Friday, February 8, 2008

Packing List Manifesto

So, you know the travel companion postion I have been looking to fill? Well, I think it has been filled by my friend Liz, geographer and world traveler, coffee lover, friend from high school, and all around fun person. Upon reading my packing list she had a few things to add...

Now, I realize my packing list is excessive for a 10 day trip. The list is really a compilation of the list and hints of many different people, who traveled at different times of the year. Therefore, a lot of things, like clothing and an umbrella, might not be needed based on when I travel. I also realize I mentioned a ton of food to take with me, and I probably won't need all of it, but since I will be traveling with Abigail, I want to remind myself of good options that have worked for other moms. I have also excluded a lot of new kid items, because I don't know anything about my child yet. Carry-on stuff for Abigial has been omitted. I also added the "Omitted" column to the right to better keep track of what I actually ended up using.

So, here is Liz's packing manifesto. Based on her rather extensive world travel, I think she has included lots of good hints.

OH! I love commenting on packing lists.

First of all -- you don't need travelers checks (at least that is my personal opinion). I haven't traveled with them in quite some time -- and they are more of a pain than anything. Its much easier to just use cash. Second of all -- its not really the date thats an issue -- you just have to make certain you have the latest release of bills -- so that means the new 20, and the new 10. 20s in general, are the preferable exchange in banks -- they REALLY don't like small bills (1s, 5s, and 10s can be iffy). Now I will travel with a few ones -- because occassionally I'll take those to a market or give it to a taxi driver.

Next up. Make copies of everything. and then make another copy. Keep one copy in the bag you check. And one copy with someone back at home. As crazy as this sounds -- I also make copies of my credit cards especially the phone numbers if they get stolen. Also. When you are getting ready to go -- call your bank and credit card companies and let them know that you are traveling to ethiopia, and give them the dates that you are going to be there. (I recently had my credit card numbers stolen when I was in canada and had my checking account emptied out. Now thankfully everything got returned but now I'm very careful about telling banks, etc that I'm traveling -- primarily because I won't have immediate internet access to find out if my accounts have been fished. Which is how I found out this last time). Also -- you can even tell them some sort of limit for charges if you want. Now, I travel a fair bit -- and just in case -- I made a document with my passwords to things like email and my bank accounts for my dad (he legally would have the rights should something drastic happen to me). I realized that when so much of my life relies on email/my cell phone/online banking -- they would have to know these things in order to access them should something happen. I may be a tad fatalistic I realize this -- but it was a piece of mind to know that should something happen -- they would have an easy way of knowing how to get in touch with the people who matter.

Phone Cards / cell phones.
Chances are your phone will work in Ethiopia (mine worked in Rwanda). Now CALLING people from it is VERY expensive. Texting -- its the same international rate. So. Example. I'm sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting for my best friend hannah to show up (she was coming to Rwanda with me and living in Nairobi at the time). She has a kenya cell phone number, I have a u.s. number. I just texted her back and forth to find her in the airport. when I came back and checked my cell phone, I only got charged the int'l texting fee. So. If I go with you -- I'll probably bring my cell phone (if worse comes to worse I can also just get a SIM card there too and plug it in my phone), and I'll just text folks. Now -- you should also have a phone card -- but I tend to think thats more for emergencies... you can get some great deals on int'l phone cards.

I wouldn't worry about bring a hot pot. You'll be able to find hot water, its the land of coffee remember!. Next, I remember you had it on your list from before -- bringing granola bars or snacks for street kids. Now -- this is a personal opinion, and one not necessarily shared by all, and you can do as you see fit. I know your intentions are good. A couple of things -- I am actually against bringing and giving food to street kids. I know that can be taken as harsh and what not -- but there are a couple of reasons. First of all, yes, I know that many of them are hungry -- but it is impossible for me to provide long term care to them. Secondly, there has now become an expectation of kids expecting hand outs from westerners. This is NOT something that should be expected. Sometimes the kids can be very forceful. It can be a challenge -- and I guarantee your heart will break. But I think you make the situation worse by giving them the food -- often times its the kids who are the strongest (hello survival of the fittest laws) who get the 'goods' anyway -- or they will take it from the weaker ones. Your intentions are good, I'm not argueing that -- but there are appropriate mechanisms. That being said, if you decide to bring 'treats' for the orphanage -- give it to who ever is in charge at the orphange. The same goes for books, toys, etc. Let her (or him) appropriately give it out at the right time. You may already know all of this -- and therefore I'm being redundant. :).

Next up. PEANUT BUTTER! Unless someone is allergic to peanuts. This is my food traveling kit: Peanut Butter (sometimes even 2 jars if I'm gone for longer than 2 weeks), Salt Shaker, Pepper Grinder (or shaker), jolly ranchers (then if I'm craving flavored water -- I just throw one in), sometimes tuna (depending on where I'm going and the time of year), crackers, coffee (but its ethiopia -- so thats a non issue), ginger tea (I get upset stomachs a lot from food -- so that tends to settle me pretty quickly), fruit leather (dried fruit substitutes in a pinch), oh. and hot chocolate mix -- thats to add to my coffee when I'm craving something a bit more creamy and sugary. I think thats all that I typically travel with. Now granted. You have a five year old who won't necessarily understand that there its not readily available, especially if it is something that she is used to. If Abigail regularly eats pudding cups, than bring them -- just make certain you pack them in lots of plastic cause they may explode in the plane.

How long are you traveling? (thats actually something I was in general wondering -- 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4?) Cause you are packing a HOUSE! :)

Grace and toiletries :). First of all -- those face cloths, kind of like handy wipes, are your friend. Second of all, I hope this doesn't come off as harsh, but you are going to a developing country -- do you REALLY need all of these things? :) And yes. Abigail can share. As I'm sure you've realized -- you may want to find out a little bit about african hair care -- but I doubt that you will have to wash your new daughters hair while in Ethiopia... seems to me that african hair isn't washed very often in general anyway. But -- there are other ways to appropriately take care of it.

Underwear. Depends on how many days you are going. I tend to pack a weeks to a week and a half worth (because I'm a bit excessive) others will just pack five pairs. I really don't like doing laundry -- I can live in the SAME clothes for however long I need to -- I just really like clean underwear. and Bra's I only bring 2. Swimsuit tops also work as bras -- and depending on the bra, vice versa.

I would also say you only really need one dress, if that is even necessary.

Liz's packing list when she was in rwanda (and I over packed)
5 t-shirts (that was because I was painting).
5 nicer short sleeve shirts that I could wear when I wasn't painting and that would also go with skirts.
2 skirts (I think I only wore one)
2 jeans
2 pairs of misc. pants
1 pair of pj pants
2 long sleeve shirtslots of socks (I brought WAY too many pairs of socks)shawl/wrap/sometimes skirt thing.
gym shorts
1 sweatshirt
3 sweaters (it was a little colder)
1 swimsuit (didn't use). Actually, I'll just typically swim in shorts and a t-shirt, unless I'm at a VERY european type place.
2 weeks worth of underwear.

1 pair of flip flops.
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of ballet slippers
1 pair of 'hiking' boots.

BANDANAS! (I never leave with out them)
Baseball hat (I left it there)

I could have not taken some of the shirts, socks, the hiking boots, and the ballet slippers.

Next up. Compression sacks are your friend. You can find them at camping stores. I recommend not buying the plastic compression sacks at target, and instead going to an REI or some sort of camping surplus store and getting a few. You could probably do with 3-4 medium to large size ones. Here is why. they will SERIOUSLY suck your clothes down to nothing. It's pretty much amazing. When I travel, I try to only go with 1 duffel bag. You don't want to carry a lot. And you don't want to attract a lot of attention. Plus, if you travel with less -- if it gets lost its not the end of the world. 2ndly, when then when you get going in your travels you can have a compression sack for clean clothes, and one for dirty clothes. I'm a HUGE fan of compression sacks. I started traveling with them three trips ago I think, and now I won't travel with out them. I also try and limit myself to packing in 1.5 compression sacks (.5 compression sack is in the backpack).

More packing hints.
When you fly internationally -- you are actually only allowed one carry-on item. Period. That could be your purse. That could be a backpack. That could be a small duffel. I pack a purse in a large back pack :). Now. in this backpack goes everything that is essential should your luggage get lost. On the Rwanda trip 3 people had their luggage lost / it didn't arrive in time. I've never had 'lost' luggage -- but then I'm also prepared to survive should anything go wrong.

In my backpack (using a compression sack!) I pack a change of clothes -- plus an extra t-shirt and a pair of underwear, maybe another pair of socks for the plane. I pack the essential medication (malaria -- though I've actually quit taking that these days, so mostly IB Profin, vitamins, anything I have perscriptions for, etc) I travel with shampoo bars (solid shampoo -- at LUSH (, so one of those. Purse and under clothing money thing (the one that hangs from your neck -- I don't like the money belt one personally). Some snacks. A book. A deck of cards. Essential electronics (phone, ipod, laptop if I feel I need it -- most of the time its a relief to NOT bring it -- especially if its a heavier one) and all their chargers, Flashlight. Bandana. Gum. Maybe a pair of flip flops. Basically. Enough to live out of my backpack for a couple of weeks if I have to. Some of my make up. an eye shade thing. ear plugs.

Other packing list hints.
You need either crocs or walking shoes. Not both.
I really like those travel sleep sack things...they pack down to nothing -- and are great if the sheets are slightly questionable (I've slept in some questionable places in the past...)
I think I mentioned some sort of sarong type thing. Multi purpose. Love them. Also function as towels.
Oh. pack some towels. not huge ones. but larger than a hand towel.
Yes. Bring Toilet paper. In fact. Pack one in your backpack.
I'm noticing that you are very very cleanly :). as you have every imaginable cleaning product... if you can let any of those go -- that could be useful. If they are essential -- then don't worry too much.
Duck Tape. It is so multi-functional. A small roll goes in my back pack.
Nalgene bottles. Empty. I carry one on -- and fill it up with water once I get through security. You have to make certain you stay hydrated on the long flights.

I'd recommend bringing some games... like cards, mad libs, string for cats in the cradle, a jump rope if you are playing at the orphanage, deflated balls for the orphanage if you want, books for the orphanage (again given to the head of the org). Things to draw with. Actually -- I'd get abigail a journal too. Even if she can't write manifesto's have her draw something that was new each day, or something that she liked, or something that she didn't like -- at the same time that you journal.

Make a binder up of pictures from home -- like what the parks look like, what your little girls room will look like, what a school looks like, what some of the day to day activities are that she will now be a part of. Use it as a teaching tool not to demonstrate opulence -- but to instead talk humbly about our culture. Try and grab things that are typical day to day tasks. You know -- this is what a bedroom is. This is us eating dinner with our extended family. Cultural things that are the same in function but different in execution. Does that make sense? So then people can see that really -- ethiopia and the us aren't that different -- because we are ALL HUMAN! :).

Why are you bring clothes pins? For laundry? In that case -- bring a clothes line -- cause you won't find those there. Either that -- or just wear not so clean clothes :). Though. Depending on the hotel -- they will often offer laundry service. This is a great way to bring money into the local culture. Though it depends on the hotel. Also typically -- if you have laundry done, they will not wash underwear. Hence why I pack lots and lots of underwear. Suggestions for gifts...I recommend little things -- something that can be unique to your home. You're from hershey penn. Bring some chocolate bars (even if it isn't the BEST chocolate in the world). Or -- bring a picture of you and abigail in front of the house -- or bring a book (with lots of pictures) about your hometown.

Rules to live by.
Don't bring anything that you can't leave behind. (Now there are somethings that would be a loss, like say, your laptop... so minus that... things like sandels, clothing items, sunglasses...even photos)Be flexible.

Things you don't need.
An umbrella.

Have I written a manifesto yet? It's only cause you touched on a topic that I think a lot about :). And everything I've said. Guidelines :). Just a few (or more) thoughts on things I do...I'm sure I could add more. We'll save that for later.

So, there you go! Lots of good info and advice. I will certainly be limiting my packing based on some of these hints. After I travel, I will update my list with what I took, what I used, and what I didn't use.

1 comment:

Aimee said...

Wow, that is some good info.
Here is what I did. I took one large suitcase, a duffle bag and a rolling back pack as my carry on. The duffel contained stuff for the orphanage. But, I also took baby clothes for the baby to wear through the week that I planned to leave at the orphanage. I ended up leaving most of my clothes as well. So, on the way home, I had only the back pack whcih contained souveneirs and a carry on with only what the baby and I needed for the flight. This made navigating airports, etc. witht he baby onthe way home SO much easier. Plus, th eorphanage needed that stuff more than we did.