One of the most exciting parts of a trip is the journey; however, one of the most difficult parts is the packing. It starts for me, of course, with a detailed list of items to be taken along to the destination.
Years ago, airline travel was much simpler. Patrons bought a ticket, which guaranteed a seat, as well as a slot in the cargo bay for a suitcase. However, American Airlines set a precedent in May 2008 in the wake of economic recession and lagging revenues: it began charging a fee to check a bag. The initial price was $15, but it has since increased to $25, which is fairly standard among all major carriers.
Airlines attributed the added cost to the increasing price of jet fuel. At the time the fees were imposed, a barrel of fuel hovered around $150. Despite the drop in fuel prices to $50 a barrel by September 2016, baggage fees remained. So much for blankets, pillows, and snacks—beyond peanuts or pretzels—luxuries that used to be standard fare.
For a time, I always checked bags, which takes extra time in dropping off and picking up. One of the main reasons I did so had to do with the events of 2006 that changed airline regulations. That year, a transatlantic plot to detonate liquid explosives disguised as soft drink cans on flights between the United Kingdom and the United States and Canada surfaced. For a time, all liquids were banned from being brought into the cabin. However, a few months later, the rule was relaxed, allowing a limited number on-board.
Granted, males may require fewer liquid toiletries. However, for a woman traveling, those items might include shampoo, conditioner, hair products, body wash, makeup remover, makeup, lotion, moisturizers, and the like. One gets the idea.
Each bottle must be sized at 3.4 ounces or smaller, and, theoretically, all bottles should fit in a quart-sized plastic storage bag. This bag must be removed when going through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) process to enter safeguarded areas of the airport beyond the entry point and placed in one of the plastic bins, separate from all other items. Else, liquids larger than 3.4 ounces, including water bottles, get singled out for discard during the x-ray process.
Within the last year, I have figured out a solution to my airline liquids issue. TSA is adamant about the size of bottles. However, they are not as adamant about the quart-sized storage bag. I discovered a slightly larger hard plastic zippered bag on Amazon, and the reviews for getting through the airport with it stowed full of liquids were favorable.
I ordered one, packed it full of small bottles of toiletries, and have made it through TSA security several times. I simply placed it in a “personal item” bag that attaches to the handles of my rolling carry-on, and voilà, I’m set to cleanse and groom for several days while away from home.
My next obstacle was dirty clothing. It seems that no matter what I did, the items I wore while traveling multiplied when I tried to repack them as the days passed, and the return trip grew closer.
I discovered, also on Amazon, set of small vinyl bags. I think they’re originally intended either for shoe bags or wet bags for bathing suits, but toss a few of them, washed and folded neatly, into a carry-on, and they make for an easy way to organize the combination of clean, unworn clothing and those that have been worn—as long as the dirty items are folded neatly or rolled to compress space.
My most significant problem still remains: over-packing. As an obsessive compulsive traveler who fears lamentation of an item I have left behind but for which I might harbor great longing, I always take more items than are truly necessary—especially when it comes to shoes. Again, though, from a female perspective, one can never have too many shoe options.
However, according to National Geographic's “Ten Rules of Packing” author Aric Queen, travelers should bring only half of the clothes intended to be packed and twice the amount of money planned upon. (Now he tells me. Perhaps if I didn’t have so many clothes and shoes, I might indeed have more money!)
According to James Eagleman, travel blogger and “light” packer, the best way to go is with less “stuff,” maybe the Zen method of traveling. As he points out, previous humans took 100,000 miles to populate the globe, and they took long journeys for thousands of miles. It would have kind of hard to do had they been as enamored of their belongings as we are today, when we have to procure transportation just to move a container full of clothes for one week from the airport to the hotel.
I’d prefer to do better. As novelist Chuck Palahniuk said, “The things you own end up owning you.” I’d prefer to own the memories and the experience, not be bogged down by so much baggage along the way.
(Daily Corinthian columnist Stacy Jones teaches English at McNairy Central High School and UT Martin and has served on the board of directors at Corinth Theatre-Arts. She enjoys being a downtown Corinth resident.)