No, not that kind of stuffing! While the rest of you are gorging on turkey today, I’ll be picking at airline food. We’re flying out to Africa on what we hope is a low traffic travel day. So the stuffing I’ll be talking about here is stuffing a suitcase. You see, as an avid and frequent traveler, I’m always looking for ways to perfect and streamline my packing. In my dreams, I travel like Kerouac with only one small duffel with a few changes of socks, underwear and an extra clean shirt. In reality, the shear volume of electronics I lug on every adventure prohibits that kind of packing, no matter how successfully I’ve pared down my travel wardrobe. Still, for this trip, I wanted to try to do everything carry-on. Not just because we are making a lot of plane changes as we fly from San Francisco to London to Nairobi to the crop duster that will take us to our safari camp. Complicating the challenge is that I’m flying with Andy and he has a very definite and different travel style to mine. I’m the Queen of the Road trip, staying at KOAs and Best Westerns and eating at diners. For that kind of travel, three changes of outfit and one pair of shoes are all you need. I could probably pack for that with a large handbag. Andy, by contrast, only travels First Class. Plus he’s the last person since the Victorian Era who feels one should dress for dinner. I have to up my game or risk that look that says I’ve let the team down.
The first challenge is always picking a suitcase. You’ll see my choices above with a terrier shown for scale. The red camera bag/backpack to Lucy’s right is mandatory. It carries my Nikon D90, my extra lenses, and all my camera paraphenalia and still has a small backpack compartment on top. Now the rest of the suitcases are all classed as carry-ons. Andy immediately said I should take the biggest one, which is behind my camera bag. I knew I couldn’t do it with my usual carry-0n which is behind Lucy. For awhile now, I’ve been realizing this would never be the carry-on I could take as my only luggage. It has numerous flaws, the major one being that you have to load it from the top since it doesn’t open out flat. That led me to purchase the smaller Samsonite carry-on in the middle. It’s well designed and has lots of pockets and pouches. I think I could have done this trip with that suitcase if I’d worn my hiking boots on the plane. That used to be a key packing tip, wear your bulkiest shoes so they don’t take up valuable packing space. With several security check points, that’s not going to happen. I might still have been able to do it if all we were doing were safaris. But we’re also stopping at a luxury beach resort in Kenya where my niece is publicity manager. Plus we are meeting some of the African social entrepreneurs Andy mentors through a program at the Santa Clara University (Go Jesuits!) School of Business. That’s three different activities requiring three different types of clothes over a three week period. So it’s the large carry-on for the win. Which also has the advantage of being able to unzip to a larger size should I overpurchase souvenirs.
Let’s go through what I’m packing for three weeks of activities.
From left to right:
1. Three pair of technical fiber pants and a technical fiber hiking skirt (all from REI!)
2. My Tilly Air-Flow hiking hat.
3. Three pair of shoes: Keen’s low cut hiking boots, Ecco hiking sandals for walking around the camp, thin fancy sandals that will serve as “evening” shoes. Sorry, I don’t do high-heels.
4. Four long sleeved technical fabric hiking shirts (from REI) and one short sleeved yoga shirt — for a change or for wearing while I do the yoga DVDs I’ve loaded on my laptop.
5. Four pair light wool hiking socks.
6. Three sports bras and loads of underwear. One thing I’ve learned in my attempts to pack light is that you can get by with very few clothes, but you can’t pack enough clean underwear. You also don’t want to be wearing a regular bra either on safari or on a plane.
7. Squashable sun hat that unsquashes to dress up an outfit. It’s also waterproof, which is great because I never swim without a sunhat.
1. Yoga pants and top. For yoga and for a non-safari gear alternative when hanging around a resort.
2. Foldable travel yoga mat. This is a travel essential for me and, after a really long flight, a session with my DVD exercise boyfriend, Rodney Yee, is a lifesaver.
3. Two bathing suits. Because there is nothing ickier than putting on a wet bathing suit.
4. Beach cover up. And a long sleeved surfer’s rash guard — because it’s much more effective and easier than slathering sun screen over my upper body.
5. Two cotton dresses — one black for evening — and two elegant scarf wraps to dress them up. (Which is needed since both dresses were bought at REI!)
I’m probably wrong, but I’m of the school that says, if it’s black, it’s evening wear. I hedge my bets with a pashmina and a light silk scarf. Because I’m also of the school that says, if you wear the same dress two days in a row, but change the scarf, everyone will think you are in a completely different outfit.
And now for all the other stuff:
1. Hand sanitizer, Gold Bond powder (essential for hot climates!), Waxelene non-petroleum ointment (essential chafe and blister prevention for walking in hot climates)
2. Cipro — heavy duty anti-diarrhea medicine. After my experience last time I was in Africa — where I had this administered intravenously — I’m taking no chances.
3. Orajel toothache remedy and a crown and filling repair kit. Because if you are going to lose a filling or a crown, doing it thousands of miles from Western dentistry would not be fun.
4. Immodium, aspirin, handy wipes, healing skin lotion. Self-explanatory.
5. Tiny DEET free bug spray for face and for touch ups on the road. Larger tube of DEET heavy bug cream for slathering on before venturing out.
6. Backpack sized sunscreen and large size sunscreen. In Africa, you can’t have too much sunscreen!
Now for my camera bag/backpack.
1. Foldable comb, lots of pens, Moleskine travel diary.
2. Loads of eyeglasses and REI sunglasses (actually I have a second pair stashed in my carry-on.)
3. Laminated, foldable mini-user’s guide for my camera — because I still haven’t mastered it!
4. Flashlight on a lanyard. I never travel to Third World countries without it. You never realize how over-illuminated our spaces are until you travel far afield.
5. Travel wallet/pouch and travel plug adapter.
6. Large supply of Left Coast Cowboys cards. Because why not gather in some African fans?
I left my laptop poking out of my carry-on, so you’d know it’s going along. I will be blogging.