web analytics

Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Pack Man


There are two kinds of people on the face of the earth: those who can plan what to pack, and those who fly by the seat of their pants. My husband is the latter and he has been known to forget said pants.

There’ss more to this story than meets the eye. You see, Benedetto is our designated packer. It’s a well-supported fact that men can cram more into a suitcase than most women. Something about innate mathematical-spatial abilities. But the system breaks down in the connection between closet and carrying case.

That’s my end of the bargain. I make lists. I love lists. Paper was made for lists. My husband’s head was not. He refuses to use my lists, while pretending he will, which is even more Dangerous.

Right now, we are preparing for a major trip. The dogs go to their spa with special food, bowls, medications, charts, bedding and crates. The non-fur boys need school books, pants, shirts, sweaters, shoes, belts, pajamas, underwear, socks, vitamins, and toiletries. I need a separate suitcase for haircare items alone–blowdryer, flat iron, hot rollers, plugs and adaptors, shampoo, conditioner, anti-frizz potion, hairspray and further accessories. Then bring duplicates of many items in case the bag is lost. Still doesn’t totally tame the tresses, but makes me feel like I haven’t thrown in the towel, and thrown up the hands. My husband, on the other hand, needs nothing.

Or so he thinks.

A sportsjacket and slacks, a full suit, a couple changes of shirts, he’s good to go. That’s why he was wandering around that open-air market, searching for khaki pants in a country where they did not have khaki pants. And you know what? He found a pair!

He has that kind of outcome frequently. He figures that other people have to live, too. They must possess whatever we need in Country X, Y, or Z. He does not understand the specific height of a heel and how a certain shoe goes with a certain pant length, or how this conditioner will prevent your hair from entering Afro-land, or how gold jewelry should not be worn with silver buttons. These are important details, and unless you’re going for an island get-away where there will only be tribal natives, you’d better count on wearing something more than the local bones, shells, and leaves.

I devise the lists. Much care and consideration goes into color coordination, complementary shoes and jewelry, and necessary undergarments for any given outfit. All goes along with the anticipated activities for that day. It’s a combination of flow charts and power point presentations, all centered around what to pack. I must admit, I am a genius in these regards.

But alas, Benedetto goes comatose on these assignments. (Love you, honey! Not to worry, he never reads these….) He has the list and checks off half the items. Half. What about the other half? Did he not understand? I cannot have a suit jacket that buttons near the waist, without a top of some sort underneath.

What about the missing 50% of clothing? He didn’t have time. He had so much else to do, that he didn’t get around to it… so it didn’t come on the trip. I NEVER KNEW THAT WAS AN OPTION! Most travelers worry about whether to fold or roll, how to hang a garment in a steamy shower and hope that the wrinkles miraculously vanish. But nooo, we have to get stuck on how to make it go from the Packing List to actually being placed in the suitcase, not even progressing to the finer points of Packing 101.

The children cannot wear brown or grey on a trip and have photos that pop. They need a red fleece, or a yellow rain slicker, or a blue polo shirt against a dreary sky, or a green grass backdrop. I mean, don’t all parents know that?

I just realized after the adoption of our second son, that part of my packing problem was not packing too much, it was not having enough family members to receive higher weight allowances from the airline baggage handlers.

Then, there were eventualities for which we need to be prepared: travel sewing kits, extra vitamins, stain remover, a universal sink stopper to wash out the underwear, laundry powder, plastic hangers, rain ponchos and umbrellas, granola bars, fold-up toothbrushes. Traveling light is not my goal, instead, it’s traveling well. Being ready for anything. I should have been a girl scout.

Travel that involves any camping-like experiences is not up my alley. Although I’ve stayed in many affordable accommodations that did involve back alleys. My son still remembers the around-the-corner apartment with the security code that he would punch in quickly as sweaty restaurant workers on break sat on upturned buckets and crates, smoking nearby. For all intents and purposes, he was James Bond on a mission.

But we don’t chop toothbrushes in half, or take only one pair of underwear. I can’t understand serious hikers and campers, who buy the lightest weight stove and cooking pellets and sleeping bags, yet utilize heavy hiking boots and haul an entire tent with them. You might as well just strap the RV to your back, port-a-potty and all.

I also have an aversion to odd money devices. The sack around the neck, the money-belt or the sock-safe, all impress me as more dangerous than convenient. If I even wore socks, rather than stockings, I can only imagine bending over to grab a wad of bills, and a thief konking me on the noggin. Or needing to take off my belt in the middle of a Middle Eastern bazaar. As for a fanny pack, people think I wear one, already. Stick it in your bra or shoe, and call it a day. For me, a wallet in the purse is the civilized way to go. Anyone trying to snatch my bag’s shoulder strap will end up hauling me along with it. I don’t plan on giving up or giving in to thieves.

My hero is a lady I knew who hailed from Brooklyn, was carrying two loaves of crusty bread when a pair of thugs tried to hold her up as a young married woman. She smacked both of them in the face. Their front teeth were later found embedded in her bread.

Be security conscious when packing. Avoid taking a Hawaiian shirt to Europe, or white tennis shoes with jeans. Fly below the radar and try to blend in. For example, squelch the urge to wear your Mickey Mouse ears when touring Budapest, or the minarets of Morocco. Leave the overalls and Birkenstocks at home when venturing into mainland China. I know you feel like you have to be “you”, but really, you don’t.

If you take along at least three outfits on your trip, you can always wash one and while it’s drying, have something else to wear. Remember that not everything dries in one day. I speak from experience having used my hairdryer on wet and soggy separates in more than one hotel bathroom. Upon occasion, microfiber can be your friend.

Why do I take my own hairdryer, you ask? Because with this heavy mane of hair, no free bathroom wall appliance would successfully take on the task. Whether 1200 or 1500 watts, that would be enough blowing power to tackle one plucked eyebrow. I think they supply these hairdryers for balding businessmen.

But even when we do actually pack most everything in our super-duper, roller suitcases the size of an average family’s refrigerator, problems can occur. One of my bras was once left behind in a hotel room bathroom. I needed this black bra for an evening event. Which sent me out into the open-air markets on a day when other shops were closed.

Now, the problem was this foreign language. The word for “bra” (reggipetto) was very close to my favorite food, “chicken breast” (petti di pollo). Over and over, I was asking vendors if they had a black chicken breast that would fit me. Most of them were rough older men, so I skipped those merchants, and made clumsy attempts with the others.

It was only years later that I heard that the term “reggipetto” would only be used by one’s grandmother, that “reggiseno” was much more of an everyday term. (Folks, check your phrasebooks right now.) In other words, even when I remembered to utilize the proper term, the vendors were probably ready to sell me some big bloomer undies to match the old-fashioned brassiere I was requesting.

I finally found a sympathetic middle-aged woman (isn’t that redundant?) with a table full of intimate wear. She understood my dilemma and the fact that their sizing system was totally unlike anything I had ever encountered. She asked me to open my bulky jacket and there she sized me up on the street, no measuring tape necessary. Looked me over good and long, as did every other passerby. (No, I was wearing a shirt, so don’t even go there.) Their cup sizes were also along the lines of first, second, and third, rather than A, B, and C, which mixed it up even further. As a Type A personality who always wanted to be first in everything but had not seen an A cup in several decades, this was one time that I could lag behind those in first and second place, and still hold my head up high. The bra fit, and everything else was held high, too.

Lists are our friends before departure and take-off. Check and double-check every nook and cranny of the hotel room. Travel in the style of old Hollywood whether with steamer trunk or nylon satchel. Leave no bra left behind.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.