Monday, December 22, 2008

Traveling Light

He who would travel happily must travel light.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(1900 - 1944)

Travel Light, Enjoy it More!
By Gregory L. Banks

Is vacation traveling a drag even when your bag has wheels? Maybe you are bringing too much stuff! Most folks tend to over pack without any creative thinking. Consider the freedom and flexibility of traveling with just one carry-on bag! Flight attendants do it all of the time. If you know how to mix and match and how to get the most from what you pack, you can travel for weeks with just one bag. The following basic steps can be applied to both of the sexes.


Think Layers
It’s the most important question to ask yourself when you are packing for a trip. What will the weather be like at my destination? Will it be hot during the day and cold at night? In any case, bring light, quick drying clothing that can be worn in layers as the need arises.

Mix and Match
You can dress in reasonable style for a week or more with only three complete changes of clothing. By three changes, I mean 3 tops and 3 bottoms. You can be wearing one, one can be dirty and one is clean in reserve. More significant, if you multiply the 3 by 3 you suddenly have nine different clothing combinations! All of your clothing should be color coordinated. Before you leave home, spread every article on your mattress and determine if every single piece is visually acceptable with every other piece. Underwear and stockings are light, important for comfort and take little room, so you can afford to bring a few extras. Consider swimsuits that can double as shorts for men or for women, comfortable bathing suits make reasonable undergarments. An extra long t-shirt will make a good cover up or night shirt and a sarong can be used in dozens of ways. Since footwear and outerwear are usually the heaviest clothing articles, keep it to a minimum. In tropical climates, it works best to take along one pair of sandals and one pair of comfortable shoes or sneakers that can pass for more formal occasions. I always bring one light weight jacket or blazer for the wind, the chill or to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. You can include one heavier overcoat if your climate is a cold one, but since they take up lots of room, try to use layers instead. Bring a crush proof hat. Consider bringing a change of older clothes that you can plan on discarding as you replace them with some new ones. Always include one nice, dress up combination for those special occasions.

Washing your clothes
When I travel in the tropics, I make a habit of washing my clothes as I shower every night. Some of the best natural clothing for travel is made from silk for its lightness, strength and beauty. Many of the new nylon fabrics from your sports outfitter also have the ability to dry super fast even at room temperature. Undergarments and stockings are easily washed out in the bathroom sink. One of those round rubber jar openers makes a great universal sink stopper. You can use a dab of shampoo for a detergent. If washing your clothes in your hotel room isn’t your cup of tea, there is usually a laundromat or laundry service nearby.


A good strong belt with an internal compartment is a great idea for stashing money or other valuables. I also suggest a larger money pouch that can be worn around your neck or waist for safety and easy access. A bandana or scarf will take up little room and can be used as protection for your head, a fashion accessory or even a bandage. I always bring a thin plastic poncho for rain. Instead of a travel clock you can buy a wristwatch with an alarm that can be seen in the dark or a small radio that has a built in clock and alarm. A small LED flashlight with extra batteries is a must. Most people like to bring a small digital camera. It is important that all of your electronic accessories share the same type of batteries and the AA or AAA sizes usually work the best.
With the new carry-on restrictions, I have found it necessary to purchase a cheap, all purpose Swiss Army knife upon arrival. Bring a small sewing kit with a large enough needle to accommodate dental floss for heavy duty repairs. It is a good idea to have a small plastic bag containing a few safety pins, some small gauge cord, strong rubber bands and matches. A small roll of duct tape is important for repairs, to help seal things or as a lint remover. Take along some clear zip-lock bags of different sizes and a heavy duty garbage bag. Always bring an extra pair of eyeglasses or contacts. I bring things like sunscreen, sunglasses, insect repellent, a writing pad, pens, maps, a travel guide and a good book. Remember that you can purchase many things after you arrive.


Once again it is important to think small. Of course you will need the essentials. Current FAA rules allow you to carry on fluids in up to 3 once bottles if they are placed in a quart size, clear, zip lock bag. Bring shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, shaving cream, a razor, a comb/hairbrush and whatever else you might need. Dental floss makes a great strong thread for repairs and can be used to tie things together. There is usually bar soap and a towel available everywhere except at campgrounds. A small first aid kit is recommended and can contain your medications, vitamins, aspirin, band aids, gauze and adhesive tape. A small bottle of iodine can sterilize a wound and a couple of drops will purify water. I always bring a box of antibacterial wipes and a small roll of toilet paper.

What to Put Everything In?

Thankfully the days of the rigid suitcase are over. There are many types of soft sided luggage now on the market. My personal favorite is called a Conversion Pack. It is basically a soft sided, carry on bag with an over the shoulder strap and hidden back straps. This allows you the option to have both hands free. Part of the fun of traveling is picking up some souvenirs along the way. I like to bring a large nylon empty duffle bag. When compressed it will take up no room on the way there but can hold lots of treasures on your way home. I also bring a smaller day bag for those day trips after I arrive. This smaller bag can also be used to carry some of your souvenirs on the way home. A reasonable alternative to the conversion pack is a regular backpack that is no larger than regulation, carry-on size. The important thing is to have your hands free. Carry-on regulations differ from airline to airline and plane to plane, but generally the length + width + height should equal 48 inches. Finally a small luggage lock that can attach to your bag’s zippers will help to keep prying hands out.

Money Counts

Don’t forget to bring your money, traveler’s checks, charge card, your passport and tickets. The US dollar is, for now, still the money standard in the Western Hemisphere. I bring two thirds of my money in smaller domination US cash with 20,s 10,s and five dollar bills; and about one third in small travelers checks as back up. Out of the way places will have trouble making change for larger bills. It is not a good idea to exchange a large amount of money at the airport or at those money changer booths when you first arrive. If anything, try to exchange a minimal amount, enough to last until you get to a bank where the best exchange rates will be. A VISA/ATM/check card combination will serve you well. ATM machines are now found in many more places and will allow you to get local cash at the current exchange rates. Check with your bank about their usual ATM service charges. These are per use charges and can be 5 dollars or more each time so it is better to withdraw a larger amount at once rather than a small amount many times. It is usually a good idea to use your charge card for larger purchases like hotels and tours but again, always ask first about extra service charges! The merchant may charge you an extra 15 percent just for the use of your card. In an emergency or as a last resort, you can take a cash advance, but remember; the rates are high and start immediately! Never exchange more cash than you will use during your trip. Many foreign currencies are worthless outside the home country. The duty free shop is a good way to use it up before you leave. Finally, be sure to save enough US cash for any surprise departure fees at the airport when leaving for home.

Make a Packing List
So get started by making a packing list. After you make your list, try to reduce it by half! Place your like items together in those clear zip lock bags and you will be able to locate everything easier.

Enjoy Your Trip!
If you can follow these basic ideas, you will discover new sense of freedom as you move from plane to train to automobile. More opportunities will be open to you when you travel light.