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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 email@example.com
After I’ve run the security gauntlet, after I’ve shown my ID, after I’ve exposed the contents of my bag to whoever is manning the scanner, after I’ve emptied my pockets and made my way through, the world shrinks to the faces and voices I hear in the airport.
An airport is a collection of every kind of human and there is no better place for watching people. The strangers in the crowd are rich, poor, kind, crude, happy and unhappy. They are young. They are old. They sprint down the concourse or they ride in chairs pushed by others. We all hurry and we all wait. We move forward and stand in line. Some speak languages I don’t understand, but at that moment we all have one thing in common: We are all trying to get from here to there.
I stop to buy some fruit for breakfast and beside me a man sits hunched over the bar, his overnight bag at his feet. His face is strained and his mind is far away and I wonder if more than his drink is on the rocks.
As I walk past the “spa” another man stares off into the distance as he massages the neck of one more anonymous passenger who’s bought a little time in the chair. He is a robot with strong, warm, hands.
I find an empty gate and stop to charge my phone before I depart. A few rows away a pilot, his luggage piled beside him, is talking on the phone and after a few minutes I realize he’s talking to his wife and they are discussing the terms of their upcoming divorce. His voice is thick with anger and pain and, embarrassed to have stumbled into the scene, I unplug my phone and move on.
When my flight is called, people immediately crowd the gate, jockeying for position too early, dragging heavy bags behind them, anxious to get on the plane as quickly as possible before all the overhead bin space is filled. One couple works as a team. She edges forward, slipping between people who are distracted by last-minute emails or texts, their attention on their iPhones instead of what is going on around them. Once she’s in place she motions for him and he slides in beside her. Another mans silently gauges the diligence of the gate agent and I see him decide to slip into the priority line, hoping the harried agent won’t notice. She doesn’t.
On the plane two elderly women, their white hair permed, pink scalp showing between the tight curls, settle into their seats and, delighted to have an empty seat between them, forget we haven’t even taken off. They drop the middle seat-back tray and set up the picnic they’ve brought along, just like they’re on a train. They pull out sandwiches brought from home, wrapped in aluminum foil and tucked into folded paper plates, then settle back into their seats. Moments later the flight attendant comes by, sees what they’ve done, and gently—like she’s speaking to her own grandmother—tells them the tray must be up for takeoff. They’re embarrassed and hurriedly put everything away but something in me responds to their sweetness, their homemade picnic and the gentle way they do as their told.
Once all passengers are on board, just before they close the doors, a woman tries to switch to an empty seat a few rows up but it’s in an upgrade section and the flight attendants won’t let her. “It wouldn’t be fair to those who paid extra to sit there,” they tell her. The woman goes back to her assigned seat, with a few less inches of legroom, and turns away to look out the window.
Sometime during the flight we pass over the Rockies and the air becomes rough. The man across the aisle smooths his palms over his knees again and again in a soothing motion. His face shows nothing but his hands keep moving until the worst is over. I wonder what he would do if I reached out and covered his hand with mine, the way I would do with one of my children.
The women eat their picnic.
When we land everyone jumps up and starts dragging bags out of the bins, piling them into the aisles and around their feet, anxious to get away, to be part of the prisoner exchange that happens each time a plane rolls up to a gate.
It’s like a movie. All hours of the day, in airports around the world, the scenes are repeated as passengers file in and passengers file out. Each of us carries more than a bag, more than a boarding pass. We all bear the invisible weight of a story.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Item: Spokane Airport offering patrons air mile rewards: Airlines, hotels also sign on to program/Mike Prager, SR.
More Info: Frequent fliers in the Inland Northwest can now bump up their airline mileage accounts by joining Spokane International Airport’s new customer rewards program. Airport officials last week announced that enrolled participants will receive air miles for money they spend on parking and retail purchases at the airport. In addition, the rewards will apply to dining and lodging at the Ramada Spokane Airport and Wingate by Wyndham hotels. Other restaurants and businesses outside the airport could be added to the program, officials said. The new rewards program follows a series of changes intended to improve what airport officials call the “customer experience.”
Question: Are you adept at using frequent flyer/rewards programs to get free stuff?
I don’t want much. I just want the perfect suitcase.
I spend hours looking at suitcases and duffles and carry-on bags. I shop online, in department stores and at specialty shops. I read reviews and ask my friends for recommendations. I weigh the merits of outdoorsy rolling duffles, high-tech polycarbonate and ultralight nylon bags.
Occasionally, I make the sacrifice and buy the expensive bag and get my heart broken when it comes back to me with a broken zipper or missing wheel. Sometimes I make an impulse buy, snagging a bargain at an outlet or discount store and usually, but not always, after only a few flights, I’m disappointed.
Finding a good bag is no easy task. A suitcase has to be heavy enough to survive the battering it will take just getting through the airport and into the belly of the plane. But, it has to be light enough that I can manage it if I have to run through a busy terminal to catch a flight. It needs to fit in the overhead bin when I don’t want to pay a fee to check it. It has to be practical, with a place for everything. It needs wheels, but not just any kind of wheel. The perfect suitcase needs to roll in every direction, with only the barest touch. Oh, and I’d really like it to cost less than a week’s salary.
Of course, If I’m completely honest, there’s more than practicality involved. As with anything we wear or carry, a certain amount of vanity comes in to play.
I hate to admit it, but I think a suitcase can say something about its owner. Spend enough time in airports and you start to notice people and the bags they carry. You know what I mean. They don’t have to be in uniform; when you see men and women who have stacked and strapped their TravelPro bags into a tower of portable efficiency, you know it’s a flight crew.
Watching the older couple with the Avocado Green hard-body Samsonite you get the feeling they’re still using the suitcase they carried on their honeymoon, an investment that obviously paid off. And the woman who is holding the knockoff “Louis Vuitton” duffle while she scarfs down a Big Mac and waits with the crowd until time to board and squeeze into her economy seat? Well, she’s not fooling anyone.
I have a closet full of suitcases that promised great things and didn’t live up to expectations, but I keep on looking. Like I said, I don’t want much. I just want a travel companion that didn't cost an arm and a leg and won’t let me down. Oh, and if it happens to say to anyone who’s watching that “Here is a woman who
is really going somewhere,” well, so much the better.
Question: Have you found the perfect piece of luggage? I'd love to hear your recommendation!
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer based in Spokane, Washington, whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of 'Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons' and can be reached at email@example.com
From left; Frederick Ryan , Jr., chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation; former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Charles Snelling, chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, take part in the unveiling of a statue of President Ronald Reagan today at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport. A nine-foot statue honoring Reagan has been unveiled at the Washington-area airport that bears his name, more than a decade after the facility was renamed for him. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Question: Do you consider Ronald Reagan to be a good-to-great president?
Here’s a local development that illustrates the power of a book: On Dec. 22, the tower at Spokane International Airport was officially named the Ray Daves Air Traffic Control Tower.
And it all came about because of the 2008 book “Radioman: An Eyewitness Account of Pearl Harbor and World War II in the Pacific” (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) by Carol Hipperson, a Spokane author.
“Radioman” is about Ray Daves, a local Pearl Harbor survivor. His story resonated with the air traffic controllers at the airport, who started a drive to name the tower after their fellow radioman.
It wasn’t easy. In fact, it took an act of Congress. But they persevered, and the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate came on board. On Dec. 22, President Obama signed a bill officially naming the tower after Daves.
And on Feb. 25, Daves and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who sponsored the legislation, will be at the tower for a dedication ceremony.
“It’s about the power of a book,” said Hipperson. “You could even refer to it as a ‘concrete example.’”