Expert Packing tips for any trip

I know some of you have been thinking “Gee, we haven’t heard from her for awhile. I hope she hasn’t run out of stories!” Fear not. There were still stories from this week.

Unfortunately, the big story from my last week of travel involved a poor gentleman who experienced a medical emergency and collapsed at the gate while we were waiting to board. And while I can find the humor in almost any situation, there is never anything funny about someone experiencing a medical emergency anywhere, but especially not in public.

The good news is, by the time the paramedics arrived, the gentleman seemed to be doing much better. Prayers everything turned out okay for he and his wife.

And now I am preparing for my next event filled week on the road. Two weeks actually.

Everyone assumes I must be the world’s best packer by now, after over 3 years of packing nearly every week.

I really wish everyone was right. I know by now it should be routine and something I can do in 20 min or less.

It isn’t.

I hate packing. Still. With a passion. For lots of reasons.

One of those reasons being that I can think of SO many things I would rather be doing with the few precious days I have at home than packing again for the next time on the road.

Like spending time with my fabulous friends and going to watch Dueling Pianos. Such a fun night listening to great performers playing all the fun and classic songs of the ages. I was actually a little hoarse from all the singing last night. For those of you thinking, “wow, the girl can sing too!” Don’t worry. I absolutely can not sing. Not even a little bit. That fact did absolutely nothing to prevent me from belting out tunes at the top of my lungs.

I’d even rather spend some of my weekend  cleaning out my refrigerator when I realize it has eaten all my food storage dishes, then packing. Just FYI, I found several dishes in there I didn’t recognize. While it may be true they’ve been in there so long I forgot I ever had them, if you by chance brought any food to my house at any time in the last few months, I may have your dish.

Hey, this is a judgment-free zone, right? And if it isn’t, I’m sure you’ve already judged me on something worse than the condition of my fridge by now.

 

Another reason may be because I may have a few too many clothes. I may have a bit of an online shopping problem. I am on first name terms with my UPS man, he spends so much time at my house. We have coffee on the porch weekly.

I know the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. I’ll admit it. But I have no interest in solving this particular problem.

So I spend the beginning of every packing episode staring dumbly into my closet trying to figure out where to even start.

I know they have these great apps that will help you organize your closet and even put outfits together for you. It’ll even let you take pics of rocking outfits you managed to put together on your own, so you remember them for the future. I even have a couple of these apps on my phone. But it takes a lot of time and effort to be that organized. Organization has never really been my strong suit.

I do much better with the spontaneity and chaos of living in the moment.

Which may be why I always end up with stories.

So I stand and stare into my closet until something inspires me to pull it out. Then I pull out half my closet, throw it across my bed, and begin the process of trying to figure out what goes with what and what I might feel like wearing for the next 4-5 days.

By the time my suitcase is holding enough clothes for my next trip, my room looks like a typhoon has hit and I have lost hours of my life I will never get back.

And somehow I still never have exactly what I need or feel like wearing when I want it.

I really, really wish everyone was right. I wish this post was full of  lots of amazing tips I could offer everyone on how to be a great packer. Maybe someday I will be bitten by the efficient packer bug.

Instead,  I now have at least an hour of cleaning up from the typhoon of packing for 2 weeks calling my name.

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

 

The Rush for A17

I love the heart pounding, adrenaline rush of leaving things to the last possible second. Of making a save right before the buzzer. Of rushing to your gate with literally less than a minute to boarding.

I am no novice to this travel gig. I have been doing this for a year or two. I have it down to a science exactly what time I need to leave my house and make it to my gate with 15 min or so to spare. Sometimes, if all the stars align, I even have a 30-minute buffer. I don’t like to give myself too much extra time. I already spend enough time in airports as it is.

Yesterday, all the stars most definitely did not align.

It all started with traffic, as does every good story.

For no reason that was readily apparent to my limited view of Colorado life, there was a sudden influx of cars that decided to travel between my house and the airport. It wasn’t a holiday. There was no big event going on in between, that I am aware of. No celebrity was standing on the side of the road signing autographs. So I’m not sure what led to this influx of vehicles. I even go the “back way” to try to avoid these vehicles. But evidently, yesterday so did everyone else.

The downside to the back way? It is very difficult to get around those folks who have not figured out what the long, skinny pedal does.

So I found myself stuck behind a long line of such folks.

Eventually, I made it to my off site parking spot, where they know me by name. Who needs a bar stool?

The shuttle stars were out of wack too, and there was an unusual wait for the shuttle to transport us to the airport. Of course.

This gave me a chance to spend some time with a precocious little 6-year-old. She informed me that she has already visited 26 states. And that she had just returned from one trip. But not on a plane. And was now traveling to San Diego. This time on a plane. And that, having  2 brothers, she was the only princess in her family. Naturally. Trust me.  I took notes. Being such an experienced traveler, she had a lot I could learn to become a better traveler myself. But I was more interested in the tips on being a princess.

I did not, however, take tips from her parents on packing lite. I thought I was a hefty packer. At 9 bags (not counting car seats and strollers) they had me beat by a long shot.

The stars that were the most out of line yesterday?  The beloved TSA Security.

I pay for TSA Pre-Check. Partly because I enjoy feeling like I’m in a VIP club. But mostly because I enjoy the shorter lines and the expedited experience. It’s not even about not having to remove my shoes. I regularly wear heels, so I still have to remove them. The x-ray machines are evidently biased against the steel rods in women’s heels.

But I digress.

I did not enjoy a shorter line or an expedited experience yesterday. I suspected there might be trouble when the end of the Pre-Check line was around the corner from the entrance. My suspicions were confirmed when I saw people in the regular security line getting through security faster than those of us in the expedited Pre-Check club. Yes, those regular people who have to remove their shoes, laptops and liquids were speeding through faster than us VIPs. Something was very wrong with this picture.

20 minutes later, and with slightly more than 5 minutes until boarding, I was standing in line waiting for the train to the terminals.

And waiting. And waiting. Was anything running on schedule today?

Not the train.

4 min and counting. And 3 terminal stops to go.

I finally exit the train exactly at boarding time and get stuck in the slow flow of folks funneling up the escalator.

For those of you wondering why boarding time is such a central part of my story, as opposed to the time they close the boarding doors, I have one word for you.

Southwest.

I love Southwest airlines. I fly them all the time. I am part of their VIP club.

But to fly Southwest airlines makes boarding position very important. If I was late by even a minute I could lose my coveted A17 spot.

Thankfully, I did not lose my spot. Or my front of the plane aisle seat. I walked up to the gate as the last pre-board passenger was being wheeled onto the plane.

I did have to forgo my liter bottle of water and any lunch though. At least it was only a 2 hour flight so it was very unlikely I would die from starvation or dehydration.

The one thing that happened to run on time yesterday, oddly enough, was the flight.

Where’s a good delay when you actually need one??

 

Oh, the people you will meet…

I will admit. I did hope by taking a week off from travel I might get lucky and reset my travel karma. But it was not to be. I am sitting here waiting for my flight that has been delayed an hour.

I did miss the chance to be a part of the eventful week for travel stories though.

Like having the chance to travel with the couple who decided to wage a shirtless protest over being told to check their bags. Evidently Baby Bags, decided to regurgitate it’s lunch all over Mamma Bags’ shirt shortly after take off. Mamma Bags then decided the shirt was “unwearable”.

Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t had the pleasure of being regurgtated on by a Baby while at 30,000 feet. But I have dumped an entire Venti dark roast down the front of my white shirt shortly before boarding, and still managed to wear it for the remainder of the trip. So I suspect there may be some grey area around this “unwearable” determination.

Nonetheless, Mamma Bags removes her shirt, and Daddy Bags gives her his to wear. Very gallant. Until he proceeds to argue with the flight crew when they tell him he cannot remain shirtless for the remainder of the flight. Not so gallant.

I guess the airline needs to add the “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” pic to their boarding passes.

Or how about traveling with this lady? She decided to do a headstand. In her seat. On a plane. Perfectly normal in-flight activity. I would probably do the same if I could do a headstand.

Possibly she had been delayed so much she finally reached her breaking point. I get it.

Or maybe she should travel on the airline, who I won’t name here, but who has the initials “AA”. Evidently they are making “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mandatory listening for all their passengers. I think they may be  requiring an endless loop download prior to boarding.

Although, they may be on to something. If everyone is tuned into a little “Woo-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh” then who will notice a shirtless dude or a lady doing headstands?

While I did miss possible interactions with all these colorful travelers, I did have the opportunity to survive the Labor Day Basement Flood.

Our Plumbing Angel left shortly before 7pm last night, after a whole day of no water or indoor plumbing. And after an early morning trip to Home Depot for Sandless Sandbags to barricade the lower level bathroom. Just in case, when they popped the toilet to rotor rooter, the totally clean and sanitary toilet backflow decided to attempt to make a trip across the basement.

Luckily, this barricade was unnecessary, as everything that went down, stayed down. No shirts were deemed unwearable, and after several long hours of fighting with Roots gone Wild (that evidently decided my pipes were precisely where they wanted to be), all passage ways were clear and flowing again.

And I was able to shower prior to my 4 hour flight East. Which I am sure the 180 close friends I will be traveling with are thankful for as well.

 

 

 

The Night of the Disappearing Door

Oddly, it’s been a week with no real stories. I know. I’m as shocked as you. I’m not sure what to do with my suddenly normal life, but I guess I should enjoy it for a moment or two.

I actually have two uneventful trips under my belt in the past week. I went to dinner with an incredibly smart friend, here in NYC last week, who looked at me cross eyed when I was lamenting about my travel woes, and said “Uh, I have one word for you. Newark” To which I returned her cross eyed stare and said “I’ve heard Newark is a nightmare. And plus, it’s like crazy far.” Neither of which is true, evidently.

So, I called and changed my flight home last week to leave out of Newark. And the flight left on time. And we landed early! Yes. Early! 

I was waiting for meteorites to fall out of the sky and strike my car on the drive home.

Nothing.

I was home, unpacked and had dinner at my own house, all before it was dark. I was completely off kilter all weekend.

And then, to top that, I had another completely on-time, uneventful trip back into Newark this week.

Eerie, right??

Almost as eerie as my night in the haunted hotel room.

I was spending a night in Boston and had been given a suite. It was a great room, and I was disappointed that I was only going to be there for one night.

It had a large,  comfortable living room with a small hallway down to the large bedroom. The bathroom was right off the hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

I spent as much time enjoying it as I could, in the short time I had, but finally I decided I needed to go to bed. As I went into my room, I closed the door, climbed into bed and was soon sound asleep.

Now, I spend a lot of time in hotel rooms, and different ones every few days, so I am used to beds, lights, doors and bathrooms being in different places, and never have an issue remembering where things are.

Or, almost never.

Sometime, in the dark of the night, Mother Nature nudged me gently in the ribs, and suggested a visit to the bathroom.

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I value my sleep and will do pretty much anything to avoid disruption to my sleep (even sleep through fires). So when Mother Nature asks to visit in the middle of the night, I do not see the need to turn on lights. Or even open my eyes any more than absolutely necessary. The idea, of course, is the less I travel out of sleep, the less I have to travel back to sleep.

Somehow, I remembered, in my semi-conscious state, that my room had a door that I needed to navigate to get to the bathroom. So I climbed out of bed, and stumbled towards where I knew the door to be, with my arms outstretched to prevent me finding it with my face. My hands found the door, and I started moving my hands around to find the doorknob that was there when I turned out the light.

Except, they didn’t find one.

No big deal. I know my depth perception may be off with my eyes barely open in a squint. So I merely expanded my search on the wall.

Further and further.

Still no doorknob.

Suddenly, I am fully awake and slightly panicked, as every Twilight Zone and horror movie I have ever seen came rushing into my brain in a jumble of plots against me! I’ve been teleported into an alien ship and I am in their holding room with no escape! Or worse, I have checked into a haunted hotel, and the ghosts have made the door disappear! I am their prisoner as they drive me mad with their psychological torture.

All of these scenarios are, of course, perfectly logical when it’s o’dark thirty and you are barely awake.

Finally, after many long seconds of panic, and me desperately clawing every square inch of wall, the doorknob reappeared, right under my fingertips. The ghosts had had their fun, and realized, if they could make me panic that quickly by just moving the door, I may not be the best candidate for psychological torture.

Or, maybe my panic had awoken my brain to the point my eyes actually had to open and I could find the door.

Either way, I made it to the bathroom with no further incident, and survived the rest of the night in my haunted room.

I still limit my intake of fluids after dinner, just in case the aliens decide to return.

 

Consistency is key

Someday, before my time in NYC comes to an end, I would like to take the entire Laguardia airport air traffic control team out for drinks.

Seriously.

If anyone reading this is part of this air traffic control team, or knows how I can get in touch with them, please contact me immediately.

They have proven to be one of the most consistent group of people I have had the pleasure to encounter. Not once, in the now 18 weeks I have been traveling back and forth to NYC, have I had an entire trip go completely as scheduled. Not one. And every single one of these has been due to the air traffic control in NYC.

Bravo team! Well done! Consistency really is something to be proud of in this day and age!

Not that I am in a great hurry to get back to the wonderful heat and humidity that has decided to make, well everywhere but Colorado, apparently, it’s home for this summer.

I love the heat. I do. I would choose to live somewhere hot over somewhere with snow and cold any day. I may not love the humidity quite as much.

As a girl, of course I do not sweat. I glisten. Or, on a really warm day, I may even perspire a little. But sweat? Never.

Last Thursday, with a “real feel” temp of 105 degrees and 75% humidity, and a 12 block walk to my meeting,  I was glistening like an angel dropped straight from heaven.

An angel that was dropped straight into the ocean and was still dripping wet.

(Yes, I realize, now, that a 12 block walk in those conditions may not have been the wisest of choices)

I realized, about 3 blocks into that walk, that the beautiful jade green, silk t-shirt that looked so great when I put it on that morning, may not have the wicking capabilities required in 75% humidity.

And that the time I took doing my hair and make up that morning, would really have been better spent sleeping, since looking like I just climbed out of a pool is only a slight improvement on looking like I just climbed out of bed.

Luckily this was not a first impressions kind of meeting.

Needless to say, I quite enjoyed my weekend in Colorado, with a “real feel” temp of 85 and 25% humidity.

I am a quick learner, however. I do not plan on making a 12 block walk tomorrow with a predicted “real feel” of 104 and 76% humidity.

That is, if my friends at Laguardia air traffic control ever decide to let us arrive in NYC in the first place.

Just think how good those cold beers will taste when we all meet for drinks.

 

Campfire Dreams

I had been in SC for several months and had just settled in for my last night there for awhile. Soon after snapping off the light, I was snuggled safe in my bed with dreams of sugarplums dancing in my head.

Or possibly deep in a dreamless sleep. Either way, I was sound asleep.

When somewhere in the depths of that slumber, what to my slumbering ears do I hear?

The obnoxioiusly loud blaring of the fire alarm in my room. Accompanied by the seizure inducing strobe light attached to this alarm.

Now, I was sound, SOUND asleep. So it took a minute or so for these assaults on my senses to register in my brain. And for me to realize this was really a fire alarm.

As soon as I did realize what it was, I did what any normal person would do.

I rolled over, pulled the pillow over my head and tried to go back to sleep.

It was 2AM. I was not about to get up. I was pretty sure the firmen would get there eventually and get the flames under control. No sense in losing out on valuable sleep.

After about 5 min of trying to block out the ruckus and drift back to sleep, I realized that probably wasn’t going to happen. Have you ever heard one of those industrial fire alarms?? Those things are LOUD! My pillow was not nearly as effective as earmuffs as I’d hoped.

So I roll out of bed and decide to find out how long I might expect to be losing out on sleep. I will admit, I did not follow proper fire safety protocol and check the door for heat before throwing it open. But who are we kidding. I was just trying to sleep through a fire.

I do feel badly for all the other hotel guests in the immediate vicinity of my room, and who apparently did not feel sleep was more important than their lives. They were already startled out of sleep, and now stood in the hall worried about burning to a crisp.

And then they are treated to the sight of me. Barging out of my room. At 2AM. After being woken out of a sound sleep.

Let me tell you that would not have been a pretty sight.

Since these life loving guests had been up longer than I had, they had already found out that this was all the result of some charming, hilarious individual, who thought pulling the fire alarm, at 2AM would be funny.

See? I knew there wasn’t really a fire.

We still had to wait several more minutes for the fire department to arrive and turn off the alarms before we could all return to our sugarplums and dreamlands. But at least no lives were lost in the making of that wonderful practical joke.

Yet.

I am still on the hunt for that charming individual.

And I didn’t even get to meet any fireman.

 

 

Why Mama always said to be sure and wear clean undies

Well, my time in Charleston is coming to an end, and without any blog worthy stories. We had a wonderful trip, and I considered for a moment, asking my parents to travel with me on a regular basis, (they are retired, you know), as they seemed to keep things “normal”. But then I realized, without crazy stories, this blog would have to die before it gets started, so I’ll continue to fly solo for now.

But, in honor of Charleston, I decided to drag a couple oldies but goodies out of storage from my previous time in South Carolina, to share with you. There were two that were both so good, I couldn’t choose, so you get a “two-fer”.

A couple years ago, I was traveling to SC on a regular basis. On one of these trips I had the pleasure of flying out of the Greenville airport. This airport is one of those airports that you can show up for your flight 30 min before it leaves and still be ok.

And one of those airports that does not have TSA pre-check.

So I find myself in the regular security line. With all those people who do not travel often. Directly in front of me are two such people, in the form of the Two Lovely Ladies.

These Two Lovely Ladies are possibly nervous about flying, and have quite obviously been spending quite a few hours at the one and only airport bar. And have been knocking back quite a few adult libations.

In fact, I would have hazarded a guess that their actual flight may have left several days before, and they forgot to get on it and just continued to drink. Needless to say, here they were now. Well hydrated. In the security line. In front of me.

Both of these Lovely Ladies, in addition to the strong alcoholic cloud,  were toting very large bags through said security line.

Now, despite all of these factors, I really was not paying much attention to The Lovely Ladies. Until they decided to start unpacking their bags.

In the middle of the security line.

Anyone who travels on a regular basis, or for that matter, has even taken a flight even once in your life, knows this is not how things are done.

All the business travelers lucky enough to be in this security line, at this moment, are all exchanging glances and secretly fuming that this is going to ruin their personal best time of 1 min and 37 seconds to clear security.

Suddenly, Lovely Lady #1 swings around to me, gives me a quick once over and says,

“You look like you travel quite a bit”

Me: “Ummm…. Yes. A bit”

Lovely Lady #1 shoves a gallon sized bottle of perfume under my nose and says,

“Do you think they’ll let this through?”

Me: “Ummm… I’m pretty sure it needs to be 3 ounces or less”

Now Lovely Lady #2 spins around to me, holding her own gallon jar of perfume.

“Mine’s only half full. Do you think that will be ok?”

Now, I’m quickly doing math in my head, and I’m pretty sure half a gallon is still over 3 ounces, so I say,

“Ummm…. No. I still think that’s too big”

This causes the Two Lovely Ladies to hold a quick sidebar, which I, unfortunately, cannot hear. But they must decide to chance it, because suddenly everything is off the floor, back in the large bags, and we are continuing to move forward.

I assume all is well, and the worst is over.

Until we get within one person of the belt.

And the body scanner.

Suddenly, Lovely Lady #1 whirls back to face me, points at the body scanner, and says,

“Do we all have to go through that?”

Me: “Ummm… Yes”

Let me pause for a moment here to state that both our Lovely Ladies are clad in nearly identical, somewhat skimpy, sundresses and flip flops.

Lovely Lady #1 throws a rather apprehensive glance at the scanner, then turns back to me and says in a very loud stage whisper,

“But I’m not wearing any underwear!”

I blinked at her for a second or two, then I just couldn’t resist.

Me: ” I don’t think it matters. It has X-ray vision”

Somehow both our Lovely Ladies made it through security.

Their perfume bottles were not so lucky.

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for the second of the Souh Carolina memoirs.

Always close toilet lid when blow drying hair

One of the perks of traveling every week is the plethora of stories you are bound to accumulate. Maybe I am lucky enough to accumulate more than your average bear, but I don’t seem to be able to leave the house without something story -worthy happening. So thanks to my wonderful friends who have said I need to write a book someday, I decided I needed a place to recored these many vignettes, since my memory isn’t what it used to be.

And maybe it can be mildly entertaining for these said friends (you know who you are) at the same time.

My first observation is that trying to start a blog over free airport wi-fi may not be the wisest of choices. I did have over an hour before my flight which I, wrongly it turns out, assumed would be plenty  of time to figure out how to start a blog and write my first post. If my flight had not been delayed, I would not even have had enough time to finish setting up my blog, with the inter stellar speeds of airport wi-fi.

But of course my flight is delayed. Because it’s New York. And it’s my travel luck. And I might actually die of shock if one of my flights actually left and arrived as scheduled.

I am in the middle of a month long trip with multiple locations and activities. Now, I am not exactly a “light packer” on the best of days, so packing light for a month long trip is not going to happen. On a normal week, I need a separate bag for my shoes alone. And then I’m in NYC. How do you spend any time here and not accumulate more stuff?

You just don’t.

I may have had to sit on my bag to zip it for this 10 day leg of this trip.

And I may have been lucky to have a bag check agent who looked the other way when the scale hit 50 pounds and kept going.

One of the “things” I have accumulated on this trip to NYC, is a new blow dryer. Not because I needed a new blow dryer when I left home a week ago, or because I forgot to pack said dryer.

No. Because I had not learned how important closing the toilet lid while blow drying one’s hair is.

Hotel bathrooms are small. This is not news. Everything is very close to everything else. This makes multi tasking relatively easy.

And I am a great multi-tasker.

Except when I am blow drying my hair.

With my hair about half dry, I realized I didn’t have my brush. Which was in my bag just outside the door. So I set the blow dryer on the edge of the sink, which was, of course, right next to the toilet.

I did not feel like turning the blow dryer off was a necessary step to take and would only slow down the multi-tasking.

And I watched as my blow dryer vibrated right off the sink. And into the toilet. Whose lid was not closed.

An important point to make here, is that the blow dryer-amazingly- did not short out, spark and stop running. Indeed it did not. It kept running. In the toilet.

So now I am faced with how to get a still running blow dryer, out of water. I have read the huge warning tags on my blowdryer. There is a risk of electrical shock and death when water and blow dryers meet. Neither of these were in my plan for the week.

I grabbed the blowdryer by the middle of the cord- far away from the plug or the actual dryer- and lifted it out of the toilet. It continued to run, and now began spitting all the water it had sucked up out of both ends. All over the bathroom floor.

Now I am holding a drowned, running blowdryer, standing in several inches of water.
And still no electrical shock or death. It must have been my lucky day.

I decided it may be pushing my luck slightly, to try to plug this blow dryer back in and hope it would still work, after surviving all of this.

So this is how I ended up with a new blowdryer in NYC.

And what has led me to share this tip with you. Always close the toilet lid when blow drying your hair.

More to come from this trip I am sure.