in so your shampoo doesn't leak all over your formal wedding outfit? Do you wrap everything in plastic? Do you bring hangers just in case? It is a quandary.

At some point, you have to make that tough decision whether to carry on or check your bag. I have been a big carry-on-only proponent for a long time. Putting everything into a roller bag you can carry on is great for speed and in case you have to change your flight. But I have also found that if it is weighed down with shoes, a Bluetooth speaker, and travel-sized bottles of everything, you can't lift it to put it in the overhead bin.

So, lately I have reverted back to checking bags so I can be hands-free except for my backpack and purse. I have tried putting my purse in my backpack but that doesn't get you anywhere.

And we haven't even begun to talk about what to actually bring on your trip. You must consider the weather, the number of days you will be gone, and events planned. Is there a wedding involved? Just days by the pool? Fancy dinners? Walking all day? Are we a tourist or a visitor?

I know no one wants to look like an American tourist with our white tennis shoes, backpacks, water bottles and hats. But, well, we are American tourists sometimes, so just pack for it and embrace it.

My son recently traveled from Florida to Japan to London and then to Arizona. How do you even begin packing for a trip like that? And I am confident he probably only brought a carry-on that he packed 30 minutes before he left the house. For me, my carry-on can only hold my computer, chargers, a water bottle, and half my toiletries. That's it. What can I say? Boys...

But life has a way of teaching us a few things. Our extended family once journeyed to Mexico. I packed for myself and three small children for a weeklong trip that would include swimming and sun but also several dinner reservations. And my in-laws.

I packed for days. I packed swimsuits, dresses, matching outfits for the kids, enough underwear for everyone for a month, linen pantsuits for me, four pairs of sandals, hats, sunscreen. You know the drill.

We got to Puerto Vallarta and waited for the luggage to come off the conveyor belt. One suitcase, two suitcases, three, four all came off the ramp. Where was mine? Well, it wasn't in Mexico.

I spent a week with a wrap skirt I bought on the beach, a swimsuit I bought at a Target-equivalent and some flip flops. I was fine. I missed my Burt's Bees, but that's it. It was actually quite freeing.

My brother, Bob, flew to Cleveland at the last minute to watch the Cubs win the World Series. He just didn't pack. At all. He was fine and had a great time.

So, once you get in the car on the way to the airport, packing is over. Phone? Chargers? Passport? All, check. What you don't have, you can probably buy. Or you don't need them at all. Enjoy the trip and don't look back. Leave all that extra baggage behind.

*I know packing cubes work but I still don't understand why. It's the same amount of square footage involved with them and without them, right? Does a little bit of compression really make that much of a difference? Doesn't the suitcase zipper do the same thing?


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