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Packing light

There’s packing for a trip and then there is packing for a geezer trip. Next week, this geezerina is flying to meet over 200 women she went to school with long ago. It’s called a class reunion, a place where you meet many people, all of whom are far older than you.

As I pack, I realize that there are life stages in packing: The stage where Mommy does it for you, the backpack stage where all you need is in one sack, the second Mommy stage where you do all the packing … mostly of diapers and if you forget the pacifier, you are in deep you-know-what.

But I am in the later life stage where one carefully thinks out all that will be needed for ten days and then leaves much of it behind on the spare bed. Not on purpose. This is the joy of senior moment packing: The weight of the suitcase is lighter than intended.



Which gets me to the subject of the size and weight of luggage for older travelers. The smart advice has always been to pack light, but that advice is smarter than ever when your hair turns to silver, your muscles turn to mush and your back just turns on you. And since many of us have gone into the shop to have our parts replaced and since the advice is not to stress our new parts, luggage weight matters more than ever. We need to take care of the physical function we do have.

Checking Luggage




Many an older person can no longer lift heavy suitcases into the overhead bin, which is why checked luggage is so appealing once you stop commuting for business and start traveling for pleasure. At least it used to be appealing until American Airlines announced it is starting to charge $15 each way for the FIRST checked piece. And if it’s over 50 pounds, there’s another financial hit. So many of us are re-thinking what we bring, how much of it we really need and if we should take it on board.

What are some strategies for packing?

Keep it light – not seven different outfits for seven days. Think mix and match no-wrinkle clothes that all go together. When they get dirty, wash them in the sink. Take quick-dry fabrics. (Women: Chico’s Travelers clothes can be stomped by an elephant and they won’t wrinkle. You can find them as bargains on eBay, some of them new, some gently used. Men: look for miracle fiber items at travel sites like http://www.magellan.com.)

Consider the newer luggage. Suitcases are lighter and come in many variations. Now the rolling suitcases can sport four wheels. This supposedly makes the bag easier to pull and easier on the back, though I am sticking to my two-wheeler until it falls apart, or I do, whichever comes first.

Some of the roll-aboard luggage is so small, it can fit under a seat and doesn’t have to be lifted overhead. The TravelPro Crew 6 Rolling Tote is one, a bag about the same size as that backpack you used to carry.

If you want tips about travel, go to http://www.ricksteves.com. Rick travels with one small bag and does his laundry as he goes. If you want to do the same, Woolite comes in small packages and there are “laundry leaves”. They look like little sheets of paper, but they are really dissolvable soap. Along with these, I tuck a plastic hanger in a suitcase so I can hang wet clothes over the tub and not get the floor wet. (Some hotel hangers can’t be taken off the rod.)

Rick Steves travels with one pair of shoes and therefore reveals his gender for all to see. I probably could travel that way, but me, I like to trade one pair of shoes that hurt during the morning for another pair that will hurt all afternoon and evening.

But Rick offers many nice travel products. I dismissed his packing cubes as a gimmick until I used them to organize my stuff – electronics in one, tops in another and so forth. His fold-down daypack also gets lots of use at this house. Then I love his money belt – soft, light and flexible – and it’s not just protection against pickpockets. It’s a great way to travel no-hands. Put cash, credit cards, a comb and lip gloss into your money belt and a girl is ready for anything her travels might bring.

So now, packed and really to roll, it’s time for adventures, but my Inner Geezer is telling me not to forget the antibiotic hand wipes. I wish she would just shut up and get on the plane.

Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezer. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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