Packing Lessons Learned

by Nancy Bestor

Eagle Creek Switchback 22"

There are times when I know my husband is right, and I am just too darn stubborn to admit it. One time that stands out was a trip to the Bahamas. After I finished packing into the Eagle Creek ORV gear bag, which is a duffle-like bag with hidden backpack straps, Bob suggested I instead take the Eagle Creek Switchback, a carry-on rolling bag. “I’m already packed,” I thought. “Besides, how far am I really going to carry this bag, and plus, it’s not that heavy.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.

In addition to my ORV gear bag, I also carried on a small collapsible cooler with food for the week and my very small Eagle Creek Guide Pro purse. While it was no trouble handling these three bags in Medford—an airport so small that when you’re dropped off in front of the airport, you’re almost on the tarmac, it was in Salt Lake City that my shoulder pains began. Our commuter plane from Medford landed at an outer terminal, and we had to hustle to another terminal to make our connection. It took only a few minutes for me to wish I had taken Bob’s advice and was rolling my main bag, with my cooler sitting on top of it, instead of carrying two heavy bags (is it possible that they got heavier from Medford to Salt Lake City?) from what seemed like one end of the airport to another.

At the gate I found that my troubles were not yet over. “You’re only allowed one carry on and a personal item,” the not-so-friendly Delta grounds crew person said. “You’ll have to check one of your bags.” This would be a problem, because we needed to get right to our private plane in Florida in order arrive on the island of Exuma before dark. We didn’t have time to wait for checked luggage. Informing the grounds crew person that I had carried all three bags on from Medford made no difference at all. In fact, it only seemed to make her more determined. I had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t butter her up if I told her I had a private jet to catch in Florida either.

Technically, the grounds crew person was correct. I did have three carry-ons. However, I was getting on a flight that was less than half full (yes, there are still flights out there that are not oversold!), so there was plenty of room for my third carry-on which was a small purse/backpack. She was determined to follow the rules, and nothing would change her mind, so I stuffed my purse into my companion’s backpack and we were ready to go. But, not so fast. Our rule following grounds crew person now told us that the backpack (with my purse inside it) was too big to be a second carry-on, and she could not get on the flight. We mentioned (again) the fact that the flight wasn’t even close to full, and couldn’t she just let us get on with our bags? She was ready to deny us, but by now we were beginning to hold up the whole plane and finally, disgustedly, she told us we could get on, but of course added that the flight attendants on board would surely make us check one or more of the bags. As soon as we were out of her sight, we pulled my purse out with the flight attendants not paying us the least bit of attention. Lesson learned? Some grounds crew people will stick to their guns, and enforce the two carry-on rule, others don’t care at all. If you must carry on your bags for any reason, follow the rules and take only one carry on bag and a personal item. You may just meet my special grounds crew friend somewhere along your journey.

Here are a few other random travel lessons from this recent trip. I flew out on Medford’s early morning flight. We hardly had any time in the Salt Lake City airport, but we had the foresight to grab some muffins while rushing through the terminal. Good idea. Our four-hour flight from Salt Lake City to Fort Lauderdale included light snacks only. We had gotten up so early to catch the Medford flight that I hadn’t had a thing to eat. I surely would have withered away by the time I got to Fort Lauderdale if we hadn’t gotten those muffins. Lesson learned here? Always bring some “extra” food on long flights.

Finally, the clothes I packed. I have sat in on at least five of Anne McAlpin’s packing workshops. I know the tips. I know that packing lighter is packing smarter. Do I listen? Apparently not. I knew there would be a washer and dryer in our condo. I knew it would be warm and I would often be wearing little more than a swimsuit. Still, I packed WAY TOO MANY CLOTHES for my weeklong trip. I did not wear several things that I brought. My heavy carry-on bags (see above) would have been much lighter if I had left that second pair of shorts, those two short sleeved shirts, the pair of capris, home. Lesson learned? Maybe?

Visit to see more great packing gear.