My Essential Packing vs. Nellie Bly’s

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​Prompt: Author, Matthew Goodman was asked this by Random House in the interview about his book, Ninety Days….

How would you answer the question?

RHRC: Nellie Bly carried only a single handbag for her trip around the world. How would you pack for such a trip? What would you consider the essentials to be brought along?
My answer follows, and as with many of my writings, it veered off the very specific topic of what essentials should be considered to bring along. I may give this a go as part of my summer writing. It would be nice to see if I can stick to a limited topic and a deadline, so lets’s give it a deadline of July 10th. Sound good? It must be; I just felt my anxiety do a little somersault.

I’ve traveled alone only a handful of times, and in those times, only once was I not meeting someone else or staying in somewhat familiar surroundings. That one time was the adventure of a lifetime, and I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. Unfortunately, packing was not one of those things that improved over time. I always take more than I need and more than I should.
Since that first whirlwind solo trip across the Atlantic to meet my college roommate, I continue to keep a list during and after each trip of all the things I brought that I did not use as well as all of the things I forgot. The former list is always much longer than the latter.

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Travel – 15 Quick Tips When Visiting Belfast, NI

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Recently, an acquaintance of mine left for a trip to Ireland on a group tour. Her travels were taking her to Ireland as well as Belfast in the North and as far north as the Giants Causeway. She had been asking for advice, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of those tidbits here.

1. You will not receive a bag with your purchases. 

Not even at the grocery store. You will need to bring your own reusable bag or pay 5p to receive one. I did notice that there weren’t plastic bags swirling around the streets in the breeze.

2. Bring an umbrella and a lightweight jacket.

We visited in August, and we wore our jackets every day. It was colder than I expected. As for rain, it will rain every day. Sometimes it’s no more than a mist that you would feel at a waterfall, but we had at least two downpours, and without an umbrella, we would have been soaked to our skin.

As I joked with my brother-in-law: Ask yourself if you’re still in Ireland. If the answer is yes, then you need to bring your umbrella.

3. Across the street from City Hall in Belfast is a large information center with great pamphlets, maps, and a gift shop. If you can’t get to that one, try and find an information center before you start wandering around. They are very helpful. Visit Belfast Welcome Center.

4. Around the corner and down the road a tiny bit is Carroll’s, an Irish gift shop with clothes, magnets, mugs, candy, everything and anything at a price range that makes something affordable for everyone.

5. The candy selection is amazing.
Even if you find something similar to what we have in the States, the use of local water and milk in the candymaking makes it spectacular.

6. Toffee. Eat all the toffee.
We can’t get good British toffee in the States. It is my go-to when I can get it.

Also, eat all the cheddar. 

7. Visit Titanic Belfast. It is an incredible museum dedicated to the building of the Titanic. I think they did a really wonderful job balancing their pride for building the great ship and the respect for the lives lost in the disaster. They also have plenty of on-site parking at a reasonable price, a cafe, and a gift shop.

8. St. George’s Market.

9. Botanic Gardens. One word of warning, there is very little parking in this area.

10. Wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking regardless of your prime mode of transportation.

11. Download maps to your smartphone or prints them out. If you can’t do that, get them right away, especially street maps, if only to get your bearings. We tend to drive in circles the first couple of days.

12. Carry cash. The general consensus is £200 to start and then use an ATM as needed.

Visa and MasterCard are taken at most places. 

Notify your bank that you will be traveling and for how long, so they don’t freeze your cards when you need them. (This includes your Debit/ATM card as well.)

From personal experience, I would not recommend Discover. In the two weeks we were there, we found two places that took them. Not even the petrol stations did.

13. £ Stores. Poundland, Pound World, All for a £. The same as our dollar stores, but everything’s £1.

14. Petrol is in litres; road signs are in miles. I have no idea why. If you find out, please let me know.

15. Leave space in your case to bring things back without having to pay baggage fees.

Titanic Belfast. Museum. (c)2018

Thursday Travels – Trip Tips

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​A few years ago I published a travel organizer. It did pretty well for awhile, but over the years since, I’ve realized that it’s not really what would be helpful for people traveling today. It’s hard to believe that so much has changed in so little time.

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks creating a do-it-yourself trip planner. I had the thought to sell the download, the buyer would print it themselves on sticker paper and fill in their own journal book/notebook of their choice to use as a planner. It worked great for me, but the look of it really isn’t marketable. I will continue to work on it though; maybe something will come of it in the future.

In the meantime, as I was putting that together, I compiled a list of trip tips, which I will share here for anyone traveling this summer and/or fall.

Safe travels.

[Note: This is not geared towards very young children. If you are interested in that age group, drop me a line, and I can put something together. As at the time, I had young children, my original travel organizer had some great advice and an entire section devoted to children.]

1. Most important tip is to avoid putting personal information on things that can be easily lost. Do not put dates of travel on throwaway items. Do not put your home address on these items as well. That can be the perfect blueprint for thieves who check the garbage at travel sites like airports and train stations.

2. Keep your passport on your person. A document holder is a good organizational tool, especially if you’re responsible for your whole family’s or group’s important papers.

3. TSA – 3-1-1 – Even if you’re not flying, this is a good habit to get into. It saves space, and forces you to decide on what’s truly necessary. I would also recommend separating liquid toiletries from dry. For example, put your toothpaste in one pouch, and your toothbrush in another. This is especially helpful for airport security.

4. If you’re flying, keep liquids and laptops separate and easily accessible. If you’re checking a bag, try and put your liquids in there. Check the applicable websites – there have been recent changes to laptops traveling.

5. Print out a copy of the airport terminal map. This is so helpful for finding your gate, knowing in advance what restaurants and food is available, how close the restrooms are to where you’ll need to be, and how to get from point A to point B on layovers. In the last ten years, I’ve had layovers for all of my flights except the last one and the one that’s upcoming.

6. After deplaning and getting your luggage, use the bathroom before going through customs. Sometimes, the line can be quite long, and those drinks on the plane really do add up.

7. Dress in layers – works for airplane, museums, bus tours, beaches, and restaurants, etc. It will always be warmer than you expect outside, and colder inside.

8. Keep prescriptions in original, unexpired containers – do not check them; put them in your carry on. Pay attention to time zones so you can be sure you take your medications on time or near enough to not have any adverse reactions.

9. Same for packing your jewelry. Put it in your carry on.

10. Have some dry, non-perishable snacks for a long flight. It’s much cheaper than stopping at a convenience store or in the airport terminal. Avoid messy foods, like cheese puffs and nacho chips. The orange dust gets on everything.

11. Bring a pack of gum, and be sure to chew it before take-off and landing. It really does help your ears with the air pressure.

12. Packing tip – pack in a smaller bag. Then transfer everything to a larger case. This leaves you room to bring things back without an extra bag or bagging charge. Packing cubes are also great for organizing and keeping things separate (I like Eagle Creek).

13. Plan your outfits so you can match them to each other. This will give you more clothes options without bringing too much. Scarves and pins are two good ways to add some pizazz to an outfit and change it up a bit.

14. Pack in reverse order for clothes so you don’t mess up your bag searching for “today’s” outfit.

15. In the very front pocket of your suitcase, the larger accessory one on the outside, put everything you’ll need for the first night’s sleep. This will save you tearing apart your suitcase when youj’re exhausted from arriving at your destination. All in the front, sleep well, and begin the next day fresh. If there’s space in that front pocket, maybe put in your first day’s clothes also.

16. Some hotels offer breakfast. Continental or full at some places. Factor this into your price when estimating how much you’re willing to spend on a hotel stay. It may not be as expensive as it initially sounds when food is included.

17. What will you use for an alarm clock? I use my cell phone.

18. On that note, make sure your electronic devices will work where you’re going, and that you’re on a plan to cover your use of 4G or calling and texting. If you’re traveling internationally, get an adapter plug.

19. A mini surge protector is a great tool that I’ve been using for several years now. You can get a reliable one from Belkin.

20. I always use a list and I always forget something. I woke up in the middle of the night yesterday realizing that I forgot to put a laundry bag on my packing list. I haven’t seen it in awhile; it’s probably lost somewhere in the basement, hiding with my missing socks.

Travel – Bag of Holding

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​Before Christmas, my family was at the mall. I rarely go to the mall anymore. No money, and I can get what I need at Target for the most part, but a new Think Geek opened a brick and mortar storefront in the mall, and we were curious.

It was fandom heaven.

An entire wall of Pops.

Clothes that I couldn’t afford even with lottery winnings: an $80 Tribble “fur” coat for example. Bathing suits, t-shirts, socks.

Stuffed animals, backpacks, and a $300 Captain America shield. It was gorgeous.

The one thing, however that caught my eye was something I’d seen in their online store and was interested in for a long time – their Bag of Holding.

The top bag is the one that I have. The second row is a smaller version, more of a day bag. I don’t recall the price they were charging, but it proclaimed itself as the perfect bag for a fandom con. If you follow the link to their website, there is a new version of the Bag of Holding. It’s a slightly different color, and has some reinforcement. It is also the same price as I paid. (c)2016-17

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On Retreat – Welcome –

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The plans I had for posting this week kind of got away from me. Every day I stated something that I wanted to share, but then never got the keyboard out. Then there were family obligations and therapy and packing for my retreat, which I’m on right now.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a travel piece on what items tend to be forgotten. Well, here I am traveling and I’ve managed to forget things I actually needed: my eyeglass case for my glasses to sleep in, a laundry bag, a. nightlight, which this room really does need, and a hairbrush which the mirror in my room will attest to how much that was needed this morning.

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Travel – Do I Really Need That?

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As much as I forget some things that are necessary for travel, there are also others that are on the list, they’re always on the list, and nine times out of ten, they are never used. And then I carry them back home, put them away until I add them to the packing list again.

It’s a vicious cycle.

Let’s start with clothes.

How much is too much? Are you going for a special event and need a nice pair of shoes or something dressy to wear? I always wear my Keds. Every day. When I went to England in college, I forgot nice shoes. I ended up wearing my hiking boots everywhere. This is an unusual circumstance. Obviously if you’re traveling for a wedding or some other event, you will need a pair of nice shoes or boots, but that weekend getaway to the beach? Or the city? Probably not. Leave them home. They only take up space.

How many pairs of jeans do you need? Can you do laundry at your destination? Can you re-wear your jeans more than once or even more than twice? Well, maybe not twice, but if you’re trip consists of strolling through the museum or mall, you probably won’t get them too dirty if at all.

Look at your outfits. Can you plan outfits that coordinate with each other? The jeans can go with two different shirts. The second shirt you can re-wear with a sweater or a blazer. You can put a button down shirt over a tee and leave it open or button it up and wear it over leggings if that’s your style. Think in layers.

On to tech.

How many chargers do you really need? Most of them are interchangeable at this point, so bringing them all only increases the chances of losing one. Is there ever a time when you’re charging all of your electronics at once? Almost never. Even overnight, I don’t always charge my phone. The one thing that I do need every time is a surge protector. I use a Belkin mini version that packs easily in my carry-on or personal bag.

Often I won’t empty my tech pouch and end up bringing a flash drive. I can only use this with my computer (or someone else’s) and I almost never bring my computer anymore.

Do I really need to bring my camera and mp3 player when I use my Kindle for both of those? On retreat, I don’t use my phone except as an alarm clock, communicating with my family through Facebook, so I should probably leave that at home as well.

I’ll often bring my sketchbook and colored pencils, but I don’t use them unless I’m at a specific workshop/retreat. More thinking about my destination, less random packing of things.

Now for those toiletries.

Are you staying in a hotel? They have shampoo bottles. Are you staying at your cousin’s or your in-laws? They probably have shampoo too. I almost always bring a brush, but because my hair is so short and I usually finger style it, I never use the brush. Same for hairspray. What about that bar of soap? Unless your skin is sensitive, you really don’t need to bring your soap from home.

Will you really wear those slippers? Or will your socks do?

Reusable water bottle? I end up forgetting it. Sometimes, it’s better to buy a recyclable/disposable one on your way.

Pocketbook. How big do you think you need it to be? Can it be smaller? Can you travel with a personal bag that will be good for the trip itself and then pack a smaller bag for daily use at your destination? Can you put the smaller bag inside your carry bag for doubling its usefulness.

What do you pack that you never use?

Travel – Forgetables

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I’m an expert packer. I even wrote, published and sold a travel organizer that was advice to packers and lists of what is most needed to pack for a trip, regardless of length.

One of the things that I’ve found over the years is that whether I’m going on a retreat for a three day weekend or a week abroad or Thanksgiving at Grandma’s, there is rarely a change in what I need. I still need my things, whatever that might be no matter the location or the length of time or even, believe it or not, the season.

My clothes don’t do a lot of switching around. I’ll add a coat in the cold months, and wear pants/jeans more than capris and cullotes, but overall, my outfits are universal to the seasons. I almost always wear a sweater, and my jewelry rarely ever changes. I wear the same sneakers every day unless I want to shake it up a bit and put on my black boots, but that’s a style choice, and not out of necessity.

One thing that I’m almost always guaranteed of is that I’ll forget something. I don’t forget to put it on my list, but I’ll prepare it, and then forget to grab it. It’s not a successful trip unless I’ve forgotten something necessary. In this day and age, however, 98% of the traveling we do takes us to places somewhat like where we live, and so forgetting something isn’t the end of the world; unless of course, you’re traveling to the end of the world. Prescription medicine is probably the only exception, and yes, I’ve forgotten this once on an emergency trip for a death in the family.

Still, it can be annoying as well as a waste of money to continually replace something that you already have at home, sitting on the bed or dresser waiting for you to return and scowl at your forgetfulness. And after a few times, you have a collection of them mocking you.

My top ten items that I’ve forgotten. I call this list My Forgetables.

1. Laundry bag. I have several laundry bags that I’ve bought for just the occasion of traveling, and half the time Iend up needing a grocery store bag.

2. Camera. I think Iforgot this one Thanksgiving. I had to use my cell phone, which at the time was horrible.

3. Cash. There are ATMs nearly everywhere, but the fees in airports or out of state are ridiculous. Outrageous might be a better word.

4. My poncho/scarf. I loved this poncho. I bought it for my Halloween costume, and it has several colors and a pattern that I’m not normally drawn to, and so I wanted it for a retreat as part of the mood and inspiration I was looking for. Needless to say, it stayed home. On the sofa. Within eyesight of the front door. I was going to wear it, and then forgot. Ack!

5. Boots. Same as the poncho. These are knee high black leather-looking boots that set the tone for my day. They give me a boost and almost feel like I’m another person with confidence and talent.

6. Eyeglass case. I’m always afraid that I’m going to knock my glasses to the floor when I’m sleeping in a strange place. These are always on my list and more than half the time, I forget them.

7. Water bottle. Cold. On the table next to the door. Or an empty one to fill up on the other side of security. Airport water costs upwards of $2.50 or more. Absurd.

8. Tylenol. If you need it, forgetting it is tragic.

9. Phone charger. I have a friend who always forgets his phone charger at his destination, so he never has it when he returns home. It takes about a week to ship it or buy a new one.

10. An extra bag or pocketbook. One of the things I’ve recently discovered is that carrying a bag for travel to a destination is not the same and doesn’t work as well while you’re on the trip itself. I either have a large bag that’s mostly empty with its contents strewn all over a hotel room or retreat center or I carry too much because I have no place safe to leave it. Now, I bring a bag to use on the trip that is different from the bag that I use to travel to and from the trip with.

What’s the one thing that you always need and invariably always forget on your travels?