Solo Newsletter

Volume 12, no. 1

Have Carry-on, Will Travel

By Martha J. Church

Yesterday I was asked to write for SOLO. I’m flattered; this is my first time. But an article about packing for travel?

Well, timing is everything. Today I’m sitting on a plane on my way to Tampa. Being active in the GPSSF Division includes, among other perks, the opportunity for four trips a year to usually cool places. Throw in a few other trips and I must admit I do have some experience with packing—unfortunately for the guys, it’s a strictly female perspective.

First decision: what suitcase? I’m a huge fan of carry-on luggage. Airlines permit two pieces on the plane as long as they meet certain size constraints and provided you board before the overhead bins are full. The obvious advantages are that you won’t lose it, you won’t spend a half hour waiting at the carousel in baggage claim, it won’t get beaten to a pulp, and it limits what you can take. Note: When buying a suitcase, wheels are not optional.

Second decision: what to include? I have a hang-up kit—sort of a dop kit—and I keep it supplied at all times with the basics: electric toothbrush case (so I don’t forget the toothbrush), toothpaste, nail file, shampoo, basic makeup, etc. It folds and zips or it can lie flat, depending on where it fits in the suitcase. It also hangs, so I don’t have to unpack it in the hotel bathroom. Having this kit ready not only saves time, it also saves brain cells since I never have to try to remember at the last minute what to include.

What is the greatest aid to packing? Plastic zip bags—all sizes, from snack to gallon. Sandwich-sized bags are perfect for a shower poof, last-minute makeup items, cotton balls and Q-tips, and meds if you need them. (I carry an old prescription bottle filled with assorted aspirin, Advil, Aleve, Benedryl, Alka Seltzer Plus, etc.) The gallon-sized bags are great for longer trips and work well for lingerie, socks, and dirty clothes. They are wonderful for bulky things and can be used much like those more expensive vacuum bags. Put your wool sweater in one and roll it up from the sealed end, forcing out the air as you roll, and then zip it shut. It’s amazing how much your sweater will shrink.

For my second carry-on I have two options. I have a large open-top canvas bag that holds a lot, even my dop-kit. It has room for my purse and an outside pocket for my boarding pass and driver’s license. (Ladies, your purses count as a third piece of luggage! And at the Atlanta airport, at least, you won’t get through security with two carry-ons and a purse.) My other option is a Lands’ End, canvas, zip-up briefcase. This holds less, but I can cram books, papers, a laptop and my purse into it and still zip it closed. It also has an outside pocket for my boarding pass and driver’s license.

As for clothing, the best advice is mix and match. You simply don’t need two separate outfits per day. Darker clothes work better and last longer than lighter clothes. Soft clothes (sweaters, fleece, knits) work better than stiff clothes such as leather pants, anything linen, or a tailored jacket. Chico’s carries great wrinkle-resistant clothes for women in dark colors that are designed to mix and match.

Finally, if you want really good packing information in much more detail, get Rick Steves’ travel book, Europe Through the Back Door. It’s available, used, at and is loaded with savvy tips. Happy trails!

Martha J. Church practices law in Atlanta, Georgia. She can be reached at


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