In Chapter 2 of Patrick McIvor’s ongoing “Have Shears Will Travel” blog series, he touches on several ways to pack for a more rewarding travel experience and shares with you some personal tricks and things he’s witnessed in his 25+ years of living life as “the traveling hairdresser.”
As I have had the opportunity to travel internationally for more than 25 years, my friends have also grown to become more and more of an international group of people. And as my travels have grown, so have the groups I now travel with, and wow, do you see a difference in the thought processes and what the “needs” are that different friends have when they pack.
Let’s first start with a scenario of packing for vacation. Simple enough when you first think about it, but let’s first ask the question, “What is a typical length of vacation for a European and what is a typical length of vacation for an American?” Well, for a European, vacation is typically anywhere from two weeks to a month. A typical American vacation, well, that is generally one to two weeks. Now let’s look at how these vacationers pack. The European traveler generally packs one or two bags, many times one or both of them being a backpack or bag weighing less than 45 pounds. In their bag (or bags) they pack 2-3 pairs of shoes, generally one pair of sneakers or comfortable shoes, one pair of sandals or flip flops and possibly one pair of a more dressy shoe. Then they add 1-2 bathing suits (if it’s a summer holiday), 1-2 pairs of long pants, 1-2 pairs of short pants, for women, 1-2 simple dresses (like a white maxi-dress), 3-5 shirts, a jacket, underwear, socks, and some personal care/beauty products. Every day they will go into their bag, find something to wear during the day, be that a bathing suit or an outfit, and at night they will possibly change into a dress, pull their hair back and head out to dinner. Now many of my American friends pack for their 1 week vacation the following: 7 bathing suits (one for each day), 7 outfits for night time, 7 pairs of shoes (1 for each outfit at night) plus possibly 1 pair of shoes for every day that matches the bathing suit, and all of their styling products, including a blow-dryer, hot tools (like a flat iron or wand) 7 pairs of underwear and socks.
Now, both ways work, but the thing that always interests me is this—did they pack the things they really needed and is there flexibility with what they brought with them? The first question is, did they pack for where they are going? Like I shared in my last blog, does the blow-dryer, curling or flat iron even work where they are going? How about the hair care? If you’re going to Las Vegas, Palm Springs, or even many ski locations, do those hair care products work in 0% humidity? Or how about an island or Florida in the summer? Does your hair care work in 100% humidity? How about sunscreen? An SPF 15 might work at home in the summer, but it may not work as well when you are on a beach near the equator. And nothing can make a tropical vacation worse than a bad burn on the first day. This is a lesson I learned the hard way once.
What about medication? One time, a good friend of mine had four wisdom teeth pulled right before a trip to teach in Canada. The doctor prescribed pain medication for him to take, which he had filled at his local pharmacy. Now, this person is a health nut who took vitamins and many health supplements every day, both on the road and at home. When traveling though, it wasn’t practical to carry 8-10 bottles of vitamins, so he had one bottle that contained all of them for when he was on the road. When it came time to pack the medicine for his pulled teeth, this well-seasoned and very regular traveler added his pain medication to his one bottle that contained all his supplements. As you may have already guessed, upon landing in Canada, he was selected to have his bags randomly searched by Canadian customs, which informed him that he was in possession/smuggling a Class 1 narcotic without a prescription and had a choice of being arrested or leaving the country. Not so much fun when an innocent mistake can possibly turn into an episode of “Locked Up Abroad.”
Traveling can be fun and an amazing adventure and we all plan and dream of the perfect vacation. But the reality is, vacations and weather aren’t always perfect, so I always recommend you bring at least one outfit that’s perfect for when it rains. Pack clothes that can be layered so if it is colder than you expect, you can still enjoy your day when it’s cold and you also can adjust when it warms back up. Make sure you also have an empty water bottle that is easy to carry and have with you whenever you need, and pack something to wear that’s a little dressier than what you think you need. This way, if you meet someone cool along the way or get invited someplace or somewhere special, you won’t feel out of place.
My last and final rule for packing for a beautiful vacation is if you can’t carry it, you shouldn’t have packed it. This is a rule I have had for the last 25 years of my travels and it goes for anyone I’m traveling with. From the first time I took my then girlfriend Leah (who is now my wife) to Paris and Germany, to my family’s most recent trip to four European countries in 12 days, traveling with our 12 and 14-year-old daughters, we always stick to this rule. Now this doesn’t mean that I might not actually be carrying my wife’s bags because they were a little heavier than mine, or pulling an extra bag for my daughters, but then I might need help from them carrying one of my lighter bags. When everyone’s “pulling” their own weight, or at least someone else’s to help, everyone has a better vacation and more flexibility to have fun along the way.
So when it comes to packing, remember the following:
- Pack for where you are going. Consider all variables like weather/climate, culture and customs.
- Pack so you have flexibility when you are there. Remember, layering clothing is
- Even though you are looking forward to the perfect vacation, be ready for when stuff happens.
Next month, I’ll be back with Chapter 3: Playing Games.