Planning your first big trip? Advice and humor to get you through the process.
Top 5 Packing Tips
Keep your gear dry and organized; convince gate agents that your 35-pound backpack is a carry on.
1) Group like items and pack them in white kitchen-sized white trash bags with a cinch or drawstring top. I use Glad brand Tall Kitchen bags that have a 13-gallon capacity. Bring a few extra bags in case any get ripped.
Packing your clothes in plastic offers a number of benefits because the bags: - keep items dry in case your bags get wet. - keep items organized, so you can easily find things - keep dirty items separate from clean ones until you can wash them.
If you want to be really anal, label each bag with a black magic marker so that you know what's inside.
For example on a recent four-month trip:
- I packed pants, shirts in one bag; underwear and socks in another; sporting clothes, like bathing suit and windsurfing clothes, in a third bag. - I wrapped each running shoe individually and put it inside my pack. Bagging them also protected my bag from dirt on the shoe bottoms. - I wrapped shoes that went in outside pockets of my pack in a bag individually, which made them slide in and out easier and also protected them from water and dirt. - I put my miscellaneous tools and supplies in a separate bag.
2) Always try to bring your pack on board the plane as a carry on, especially when you have a multi-connection flight!
On airlines with restrictive weight policies, such as Cathay Pacific and Qantas (15 pounds max), I took a couple of plastic bags filled with clothing out of my backpack. I combined them into one bag and offered my backpack to the ticket agent. She weighed the pack but not the trash bags and I was able to get my 35-pound pack onto the plane.
If all else fails, don't be too proud to beg and plead and mention that you have a tight connection coming up that you can't afford to miss while waiting at a bag carousel.
**Notes: - A Wall Street Journal article on June 17th warned that domestic carriers, such as American and United, are going to make it tougher to slip oversized bags on a carry-ons. - Here is a list of fees for check-in and oversized baggage from the Washington Post.
3) Put liquids in clear tubes and then in a clear 1-quart bag. Have this bag somewhere easy to get at so you can present it at security check in. I repeatedly screwed this up somehow and got hassled. Remember that toothpaste, bug spray, suntan lotion, shampoo, moisturizer all count toward your limit of five or six small tubes.
On my recent trip, I didn't use the cover until it was too late. I retrieved my pack from the baggage compartment under a bus -- the bag was wet and smelled like urine.
5) When filling your backpack, put the heaviest stuff on the bottom. This stabilizes the pack, an important consideration when you're running from South African street thugs or chasing Phnom Penh bar girls.
For example, I put my bulky medical kit in first. I stowed all my my drugs and ointments in a 3-liter Tupperware-like container and it was one of the heaviest things I brought.
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