2014-10-15 / Columns

Traveling with a man who has that certain ‘knack to pack’ knowhow


The ritual goes something like this:

My husband announces that he’ll be going up to the storage room on the second floor to dig out our suitcases. Which ones— and how many—will I be needing for our weekend away?

That’s when the fun begins.

The world is divided into two kinds of people: those who can pack for a trip wisely, and the rest of us.

My husband is in the first category. His longstanding boast is that he could pack for a trip around the world in 20 minutes—and he probably could. In one suitcase.

When we roam, he doesn’t stand at his closet frantically pawing tops that don’t coordinate with bottoms. Nor does he start the feverish search for a missing shoe. “How can you lose one shoe?” my husband has asked a woman who has. More than once.

So packing, even for an overnight at a resort just two hours away is always a reckoning— at least for one of us. And the sparks start flying even before we are standing in the driveway arguing about my excesses. “Did you make a list?” my husband will ask with infuriating logic on the morning of our departure for wherever. I usually evade the question. Of course I know that sensible people sit down and outline what they’ll need, then calmly pack each item into a suitcase that isn’t hobbled by a balky zipper or ripped at one end.

I know that every travel guide ever written advises against bringing more than you’ll ever need, and argues that packing lightly is the only way to go.

I never seem to get it right. If I take my fanciest clothes, positive that I’ll be hopelessly underdressed without them, I find myself in a spot where ripped jeans are de rigueur, and my skirts and pumps look absurd. But you can be sure that when I’ve stuffed my bags with clothes that border on the disreputable, everyone else is tucked in/button-downed proper.

Then there’s the issue of what I forget.

I once left home without the reading glasses I need to see anything in print. Mind you, I had taken more books than any one person could be expected to read in a year, let alone a week- end. But those glasses? Back on the kitchen counter…

On another vacation, I remembered to pack the antacids, the heating pad in case one of us had a lower back episode, and four pairs of shoes. Yet I somehow neglected to bring along the directions to the resort—and that was before the era of the GPS.

I’d discovered that minor omission once we left the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway—a bit too far from home to turn back. Several tedious phone calls later, we were back on the trail of the resort. But the runaway vacation spirit had—well, dimmed a bit.

No matter how brilliantly I think I’ve planned, I never seem to have the right weight of clothing. I shiver in tropical places because, as the hotel insists, the air conditioning has a mind of its own.

In places where the temperature is supposed to be practically akin to the North Pole lows, and I am armed with down and fleece, there is a heat wave.

So I pack now for all weather contingencies, come armed for the swamps and Iceland. That means paying hefty fees for “overweight,” a term I take personally, on top of today’s outrageous airfares.

Lately, my husband and I give considerable thought whether to ever leave home at all. Aside from the hassles of air travel, jammed highways and unconscionable prices for lodgings, we find that I have a new talent:

On our last trip, I managed to remember to bring my glasses. My only lapse was leaving them behind on the hotel nightstand.

Sometimes it’s just better to stay put. . pinegander@aol.com

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