Archive for Sunday, September 20, 2009

Boomer Girl Diary: Travel turbulence begins with packing process

September 20, 2009


Traveling is hard enough these days. There’s the stress of getting to the airport on time; parking miles away from the terminal in the cheap lot; catching the shuttle; remembering where you parked so you’re not wandering around in a jet-lagged stupor upon your return (lesson No. 1 learned the hard way: write it down); negotiating the check-in kiosk; hoping to God your reservation isn’t lost and you remembered to bring your locator number ...

Then there’s the siphoning of the your carry-on liquids into empty 3-ounce bottles you bought at Walgreens the night before in a panic because hotel shampoo contains more detergent than Biolage by Matrix and those liter bottles you buy to save money are just too big, and if your hair looks bad, well, it can ruin your whole vacation or, at least, your vacation pictures.

And don’t forget the whole airport security panic. To pass through the gate, you have to bare your soul — not to mention your feet — to the guards, reveal the inner sanctum of your purse — sans sharp objects like tweezers (a BoomerGirl’s best friend) — and hope to heaven someone doesn’t pull you aside for a random pat-down. (They did this with my 89-year-old mother-in-law. Now THERE’S a potential terrorist if ever I’ve seen one!)

And the turbulence! Don’t make me go there! If there’s anything that can put me into a cold sweat, it’s that choppy air over the Rocky Mountains.

All that is bad enough, but nothing is more stressful than the nausea-inducing, cranium-crushing headache caused by the prerequisite of travel: packing.

Oh, how I hate to pack! I fret over it for days. So many questions: What’s the forecast there? Average highs? Lows? Humidity levels? Light jacket or a sweater? If I hide my ripped underwear in the pockets, will the luggage screeners see it? Jewelry: yes or no? How much or how little? Will the jeans that fit perfectly me now still fit after seven days of unbridled vacation gorging? Are four pairs of shoes too many? And can you wear white shoes after Labor Day if it’s 90 degrees in California? Surely, different rules apply there. It’s like another country ...”

I don’t have this problem on road trips. In a car, especially if there are only two of us, I can take along whatever I want. Going to St. Louis for the weekend and no time to pack? No problem! Simply throw your entire wardrobe in the biggest suitcase you have it in the back and it’s done. If you want, pitch every pair of shoes you own in the back. If you never wear them, who cares? You’re traveling in a closet on wheels! It’s a beautiful thing.

On a plane, however, there are RESTRICTIONS. One bag, unless you want to pay extra — and a 50-pound maximum luggage weight.

Hypothetically, anyone should be able to get by on 50 pounds of clothing, but whittling it down to 50, maybe even 40 pounds requires mind-boggling decisions. I don’t have the kind of time, or ability to focus.

Some people relish packing. They consider it an art, even a science.

My husband calls himself a “master packer” (with the obligatory nod to Seinfeld). He prides himself on taking as few clothes as possible usually in a combination like this: three pairs of shorts, two pairs of jeans, three T-shirts, two “nice” shirts, one pair khakis, light jacket, sweatshirt, underwear and socks for every day that we’re gone. And since most of his clothing is color-coordinated (because he’s fond of only three colors), his neat and tidy suitcase can produce a multitude of outfits.

My girlfriend boasted the other day of her packing prowess: “It’s so rewarding when I’ve packed so perfectly, I come home to find I’ve worn every single thing in my suitcase.”

This has never happened to me. Not in 53 years.

Still, that is the goal. The perfect packing job. Taking just the right clothes. Not too many nor too few. Not too cold or too hot. With enough shoes and jewelry to look stylish but not to push my bag over the limit at check-in.

Can it be done? Unfortunately, not for this trip. I spent all my time the night before siphoning liquids into 3-ounce bottles without a funnel.

I’ll be lucky if the clothes are clean and I remember underwear.

But at least my hair will look good.

— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at


Linda Hanney 8 years, 9 months ago

Cathy, packing for my trip to Italy has become a monster in itself. Two days before takeoff, I am still adding, weighing, subtracting. My thing, I want to have left over pounds to fill on the return trip. And, I don't want to be cold--or hot. Thank you for the tips. Also, for making me feel better about my dilemma. Oh, I've got to get those bottles, yet.

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