1. Make sure your suitcase is within your lifting capabilities. There is nothing worse than heaving and grunting under excess weight, the suitcase’s not the owner’s. My problem is that I am such an expert at rolling and bagging all of my clothes that I can fit in twice as much as I should. The items might fit but it makes for a suitcase I cannot lift from the airport baggage carousel, cannot lift onto the bus or lift onto any surface for unpacking. My husband dropped it on his foot trying to hoist it out of the trunk of the car and had trouble walking for days.
2. Never read “What to Pack” lists. They inevitably suggest an item or two that you never would have thought to bring. Now I absolutely need a bandana, inflatable hangers and a universal sink stopper! (See www.OneBag.com) I have never removed an item from my list after reading these helpful aids.
3. Do not accept the little gift packs some airlines give you. It’s free, I know, but takes up unplanned space. Who needs flimsy earplugs and extra eye masks? Be tough. Just say no.
4. Bring a book you don’t mind leaving behind. Never bring a library book. Not only will you have to take good care of it but you will have to lug it back home. A cheap paperback you can leave behind is your best bet. You can even join www.bookcrossing.com and perhaps see who picks it up.
5. This tip is mostly for men but can apply to women. Do not bring all of your shirts (tops) in the same shade. Blue is nice but no one will notice that one has micro stripes in red or that the other has tiny checks in grey. It all looks the same in a picture. Vary the colour scheme. And, please remind me to read this pointer to my husband on the next trip.
6. Never try to crack a joke with either a border guard or a French waiter. Both are humourless and can make your life miserable.
7. Never promise any one back home a specific souvenir. I looked all over South-western France for the perfect scarf for my mother. I could not find one the right colour, size, price or fabric. I came back with a bracelet.
8. Never have raw oysters on an empty stomach and a half-hour before going for a boat ride on choppy waters.
9. If you have a rental car that is manual, please try out every manoeuvre before heading down the highway. At our first pit stop, we couldn’t figure out how to go in reverse, i.e. get out of the parking spot. Thanks to a kind Spanish tourist, and my smattering of Spanish, we managed to learn how to go backwards in France.
10. Finally, here is the last and the most important tip: put your house keys in a safe and reachable place. Do not throw them recklessly at the bottom of the largest suitcase and then forget about them. The worse place to think about how to enter your house is when you are in a taxi, five minutes away. Leaning into the trunk of the taxi, searching through suitcases while your husband holds the umbrella over your backside, is not the best way to end a vacation. Fighting about who has, or had, the keys is not pleasant either. The only one who gets a good story and laugh out of this experience is the taxi driver. Oh yes, it’s also very expensive to drive across the city to go to that someone’s house who has a set of your keys.
Questions: will you remove one item from your list after reading this?
Do you have a secret tip you are willing to share with us?
© barbara bunce-photos