Because Packing is Always the Worst.

And right now in SoCal it is very hot and I am very unmotivated. We are coming quickly to the end of May and, as I have said in previous posts, this month definitely has it out for me.

I have worked all month, visited with friends from out of town and have had at least one event going on every month, the majority of which have required multi day packing for events that varied so drastically the there has been no way to put together a prep-kit for most of the items that need to come with me.

Which is really the biggest pieces of advice I can ever give when facing the absolute horror of packing: create a packing document. This goes double if you have routine trips – ie. SCA camping trips. Have a list for formal trips, casual trips, those require specialty outfits/items, and then go through length of the trip. This may be because I am a Excel-nut but seriously, pre-made packing lists that cater to you because you have tailored them to you are the biggest lifesavers you will find. (If anyone is interested in seeing examples of what I mean, I can probably be persuaded into making a post all about it!).

One of my major packing issues – which I am sure I have covered before – is a really common issues: I pack lighter for long journeys than short visits.

There are many reasons why this happens to most of us. Long journeys usually mean that you’ll be living out of your suitcase longer, having to keep track of more stuff where you go, and a higher probability of having to move said luggage more than once which is a pain when there’s a lot. People tend to pack more versatile clothing when they travel further so the number of things you’ll need drops drastically. Also, with long trips, people figure they can buy and discard as they go so you aren’t lugging around items like hefty shower supplies and other bathroom tools.

During short visits, however, this seems like a waste of time and money so we pack everything just in case we need it. We tend to have more specific ideas of what we’re going to be doing at every second but tend to load ourselves with more options (especially clothing) for each of the activities we have in mind and even those we don’t (sporadic club night, maybe?).

In my last trip up to Fresno – another quick trip that I felt lackluster to pack for – I waited and waited and then packed and cleaned for an hour before getting into the car. I was up there for graduation for two days (three if you include the day we drove up) and I had exactly three outfits in my suitcase: day one (a simple wide leg trouser and crop top), Pjs, and day two (a dress and colored tights). The only thing I had to worry about was whether or not I was going to switch out my days. There was no complication over possible changes because I simply didn’t have the option. It was amazing.

And yes, I am aware that the last minute nature of last weeks packing contradicts my first ‘have a plan’ advice but it is this experience which is now helping shape my future plans. For short trips, pack only what you need and leave behind what you think you might.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Because Packing is Always the Worst.

Rules for Road Trips: Knowing your driver

This past weekend, I was at a camping event that seemed to be fighting the environment. We were all sandblasted by a veritable dust/dirt storm the fist two days and had off and on showers (more on than off) on the final day – mostly while trying to pack everything up (which brought out many more bugs than is ever necessary).

I camp with my sister, meaning that we have a easy system. One works and packs in the wet, flooded tent while the other takes a break (you can nap, eat, try to get warm, whatever) inside the car and then you switch. Once camp is broken down, we work together to get everything in the back of the truck and settled. most things have a specific place or weight-derived order – to limit the chances of flying debris later – so again, this all goes rather quick and without incident.

I am also the driver and I like to help pack everything up so that I know I won’t have issues when driving. I also like to be the person pressing the buttons to look for music when we drive – I know where everything is without driving and it keeps me going and she knows not to touch my buttons unless asked.

Ki is the passenger. She looks for food, keeps an eye on the navigation, puts up with my music and – most the time – my rants or weird topics of conversation, and she makes sure that when we get food, I am easily able to access mine without killing us both.

The point? She knows her driver. we are partners in this and very rarely – with the exception of terseness over hormonal or exhaustion fueled outbursts – do we have any kinds of problems and ever those are usually apologized for and waved off before the drive is even finished (usually within 5 minutes of said outburst).

Not everyone gets to have these kinds of relationships.

This was abundantly clear while watching others in our group trying to pack up over the course of the day. These ladies were trying to balance multiple duties while tearing down so they had more to accomplish than ki and I, however, I’ve seen this happen on more than one occasion.

Packing their car is insane. Everything has an exact order and placement to make it all fit which makes sense but was easily thrown off by the incremental packing and the elements (rain) fighting against them.

The big problem comes to a head in a matter of workload and conflicting ideas on who and how things need to get done. This groups driver has very specific ideas on how things should go in the car for all three ladies things to fit. She also seems to think that the others should know how to pack said car the way it needs to be packed so that she doesn’t have to guide every step of the packing. As she puts it, she can’t tire herself out with all the packing, because she need to conserve her energy for staying awake while driving so if it looks like she’s lazing around during the process, that’s what’s going on.

Her passengers, however, know that she will get frustrated if things aren’t packed just so – even when certain things don’t make sense to them – so they will need her input and help to do things like set up and tear down. They have admitted that changing some of the tearing down order would probably be done before hand to smooth out the wrinkles.

Despite years of camping together, these small bumps between passengers and drivers makes me believe communication is a real issue and if you are going to road trip with someone, the very first thing you need to do is find out what your companion(s) needs from you. Every driver is different and as someone who fills this road a lot, it’s really nice when we don’t have to think of everything. But drivers, don’t forget to speak up and even set some ground rules.

Every ship needs a captain – figure out how your ship sails best and I wish you many happy adventures.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Rules for Road Trips: Knowing your driver

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

dsc_0165
Great Western War, Bakersfield, CA. October 2016.

I know I have written briefly about the SCA and the huge camping trips that come along with all the other crazy adventures before, but now I am back from round two – Great Western War. This camping trip was an hour and a half car ride away and we stayed from Thursday through Monday. I spent the day and a half prior double checking and gathering all our gear (including shopping for food and all my other usual chores) and about an hour packing up the car before sprinting out to camp.

What I learned this time around is that the second time is a whole lot easier.

Before our first war, my sister and I had an official camping list that I worked through to gather gear but I ended up over packing anyway. This time, I couldn’t find that list so I made my own based on the stuff I knew would work and what wouldn’t.

Currently, my sister and I sleep in a small pop-up tent inside of an easy up canopy (it’s become quite the little joke but also something cute that’s garnered just a hint of admiration: our tent within a tent set up).

We end up putting up 6 side panels to create overlapping doorways and better coverage of corners – we get dressed in the main area and aren’t looking to give anyone a show.  We steak everything down with gutter steaks and wide washers, keeping all but the front flaps down with little to trip over. I improved the set up ten-fold this time by securing the back flaps with extra steaks and creating a secure but movable front flap/door using smaller tent hooks.

As we develop our war gear, we are hoping to create canvas walls and top to put around our pop-up frame to keep the ease of set up but with a better aesthetic (with or without the small inner tent).

I was able to improve our lighting – we have 8 sets of solar powered bulbs from Orchard Hardware – by not just circling our tent but winding the lights up the center bars. One of our sets was unlit the whole time, but the central placement of the lights kept the whole tent bright enough to move around in, no matter how dark it was outside. Even with our placement near a tree, taping the solar batteries to the top of the canopy kept everything lit. I also suggest the small fake candles which can be set out on tables, in tents, or really anywhere that needs lights that you can’t actually light with a flame. You will need movable light as well (porter-potties are no joke in the dark!).

We also cut about a third of the stuff we packed last time simply by reducing clutter. I made sure we had essentials and some luxuries – I ended up being the hair person of my household so a variety of hairbands and bobby-pins in pretty glass jars were amazing to have on hand. Other necessities were the few portable chargers to keep our phones and fitbits charged enough to keep in contact and time. I still need to cut a little of the dead weigh,t but I’ve seen that we are learning what we need as we go.

I absolutely fell in love with this campsite in Bakersfield. It was absolutely beautiful with great views of the water but everything was in walking distance. I wish I had remembered to carry around my camera more – these trips are the most magical photo shoots – yet, walking around without my lens was an adventure in and of itself. However, I did take my camera to one ‘Holy Grail’ themed event which was so much fun.

What I absolutely love about these trips is being (mostly) unplugged and out of the normal world, and getting to have late night conversations around camp fires and under the stars. You get to wear strange outfits from all over the world – I ran around for two days in baggy pants and a tiny top I’d never think to throw on (since I’m usually in skinny jeans, baggy/over-sized tops and some kind of pull over/accent piece) and it was so much fun! – and just let yourself go. I’ve made amazing friends and laughed myself silly. I have volunteered my time and am slowly starting to take on more camp and court duties. I’ve lived a fantasy and I won’t lie, it has been hard to come down from this trip.

So as I recover and reminisce and (shockingly!) miss my hard, dirt packed bed:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

To War and Home Again (SCA-Style)…

Watch the Carry-Ons

On our way to Boston, we got to the airport early – we flew out of LAX and drove ourselves so multiple hours of sitting and eating far outweighed the chances of running into issues of traffic and security, even if we could have slept longer.

Between 5 of us, we had 4 suitcases and 5 carry-ons which shouldn’t have been an issue, however, there were a few issues that were truly unexpected:

1. Three of us were seated in exit rows.

Exit rows have no under seat storage so everything you bring into the cabin must go above you in overhead storage. Despite this deficit, you are not granted an earlier boarding or reserved bag space – though we were seriously considering recommending it! If you find yourself in this predicament when booking, prepare for it, especially in the busier season (as I’ll discuss next!).

People who board first, especially with multiple carry-ons, take up a lot of room and (at least on our way to Boston), people were closing overhead bins before they were full but, since this is not traveler etiquette, we never thought to check! Luckily, we did get everything stored but remember in your process to always keep a watchful eye out for space (as you’ll see).

2. Think of the season and pack light!

With more and more airlines charging for checked luggage, more and more people are opting out of checking bags and carrying on whatever limit, including pushing it to extremes. This leads to more and more issues of finding cabin space especially near your seat – we noticed some passengers have started to put luggage ahead of where they sit in order to jump ahead on departure.

So, how do you combat this? Well, one: bring carry-ons you can store under your seat (when you have said space) and avoid fighting for the overhead space. And, two: if you must bring overhead luggage, don’t be surprised (or cross!) if you have to check part of your haul at the gate, especially if you are in a later boarding section.

3. Follow all directions at security before being asked personally.

It was absolutely unbelievable to me how many people I had to fight not to yell this at – it honestly felt like no one in the airport had ever traveled before. We had people who didn’t remove shoes, belts, hats, liquids from bags as well as large electronics. This is especially hazardous when more and more people are bringing more and more cases through security in lieu of checking items.

The issue with getting flagged at security is that they must unpack your entire suitcase/bag. I watched the whole contents of people’s luggage – panties to toothpaste and laptops to paperwork – get pulled apart and examined. Now I wouldn’t mind so much if this just slowed down the person getting pulled out and checked, however, as your improperly packed bag must be scanned multiple times and, if too many people are being pulled, there is no where for these bags to be pulled, causing security to slow or stop. 

Security is not hard: follow instructions, do your part, and we’ll all get out in time to do what we need to do!

4. Beware dense objects (and odd objects).

This was something really unexpected: some objects that you wouldn’t think as a problem in your carry-on, might be a bigger issue than most! If you really pack your bag and have dense objects in them – my sister’s box of business cards in this case – these denser pockets can appear as solid unidentifiable objects in a scan which will get you pulled from the security line. The truth is, most of the time you won’t know what will set a scan like this off, however, density and metal coatings – I had a metal CD case once that caused some issues – play a large part in making these determinations.

On a stranger point of odd objects and the randomness of scans, my mother’s bag got flagged – we thought it was her metal water canister at first – because of an oddly packed bag of peanut M&Ms!

5. And (as always) be kind!

I have seen a lot of incidences in all my flights (and I’ve had many both international and domestic), but this trip between LA and Boston was worse than I can ever remember. Between the woman who scowled and scolded the women loading us over having to check in one of her overhead bags, the girls who got a little lost and had to re-enter security between transfers (which I’ll talk about more next week, though edited for language), and the many complaints about wait times (be it loading, getting luggage, or getting through security or customs), there are so many areas where people’s tempers fly, but getting angry and lashing out never helped anyone.

Practice your yoga breathing, meditate, count to 10, whatever, but if you take it out on anyone who is there to help you (even if you doubting their actual helpfulness), you won’t get the help and the world will come back to bite you on the butt. You will not be the first ungrateful person they work with and you will not be their last, but being kind takes as much energy as being angry and you may brighten the day of someone else enough that you get exactly the help you are looking for.

So, for more ‘did she just say that out loud!?’ stories from LAX and why you should really be nicer to people, tune in next time, but until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Watch the Carry-Ons

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

5 days round trip to Boston Comic Con and the truth of the matter is: I am so tired.

Today is the fist full day back in the California time zone and, as I was barely on Boston time, I feel like my whole internal clock is stuck in Wonderland – time means practically nothing at all to my body right now. Add in some post-travel, recycled air crud, amplified by the ever present pot-con crud, and I’m not in tip-top shape.

But, alas, onto some big points on traveling for any kind of dress-up/costumed cons:

1. Check and double check your luggage

I have definitely pulled brain blanks multiple times in packing for cons and, as a complete detail-oriented freak, this never goes well. For my first Doctor Who convention, I bought solid white velcro shoes for one of my Rose Tyler costumes and, of course, I left the ruddy things sitting in my room. Luckily, we were an hour away from homeand my dad was coming into the area for a class so it was easy to meet up, say hi, and pick up my shoes. You can’t do this, however, if you have flown across the country.

So yes, check and double check all the details of every outfit and costume you’ve planned for your weekend and – at least for me – this means packing a few mundane outfits but I’ll cover that in a moment or two.

2. Look carefully at the time/season when you are traveling

Most people going to a con have bulky pieces and that is a major pain no matter what season you travel in, but in the peak seasons, this is just insane. It’s bad enough with more people bringing more carry-ons in lieu of high check-in costs overfilling the regular cabin space, but with clunky cosplay gear, this doesn’t work at all.

If you can de-bulk your cosplay, seriously consider it. Between lack of space, cost of multiple checked items,  damage in the transport process and chance of lost luggage, you may well end up without your gear (at least in any shape to wear proudly). However, if you are going to fight to bring your biggest and bulkiest – costs be damned – you must plan ahead. You should try and check in early as a few airlines will let you on in order of priority and check-in (this is if you are pushing the carry on limit). Secondly, you need to show up earlier than the airlines recommended time; this guarantees a higher chance of your bags getting onto the correct plane. If you are late to check in, only you are responsible for your bags not making it in, especially if you are checking multiple items – law of averages goes way up in a time crunch!

This includes post-con luggage! You may travel to the con with one carry on, but if you over shop, that can easily escalate and as stated earlier, travel space can just as easily become scarce. When packing, remember to leave space the first time around in your checked gear and you’ll be able to really work in souvenirs if you haven’t completely overindulged yourself.

3. Check the weather and make your costume choices accordingly

Just as your con gear can get bulky, generally this bulk also increases the heat of your outfit. While convention centers are generally air conditioned (if they are done correctly!) to the point of needing a sweater, there are always areas inside and out that are disturbingly warm.  If you are in a hot region, watch-out for fleece and layers or else make sure that you take breaks outside of your gear to cool down.

If you are close enough to your hotel, go back and forth from costume to mundane clothing as needed and if not, wear light mundane layers under your clunkier gear that you can take off periodically.

Also, take care of yourself. Drink lots of water and pack snacks; there are days where you will barely have time to use the bathroom let alone any of your other necessities. Speaking of, make sure you can move and do things like use the bathroom without help – no one really wants to be your bathroom friend, no matter how much they love you.

4. Plan your budget to suit what you can actually afford

Cons have all the nerd gear you could ever want – and most that you will never need – and all of it more than your wallet can stand in a single weekend. From gadgets, to costumes, to trinkets, to photographs and autographs, everything at the con has a steep price that can add up quickly when you aren’t paying attention.

If you plan out your costs before heading out – buying what you can ahead of time, having money on hand, ect. – you’re much more likely to stick to your budget. Also, make sure that budget fits your lifestyle. If you have a lower income, you can’t spend your whole rent or food budget on trinkets that you are never going to use. Be sensible, nerds!

5. Make a plan to combat your jet lag

Cons are generally short lived – Boston was a weekend which we extended to five days with travel – and therefore, you will barely get used to the time zone you are in before heading back home, leaving you in a state of weird time-limbo.  You can push all the caffeine (beware of the crash) and fluids you want but you really just need to get yourself out on that first morning and go.

Our first morning, my dad and I were scheduled for a 6:30 50 minute run and, between the adrenaline and endorphins, I felt more awake than I expected after getting through the workout. Just make sure to fuel up after because jet lag, no food, and in a calorie deficit, you will not make it through the day.


 

There are obviously many more things that are vital for you to have a successful con and I’d love to hear some of your top things to remember. This being said, I loved Boston Comic con – small enough to handle but wider appeal than my regular stop – but I’ll probably just be sticking to my local favorite, Gallifrey One, for the foreseeable future.

Many more topics to cover from this quick trip, but until the next time,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Traveling (Comic) Cons…

5 Things You’d Never Think to Pack…

But will totally want to!

IMG_4797
One shot from a long climb day. Neuschwanstein Castle. July 2015.

As I have mentioned, a good chunk of my family has just come back from traveling through Europe and the UK for the past month and with their arrival comes a whole new set of insights and advice to pass on to all of you.

I asked my mom this time around what the biggest thing she learned from this trip (she has traveled many place for work throughout her career for a varied length of time, but this month was probably the longest, active trip for her) and she gave me this list of easy to pack items that she really wished she had available everyday of her trip.

1. Cinch backpack

This is one of those cheap drawstring backpacks you can pick up pretty much everywhere. The reason we recommend these so much is you can really easily pack one (or more) in your bigger travel backpack – along with books, computers, ect. – but then take just the essentials with you – like a jacket – on longer travel days without having to pack and unpack constantly.

2. Footbath tub

When you are running around constantly, the one part of your body that really takes a beating is your feet. Unfortunately, not all hotels (or wherever you rest your head for the night) have bathtubs to soak your feet in. While you can climb up on a bathroom counter or sleep with your feet elevated to help you out, bringing a small tub is a lot easier (and safer) and won’t really effect your packing. Whether you decide to bring a plastic tub – easily packed in a larger suitcase without messing up you  ability to pack because you can pack clothes into it – or an inflatable one – you’ll have to blow it up every time but easily folds into any case – you’ll be able to soak your tired feet without worrying about being stranded in a bathroom (or falling off any counters) and feel ready to go the next day!

3. Collapsible hiking/walking stick

This one falls a little more into the older groups’ ‘needs to bring’ set but there are definite times when even those of us in the younger crowd can use one of these handy sticks. Whether you are going on actual travel hikes, long walks through hilly country or city, or (more specifically) church and castle tours across Europe, too many hills no matter your age can get to you and – as with all things – once you feel like you need one, you won’t be able to find one to buy. The collapsible stick is the best because it will fit in your drawstring day bag and is otherwise simple practical.

4. Personal fan and/or spray bottle

A lot of European buildings do not have central air and as everywhere seems to get hotter and hotter, this can cause some seriously uncomfortable nights – and days walking around too. if you bring a small spray bottle or fan you’ll be able to get a bit of relief especially if your fan can be on and set in front of an ice bucket over night – this will cool the air even more!

5. Single bed sheet

A good percentage of people -at least, the people I know – can’t seem to sleep without some kind of blanket on top of them but many place around the world don’t do much in the way of sheets; instead, they have the bed cover and the duvet. But, as stated earlier, as the temperatures rise, the more uncomfortable those duvets become. So packing a single sheet in with your clothes is easy and light but can seriously increase your comfort.

*Just one word to the wise: if you are having your room made up, pack up your sheet so it doesn’t get mixed in with the hotels laundry.

*******

So that’s the list and, personally, I cannot wait for my chance to use all of these options! But until then:

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

5 Things You’d Never Think to Pack…

Packing for Nicer (Dress) Travels…

So as I have mentioned in previous posts, most of my family is out traveling at the moment (I literally dropped my father off at the airport this morning) and I am sitting here at home writing to all of you.

My parents bid and won a trip on a Viking Cruise down the Danube river, but with this excursion there comes a whole new set of travel issues. My dad asked me to help and then suggested writing this post talking about the packing issues that come up with a cruise that usually don’t effect your travel planning; specifically clothing.

If you haven’t taken a cruise before – especially one with a company like Viking – you may not know about the dress codes. Cruises are an uncommonly fancy travel extravaganzas – I mean dresses, pearls, cardigans, the whole deal. While these dress codes don’t generally span much beyond the dining room, the age group of the normal cruise crowd tends to keep to collard shirts and khaki pants. From what my dad was told from others who have taken this cruise, my parents (at 51 and 52) will be among the youngest on this trip.

With excursions like these, you aren’t going to just stay on the boat which makes keeping to dress codes a little difficult. Firstly, the clothes you want to wear when you are running around a city may not be the ones that you’ll see on the ship. Secondly, you may not have much time between excursions to get yourself together before it’s time for dinner. Lastly, even if you do have the time to run back to your room and prepare for dinners, you may not have room in your luggage for both average day travel clothes and your nicer dinner clothes.

So what do you do (especially you young ones who don’t generally wear travel khakis)?

For once in dressing news, ladies have it pretty easy. Because we always have to think about making clothes move easily from day time to night time, cruise clothing obstacles are nothing new. Dresses and skirts are easy when it’s summer and hot and cardigans with a few pieces of jewelry can make you instantly dinner ready.

But for men (because these issues are much further and far between), this can be a bit rougher. My father is 51 and, again, definitely young for this kind of trip, so for the last two weeks, we have been on a mission to find clothing that will work both for the occasion and for someone as laid back as my father.

We ended up at Target (our go-to shopping stop) which was having an amazing men’s sale. In the end, we left the store with three pairs of golfer’s pants and 5 golfer polo shirts. These pieces are great because while they conform to the dress code of the country club crowd (and you guessed it, these crowds overlap quite a bit) but are designed for days spent moving around. Beyond what we bought, we threw in a pair of jeans, a few t-shirts, and a pair of button-ups for those day when either they won’t be eating in the dining room or when there is time to change.

Getting these pieces to work after flying half way around the world can be a challenge – button ups, slacks, and suitcases do not mix. Luckily, my dad found this new way of packing as advertised by NBC which is meant to stop your nice clothes from wrinkling beyond repair when there isn’t time to iron your clothes.

So while I’m here and everyone else is out exploring the world – and later they’ll tell you all about it – have a wonderful week and travel well, even if it is vicariously,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Packing for Nicer (Dress) Travels…