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Travel: Luggage tips: Pack right and carry on

Planning for two days in New York—including a night at the theater and a lot of sightseeing—a 7-day transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2 with at least two formal nights, and then another three days hoofing it around London before flying back home, made packing—especially in a small suitcase—a challenge. I had to pack a gown and cocktail dress for the ship’s formal nights, a raincoat for the changeable English weather, and the right combination of comfortable shoes and clothing for a variety of situations. And I was determined to fit it all into my 21-inch Travelpro carry-on bag. 


Having chased lost luggage on a multiple-destination trip before, I’ve become wary of checking my bag, especially when I’m going to be on a cruise and my shopping options to replace lost clothing will be limited. 


Fortunately, I've figured out a  packing system that lets me get a lot in a small bag. 


Here’s what I took along: One evening gown, one cocktail dress, two pair of black microfiber slacks (hand-washable,) one linen blazer (also hand-washable) five blouses, two long sleeve t-shirts, one lightweight cashmere sweater, a raincoat and tiny umbrella, a lightweight fleece, yoga pants, and PJs. I added a folding tote bag and a compression bag to create space for any souvenirs I wanted to bring home. 


Here’s how I did it:


Hang Ups: My dresses, including the evening gown, are jersey. They can be rolled tightly in my suitcase but after hanging a few hours and a spritz of Downy Wrinkle Releaser be ready to wear when the occasion arises. I don’t know how the wrinkle releaser works, it just does. I keep a travel-size spray bottle in my kit. The shirts were packed fresh from the dry cleaners, still in the thin plastic bag which prevents wrinkles.


Cube Control: Everything is sorted into Eagle Creek packing cubes (purchased at REI) which make living out of a suitcase easier. I know right where to look for what I need, no need for digging through a messy suitcase. On the ship I put the dresses, blouses and slacks on hangers in the closet and put the rest of the cubes on the closet shelves for both privacy and organization.  


Happy Feet: The right shoes can make or break a trip. I brought along one pair of dressy heels, my black Clark’s booties (the best travel shoes I’ve ever owned,) one pair of day-to-evening black flats, and one pair of lightweight Ecco slip-on walking shoes. 


The Little Things: My makeup, lotions and toiletries were all separated into see-through mesh pouches. My petite travel flatiron (for taming my hair in the humidity) comes in its own travel pouch. Since my clothes are usually neutral—black plants and white or beige shirts- and a natural linen blazer for summer-I always pack five or six folded silk scarves in a plastic zip bag. This lets me add color to my wardrobe without any additional weight.


Tools of My Trade: I usually travel with my laptop, and/or my iPad, my iPhone and a camera (sometimes two cameras.) All the various chargers, cords, batteries and accessories are sorted into more see-through mesh bags and everything (including my purse, to meet the “two pieces only” airline carry-on regulations) goes into a lightweight rolling backpack.



    As it turned out, I had everything I needed for the two-week trip, but was still well under the luggage weight and size limit. My husband had no qualms about checking a bag so (full disclosure) I knew I had room to expand if absolutely necessary, but I’m proud to say I was able to make my small-bag system work.


Note: New airline carry-on luggage size restrictions went into effect this spring. To avoid having to check your bag, be sure it does not exceed a maximum of 14 inches wide by 22 inches high by 9 inches deep. 


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a Spokane-based travel writer. She can be reached at

Travel: Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Those aren’t pillows!)

   You hear a lot about how uncomfortable modern travel has become and it’s all true. Long lines, security screenings, cancelled flights and cramped seats can take the fun out of getting from one place to another. But, for the sake of argument, I’d like to point out things can go terribly wrong when we get too comfortable.

    It was the earliest flight out and we were a bleary bunch as we boarded. I’d scored an upgrade and sank gratefully into my first class aisle seat. Some people closed their eyes as soon as they sat down and you could already hear snores in the cabin even as the line of passengers was still filing down the aisle and fighting for space in the overhead bins.

     The woman beside me immediately opened her computer, her fingers flying across the keyboard. Across the aisle to my right, two men, dressed in suits and ties, were silently drinking cups of coffee and scanning emails on their Blackberrys. Finally, the plane took off and after breakfast was served the cabin was silent, except for the sound of my seat mate's typing.

   Later, folding back the pages of my newspaper, I glanced over at the two men across the aisle and realized they were both asleep. The thing is, they weren’t just dozing. They were deeply asleep, dead to the world and sort of folded toward one another. Not quite touching, but close. Very close.
    Smothering a laugh, I went back to my paper and it was some time before I glanced their way again. But things had only gotten worse. The two men were by then, shoulder to shoulder, face to face. They looked like an old married couple sleeping nose to nose, with eyes closed and mouths wide open. Still not touching, but close. So dangerously close.

    I tried not to stare but it was hard. I’ve flown a lot of miles and seen a lot of sleeping passengers, but I’ve never seen anything quite like the two men across from me that morning.

    The flight attendant came down the aisle with coffee and did a double-take when she saw them.  Startled, she looked over at me and then hurried back to the galley. Soon another flight attendant was peeking out. By this time the woman beside me had noticed and was laughing softly.

    Our flight attendant returned and, obviously thinking ahead to what might happen if one of the men woke first and, well, took offense, leaned in and asked softly if she could get either of them a pillow. At the sound of her voice their eyes opened, each immediately taking in the closeness of the other, and they flew apart, retreating as far as possible to the edge of the seats.

    The men sat up and with extreme nonchalance, straightened ties, checked wristwatches and brushed invisible lint off their trousers. It reminded me of the scene in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, where John Candy and Steve Martin wake up and realize they’ve been sleeping spooned together, hands tucked where they shouldn’t be, and try to shake it off with a lot of harrumphing and throat clearing.  I had to hide my face behind the newspaper in my hands again.

    When the plane landed the two men quickly gathered up their belongings, walked out into the crowded terminal and never looked back.  And I’m willing to bet that’s one extremely uncomfortable travel story neither of them will ever tell another soul.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She can be reached at

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Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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