When I was just five years old, I was on a “No Fly” list. It’s true. Apparently, there was an Alexander Wilson, who wasn’t five and didn’t look just like the kid in the Jerry McGuire movie who asks if you know how much the human brain weighs. THIS Alex Wilson was apparently a really bad guy. Fortunately, my parents were able to get me off the list by writing a few letters, but I can tell you that I learned a lot about travelling at a very young age about how important it is to be prepared.
We had been on our way to Florida to go on a Disney cruise and to say that things got tense would be an understatement. Being pulled aside and having all of your luggage opened and picked through was making my mom really tense. That’s when I also got a clue about how important it is to pack carefully. For example, my mother had packed tweezers in her carry-on. I’ve never seen so many people go nuts as when they found those innocuous tweezers. My mom, who’s a redhead, started blushing a shade closer to purple than red. She had no idea that tweezers were contraband. I still crack up thinking about it. In the end it all worked out, but it might have gone horribly sideways.
- Most people don’t really think much about luggage until they are about to go on a trip. To be perfectly honest, I used to feel the same way. Then, I borrowed my mom’s shiny, new, hard-shell, roller ball, carry-on. It’s red. Suddenly, it was like I had graduated from not only the kiddie table to the grownup table, but I’d gotten bumped up to first class. Who would have thought that something as simple as having a piece of best garment bag that was lightweight and balanced would be so great? Carrying THIS bag through the airport, I didn’t have to stop every ten feet to upright my bag because it had tipped over. Magically, her red bag just rolled along effortlessly. Plus, it didn’t weigh a ton when it was full much less when it was empty. That’s when I developed a serious case of luggage envy. I pointed out the difference in quality to her immediately after my return home, “Mom, why didn’t you ever let me use your luggage before? It’s so much nicer.” She actually smirked at me and said, “Some things you have to earn and when you were younger, you hadn’t earned fancy luggage. Being only 17 and a former suspected “bad guy,” I always have to careful to ensure that I have lots of identification on me. I don’t have a driver’s license – yet, but I actually am fortunate to have a passport. My family includes relatives across the ocean in Ireland and England, so my mom made sure that I have proper travel documents.
- She’s really good at planning; however, one thing that she refuses to micromanage for me is how I pack. Her attitude is that I’m only going to learn if I do it myself. If I forget something and need to buy it, I have to pay for it with my money. That’s a great incentive for putting more than 15 minutes into packing my suitcase. It has also forced me to be somewhat creative, especially when I’m only planning on bringing a carry-on. The list of prohibited items can be quite a challenge. With only a quart size zip lock that may be filled with liquid items, you have to prioritize. Do I really need to shave? You may be surprised to learn that I have decided that hotel conditioner can serve as a short-term substitute for shaving cream. Hotel soap, shampoo and conditioner also allow me to skip trying to find a travel size container for my men’s shampoo. I always pack stick deodorant. It doesn’t have to fit in the zip lock.
- I went through a phase where I had longer hair, on the top, not the sides or bottom. (I’m over it now.) Anyway, at the time, I was coming back through customs and had a checked bag with a hockey puck shaped container of hair pomade, the waxy kind that you use if you want to make your hair stand up on end. I also had a similar container of pomade that’s used to make it shiny. Imagine how embarrassing it was that I had to open them up, let the TSA agent smell them and then, explain to agent that each product had a different purpose. I had been wearing a baseball hat, so my hair was a mashed up mess. Fortunately, I wasn’t forced to do a hair styling presentation.
- Obviously, you learn a lot when you travel. First, there is a lot that you cannot do or say. (Never say the word “bomb” in an airport for any reason!) Second, you learn how to pack a bag that won’t result in screaming and yelling by TSA agents. Third, you learn it’s important to watch your weight. I’m referring to your luggage weight, not your waist-size, type weight, although those seats are getting rather narrow. You never want to go over the limit because the fee is $100 or more! It’d be cheaper to mail your stuff home than pay the overweight fee. Shoes weigh a lot, so women need to keep that in mind. Books are heavy, too, but guys can carry a backpack and put them in there if they haven’t gotten caught up and gone electronic yet.
- I admit, I don’t have travelling down to an art form, but with each trip I take, I get a little better at preparing; and even more important, I get better at actually enjoying and experiencing the trip. Don’t tell my mom, but my favourite way to travel is by myself. You get to meet new people because other travellers see you are alone. I still look a bit young for my age and I can’t tell you how many moms have introduced themselves and been friendly and helpful. I’m not a world traveller by any means, but as I am constantly reminded, I’m at the start of my journey into adulthood. I just hope that the next time I’m taking off for a long weekend or longer, my mom won’t notice her shiny, hard-shell luggage is getting more use by me than her.