Saturday, September 25, 2010

Don't Leave Home Without It!

I’ve just come back from a hectic book tour, events every night for 2 weeks, including 9 cities in 9 days. I’m a pretty seasoned traveler, as are my fellow Jungle Red Babes, so I thought I'd learned what to take and what not to take with me.

I made several mistakes this time: I left my tiny backup hairdryer at home, thinking I’d be staying in top of the line hotels. Well, the hotels were top of the line, but I came out of the shower, hair dripping, in one sumptuous bathroom to find no hairdryer.
“It’ s with the towels, madam,” they said when I called the front desk.
“No it’s not,” I replied.
They promised to send one up. I waited and waited while my hair dried going in directions I didn’t want it to go. I called down again and told them that I had a car coming for me in ten minutes and I needed that hairdryer NOW. If I’d had my tiny backup all would have been well.

Mistake two: I did not bring my own tea bags. I presumed that luxury hotels might actually have tea bags. Several had no coffee or tea making equipment. We were supposed to order eight dollar a pot room service. One had a very fancy kettle and a variety of herb teas, but no black tea, which I’m sure you realize all English people must have at four o’clock on the dot. And when I ordered a pot of tea—it came with no milk. What were they thinking?

Oh, and there was another thing I forgot this time—Bandaids. I had one hotel with a platform bed, bigger than the mattress on top of it. In the darkness of the middle of the night I hit my leg on the corner of the platform and it started to bleed like crazy. I thought of calling down to reception, but I was in my skimpy nightgown and I felt like a fool. So I sat with a wet towel pressed to it until the bleeding stopped.

So there are lessons learned for the next trip. Never assume that because the hotel is fancy, it will have what you need.

When I travel I carry certain items I consider indispensable.
1. My pocket pillow. Round inflatable pillow that goes in my back on long plane and car trips. The difference between arriving in pain or not.
2. Miniature flashlight. You never know when a hotel may lose power and it’s not good to be in the dark in a strange place.
3. Ear plugs and eye mask for those too bright and too loud rooms.
4. iPod with soothing music for annoying airport delays, also containing photos of loved ones to remind me what’s really important in life.
5. At least one book to read (to be replaced by Kindle within the next week. Or maybe Nook. I’m still debating.
6. A scarf or pashmina. Planes can be freezing.
7. Flash drive with back ups of all current work.
And if you add the three I left behind this time, that makes ten.

So which items can’t you leave home without?


  1. Brilliant! I'd add sugar to the teabags--the hotel might give you one or two of those tiny packets, but it's never enough. And my band-aid pack (lives in the suitcase, along with a spare pair of glasses!) contains patches and ointments for anything short of amputation (can't carry knives these days anyway). Don't you hate getting a blister you can't do anything about?

  2. Yes, hair dryer. I just check at the desk before I go up now..and first thing when I get into the room.

    Shower cap! There used to be shower caps standardly in every room. NOw--I think it's one of the things they decided to cut. Again, I ask at the desk. And I get three of them. They're small.

    MOre to come!

  3. I have a confession: I have never in my life used a shower cap. Correction: once, when I was painting a ceiling.

    I do bring my own tea bags. Band-aids always. Yeah, Sheila - and I always do seem to get a blister. Aspirin. And a bag of really good trail mix.

    Rhys, can you recommend good earplugs? The ones I got pop out.

  4. For 15 years I traveled around the country giving talks, and agree with everything you listed. I'd add a small bag of non-prescription remedies: Benadryl, Nyquil, Dayquil, Advil, melatonin (if you're traveling across time zones), and whatever else you need. I'm a homeopathic kind of gal, so I also carry small vials of Coffea Cruda (in case that "decaffeinated" coffee turns out to have been leaded), Allium Cepa (for allergy attacks), Nux Vomica (for headaches and stomach ailments), Lycopodium Clavaticum (for heartburn and gassiness). The vials are tiny, but the pellets--when dissolved under the tongue with a "clean" mouth--are super effective.

    The best earplugs I've found are the purple foam ones in a cone shape. Nothing is totally soundproof, but those come close.

    Shower caps are great if you don't want to mess with your hair every day, and if your hair goes frizzy with the merest hint of moisture.

  5. I'm pretty much the world's worst planner So I PRETTY much forget whatever I put on the list and have learned to make do.

    The only thing I never forget is my I-phone with a book on tape on it -- that's for the plane ride. And a half a valium. Also for the plane ride.

    Usually I remember gym clothes and sneakers because I have to work out where ever I go. That way sleep is never an issue. And makeup. Just so I don't scare anyone.

    After that if I did remember to bring it along, I'd like to have Cetaphyl instead of soap - which is always too harsh. And if I'm feeling ambitious - my laptop.

  6. Hallie, I have never found perfect earplugs but I think the secret is rolling them very thin and then letting them expand sideways in your ear.
    And ditto to the various non-prescription medicines.
    Oh,gym clothes. That's a good one. I usually forget and I can't work out in a linen suit or silk skirt. But I always travel with my swimsuit, in case the hotel has a pool or spa and I have fifteen minutes.

  7. Are we leaving clothing out of the mix? I'm obsessed with clothing these days so I'll go in that direction. Flip-flops, you may not want to walk around barefoot...even in a nice hotel. An Hermes scarf. Covers a multitude of sins and it can go from WalMart to Waldorf. A sarong and black yoga pants. I'm convinced there's nothing you can't do in some combination of these articles of clothing. Earrings. Used to be AA batteries, but now I'd say one of those charger thingys with multiple tips. Sunglasses. So you can look chic and also pretend to be asleep if the person next to you is boring. A good attitude?

  8. As a kid, we traveled constantly and our mantra was Passport, Prescriptions and Pesos (just because it rhymed). If you had the first 2 and travelers checks, you could buy whatever you forgot. Although I am partial to my own hairdryer.

  9. Nope. NEVER check luggage. One carry on. Done.

    (And if I don't have a shower cap, I'm in trouble. Just saying. With you on Hermes, Ro. Very adorably put, Walmart/Waldorf. You are ao CUTE.)

  10. Scissors.

    Seriously. I can't tell you the number of times I've needed a pair of scissors while on a road trip.

  11. ACK! Put scissors in your carry-on and you risk getting carted off to "the room"...the chair...the light in your face... I was traveling with another author once who missed the plane on account of a nail scissor. Of course that was back in early '02 so maybe things have eased up since.

  12. Given my picture you know why a shower cap is not my top priority. However, I've found keeping a small tube of Neosporin in my kit bag has been very useful.

    And a spare pair of glasses.

    ~ Jim

  13. Just catching up here. For earplugs, which are almost the most essential item on the list: Silicone earplugs. They mold to your ear shape, and shut out just about everything. You have to get used to the sound of your own breathing at first, but it's worth it. Indispensable. I get them in 12 packs at CVS or RiteAid.

    But also: Dove dark bites. You never know when you'll need just one taste of chocolate!