How (not) to pack for your first vaccine-era trip
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By Natalie B. Compton
When we were dreaming of travel for a year and change, we imagined sipping piña coladas on a sunny beach, wandering through the halls of the Louvre or searching for rhinos on an African safari.
We chased vaccines, fantasising about being back on airplanes and trains and cruises safely.
Something that wasn't a part of this daydream? Packing luggage. At least, not for me.
The pandemic kept us at home, where every modern convenience and all of our belongings surrounded us at the ready.
If you needed a shirt, you could go grab one from your closet/drawer/pile on the floor. Toothbrush? Waiting at the bathroom sink where you left it.
We grew accustomed to having everything close at hand.
A few weeks ago, I stood staring at two empty carry-on-size suitcases on my apartment floor.
I needed to fill them with items that would keep me properly clothed and comfortable throughout a month's worth of travelling across varying climates.
And despite being a travel writer who's been to 50 countries and every continent, the concept of packing a bag no longer registered in my pandemic-era brain.
It was a herculean task. I could have gone with, say, the Marie Kondo way. But instead, I did . . . whatever you'd call the following.
Take the bull-in-a-china-shop approach
Don't worry about what you're going to pack.
You really need to worry about other things, like whether your coronavirus test results will come back in time to be allowed into Hawaii.
You're going off the cuff, flinging your belongings into your bags from above like Jackson Pollock.
This is not your first rodeo, albeit it's been a very long time since your last rodeo.
Go heavy on the pants
Yes, the joke of the pandemic was that we all transitioned full-time to sweatpants.
Yes, many people are dreading the return of "hard pants." Yes, you got by last year cycling between the same two pairs.
How does that translate to your packing style in a post-vaccine world? It doesn't. Pack no fewer than five bottoms for your trip.
You need jeans, and a second pair of jeans because what if the first pair of jeans get dirty?
You need some shorts, ones you can hike in or go to the beach. You need another pair of shorts, something to walk around the group house you rented with long-lost friends.
You need some dressy bottoms; what if you go to a restaurant? What do people wear to restaurants?
Play shirt roulette
Remember all of those pants?
They need tops. Grab a handful of shirts that will go full Shar Pei by the time you put them on at your final destination. Pay no mind to the type of top.
You just need a wrinkled selection that will cause panic when you realise - mid-trip - none are appropriate for those restaurant plans.
Three T-shirts and a crop top you've never worn in public and never will? Perfect.
Pare down your toiletries
This tip is for people flying, as you will be going through airport security. Order a travel-size kit of bottles and tubes online.
When they arrive, pretend to be an alchemist as you pour your goopy liquids and creams from their big containers to their new little containers.
Go heavy on the stuff you don't need (a hair product that is just OK), and light on the stuff you use regularly and in bulk (shampoo, toothpaste).
Double down on shoes
Sneakers. Dress shoes. Flip flops. Sandals (not flip flops, sandals).
You're not going to need them, and they are going to take up most of the space in your bag. Wear a pair that make the least sense on the plane.
Treat your carry-on as a catchall
You've packed your suitcase and now it's time for the final touch: your carry-on bag. Not the luggage-y carry-on, but your personal item.
Some people treat this as a place for a laptop, sweater, a book, maybe some water.
Make sure these are items that you can access during a flight that will improve your life.