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“Helpful” packing/firefighting/fashion tips


With less than a week to go before my trip to Italy, I’m thinking about packing. In preparation, I just can’t resist reading other people’s tips on how best to pack.

One of my favourites is the perennial “pack your worst, most worn-out underwear and discard as you go.” Yikes! That always sounds a bit unpleasant for hotel staff, who must deal with all this old, used underwear. Besides, I find it can make great packing material for fragile items, like ceramics.

It’s also useful for fire-fighting. One of my favourite news stories of this decade, courtesy of the BBC: a man and his son put out a raging grease fire on their stove, using an enormous pair of Marks and Spencer cotton knickers grabbed from a nearby laundry basket.

On a related theme of fire-fighting and packing, here’s a helpful safety tip I found today on the Rick Steeves' Graffiti Wall, concerning best fabrics for packing. The poster suggests synthetic clothing is best for packing BUT adds that he only wears wool or cotton on the plane. The reason? “In a fire, synthetics melt right into your skin. Cotton is safer, and wool is actually slightly protective in case of fire.”

Double yikes!!! I don’t usually worry about plane fires—my big concern is lost luggage, so I choose plane wear that would look appropriate for a few days after I land, in case my luggage doesn’t make the scene.

Still on the disposable clothing theme, here’s a debatable suggestion from another poster on the RS wall: “I bring clothing items that are headed for the Goodwill bag. Wear them one more time and leave it (sic) in the room. I don't have to do laundry, and it makes room in the bag for shopping.” Since I assume this woman was probably going to give ill-fitting or out-dated clothes to Goodwill, she must be planning to wander around fashion-obsessed Italian cities, dressed for a disco. Or in her old maternity clothes. I think I’ll leave my hand-me-downs at home.

One item I do leave behind from my luggage are novels that I’ve finished reading during the trip. I always pack a few books and tend to carry light-weight stuff (both in terms of content and actual size, such as small-print mysteries.) So, I don't mind leaving them behind.

I find that even though I’ll be traveling for almost a month, I don’t think I need that much more stuff than I would for a couple of weeks. To me, the basics are the same no matter the length of the trip. Curling iron, hair brush, and worst of all, the electronics. The plug adaptors, the charger for the cell phone, the digital camera, the iPod, the Netbook.

Then there are the toiletries. Some I can’t find in Italy – especially my brand of contact lens' solution (this is not the time to experiment.) So I pack a lot of that. But other stuff, such as toothpaste, moisturizer, soap, sun block – I take a few days’ supply to start, then buy more on the ground.

Wish me luck!

Comments (12)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, very entertaining post. I also enjoy reading packing ideas from others too. Some of the examples you found are funny.

I have to agree with your comments about the electronics. To me, my heaviest and bulkiest items are the electronics and toiletries. Just in case, I always travel with my own cold remedies that I know will work if I were to get sick. But like you, I can get by with buying toiletries like shampoo, etc. if I run out while traveling.

How exciting that you are only a week away. Good luck with your packing.


Hi Kathy, I find that it's not the clothes that give me packing problems -- it's the electronics, and the toiletries, and the books....

Hope you have a great week!

Good luck! Packing is the most unpleasant part of any trip for me. The older I get, the more cosmetics and prescriptions fill the space....m

Funny! I always wear cotton on the plane, but it's because it breathes (didn't know about the melting fabric stuff). I admit that I have done the "old clothes to throw away" trick a couple of times.

Good luck - I'm sure you are getting so excited!


Hi menehune, I really do hate packing (and I admit, each year I seem to have more and more prescriptions to worry about, to say nothing of OTC meds for allergies or sensitive skin, etc.)

Hi Annie! I really would prefer not thinking about what clothes are most flammable when I'm getting ready for a trip! Trying to reconcile comfort and fashion is enough hassle for me.

I am picturing people dressed in disco outfits wandering all over Italy right now :)

I agree and don't get the throw clothes out philosophy. I actually have travel clothes I usually only where when I travel. They are my nicer clothes that I never wear to work.

As someone afraid of flying, I have heard all about the synthetic thing and burning on a plane but that is just one more thing to obsess about so I try not to think about burning up. Crashing is usually on my mind.

Electronics are my biggest problem too. They end up being pretty heavy and sometimes bulky.

I don't really worry about the plane crashing. I figure if it is my time to go, it will happen no matter where I am. Fatalistic viewpoint, I guess.

You must be so excited - I don't blame you.


Girasoli, that's exactly what I think! I really don't want to dwell on airplane fires! I tend to wear nice clothing on planes in case I lose my luggage, but I also don't want to be seen in public in a giant bubblegum pink tracksuit (thank goodness that Juicy Couture trend seems to have run its course....)

Hi Nancy -- it would be so helpful if there could be a universal charger and adaptor that worked for all electronics everywhere. Then, I might feel like I've seen some benefits from globalization!


Hi Sandra, boy do I hear you. We are facing the packing quandary right now. I hatr packing and no matter how frugal I try to be, I take too much. ai remember with horror the large, numerous bags I used to take,


Hi Jane, yeah, I've learned to cut back from what I took on my first trips.

Your upcoming trip sounds pretty exciting -- and I think you're going to need a lot of gear!

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Sandra, I wanted to stop by to wish you safe travels and have a very, very wonderful trip. Say hi to Italy for me. :)


Hi Kathy, thanks very much!!! I'll eat a gelato in your name!

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