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Packing Your Bags for Your Vacation

How Not to Forget Your Battery Charger and Other Packing Tips


Everyone has different philosophies when they pack for vacation. I have my own prejudices. I like a well designed bag built to last. I'm not going to take the risk of having to carry a backpack with a broken strap, or a rolling suitcase with a bum wheel. I also know of many people who manage to forget one bit of essential gear for their camera or computer. Below you'll find tips for how I pack for a working vacation in Europe.

1. First, the Easy stuff: Packing Your Clothes

packing tip rolling clothing
James Martin

Clothing isn't as important to me as it is for others. Unlike my mother, I don't have a shoe fetish, so I just wear a pair of comfortable shoes so I don't have any in my bag. Shoes are heavy. If you're taking the train and have to heave your luggage up those steep stairs, you'll regret weight, believe me.

All my clothing goes together. I don't do "outfits." I carry some clothing that is old and comfortable that I'll wear a few times and discard, making room for purchased items later.

In the off season I might take a small, collapsible umbrella. In summer I risk it. In Europe, when it even threatens rain, immigrants loaded down with cheap umbrellas flood the streets.

I don't have or use a packing list. I roll my clothes.

2. Dealing with Technology - Cameras, Computers, Telephones and More.

technology picture
James Martin

It's easy to say, "I'll take my camera." It's lots harder to pack all the stuff you need to deal with digital images. You've got cards, a battery charger, cables and lots of things you might need to show your pictures or to get them online.

So here's what I do. I lay everything I think I need out on a pink towel. Then, like a complete lunatic, I give myself assignments. "You need to take pictures and a video of the Leaning Tower of Pisa." Then I run through all the things I need for that assignment. Charged batteries and charger? Check. Memory cards? Check. "So now you need to write an article and put the pictures in it." Computer, charger, mouse? Check.

Only then would I think of putting it all in the "technology bag."

3. The Technology Bag - Tom Bihn Western Flyer

technology bag, packing tips
James Martin
This spring I'll be putting all that stuff you saw on the pink towel up there inside a Tom Bihn Western Flyer. It's big enough and has enough pockets to keep all that little stuff organized. There's a laptop sleeve for my travel laptop. It's built like a tank. When you have thousands of dollars of technology in your bag, you don't want a stitch to come loose and make it all worthless. Why spend $1500 on a camera and save $75 dollars by buying an iffy bag? That's my philosophy anyway.

4. Computer Sleeve - Tom Bihn Brain Cell

computer packing
James Martin

Recent changes in US security procedures allow for your computer to remain in a bag during x-ray if there is nothing in the bag or sleeve blocking the view. The idea is that if you don't have cables and dongles running all around your computer, the scanner can have a good shot at seeing exactly if your laptop does indeed look like a laptop. So I sheath my travel laptop in a Tom Bihn Horizontal Brain Cell, where it gets a tremendous amount of protection as well as being hidden from prying eyes as it goes through x-ray.

Please note that the operator has the right to ask you to remove your computer from any enclosure, certified or not.

Find out more about Checkpoint Friendly Bags from the TSA.

5. No-Jet-Lag

no jet lag
James Martin

Here's an item I make sure not forget to pack. No-Jet-Lag is a homeopathic product that seems to help many overcome jet lag symptoms. It always seems to work for me; I've forgotten the little pills and been miserable. Your mileage may vary, of course.

6. Wanderlite Packable Day Pack

wanderlite daypack, wanderlite day pack, packable daypack
Picture by James Martin, licensed to About.com

Another indispensable item for me is a dedicated day pack. The Wanderlite packs up small in your bag, so you can unpack it and use it in the field. Then when I want to take a long walk, I have a dedicated bag for my lunch and my (paper) notebook.

7. The Wine Mummy

wine mummy

Ok, so we can't take wine in our carry on any more. Do you really trust the burly guys who hoist your bags onto the conveyor belt? Neither do I. According to the lit, this bag protects the bottle with padding, and protects your clothing when all goes wrong with a tough, liquid resistant closure.

We'll bring our Italian neighbors some California wine to test this thing out, then give it a proper review.

Related Video
Tips for Traveling With a Laptop

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