By Samantha Chapnick
Airline baggage restrictions are just getting worse, and don’t look for them to get better any time soon. Smart packing for href="http://www.orbitz.com">travel is now a necessity. Here are some of the ways my family manages to get clothes and gear for three into our one carry-on.
Our main baggage survival strategy is double-duty. If an item can’t serve at least two purposes, it rarely makes it into our suitcase. For clothing, this means either being able to work for day and evening or warm weather and cold weather.
– If I could wear only one item for my entire vacation, it would be
Patagonia’s stunning href="http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/product/product_focus.jsp?OPTION=PRODUCT_FOCUS_DISPLAY_HANDLER&catcode=MAIN_SP_US.CLOTHING_GEAR.WOMENS.DRESSES&style_color=20520-891&ws=">Morning Glory dress. Spandex and Sam don’t usually mix beyond the gym, until I met this dress. It’s just luscious! The tighter empire waist and halter neck make it sexy and formal enough for an elegant dinner, but the looser A-line skirt and forgiving fabric allow the freedom of movement for a day of sightseeing or mild sports. Then, I pair it with some black leggings (capris, thank you) for cooler nights.
– As they said in Casino Royale: "There are dinner jackets, and there are dinner jackets; this is the latter." href="http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/product/product_focus.jsp?OPTION=PRODUCT_FOCUS_DISPLAY_HANDLER&catcode=MAIN_SP_US.CLOTHING_GEAR.WOMENS.JACKETS&style_color=84975-158&ws=">Patagonia’s Figure 4 shell jacket (in black of course) seems like an impossibility. It’s a shell with siliconed seams that weighs next to nothing (less than 14 ounces) and still keeps the wind and water out and just enough heat inside. I get eons of compliments both when I wear it casually over a tee-shirt and at night when it becomes a key part of my "little black dress" outfit. As much as I love my Patagonia, my fashionista mother and nothing-if-not-pragmatic husband love their href="http://www.eddiebauer.com/catalog/search.jsp?N=0&Ntk=IALL&Ntt=adventure%20ripstop&Nr=REG%3aY&Nty=1&Ntx=mode+matchpartialmax&D=adventure%20ripstop&Dx=mode+matchpartialmax&cm_se=adventure%20ripstop_All&init=1#ppl=%7Btype%3A%22hide%22%7D">Eddie Bauer Adventure Ripstop Packable Jacket. She because of the color and cut, he because it weighs almost nothing and folds into its own pocket.
– When your husband is 6’4", one pair of shorts, or pants, can easily take up the length of a carry-on suitcase. To hog some more room for my stuff, I got him href="http://www.rei.com/product/746907">REI’s Sahara Convertible pant. During the day or for casual nights, he wears the just-above-the-knee shorts. But when the weather is iffy or we need to look a little more respectable, he zips on the bottoms and they’re a slightly upscale cargo pant. They’re light, don’t wrinkle and block UV rays. As a nice bonus, REI makes a petite women’s size that fit this 5"1′ woman just right. href="http://www.royalrobbins.com/product_details.aspx?ItemCode=34002&Sub_Cat_ID=20&sp=N">Royal Robbins makes a similar pair with a slighter lighter fabric, alas no petite version.
– I don’t need to say how great Crocs are for kids. And I love that cute logo as much as anyone. However, I shudder when I see those things on anyone too old to dread bedtime. A smart designer took what’s best about them, the ultra-light "croslite" material, and sculpted them into more mature styles. The result are two pairs — one of which I take everywhere, that take up almost no space or weight in my suitcase. For day into night, it’s the wedge
href="http://shop.crocs.com/pc-1174-4-cyprus.aspx?reqid=1174&reqProdTypeId=41p&subsectionname=footwear§ion=products">sassari. For a slightly sexier evening, it’s the
– href="http://www.teesforchange.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2_20">Tees for Change make the ideal green href="http://www.orbitz.com">summer travel garment. Emblazoned with uplifting slogans in bright colors, they are conversation starters (mine says "Choose Happiness", help the environment (made from pesticide-free bamboo, they are 100% biodegradable), wash easily, don’t wrinkle and dry quickly.
If an item can only do one thing, it better do it really well and be as light as possible. Most of our electronics fit into this category. We’ve whittled down to the ones that are the best in their class with lightness being a key success factor.
– href="http://store.randmcnally.com/category/id/100191.do?code=HP_FABMAPS">Rand McNally’s fabMAPs are one of those "Duh" products that are so smart you’ll wonder why you didn’t invent it, or at least I did. Not only do these handkerchief sized microfiber maps do double duty: I use them to clean our sunglasses, iPhone and computer screens, but they overcome a weakness inherent in paper maps: neither water nor folding can damage them. After three months, our South Beach and Midtown Manhattan maps are still in pristine condition. Popular pedestrian areas of major cities are available along with some museums, shops, hotels and bars.
– The href="http://www.apple.com/iphone/">iPhone is an indispensable travel tool (we’ve already raved about it here). To make the iPod component meet its potential requires third party headphones. Before we began testing for this piece, Shure‘s SE530′s were our favorite earphones. Then two strong competitors came along. The sound quality of href="http://www.ultimateears.com/_ultimateears/products/superfi/superfi4vi_description.php">Ultimate Ears Super.fi 4 vi blew us away. You could hear John Lennon’s whisper at the end of Beautiful Boy even in a crowded subway. But ultimately, we went with the href="https://www.klipsch.com/products/details/image.aspx">Klipsch Image X10 Headphones — we actually bought four pairs after testing them. Everyone we asked to try them agreed: not only was the sound extraordinary, at less than a third of an ounce, it is like wearing nothing and just having the music piped directly to our brains. Both are seamlessly integrated with the iPhone, no need for adapters or extra equipment. Also, the href="http://www.energizer.com/products/energi-to-go/Pages/ipod-cell-phone-charger.aspx">Energizer Energi to Go has become a travel must-have for our Apple-crazed family. With three iPods and two iPhones, its inevitable something will die without an outlet around at least once. On our last trip, this device fully charged my iPhone in under an hour.
– I’m not typically one to tout beauty products — except when one solves a href="http://www.orbitz.com">travel problem AND makes my face happier than its been in years. href="http://sheessentialbeauty.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=SEB&Product_code=WG001">She Essentials’ Washing Grains has a few simple ingredients others don’t have, and nothing they do have: Chinese pearl, green tea, chamomile, oatmeal, lavender and zhu zhu. And as a powder, it circumvents the packing issues facing gels and liquids. I’d like to say this gets my beauty product of the year award, but the Today Show beat me to it!
With the increase in air traffic and delays, I’m surprised there aren’t more companies making products to help keep kids in confined spaces busy. What’s a kid to do with little room, no tray table and 45 minutes until take-off? When faced with that exact question on a trip back from Orlando, these were our top answers.
– Apple, Apple, Apple. After breaking 3 DVD players and scratching numerous disks, we decided an iPod video Nano for our daughter would be a worthwhile investment for the whole family.
We load it up with at least three movies from the iTunes store, and 100 songs — which is unfortunately all our 8GB model will hold. This frees us from dependency on the href="http://www.orbitz.com">airline‘s entertainment system, makes it easier for her to sit still during delays, and eliminates considerable bulk and weight from our carry-on. On the downside, we don’t like her to use adult headphones. First, they don’t fit and if she’s going to go deaf, we prefer it happen without our contribution. Until someone invents an ideal product for small ears, we use href="http://store.gameshark.com/viewItem.asp?idProduct=2899&idCategory=133">Airdrives. These smart headphones sit just outside the ear protecting her ear drums and allowing her to hear her iPod and me at the same time (whether she responds is a totally different issue).
– LeapFrog Tag System. We quickly discarded the LeapFrog writing system someone bought for our daughter. It was big and bulky and never really seemed to work very intuitively. Someone must have heard our gripes. Their newest effort is a simple, compact solution, marvelous for families on the go. The Tag system is three components, a small wand, a book, and a Web site working together. The books have special opticals enabling the wand to "read" specific words, the whole page or the story, based on where the child puts it on the page. There are also games (e.g. "point to another thing on the page that begins with the same letter Hat starts with"). the online component provides "rewards" — I am not sure how this works as it is launches after press time. A nice href="http://www.orbitz.com">travel feature is the headphone jack, so no other passengers need to hear Kung Fu Panda or Chica Chica Boom Boom. For younger children, we highly recommend the SuperWhy! DVDs (or downloadable podcasts on iTunes), it’s a PBS pre-reading program that’s simple and fun.
– The oversized href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2FWheres-Waldo-Ultimate-Travel-Collection%2Fdp%2F0763639516&tag=itoors-20&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">Where’s Waldo books that keep me and my daughter searching at home finally come in a compact format for the road. The Ultimate Travel Collection combines five favorites into one small (8" x 6"), easily portable book.
– Send kids off on vacation (or to camp) with href="http://www.everyiota.com/catalog/stationery2.pdf">Iota‘s self-mailers and you’re much more likely to get them to write a nice note home to Grandma. My daughter loves the friendly prints and colors and appreciates her graduation from "baby stuff" (translation: paper emblazoned with licensed characters). I always bring along an extra Iota journal for her sketches.
– The last thing kids need before a long trip is sugar, trans fats or chemicals. It’s far easier for me to say no to the airport’s french fries and donuts when I bring along my own snacks. Real fruit is not usually an option: either its too heavy, too hard to peel, too perishable, or too easy to bruise, so we go for the next best thing: a real fruit snack. href="http://www.fruitabu.com/">FruitaBu is our favorite because its easy to pack, lasts through the whole trip, organic and made of only fruit — no sugar, oils or anything else not found in the actual fruit itself.
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Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.