Archives for category: travel

Vacation season isn’t over yet. You still have time to pack for a trip. Remember, packing is an art, a skill, a challenge. The challenge, of course, is to arrive at your destination with underwear.

To meet that challenge, here are a number of packing tips developed by experienced travelers who have never been stuck in the middle seat between two crying 1-year-olds.

First, choose your suitcase carefully. (We assume here that you’d rather not check your bag since that would mean an increased possibility of it ending up in Beijing when you are going to Grand Rapids.)

Understand that the bigger your suitcase, the likelier you can’t get someone else to lift it for you into the overhead bins. Also, if it’s too large, you will feel required to fill up all the extra hidden pockets, thus bringing scuba diving equipment with you to the mountains.

The choice between hard-sided or soft-sided, wheelie or non-wheelie, is, of course, a deeply personal one, dependent on your religious background and whether you believe hard-sided, non-wheelie is truly the work of the devil.

Once you have chosen a suitcase, remember the goal is to fill every inch of available space. That means putting socks inside shoes, then putting toothpaste inside the socks. Jam that rain jacket into the sleeve of those pajamas. Fold your flip-flops and stuff them into your dental floss dispenser.

Limit what you pack. First, take everything out of the closet that you are considering taking with you and lay the items on the bed. If you can’t see the bed, you need to pare down a little. If you can’t see the floor, you need to re-schedule the trip.

Put heavy, bulky items in first, at the bottom of the suitcase. If you only have heavy, bulky items, you can ignore this tip, but why are you traveling with cannonballs?

Try rolling your items. This will maximize space and minimize wrinkles but can be difficult to do with the handmade Guatemalan pottery flower vase you are bringing as a birthday gift for Aunt Sophie.

If rolling doesn’t work, try the bundling technique. Carefully wrap each article of clothing around a central core, with underwear and T-shirts at the center, and large tailored items like blazers and dresses as the outer layer. While this technique is utterly useless, unraveling the bundle does make a fun getting-to-know-you game if you meet anybody interesting at the hotel.

You also could use packing cubes. These are smaller bags that you put inside larger bags that you put inside enormous bags that you try to fit into your suitcase, just as soon as you have taken out several of the cannonballs.

Then there’s my method: Take anything you want. Jam it all into the suitcase until it screams for mercy. Don’t worry about wrinkles because where you’re going, no one knows you. Sit on the bag until you can close it. Pull the zipper tight until you can lock it or it breaks.

Hope that the airline loses your bag.

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It’s summertime, it’s vacation time. But before you can actually take a vacation and luxuriate in the fact that you’re on vacation and don’t have to plan taking a vacation, there are several things you need to do.

  • Put a vacation stop on your mail.

We are assuming here that posting to Instagram is not your only method of communication and that you still use the U.S. Postal Service on occasion. By putting on a vacation stop, when you return home your mailbox won’t be filled with 17 credit card solicitations, 14 mountain foreclosure sale advertisements, seven clothing catalogues, three cards telling you you’ve won a free trip to Cancun (if you will just call this number) and many coupons for Arby’s.

  • Tell your credit card companies that you are going on vacation and will be out of town and to keep an eye out for odd transactions from odd places.

This way, when the credit card company gets a transaction for thousands of dollars of jewelry bought in La Paz, Bolivia, you will realize you should have gone to La Paz where there are good buys on jewelry

  • Decide where you want to go.

For instance, I like the mountains. My wife likes the beach. So of course, we’ll be going to Poughkeepsie, which has neither, but is a great spelling bee word.

  • Decide how you’re going to get there.

Yes, you could fly. First, you’ll have to make your reservations before the price goes up.

Oops — the price just went up. But if you are willing to travel from a different airport on a different day to a different place and don’t mind that you’ll be sharing a seat with crying triplets, it’s a deal.

However, you also could spend three and a half hours in the airport before your delayed flight is canceled. Fortunately, the airline says they can get you there on Wednesday if you don’t mind standing during the flight, probably between seats 14A and B. And they definitely will ultimately get your bag to you, probably no later than Friday.

Instead, you could drive. This would allow you to take as much stuff as you want, and not pay for your first bag or take off your shoes in the security line when you are wearing very old socks.

But there could be traffic. There could be drivers in the left lane who are going 10 miles below the speed limit even though you are screaming at them to go faster. There could be drivers in the right lane that have had their turn signal on since Indiana. The only place on the road to stop for a bite will be Arby’s, and you left all the coupons at home.

  • Decide what you want to do when you get to your vacation spot.

Some people like to just relax on their vacations while others like to explore and discover. Still others like to argue with the airline about where their suitcases are.

Now that you’ve finally jammed your 75-pound carry-on into the overhead bin and kept this flight’s other 132 passengers waiting in the aisle for 17 minutes while you were whacking that elderly lady in 14C in the face, please turn your attention to the front of the airplane for this safety briefing.

When the seat belt sign is on, you must fasten your seat belt. Otherwise we will use rope and glue to attach you directly to the seat and will not be able to guarantee that you will come unstuck after landing.

To fasten your seat belt, just in case you’ve never been in an automobile before and don’t know how to do it, take this piece here and stick it into this piece there. Wait for the click. Then pull the strap to tighten until you can barely breathe and you’ve left stretch marks on your hips.

We suggest you keep your seat belt fastened throughout the flight, as we might encounter rough air, which is the term we now use instead of turbulence, which is the term we used to use to indicate we’re about to plunge into the ocean.

There are several emergency exits on this aircraft. Please take a few moments now to locate them. If you find them all, you will receive 20 percent off your drink order on your next flight.

In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, a book of appropriate prayers will automatically drop down and appear in front of you. To begin rhythmically chanting, pull the prayers toward you, place them firmly over your nose and mouth and scream as loud as you can. The screams will be muffled and thus not alarm your seatmates.

If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, say your prayers first, and then apologize directly to the child for your refusal to ever get her a pet.

A life vest is located under your seat or between the armrests. Or maybe it’s in the bins, squashed by your 75-pound carry-on. When instructed to do so, open the plastic pouch and remove the vest. Slip it over your head. No, not the plastic pouch, you ninny. Pass the straps around your waist and adjust at the front.

If it still doesn’t fit, perhaps you’re not a size medium after all.

To inflate the vest, pull firmly on the red cord. If there is no red cord, pull firmly on anything you can find until something works. This would include your seatmate’s ears or the flight attendant’s bow tie.

Your seat bottom cushion also can be used as a flotation device, particularly since it’s not very good as a seat cushion, especially if you are seated in regular economy.

At this time, all your portable electronic devices — including your mobile phone, your laptop, your iPad, your Kindle, your Apple watch and your Tickle Me Elmo must be set to airplane mode until further notice.

Please remember that this is a non-smoking flight. If you smell smoke, therefore, it’s probably one of our engines.

You will find all other safety information in the card located in the seat pocket in front of you. It’s the one with the chewing gum stuck to it.

To me — or rather, to my body, with whom I’m in semi-regular contact — it’s still yesterday evening at 9:41. On the other hand, it may actually be 4:31 a.m. tomorrow. That’s if today is Monday. Or maybe it’s Wednesday.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what day it is. That’s because I’m still suffering from jet lag.

I recently returned from a long-distance trip across a dozen time zones, which forced me to change my watch 12 separate times and eat breakfast again and again since it continued to be morning somewhere. While the Cheerios were OK and the turkey bacon was fine, though it doesn’t get as crisp as you would like, the jet lag isn’t.

Technically speaking, jet lag is desynchronosis or, among friends, circadian dysrhythmia. That is, it’s a condition with many syllables that no one really understands or can do anything about. It causes fatigue, difficulty concentrating and irritability. It also has some negative impacts.

You go to bed at the wrong time. You wake up at the wrong time. You do your laundry when you still have some clean pants left. You sometimes think you’re in Cincinnati. And worst of all, you can’t find your sunglasses even though they are on top of your head.

In other words, jet lag is pretty much like regular life, just someplace else and at a different time.

Despite wide-ranging research that didn’t harm any animals during testing and didn’t actually come up with any results, there are no real cures for jet lag. There are, however, many suggestions on how to avoid or best deal with it. I have tried them all.

You are supposed to set your watch to the time at your destination in an attempt to re-orient your circadian rhythms even if you couldn’t find your circadian rhythms and had probably left them at the office.

This worked, sort of. My watch wasn’t tired at all by the time I got to my destination. In fact, the minutes kept challenging the seconds to a game of beach volleyball. I, on the other hand, who has never had much rhythm and can’t clap to the beat, even if it’s a slow song, was exhausted.

You are supposed to change your sleep routine in advance of travel.

I did this. Instead of falling asleep late and getting up too early, I fell asleep too early and got up even earlier. I also alternated pillows.

Still exhausted.

It is suggested that you take melatonin, which is a natural supplement that is so natural it is gluten-free and doesn’t include even a smidgen of kale. It is made of air and a little bit of light. It is supposed to naturally help adjust the body’s natural clock, mainly by pressing the natural hour button four times and then hitting, naturally, defrost.

I took two pills yesterday evening. Or maybe that was today. On the other hand, it could have been tomorrow.