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If you’ve been doing it long enough, you probably have a full traveling kit. A special wardrobe, perhaps; definitely your favorite packing cubes or space-saving devices. You’re streamlined. You’re a pro. But…then a weird trip comes up. Maybe you have to meet some important people–future in-laws or a possible client, or see an ex at a reunion. Maybe there’s going to be a funeral or an oddly formal wedding; maybe you’re going to be spending an unusual amount of time in the car. It’s the wacky, atypical trip that always throws me for a packing loop, and I always end up with some items that I really, really hate to bring along.

Some rights reserved by orijinal

Some rights reserved by orijinal

1. The neck pillow

Oh, how I hate neck pillows. The inflatable ones are never supportive enough and the solid ones are hard to clean if there’s no removable cover. They’re usually overpriced. Unfortunately, I am on the downhill slide to thirty, and I just can’t allow my head to loll around like my kids do when they fall asleep (I call that upright child sleep position “the broken-neck baby”) because I won’t feel right for days. So if it’s going to be an unusually long flight, or we’re taking a long drive and I feel like I can shirk my navigator duties, I really need a neck pillow. A bulging, irritating neck pillow that doesn’t really fit anywhere in my luggage and that my kid probably sneezed on. Twice.

2. Primping products

A hair dryer is one thing–a good hotel usually has those around. The real issue is when you have to get ready for an event of some sort and you need more than a quick blow-dry. Straighteners, curling irons…it can get bulky and heavy fast. There’s always arranging for a quick blow-out at your destination, but sometimes the budget and time constraints mean that’s not possible (not to mention a language barrier if you’re in a different country). Let’s not even get into the irritations of traveling with makeup–whoever came up with the 3oz/1qt rule for liquids definitely doesn’t wear foundation or have a manicure to touch up.

3. My laptop

This might sound odd to most traveling location-independent professionals who live by their keyboard and their wits, but I really hate bringing a computer anywhere these days–even those wee little netbooks. Luckily, our tablet and various Apple devices have rendered our laptops nearly obsolete. It’s wonderful to know we can leave the computer at home on long trips back to the States to see family and still connect and communicate if we want to–or watch an episode or two of “Sherlock” together in the hotel after the kids go to sleep.

4. Car seats

My favorite kind of trip is the one where I can take the public bus to the airport, fly with the kids buckled in with the CARES flight harness, and then take local public transportation like the subway or the train to the neighborhood in which I am staying. Throw a rental car into the mix, and that just ruins the whole flow. Car seats are cumbersome and difficult to carry. Installing them in a new car always leads to arguing (“Does that recline angle look right to you?!”) and while I know rental agencies have seats available, I really just don’t trust them to have a clean history. So next time you see that family at the airport with a kid in the carrier and a backpack, looking like travel pros but for the 20lb car seats dangling from each hand, that’s us. Wave hi. We won’t wave back, because we can’t lift our arms, but we’ll be glad if you pop a straw attached to a daquiri into our mouths.

Phew! Can you tell I just got finished packing for vacation? I hope to come back in a much cheerier mood. Are there any items that you really hate being forced to take along? What are they?

 

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