Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Ever since I became a flight attendant I have become an extraordinary packer. Of course, when I first started this wasn't the case. I'd pack extra uniforms (waste: I'd wear the same dress every day), an outfit for every day (wear the same thing over again, no one cares especially not your crew) and a variety of shoes (tennis shoes are all you need). In fact, packing only pj's and workout clothes has often saved me money by giving me a great excuse NOT to go out to dinner with my fellow employees. When I travel for leisure I only take a roller board now and a purse. Checking bags is a waste when you fly standby because if you don't even know if you are getting to your destination chances are your bags may or may not go either. I wear my bulkiest pair of shoes and jacket or sweater and bring items that can be worn over again or layered. I find I rarely change outfits in a day (although somewhere in my subconscious I believe I will which is why I pack multiple outfits for one day thus weighing me down) and a pair of flip flops and ballet flats always work and pack well. I don't bring a laptop, dvd's, dvd player, or anything bulky because really who needs all that when you have the iphone? When we travel to another country, Chad and I always use hiker's backpacks. Trust me you don't want to be schulping through the beaches of Thailand or climbing up a hill to your bungalow in Costa Rica lugging a roller board behind you. The plus of backpacks is they fit easily in overhead bins and all the weight is on your hips leaving you hands free. The downside is, being that we always have to non-rev in business casual clothing, well you kind of look ridiculous. Ever seen a guy in a coat and tie with a backpack strapped to his back? Yeah it sounds about as bad as it is.

I recently rented Up in the Air with George Clooney and was pleasantly surprised at how the movie portrayed the business traveler. After all, even though I'm working the flight per say I consider myself a sky warrior as well. In the movie, Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham travels around the country representing the company that other companies use to fire their employees. Although I don't get the frequent flier and hotel perks his character receives in the movie, I definitely related to the loneliness that comes with traveling and staying in hotels night after night. The movie does offer some good advice to travelers though which I thought I would borrow and post here for all of those out there who just don't get "it."

Rule one: Always carry on your bag. As Bingham says:
"You know how much time you loose checking in? Thirty-five minutes a flight. I travel 270 days a year. That's 157 hours. That makes 7 days. You willing to throw an entire week on that?"
And really you DON'T need 6 pairs of shoes, 2 outfits a day, full size shampoos and lotions, and the various other things you always think you will use but don't. The hotels have hair dryers. Seriously not worth the trouble.

Rule two: Pack your belt; don't wear it. You're holding up the security line for an accessory. The same is true for watches, fancy jewelry or anything else. Pack it and wear it later. Or don't pack it. I always pack jewelry and rarely ever change out my earrings...

Rule three: Please stop waving goodbye to your family as you are going through the metal detector. Say goodbye at the curb and be done with it.

Rule four: Tourists are amateurs. They carry way too much electronic equipment and their brains are on vacation. Steer clear of anyone in a hawaiian shirt or sun visor in the security line.

Rule Four I can attest too first hand. When I travel to foreign countries I try to look as not out of place as possible. This means no camera around my neck, no tennis shoes (in Europe at least because no one wears tennis shoes out or yoga pants for that matter) and of course luggage to match the local. When we went to the Phi Phi Islands from Phuket we had to climb across three ferries to get onto ours. Once we arrived at Phi Phi we had to disembark down stairs then walk down a dock and take a long boat over to our side of the island. Of course if you know anything about long boats you know you don't really dock so when we arrived at our final destination we had to get out in ankle deep water, then walk up the beach to our hotel. From the lobby we had to hike up a hill to our bungalow. Was it worth it? Yes. With a roller board, can you even begin to imagine? I saw several other tourists dragging their suitcases all over the place and as you can guess, wheels and sand don't mix.

When we head to Peru in a few weeks we will once again be toting our hiking backpacks. I have learned to pack all my clothing (which isn't much these days) in ziplock bags then bring extra ones for wet or dirty clothes. I also like to google appropriate clothing before I go so I don't stick out too much. In Peru, apparently the clothing choices for locals is very casual so I'd probably look out of place wearing a fancy dress and the roads and walkways there are rocky which means no high heels. I've learned to love wearing hats as they are always good to cover up bad hair days, block the sun and you bonus you don't have to pack them...they just sit on your head.

A little advanced planning means a restful vacation, and as I've learned the less you bring with you the more you can take home :)

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