Sunday, January 17, 2010

Love to travel. Hate to pack.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in your bedroom, travel bag open on the floor, empty. Plane leaves in a few hours?

A few articles of clothing are neatly folded on the bed ready to go. Those are the ones you are SURE about. The rest still happily reside in the closet or in drawers. Ok, maybe there are some things in the hamper or draped over the chair in the corner. Thing is, eventually they all need to get into that bag.

(Here is where I wish we had one of those machines, in the Jetsons, so I could put the bag on the conveyor belt and it would pop out on the other side all packed.)

I love to travel. I don't mind the waiting in airports, long flights, turbulence and any destination seems exciting to me. But it's getting my bag packed that I just want nothing to do with. Especially when I am leaving for longer periods of time.

I am headed to Greece to play for a professional team there. How am I going to know what the weather will be like in 4 weeks, let alone 4 months? Do I need any nice clothes or just mainly for working out? And shoes! Hardest thing to pack. High heels have weird shapes. Tennis shoes are bulky. Uggs are worse.... but SO necessary in the cold after an outdoor night practice in the rain. (Sometimes I wish aquatic sports only practiced in warm locations. Hawaii or the South Pacific would do great. Thanks.) I always make sure to lay the swim suits, goggles and caps on the bed first. If I left without those....well, why am I going in the first place? (Because, while I will be living in a foreign country it is NOT just for a vacation. I do have to "work" er, workout rather.) Then there are toiletries and is nice to not look like a drown rat ALL of the time.

Ok, so just one bag?!? Thanks to all the new travel restrictions, there are those pesky weight and checked bag limits.

TOO MANY things to consider. Can I hire someone to do this for me?

The one very important travel tip I picked after traveling with the National Team for a few years was the use of a small roller bag as a carry-on instead of a backpack. Most of the veteran players on the team used them when I first started. I never really thought about it. I was all excited to sport the team gear and get to where we were going. Until we arrived, some 20 hours later, got in a bus and headed straight to the pool for a training session. Not only were my legs swollen from the flight, but my back and shoulders hated me every stroke I took from shlepping that backpack, with "all the comforts of home" in it, across the world.

So, while my bag was not packed. The carry-on was. That is the easy stuff.

  •  A few books (Having a little english around will be nice when the Greek letters get too much for me.) 
  • Computer
  • I-pod
  • Various charging cords (These take up a surprising amount of room.)
  • Surge protector box (Life saver! Frying the life out of your precious electronics is not fun when so far from home!)
  • 15 pounds of Valentine's Day candy intended to spread some American love to my teammates
  • My new water bottle

The water bottle was actually the first thing I put into the carry-on. Drinking water is my New Year's resolution. Mostly because without a regular workout routine I forget to drink anything. Very bad for an athlete. I didn't want to buy plastic bottles anymore and I figured with a bottle like this, I would pay more attention to my drinking habits.

Once packed and at the airport my lovely new bottle had me paying attention to many other things. Like the fact that it is metal and looks a little like a bomb. Great. That can't go in my carry-on. Security would have me red flagged in two-seconds.

So now, standing in the check-in line with bottle in hand, when I thought all my packing issues were behind me and the worst hiccup was just this bottle, came the best travel challenge of all.

Man at Check-In Counter: "Hello Ms. Where are you headed?"

Me: "Greece"

MaCIC: "Please place your carry-on on the scale."

Me (in my head): "Carry-on? I have never had my carry-on weighed before. Just as long as it fits in the little overhead thing they seem to wave you on by. ON NO. IT IS HEAVY!"

I placed it on the scale..... 

MaCIC: "Ms. your bag weighs 18kg. We only allow 8kg for our carry-on items."

Me: "Oh no." (in my head) "Where exactly am I going to put 20 pounds of stuff, when my other bag is packed so tight it is about to explode out of the new purple straps I bought to keep it together on the journey?!"

MaCIC: "Yes Ms. Only 8kg."

Thanks buddy. I heard you the first time. This is how I came to find out that the candy I was bringing over to the team weighed about 15 pounds. When I put it on the little scale he had, it weighed 8kg by itself. Perfect. I also come to find out the roller bag itself weighed 7kg. HOW was this going to work????
And how in over 10 years of international travel had this never happened to me before?

I never wanted to be that passenger that has to open up her bags, right there in the check-in line and begin the rearrangement dance of all my worldly belongings in front of a line of my fellow passengers. But that was me.

I believe by the end, everyone knew that my favorite brand of underwear is Victoria Secret, I read love stories and adventure novels, most of my clothes are blue and purple and I may have a serious sweet tooth. That is enough for the person behind me in line, to make me a profile on And next to me, I now had two travel bags. One still bulging, being held together by purple straps. And the other- a heavy duty plastic bag, duct taped so well you couldn't really tell what was inside it. Both with airline stickers. Destination- Athens, Greece. Thank god the packing part is over.