I'm pretty sure we've all asked ourselves that question once we've finished packing for a trip. Sometimes it's a little nagging voice in the back of the mind, just gnawing at you until the light bulb turns on and you go "Oh no! I forgot... Ahhh!!!" Or something along those lines. Sometimes you can solve it by finding a replacement on your trip. Sometimes you can't. And then there are the things you should definitely try to never forget when you travel.
Of course there are plenty of tricks to help you not forget things. I have friends who pack the week before a trip. My father is the king of packers. He's ready the day before, has everything he needs and his suitcase is a wonder to see! (He could be a champion at Tetris if he played.) I myself am a last minute packer which usually means chaos. I prefer morning flights to afternoon flights because if need be I have aaaall night to pack (won't go to bed 'til I'm done), whereas with an afternoon flight I have that added stress of "OMG! Taxi's coming in 15' and I still haven't finished this and this and this!". Yes I know, I should probably be better organized. When cows fly. I do try to write up a list beforehand of what I should include. Or at least I used to. But as it's always the same stuff and it's burned in my brain (a) I rarely finish the list nowadays, and (b) I usually forget to check it when packing! :p
Part of the problem is that I have PLENTY of experience in this sort of thing (traveling). I know all sorts of circumstances I can get into in a trip. And I was a Girl Scout so there's that "always be prepared" mentality stuck in my brain. Which means that when it comes to packing I'm like "I should probably take this just in case of XXX" or "I can't forget that because I might go do YYY". You get the picture. Big suitcase, half of the contents of which probably won't be used. *sigh* Once upon a time I used to be able to travel light! Not any more. Especially not now with work, when you have to pack "nice clothes" for daily stuff, then something for the "opening ceremony" (I go to a lot of workshops in foreign universities) and another for the "official dinner". Oh, and of course decent-looking shoes to match. Argh!!! What happened to just traveling with a pair of jeans and a couple of t-shirts and hiking boots / Tevas?! Sometimes joining the "respectable world" is no fun at all.
Then there's the added hassle of carry-on. What must go in there vs. what you can risk in your suitcase. With all the technological gadgets and gizmos we've got nowadays, our carry-on has gotten much bigger. No way am I putting my laptop / camera / underwater housing / dive computer / tablet etc. in my suitcase! And ditto with the chargers, 'cause if the suitcase gets delayed - or even worse lost! - then all that technology is useless. Plus there are those documents I'll need for the trip. And a change of clothes in case the suitcase gets lost. And any presents I might be taking. Seriously, sometimes I think I spend more time worrying over my carry-on than my suitcase. And the damn thing's gotten heavy! Thank goodness for hiking backpacks, makes it much easier to lug that weight around airports...
Wow. That rambled on longer than I expected! When I sat down I wanted to write about Travel Essentials as part of the campaign that RelayRides is doing on Travel Essentials, and somehow I segued away...
Carry-on Travel Essentials. I'm just going bring up what for me are essential items in my carry-on bag, no matter where I'm traveling, 'cause the whole suitcase thing changes way too much from one trip to another! Here goes (in no particular order):
- Travel documents! This might seem obvious... but more than one distracted person has packed away papers in their suitcase that they needed on destination... and lost with the suitcase! Probably not going to happen with your passport since you need it to check in. But health insurance info? Dive certificate? Hotel/Car reservation papers? etc.
- Reading material. This for me has always been a must. I rarely even leave my own house without a book, and never if I know there's a chance I'll be "stuck" somewhere waiting! So in my carry-on there is usually my Kindle (in my purse for easy access), a Guidebook to where I'm going (if I'm staying long enough to warrant it), and a magazine (usually History or Travel-related) so I've got some choices.
- Expensive & important stuff: Smartphone, camera & laptop. I'd include tablet if I had one. There's no way I'm risking that in checked luggage! Plus having the computer allows to catch up on work (ugh), photo editing or just watching a series/movie.
- Accessories: Sure, if your suitcase gets lost you'll probably be able to find a phone/camera/computer charger where you're going (unless you're in the boonies), but how long and complicated will that be? And how much will it cost? Have you ever looked into the price of a new iphone charger (or earbuds)? Yikes!!! Plus of course Murphy's Law dictates that your gear will run out of juice long before you find new chargers. ;o)
- Basic toiletries: Toothbrush, toothpaste (if you can find some in a tube <100ml because of those bloody "new" rules for carry-on liquids/gels), deodorant (see previous remark about volume), hairbrush/comb. Because (a) you might want them during a long-haul flight (or a layover airport), and (b) another thing you don't want to have to run around looking for if your baggage gets lost.
- Empty plastic (water) bottle: Yes, I know we can't take liquids through security anymore (SERIOUSLY?! People this is the easiest thing to test! "Mam, I need to be sure that's water and not some liquid explosive. Please drink some of it and if you don't die you can take it through"), but having an empty bottle means you can refill it once past security at a tap (if in a country where the water's ok), in a water fountain, or from a bigger bottle. I recommend a smallish bottle (30-50ml) because that will fit ok in the pocket in the seat in front of you. Sure you can buy water in the airport (at an exorbitant price), but they usually only have 75ml bottles (bulky). Plus it just annoys me to be charged for a basic necessity! Particularly considering all the health advice that you drink LOTS of fluids when flying! At least airport prices will probably be cheaper than what they'll charge you on the flight. Unless it's a flight longer than 3h in which case they can't charge you for food and drink any more. But even then, for long flights I prefer to have a bottle in the pocket than a glass on my tray that (a) is empty after 2 gulps and (b) can spill easily and (c) forces me to keep the tray down! Plus if you're sleeping and wake up parched, better to just grab the bottle than go looking for a stewardess (not to mention the hassle of doing that when you're not in the aisle seat and the person who is is fast asleep). Oh! And on those long-haul flights where food and beverage are included? The staff will refill your bottle for you no problem! :o)
- Change of clothes: I know some people think this unnecessary, but imagine you've just gotten to your destination after a looooong flight, you desperately want to get out of the clothes you've been wearing for 20h... and your suitcase decided to travel somewhere else! Again, hassle of finding new clothes asap + ridiculous extra cost and of course delay in getting that much needed shower. Minimum pack a change of socks and underwear (or two), and I'd go with a top as well. Particularly important if you have a relatively long layover in some airport where you might want to shower or change... (Hong Kong airport is great for that!)
- Comfy clothes for long travel: This one's for those extra loooong overnight flights: throw in a pair of yoga pants or PJs or sweat pants and get changed as soon as you get on the plane (or even before boarding). There's nothing so uncomfortable on a long flight as the seams of tight clothes digging into your thighs. Comfort beats fashion any day for travel!
- Sweater / cardigan / sweatshirt: Because it may be summer, but you can be sure the AC will be blowing strong in that plane!
- Jacket / coat / umbrella: if your destination warrants it! Again, imagine landing in a snow/rain storm and your coat and umbrella are in your suitcase... on another continent!
- Anything else of value you don't want to risk being lost / delayed / stolen / broken in your luggage: Jewelry comes to mind, as do special gifts (particularly if you're arriving just in time for Christmas or a birthday), and anything particularly fragile.
I didn't used to, but to all that I've added one of those neck-pillow thingies (with beanies inside) when I know I've got night-flights. I does increase the little bit of sleep I get.
I used to always carry my Swiss Army knife with me (MacGyver was my teenage hero!), until the post-9/11 world made that illegal. Grrrrr!!!
Ok, your turn! What's essential in your carry-on bag? Or branch out and say what's in your suitcase? ;o)