TIPS FROM THE WILD PAIR
Here are a dozen suggestions on packing for your upcoming adventures in travel, luggage and what to do about the weight thing.
1) If the Shoe Fits, Wear It
When you go shopping for shoes, do you ever fall in love with the softness of the leather and the cool trim and say to yourself, “I’ll break it in?” We can almost guarantee that the shoe will break you before you break it. It is a very bad idea to buy new hiking boots or walking shoes right before a trip. You haven’t had time to check them for the blister factor. You don’t know if they are really water proof, or if they’re too tight when your foot expands from hot weather. If you want to avoid shoes blues, use your oldies but goodies or buy a new pair well in advance of departure. (CMH provides top-of-the-line, already broken-in hiking boots for their Summer Adventures and other operators do too. So check before you pack - maybe you don't need the shoes at all?!)
2) Two is Better Than One
More folks than ever are travelling, and the airlines are misplacing or losing luggage at a startling rate. The groans of missing luggage are louder than ever before. You can almost assume, if you are a frequent traveler, that sooner or later you will arrive but your bags won’t. If you are travelling with a friend or mate, a real insider tip is to mix and match your clothes–between two suitcases. Put two of your shirts in her suitcase. Let her put a pair of pants in yours. Give each other a few pairs of socks and underwear. This way, if one of you loses a suitcase, the other isn’t stuck looking like Lady Godiva. You can avoid the baggage blahs by shipping your luggage ahead, too. More and more travellers are opting to do that. You can choose from a burgeoning list of luggage delivery companies like Luggage Concierge, Virtual Bellhop, First Luggage, Baggage Quest, Luggage Free and Universal Express.
3) There’s No Place Like Home
If you are on the road and your luggage hasn’t shown up, most airlines will give you a minimal amount of money to replace essentials after the first 24 hours. Be sure and keep the receipts for anything you buy. Generally speaking, your luggage will show up after a few days. If not, the airlines will tell you what your daily allowance is as you continue to buy essentials. It really helps if you put a copy of your itinerary inside your suitcase. When they find your suitcase, they can arrange to have it catch up with you on the road. However, if you arrive back home and your suitcase doesn’t, most airlines will not reimburse you at all for your immediate expenses. In the long run, if your suitcase never shows up, they will reimburse you, but it’s no shoe-in. You have to provide receipts, lists, prove what is lost and its worth. You can’t count on getting full value back.
So even though it’s a horrible inconvenience, it’s better to have your luggage missing when you’re on the road. If your luggage is really lost, fight for your rights but know that it can take months to be reimbursed and you will never get back all that you paid for the contents of your luggage. Now pour yourself a stiff drink or lace your mineral water with strong cranberry juice and read this: it is estimated that 30 million bags are mishandled each year. The culprits are airport congestion, reduced flight availability and mounting baggage volume. One way to protect yourself and your belongings is to purchase travel insurance; it’s possibly your best bet for recouping any losses. Companies that offer policies which cover incidents of lost, delayed or damaged luggage include Travel Guard and Insuremytrip.com, Access America and Travelex.
4) Lists, Lists, Lists
You get an A plus if you have a list of what’s in your suitcase. If it is ever lost, you just pull our your list and submit it. One way of doing this is to make a list each time you depart. Another way is to have a general packing list for all trips on your computer–and just print it out and modify it each time you travel. If you don’t have a list, and you make one up when your luggage is lost, you can be very embarrassed when it shows up. You’ve claimed a rolex watch, but inside your bag is a Timex.
5) Speaking of Timex
Travel with inexpensive jewelry. That black jade necklace you just bought looks great, and it’s very tempting to itchy fingers on the road. Leave it home. Buy a nice beaded thingie for travels. Timex watches have glow-in-the-dark features that allow you to tell what time it is when you wake up in your tent or hotel room, or want to check the hour during an opera. On the road, cheaper is better. Another option is an Oakley D5 watch–basically indestructible, waterproof to 100 meters, with dual times zones, a large backlit LCD display, and an alarm that will wake you so you don’t miss your flights or sights. And why not buy something unique and inexpensive from local vendors? It will look great on the road and make the perfect gift for your cat sitter.
6)The Fateful Moment
As soon as you realize your bag hasn’t arrived with you, go right to the airline you've been travelling on and make a claim. Sometimes they will tell you to wait until you get home to make a claim, but this isn’t always good advice. A paper trail will serve you well. Have the airline personnel note the loss, and give you a copy to keep. Be sure to ask for a complimentary overnight kit from the airline rep when you file your claim. Too often, the airlines only offer these kits to those who ask for them. You’ll appreciate the toothbrush, deodorant and other goodies when you want to flop into bed and not scour the streets looking for an open pharmacy.
7) Weighing In
When the airline says you have a 50 pound limit, they mean it. If your luggage weighs in at 51 pounds, they can either charge you $25 or more for excess weight, or ask you to take out a pound of clothes at the airport. Weigh your luggage at home before you leave to make sure it is under 50 pounds. Take a large enough bag with you as carry-on luggage to stuff in the extra pound or five..or twelve. Or pack a duffle in your suitcase. Pull it out and stuff the extra items in it. Ship it as an extra piece of luggage. We have done this many times.
8) Why a Duffle?
On the eighth day, God created the duffle. You can lay it flat on the inside of your suitcase and it makes an extra piece of luggage when you are traveling back home with acquisitions and souvenirs. Duffles are made in sturdy, lightweight material now, so they don't add much to the weight in your suitcase. Be sure to put luggage tags on your duffle before you leave home so that if you use it, it’s ready to ship through. We love Eagle Creek duffles.
9) Not Your Mama’s Polyester
Arc'teryx, Marmot, Lulu Lemon, Peak Performance, Travelsmith, Patagonia, Royal Robbins, and Outdoor Research offer clothes from synthetic materials that don’t have you sweating like a boxer. The key word is BREATHABLE. Make sure you buy fabrics that allow your skin to breathe rather than sweat. Also make sure they are fast-drying. If you have to sacrifice style to breathability and rapid drying, do so. These are garments you can rinse out at night and wear the next morning. Sometimes they dry in two or three hours. And, unlike the rest of us, they don’t really show their wrinkles. Remember to wear your washables when you travel. If you arrive in Bali and your bags are in Boston, you’ll be happy to have fresh clothes when you wake up the next morning.
10) Sunny Side Up
We all love the sun. If dermatologists weren’t breathing down our necks, we would probably lie in the sun all day. But they are, and we don’t. Sunscreens with a high SPF are helpful, but the latest research says you have to re-apply them every few hours. Companies like Solumbra and Outdoor Research sell hats with 4 inch brims, and Ex Officio has clothing with a high SPF factor. We are noticing that the styles are getting better, so you don’t have to feel like a sunproof geek. Wear your SPF clothes proudly. They are often wrinkle-free or wrinkle-resistant –which makes them very packable. The jury is out on the clothing saturated with insect repellent. It may not be a good idea to have such intense exposure to repellents hour after hour. Repellents you apply yourself can be washed off. But a shirt stays on your back after the bugs are gone.
11) The Light Side
Everyone tells you to pack light, but do you listen? If you’re a smashing dresser, it’s hard to wear the same rags day after day. Even if they are washed and drip-dried. So make a joke out of it. Announce to your traveling companions that they will be seeing the same you over and over. Laugh, and let it go. What everyone has told you is right: lighter is better. And here’s a toe tip: Onesole’s lightweight, fashionable line of interchangeable shoes. Each Onesole shoe features tops made of soft, stretchy neoprene that can be snapped on and off to change the shoe’s look.
12) Like a Scout, Be Prepared
It can be 90 degrees outside, but the inside of the plane may be freezing. And the airlines are not so generous with blankets and pillows these days. In your carry-on bag, pack a shawl or jacket that can double as a body-warmer in a cold plane. Always try to pack things that do double duty when possible. Your camera’s monopod makes a wonderful walking stick. The ziplock bags you use to pack your vitamins can make a laundry bag for your clothes when the vitamins are gone. And when you have read the book you took along with you, give it to someone you meet on the road. It will leave more room in your luggage for newbies you buy on your trip.
ABOUT THE WILD PAIR: Ellen Barone and Judith Fein,
They’re smart, sassy, savvy, award-winning travel journalists and photographers and now they’ve joined forces to become THE WILD PAIR, bringing you cutting-edge information and tips on how to turn your next vacation into a life-enhancing experience.