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.





Naomi April 26, 2012 at 11:04 am

Hi, Rebecca,
I too have memories of a leaden suitcase! I was 21, had just graduated from college, and my “gift to me” was a trip to California to visit my friend Mike (Yes…a boy! You’d better believe my mother had a few testy comments about that!). It was my very first plane trip (can you imagine?) and my suitcase was a huge, grey metal/leather/plastic “behemoth” that was almost as big as I was, and probably weighed as much EMPTY as a small horse! When Mike met me at the airport and we retrieved my luggage, his comment was “Why did you bring BRICKS to L.A., Naomi?” (By the way, this thing also didn’t have wheels…so good thing Mike was, well…built to carry the weight of a small horse!) I was so humiliated…and vowed at that point never again to bring ALL 8 pairs of my platform shoes (remember those heavy wooden clogs and such?) AND my full set of heated hair rollers (with the very heavy metal heating elements in the base) on vacations. OH!…AND my portable hair dryer that weighed a ton as well! (Thank goodness I’ve simplified my “beauty” routine in my later years!)

Thanks so much for all your helpful advice at last night’s workshop. It’s great to know a fellow female traveler who truly understands a woman’s need for a proper pair of undies! 😉

Rebecca Bricker April 26, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Love those sexy mountaineering undies – and whoever wrote the copy on the package:
17 countries. 6 weeks. One pair of sexy underwear. (Okay, maybe two.) 😉

nora April 26, 2012 at 11:17 am

Okay, I was truly skeptical. I don’t pack so much that a mule train is necessary, but I had a hard time believing you could get by in Europe for two weeks with a tiny suitcase full of stuff. Well, now I’m a believer. I think the most convincing thing was how you managed your tote and your day bag. And I loved the fact that you made it clear that getting organized reduced travel stress. This mule learned a lot. You should take this show on the road . . . Daniel could open for you.

Rebecca Bricker April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Great idea, Nora! Will you run the till for us? We’ll need to get you deeper pockets!!

Thom Parrott-Sheffer April 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

My carry on is devoted to photographic equipment and travel electronics … my version of shoes, which must satisfy the nerd/geek within.
My travel challenge is also shoes, I love my shoes (but they are so bulky). So I tend to wear my biggest pair when I travel, and restrict myself to only two others. Sometimes I just need to remember that they have running water where I’m going and I can wash things out when needed.

The biggest challenge is paking for those trips where I HAVE to have dressy clothes in the mix.

Rebecca Bricker April 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm

You definitely need this class! Maybe we could do a tutorial on skype. 😀

Nancy April 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Oh… yes… the memories of the giant “Suitcase Drag” across Russel Square… but… these day’s Rebecca is better at this than I am, and I am inspired by her packing prowess! Always trying to simplify… (nowadays, that also means… getting the electrical and charging equipment down to a minimum… which can get complicated with International travel). Think… mobile phone and computer – transformers and plug adapters).. Happy trails…

Rebecca Bricker April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I can’t remember how I got that flipping bag to/thru/out of the Tube. Obviously, trauma-induced amnesia.

Kathy April 26, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Sounds like a wonderful event with all your hands-on experience really benefiting your audience. As for taking your show on the road, I wish you would do one down here in San Diego. How about at Warwick’s Books and Stationers at La Jolla. Or one of the book stores that specializes in travel books? I think you would be well received and we are a community who travels!
BTW If you publish your notes, you most likely have a little ebook sensation. :)
Wish I could have been there to learn from your good ideas. I always seem to pack too much vs. not enough. I am curious about the black envelope…
Your blog is timely as I am leaving tomorrow for a week with my Mom. I think I will try the less is better idea and see how it works. Will let you know…

Rebecca Bricker April 26, 2012 at 2:38 pm

That Black Envelope created a shock-and-awe moment, I must say. I’m happy to take the show on the road. Have fun with Mom – does she have a shoe thing?

Pat April 28, 2012 at 8:08 am

SIXTEEN pairs of footwear…don’t think I have ever owned 16 pair of shoes at one time! Just give me my tennies and I am good to go. I wear an old sneakers to the States, walk off the plane in O’Hare and head to the nearest sport store to invest in a new pair, then I leave the old ones behind. With a bad feet, bad back and bad shoulder, I have learned to pack light. I know a lot of my American visitors bring old clothes that they don’t mind leaving behind, so they have more room to fill their bags with European goodies to take home.

Thom April 29, 2012 at 7:05 am

Pat, you are deprived … I even have over sixteen pairs of shoes. But I wouldn’t pack them all for a trip!

Rebecca Bricker April 28, 2012 at 9:14 pm

My mom had an incredible shoe collection – it was fun playing dress-up with her cast-offs when I was little. I loved her green alligator pumps. They’d be a hot item on eBay today!

Kathleen Pooler May 6, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Hi Rebecca,
It sounds like you have a great “road-show” going on with this demonstration of packing light. I’ve learned over the years to lighten my load when traveling but I sure could use one of your hands-on demonstrations. I know who to call when I start packign for Italy!

Carol Anna McBride, Psychotherapist/Film Instructor/photographer May 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Rebecca, E-BOOK PLEASE!!!
Looking forward to meeting you in Toscana!!!

Rebecca Bricker May 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm

The Tavanti tales are on Kindle: Would love to meet up with you in Toscana!

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