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What should I pack?**

To my absolute shock, after I wrote some travel blog posts and books, people started to ask for advice about what to pack for international travel. I really wasn’t going to reply until someone sent me a link to de-cluttering goddess Marie Kondo packing a suitcase by rolling underwear into little suishi-shapes and stacking them sideways. Apparently you’re only supposed to pack stuff that “sparks joy”—but having things spark in your suitcase seems a good way to get tossed off your flight. Still, she’s made millions telling people this stuff. So…packing.

My own approach to packing has changed over the years.

1970s: Sometimes, you just have to go with the pros…


“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.
Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”—Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1971 [Image credit: Open Culture]

**[NOTE: For my 1970s travels, I usually tossed a couple of scarves into my backpack. They could be tied into halter tops and wrap skirts. Plus I would throw in pair of shorts, for that day when I absolutely had to wash the jeans. Add a toothbrush, a couple of primitive, manually-operated artifacts we called “books”, and I was good to go. To Europe. For months.]

1980s: We were outnumbered

We travelled with three young children, so the only packing tip I can clearly remember retaining is that those inflatable water-wings you put on the kids so they won’t drown actually make great packing-wraps for bottles of booze. And—three kids, remember?—you WILL be needing those bottles. Plus if you’re down at the hot tub late at night and you need some floating bottles…well, I’m certainly not going to judge.

[Image credit: Ottawa Mommy club]

The following packing advice is an excerpt from my book, Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And the Dog Dies.

TIP: You could tie a colored ribbon to the handle of your suitcase. But having Firebox print your book (or image of your choice) as a suitcase wrap makes finding it on the luggage carousel a snap.

For all you amateurs out there planning a trip with your children—we recommend at least three under age six—here are a few professional tips.

PACKING: Make two piles, Essential and Nonessential. The first thing to put in the Essential pile is several industrial-sized packages of diapers. You never know when you’ll be in some foreign locale (anywhere it’s a toll call to your pediatrician) where they might not have disposable diapers.

Also, your children will naturally want to bring several mementos of home. You can refuse them, at least the first couple of hundred times they ask. In the end, however, you’ll find it’s easier just to go ahead and add the Ms. Dolly, Miss Baby, and Mr. Ernie dolls, plus all the kids’ bedding, clothes, books, toys, and electronic gadgets to the Essential pile.

This pile should also contain large stocks of snack foods with the average nutritional value of carpet lint. Relax! Only total strangers will actually see you feeding it to your kids, and the odds are they won’t mention it to your in-laws. These snacks will allow you to go for extended periods without stopping the car, sometimes 16 to 18 minutes at a stretch.

In the Nonessential pile, you can put the road maps and your clothes, if you want. But there won’t be enough room in the car for them, so really…why bother? I advise slipping in a change of any underwear that will fit into that little pocket in the driver’s door. Something unisex works well here.

1990-2000s: Our kids were teenagers. Our travel was not pretty.

1. Do I look like I care that you didn’t ask to come? Or to be born?
2. No. We’re not listening to your friend’s super good demo tape. Again.
3. I told you to go at the last wormhole. Now you can just hold it.
4. Don’t make me stop this starship and come back there.

It’s probably best for all concerned if we draw a curtain—one of those really thick, blanket-lined blackout ones—over any vacation attempts. (Some of the lawsuits are still pending.)

Now: Grownup Travel

I only have one travel secret—always go with other people who know what they’re doing. So I asked my two travel buddies, Janine and Jaya, about packing lists for our India trips. Here’s what we recommend you pack:

Check out our travel series, Your Camels Are Here

• Bottled water
• Electric kettle
• Instant coffee. (Starbucks Via® sachets make good emergency hostess gifts. Or they would if I could spare them. Self-preservation hoarding—I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.)
• The really big box of Costco granola bars
• Industrial strength chocolate. And maybe emergency backup chocolate. No sense in taking chances.
• Ominously large supplies of Imodium
• Mosquito repellent
• Power banks and adaptors, chargers, cables, and well…all the electronica.
• Laundry soap and a bungee cord for rigging a clothes line. Washing clothes in India is easy because laundry dries so quickly. And there was only that one time the monkeys stole it…
• A hat
• Band-aids. Or if you speak British, plasters and a stiff upper lip.
• Gin and tonic. (Don’t worry if there’s no room for the tonic. You can always brush your teeth in the gin.)
• If you have any room left, you can stuff a few changes of underwear into one of those little pockets on the outside of your suitcase. But not if it’s a choice between that and the chocolate or the Imodium, obviously.

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Packing: essentials only
[image credit: Tenor]