As last week's column concerned a question from a vacationing reader, I decided the next few summer columns should also feature travel news that readers can apply this season or stick aside to use for future vacations. This week concerns one of my least favorite before-trip chores: packing. Most of the following suggestions are commonplace, although sometimes we need a nudge to remember to follow them.
Coolers are great inventions. Whether driving only to the next town over and carrying a small container to keep a couple of soft drinks cold to packing a large cooler with food and drinks to last for a full day or longer, you're saving both money and time.
• Pack one change of clothes in each person's airplane carry-on in the event your cargo-held luggage is "misplaced." According to Travel Guard Insurance Co. 29 million pieces of luggage are lost or delayed every year and, if you're one of the unfortunate, you'll be thrilled to open that carry-on and see fresh clothing.
While writing this column, I couldn't help but remember years ago when I was much younger and more stupid and we began our vacation in the Bahamas minus the prerequisite change. Upon arrival in Freeport (us, not our bags), we waited and waited and waited by the carousel; it became early evening, we were exhausted, and it was extremely hot. Southerners are familiar with the expression, "Horses sweat, men perspire, and ladies glow." Well, I wasn't glowing or perspiring. I was sweating and not just because of the temperature; I was also in a red-hot rage. To add further insult, no more planes were scheduled that day, and when the airline representative tried calling Miami, no one responded. He advised us to return the following morning for the first flight that would surely carry our luggage. We left the airport for our resort (and what a misnomer that turned out to be!) and, upon arrival, jumped into a long, cool shower. The relief was short-lived, however, as we put our damp and soiled clothing back on. Matters worsened in our useless attempts to find a store still open to purchase a change of clothing (that should have been packed in our carryons). By this time, I definitely wasn't imagining the stares and flared nostrils of disapproval (i.e. smelly disgust) from passersby. Perhaps one day I'll relate the rest of the story, but suffice it to say we never traveled again without a change of clothing at hand - literally.
• Pack old underwear. As you and your family wear these throughout the trip, just discard the items the next day. Not only does the throw-away make luggage lighter, it also makes more room for souvenirs and gifts. Another suggestion is to buy travel underwear before leaving. Because the pieces generally are made to wash and wear, it's necessary only to take two or three rather than a week or more's worth. And because you only use them when you take trips of any duration, they last for years.
• Never pack prescription medications in checked luggage. Whether in a carryon or in a purse, meds should be handy when you need them. (And that's assuming the airline doesn't misplace your bags and you wait hours - or never - to get them back.)
• When traveling with kids for an hours-away destination, pre-create an activity packet for each child. For example, coloring books, blank paper, activity sheets, and the like, along with crayons and writing utensils in Ziploc bags will keep the kiddies entertained. Check online for free activities and coloring pages.
If Little Charlie or Charlene is traveling solo, be extra cautious before handing him or her over to the flight attendant. Try to keep the trip a direct one so the child doesn't change planes or trains. Go over the itinerary several times before he leaves and pin his identification and itinerary inside a pocket, along with the name and contact information of the person picking him up on the other end. Do not pin your youngster's name on the outside of his shirt; pedophiles and other unsavory creatures are everywhere and on the alert for innocents.