April 2012

Traveling light

by Rebecca Bricker on April 26, 2012

Traveling light is not in my DNA.

My mother was an amazing over-packer. She’d come to L.A. for a two-week visit and bring 16 pairs of shoes. I’m not exaggerating. I once had the job of re-packing those shoes into their snug-fitting protective socks and made the comment, “Mom, I don’t think Queen Elizabeth travels with this many shoes.”

“How would you know?” (Those of you who know my mom would know there was a hint of testiness in her voice.)

“I’m just saying this seems a little excessive.”

Of course, there were 16 outfits to go with those shoes and not all of the outfits were packable. Some stayed on their hangers in a monster garment bag that had to be boxed by the airline so it wouldn’t kill a baggage handler. I gave up picking up my parents at the airport because there wasn’t room in my Camry for them and their luggage.

During my student days, I spent a year in Scotland and traveled with a monster plaid suitcase. My dear friend Nancy (she’s in my book), who lived in London at the time, still talks about the day we carried that plaid behemoth across Russell Square, like it was a piece of furniture.

Fast forward to this week: I led a packing workshop at a local travel store called Distant Lands, attended mostly by women who came with ISSUES that revolved mostly around shoes. One woman came with a packed bag she plans to take to Israel in two weeks. To her dismay, it weighs 10 pounds more than EL AL will allow for a carry-on.

I confessed up front that I’m a recovering over-packer and that I’ve spent the past seven years of my traveling life trying to overcome my hard-wiring. My audience smiled in sympathy.

For 45 minutes, I shared all the secrets I’ve learned about traveling light. The purpose of the workshop was to show how to pack a carry-on as your only travel bag for a two-week trip. By the time I finished, there were applause and baffled women standing around my suitcase, peeling back the layers and marveling at the contents of a black packing envelope that wowed the crowd (both for its contents and function).

I had a five-page handout filled with tips and links, based on copious research. In recent weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time at the store, with my favorite sales guy Daniel (he’s in my book), selecting gear and accessories that would appeal to women of a CERTAIN AGE. Daniel is a travel expert, but had a few things to learn about my target audience. He quickly caught my drift as we combed the racks and shelves, filling a basket with essentials.

“Check these out,” he said, holding a pair of “Technically Sexy” undies made of mountaineering-grade fabric the wicks moisture from your body.

As we know, women of a certain age need a lot of wicking.

“They come in black lace – bikini and high-rise,” Daniel said. I nodded as he put the black lace bikinis in the basket next to the black anti-thrombosis knee highs.

I was skeptical about the money belts Daniel recommended that required getting half undressed to retrieve your cash. Daniel showed me a tiny satin pouch that snaps onto your bra. “You just hang this between the girls,” he said, smiling.

I rejected a pair of travel pants that felt like they’d be too hot. And I put a fleece pillow-and-blanket set in the basket for the chilly airplane rides. “When women get too hot or too cold, they get very cranky,” I explained to Daniel.

“I’m starting to understand my mother,” he said.

He didn’t mention whether she travels with 16 pairs of shoes.