By on April 2, 2013


A thick book. A banana. Two year old sneakers. A backpack.

Then there is an oversized laptop that has to be wrapped around the zipper line of the backpack in order to fit.

I’m headed for the Hartsfield International Airport in Clayton County, Georgia.  The most visited airport in the United States, and a second home for me way back in my traveling days.

10 years ago I traveled over 200 times a year to various auto auctions throughout the country. My job was to inpsect, appraise and liquidate over 10,000 vehicles a year for an auto finance company. Travel was almost instinctual back then. I could sort out all my personal belongings for the road ahead without any wasted space or thought.

This time, I’m hopeless.

“Do I need two pairs of shoes?”

“Damn. These shoes will have to be in a contortionist position to fit in the backpack,  and then all my clothes will start smelling like my shoes. Better just bring the sneakers.

The hell with it all!  I’m a journalist. They won’t care.”

One hour later…

“Okay, one extra pair of shoes then. How about books? Do I bring that ancient artifact known as a hardcover book? Or do I ask the wife for the family Ipad? Screw it. Her friend’s social dramas are tied to that thing. I’ll just bring a book.”

On and on the questions go for another forty-five minutes. By the time I get ready for sleep, I’m wondering if I’m missing anything. Nope. All the clothes. All the toys. The right way to transport it. No waste.

Thank God.

The next morning I pull off with the wife, daughter and dog. We’re going to drop her off at school, and I’m going to take a long walk to the bus depot that happens to be across the street. I’ll save the wife a couple of hours on the road, and I’ll get myself plenty of time to read a book.

As soon as I pay for the $2.50 ticket. I sit down and immediately realize I left my hardcover book behind.

Oh well. It figures. I guess I’ll be hunting down old newspapers once I get to the airport. In the meantime, I start thinking about my past travels in planes, trains and automobiles. Then I start to think about John Candy, Steve Martin, and the two fluffy pillows that won’t be close by as I sleep in what will hopefully be a hotel room in Las Vegas that has clean sheets.

Are clean sheets too much to ask in the travel world of 2013. I hope not. But how was it like for you? Was packing a bitch? Or a breeze? Was that road ahead a road of dread? Or an hours long drive full of great meals and dangling conversations?

Share with us your packing and traveling escapades, and enjoy this beautiful Tuesday.


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32 Comments on “Packing Up And Heading Out...”

  • avatar

    You fly with a backpack? Tell me you don’t try to stuff it in the overhead compartment.

  • avatar

    I saw the headline and I thought this story was going to be about Carbon Motors packing up in the middle of the night and leaving their factory without a word to anyone.

  • avatar

    You’d be surprised how much stuff you can fit into one of those 60 liter packs. That is usually all I take on trips, while my wife takes two or three suitcases. Those packs are designed for a week in the backcountry, which includes all necessary equipment, camp gear, and food. So just traveling with clothes and a laptop should be very manageable.

    Three pairs of shoes is not a problem. A pair of dress shoes and sandals go in the pack, and a third pair of sneakers or boots on my feet. Add a week’s worth of underwear and socks, one extra pair of pants (remember you’re already wearing a pair), and then a few shirts.

    The best part of those packs is that they are very easy to carry while walking around airports and cities. No bumping into everything with stupid roller bags. (Although, this usually means that in addition to my pack, I’m also forced to pull around one of my wife’s stupid roller cases.)

  • avatar

    I’m just starting to travel. I’ve sort of gotten addicted to it. My girlfriend got me into it, and since its the only way to see her. Now i have a travel partner and i enjoy going places.

    I’ve gone to Netherlands, Belgium, Russia. I’ll be going to Switzerland, Iceland, Sweden, and Russia again in the future.

    My rules are only travel with carry on. If someone says you can’t go on vacation for two weeks with only carry on they are wrong.

    But, also like you i always forget something. Last time it was my tooth brush so i had to buy one when i got there no biggie. I left it there too since i know I’ll be back.

  • avatar

    When I travel to grandma’s (or to the three out-of-state car shows I attend each year), all my packing fits in one overnight back, despite the fact that the stay involves at least 3 days. My 10 year old daughter fills a large regular suitcase, then asks to squeeze a few of her items in with my stuff. (Or, if driving, she hides them throughout the car).

    I always figure I will buy whatever items I forget, and call them “trip souvenirs”

  • avatar

    You coming to Vegas, Steve? What for? Want a drink while you’re here?

  • avatar

    It depends on what time of the year I’m traveling. If it’s summer and I’m flying somewhere warm and it’s for pleasure, then I hardly pack anything and you don’t need to either.

    Wear what you’re going to on the plane, and bring with you a change of clothes for the next day and when you arrive, find any kind of tourist trap or shopping mall and buy a wardrobe when you get there. Chances are, it’ll be cheaper than the $50.00 the airlines are going to sock you with for checking luggage.

    I realize this only works for a small percentage of people, mainly single males who don’t care what kind of attire they’re dressed in while they’re on vacation, but it is totally feasible. Plus you know you’re going to buy some kind of tee shirt from the place you just visited anyway.

    Pack light and enjoy your stay without worrying about the airlines losing your luggage.

  • avatar

    One backpack should get you close to several days of travel, provided that you don’t need to wear a proper business suit. It takes me about 15 to 20 minutes, – which is a blink of eye compared to packing and getting ready for a road trip in the RV.

  • avatar

    I went on a trip last fall with people who were living on their iPhones, iPads and laptops, and what with constant chatter, media-burn and charging and recharging and arranging our schedules around the recharging, those people were a pain in the ass. And when we left after a week, those people had no idea what the town was known for, what the main drag looked like from the sidewalk, how to get around the area by foot or car, and where the best food and cup of coffee were to be found.

    Wherever you go, when you get there pick up a good map and learn the lay of the land…you’ll appreciate where you are a lot more. Spend time outside walking. Pay attention to the weather and the sky and the terrain. Talk to the people who live there instead of vegging out in a hotel room watching the tube.

    Three things that make all my travel a lot easier…

    A good-quality (backpacking-quality) LED headlamp. Uses almost no power and keeps your hands free when you are in the dark, in unfamiliar surroundings, whether in the natural wilderness or the manmade kind.

    No book and no iPad or other backlighted-screen (power-suck) device. You take a Kindle Paperwhite or the Nook equivalent…uses the e-ink screen and a tiny amount of power for the Paperwhite lighting feature. Get the kind with 3G connectivity in addition to wifi, and the hard leather cover to protect it and you have a durable reading device and a passable internet browser if you need it with very low battery consumption.

    Swiss Army knife or Leatherman multi-tool.

    Pick some good books for the Kindle and do more reading than browsing and talking on the phone – nobody will miss the sound of your voice, and the stuff on the internet is…the same old stuff you always see on the internet.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’ve fallen in love with the Ebags “Motherlode” Weekender and Ebags packing cubes. Being a house brand, the stuff is very reasonable but well made.

    When traveling with kids, my wife and I would fill the back of a minivan with various suitcases, re-purposed shopping bags, and random junk floating around. I was skeptical at first, but the packing cubes really do help cut down on clutter and make unpacking a breeze. With the Motherlode and the cubes, its much easier to compress our junk and pack in a single bag for a weekend trip. The Motherlode also has soft sides and backpack straps so it holds more than a typical carry-on bag.

  • avatar

    As a charter pilot. I basically travel to make a living. But my job also changes at a moments notice, so I usually have too much stuff. I pack for all four seasons now because once after doing 5 days in Florida, with Florida only clothes, I was extended to fly in the Boston area for two extra nights in February when the high was single digits. I also pack for four days even though I might only be gone two for the same reason.

    Doing charter work, I am usually spared the indignity of the TSA. But there are times we leave the jet behind and take an airline home. I never take anything that I don’t want to throw away if I have to go through security. Only airline crews with airline ID’s or airport badges can bypass security in many cities.

    A rolling bag, laptop case and a small case for my pilot headsets and mini iPad are what I roll with. But I might have to go through security, rolling bag and small bag only. Never take more than you can run through the airport with.

    • 0 avatar

      My father is a charter pilot running his own charter company. He always tells me about the professional courtesies of being a pilot in the airport after I’ve come back from a work trip on the airlines with a couple layovers. I’m jelly.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh yeah. I get more respect if I’m in the pilot uniform, even though we don’t use epaulets in my company. I usually get better treatment from the flight attendants too, as well as the employee discount at the foodstands.

        Traveling non uniform though, even with the ID out? Forget it, I’m a traveling schmo like the rest of you ;)

  • avatar

    I used to travel every week. Even to this day I can tear down my office laptop setup and stow it in under a minute. I always keep a spare mouse, power cord, and network cable in my backpack in case I have to travel even though it’s only every few months instead of every week. I used to brag my office was in my backpack. I had all kinds of gizmos that made travel easier back in the day when Wi-Fi on an airplane was unheard of. I had the layouts of the MD-80 and 737 memorized and could tell you which rows had power outlets off the top of my head. I flew first class at least once a month.

    Funny thing is, I don’t miss it. Security at the airport has only gotten more burdensome and less effective. (Make us safer? Hah! Only if you know NOTHING about security would you think it’s better.) Airline customer service has not improved in the least and it seems like every trip has a bunch of clueless travellers. I get not everyone has spent as much quality time in the airport as I have, but they do hang those signs with handy dandy arrows up all over the place for a reason. Stop and look instead of wandering around looking like a monkey doing a math problem.

    I do check a bag these days. Saves me a huge hassle, what with the overcrowding of overhead bins and all the restrictions on what you can and can’t take on an airplane. I’ll take my travel size shampoo that is over the ridiculous 4oz. limit, thanks. I’m not travelling to some far away place without at least a pocket knife though I may change my carry kit up now that they eased knife restrictions. Still don’t know that I’ll stop checking a bag though.

    I wish I had Google Maps back in the day. Not that it does any good if you’re planning on driving through the backwoods of Pennsylvania. There is an area I hope to avoid in the future. Beautiful rustic country but a road system designed by cat herders.

  • avatar

    The Portland Swap Meet is this weekend. Three days of seeing people who forgot something they thought they couldn’t live without looking for something else they think they cannot live without. Only this time, many will try to drive it home. Now, those will be the adventurous.

  • avatar

    Someone who travelled for a living once told me: “the first three times you travel for work you GET to, after that you HAVE to.” Sums it up for me.


  • avatar

    Traveling is a very incredible thing. I’ve always loved it. That’s funny that you take the bus to save the wife a couple of hours, I do the same thing because they get grumpy when they know they aren’t going to see you for a few days and on top of that they have to drive you.

  • avatar

    I am all about carry-on only unless it is an exceptional trip. I did two weeks in Spain with a carry-on wheelie bag and a big, checked wheelie bag. That totally sucked, and I said “nunca mas.” Next two-weeks-in-Europe trip was with just the wheelie bag. All you’ll ever need, but I know people who travel with giant piles of luggage and just pay to have it carted around. On the extreme end, a friend went to India with her 4-year-old for 6 weeks with ~250lb. of luggage. I try to make as many things as possible due double duty, but I tend to be unable to give up bringing lots of reading material. If it’s a vacation I make sure I have room to bring stuff home.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    One thing I should have explained to the group.

    My backpack also has wheels and a retractable handle on it. So I have no need to really lug it around if I don’t want to.

    I enjoy doing three day trips at the very most. Anything more than that and I miss the family too much. I’ve become a homebody in my middle age.

  • avatar

    Sighs…Steve, don’t scare us like that! The headline and photo suggested you were moving on from TTAC!


  • avatar

    I’ve been traveling more for work and basically broken it down to TWO bags: one with my laptop and various work tools (connectors, cables, measuring devices) and one smallish roller case that fits perfectly in the overhead bin (square shaped not a tall rectangle like most). I don’t check anything due to silly fees and tight connections. In addition, this measure saves another 20 minutes of waiting at baggage claim fighting the crowd. I am all about speed and handling.

    Currently my laptop bag is the over the shoulder style, but based on my vacation travel experience a backpack is a MUCH better system because it frees both your hands to grab snacks, keys, documents, phone, etc.

    I wear only one pair of shoes (Timberlands) that are semi causal, they function fine for business attire without being too formal. Plus they are cut like high-top sneakers (semi boot?) to survive water/snow/mud. It helps that our business dress code is polo shirt + dockers. This combination functions well from the board room, to a lounge, to the airplane (boy I sound like a commercial for Macys). A jacket and pair of jeans is the only thing I’ll add if its going to be cold or evolves a weekend. I’ll add a sweater too if its really chilly… and since I’m from Florida that’s anything under 65 degrees. Dressing in layers keeps you from packing bulky, thick, space stealing items.

    Not sure what’s up with security but I never remove my liquids. I just make sure to carry the small hotel sample sizes to stay under the silly 4oz rule. Also electric razor FTW, one item replaces two, plus you can shave in under 2 minutes without any water nearby.

    The latest item I’ve needed: some kind of portable iPhone mount so I can have GPS in any rental car. Some dashboards really limit where I can place the phone and still see it easily.

    Its funny… the more you travel the less stressful it becomes. A few years ago if you told me I had to be on the other side of the country tomorrow and stay for a week I would have freaked out completely! Now I just print my boarding pass and go… its no big deal. Technology has really made business travel a piece of cake: I get an email from Hertz telling which stall my car is in and various iPhone apps updating flight and gate status. I normally know everything before the plane even reaches the jetway.

  • avatar

    I have traveled for up to 6 weeks on a motorcycle, so I know how to pack quickly and lightly. I managed to always have clean clothes too.

    But on the other extreme I have travled alone for a month in Italy with enough dress slacks, ties, jackets, shoes to not repeat for 4 days plus bring casual stuff for walking around.

  • avatar

    110K miles last year, all short-hop domestic. All on USAir with Philly as my main hub – oh joy and rapture. 112 nights in hotels. Yup, I travel. :-)

    I have packing down to a science. Luckily, being a Datacenter Geek I don’t have to dress up. Khakis and polo shirts. So one shirt-underwear-socks per day onsite + one extra set just in case I get stuck, a couple pair of pants, and I am good to go. Laptop bag is ever ready.

    Today was a drive down to NJ for a couple days of evening fun, sitting here watching data dry at 10:15pm with about 3hrs to go. Then kickback in my hotel all day tomorrow and do it again tomorrow night, drive home to Maine on Thursday.

  • avatar

    I like travelling, the key is to do it for work but not too much. I like to see all the different cities and people its a big country, and world. I take it as a challenge to pack light. I can do 2 days out of a tiny backpack with my laptop in it, wearing business clothes. Any more and I have a small carry on. I hate waiting for the baggage to come. Like others I have the carry on toiletry kit ready to go. Travelling is no big deal I can throw a few things in a bag and be on my way. It was a bit nicer when I was United Premier Elite.

    I worked for a software co that sent me around the world some years ago. They would tell me “go to Tokyo tomorrow” which is cool and PITA at the same time. 6 weeks in Asia when you planned on 2 is annoying. But I saw a bunch of different countries and met so many great people and had a ball. Its a different experience than being a tourist, one you can’t get any other way.

    Now I am older with a wife/kid/house I wouldn’t give those old days up but I wouldn’t go back.

  • avatar

    My trips are 2-3 days and since I almost never go to meetings it is always causal. So I have it down to one small lap top bag and that’s it. If I need something Walmart or the dollar store will have it for cheap also I always wear something I am tired of on the trip out and then leave it in the hotel. Not sure what happens to it I hope it gets recycled to good use.
    It is a great way to purge your wardrobe.

  • avatar

    I don’t travel for work much but I travel for fun, usually to a new country each time (I live in Singapore so this is pretty easy).

    I take: one large hiking backpack, charger/iPhone/iPad for monitoring investments, 4 days worth of clothes with an extra change of underwear, mini-toiletries, money belt, a book I want to read, a guide book, a camera and that’s it. Having been to 40 countries thus far, I have packing down to a 30-minute art form.

  • avatar

    In July 2011 I moved from upstate NY to Yosemite, CA. I was offered a job on a Saturday, packed on Sunday, and hit the road on Monday. I loaded everything I could possibly fit into my 1992 Saab 900 and prayed that I would not get a flat, or worse. It was incredibly stressful to drive 3000 or so miles alone with all my possessions crammed into a 20 year old Saab with broken AC, broken cruise control, and a fuel gauge that stopped working along the way…In the past year I have driven that same car back to NY and then to California again, where I am now, so I consider myself an expert at packing for long solo road trips.

  • avatar

    I travel about 50% of the time for the organization for which I work; I have also done the week-in, week-out 100% travel thing, which is a good way to build up miles and points, but I came to dislike it, so I’m happy to have cut back somewhat. Most of my trips are 2-3 days, and for those I can pack a 22″ rollaboard and carry the backpack I take my laptop to work in when I’m working at the office. For longer trips, I do check a bag (I travel enough to avoid fees on most airlines, and if I do have to pay a fee, the company pays). I can generally pack pretty quickly, unless something has happened to throw off my rhythm (e.g., I had my quart bag of toiletries stolen from my luggage on a trip earlier this year–I suspect some baggage handlers may have seen my codeine cough syrup and helped themselves to it for recreational purposes).

    I think a lot of inexperienced and some experienced travelers get too hung up on the “specialness” of travel, and work too hard at having the perfect travel accessories, travel pillow, etc., and get too anxious at the prospect of going through security. The key to successful and stress-free business travel (especially domestically) is to act, and be, as bored as possible. Excitable people attract attention from the TSA and stress themselves out. It helps to be “durable”, as my wife says, and to roll with the punches.

  • avatar

    It seems that when I travel lately it’s very light, or very heavy. I take a float plane to work with everything i’ll need for 45 days or so. (no contact with anyone my any means other than digital) And this summer I’ll be doing 2 weeks in a kayak. Domestic flights for anything less than 2 weeks I go with a 35 litre asolo pack, unless i need a suit or some other such nonsense.

  • avatar

    Going to visit the in-laws in Brazil requires maximum weight capacity & distribution = 4 suitcases @ 70 pounds each, 2 carry-ons, a purse, a backpack & a diaper bag.

    Only see them once or twice a year which means bringing xmas presents for an extended family of ~ 200. We can’t actually bring presents for everyone but we do often try…

    Going to see Grandma 1000 miles away for a week? 2-3 small bags, baby bag, and some entertainment (& we usually drive). Much easier…

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