When I was six or seven, and still just a fledgling idiot, my favorite game was "running away from home."
I liked my mom and living with her well enough -- I just really got into putting a bunch of random items in a bag, then setting off as far as the dumpsters at the far end of our gross 80s apartment complex before getting hungry or bored and coming back.
My mom would politely pretend to have noticed my absence, and would help me "unpack" when I got back, inquiring as to where I thought I was going with a sweatshirt, a can of soup, and eight to 10 age-crisped National Geographics -- "Have fun gnawing at a can with no pants on, Margaret Mead."
To this day, that's basically how I still prepare for a trip. I am an inveterate Bad Packer.
In the past couple of months I've traveled a LOT, to the point where I basically had less than a day of being in New York between flights a week or so ago. I briefly considered just not unpacking and repacking at all, but then decided that as I was going from Mexico to England that was probably a stupid idea. Also I was visiting a dude, and apparently they appreciate clean underwear.
BUT! I did begin a list of all of the things I will just start keeping in my bag at all times, probably in that suit flap thing where people with real jobs keep their work outfits.
I'm going to share it with you now so that you can have a go-bag for when you need to fly off someplace with no notice. The day you're like, "But I have no travel plans," is the day that an eccentric Swedish billionaire named Wim falls madly in love with you and will die if he cannot make love to you to Brazil. Don't ruin the trip by being unprepared for traveler's indigestion. Chips Ahoy! Let's go.
For some reason I decided it would be a good idea to get this crazy hot pink and black manicure before London. It started chipping right away and nothing looks worse than black and "Spring Breakers" pink. I didn't really have time to go to a pharmacy, so I was going all over town with these methy-looking jank hands. Stick with neutrals, clear polish or nothing at all.
Things You Have Not Worn Many Many Times
I know this seems like a no-brainer but i don't know how many times I've been about to go on a trip and thrown in the dress that I just got from Modcoth in there. It is basically a guarantee that that dress will not fit or will look terrible and will rapidly expand in your suitcase over the course of the journey.
Hear me out. Unless you have a VERY SPECIFIC skin condition, there is no reason to bring lotion with you anywhere. It is free in hotels and available all over the damn place. I know, it sucks if the lotion smells weird or isn't "your" lotion, but this is the number one thing that will explode in your bag and leak through the three ziplocs you wrapped it in. This happened recently and it was just a fucking disaster.
The Book You've Been Meaning to Read
YOU WILL NOT READ IT. I love books and I love reading but without fail, whenever I bring Something Ambitious along with me it does nothing but add weight to my stuff. I AM LOOKING AT YOU, ANYTHING BY ROBERTO BOLANO. Buy a garbage book at the airport or bring something slim and entertaining.
Stuff to Bring, Always
This seems like another huge "Nuhhhhh doi, Julieanne" but sometimes your period sneaks up and surprises you when it is least convenient. I don't know why but something about travel wonks with one's schedule, especially flying on planes. (I've heard about lots of women spontaneously menstruating during air travel -- women's bodies are nightmares.) Bring enough for at least a day. One of the most insane things that has EVER happened to me on a trip -- a story that only some of my best friends know and is going in my memoir and is really really funny now but can't be told while certain members of my family are still alive -- happened because I did not have a tampon.
Unless you're a lesbian or partnered with an IUD, I don't want any excuses. Always have condoms! ALWAYS. If you are sexually active and have any kind of sex involving a penis, pack 'em. Even if you're going to a family reunion on a private island. I never have condoms! NEVER. It's so dumb and I should have one clipped on to me at all times like those mittens on a toddler.
A variety of these. Big ones. Small ones. These work for so many things, from gapping in a blouse you didn't realize was gapping to fixing a busted zipper on a suitcase. I never need a safety pin as badly as I do when I'm on a trip and I don't have them. I hoard the little ones that come with hotel sewing kits, but I also keep a few big sturdy ones on hand. Doooooooooon't keep them near the condoms.
You will get a hangnail or a splinter if you do not. You will. Again, keep away from the condoms.
Get one of those old people day-of-the-week pillboxes and fill it up. Everybody I was with in Mexico got hit but hard by some kind of stomach bug, and I was the only one with a truly stunning array of drugs. I always have two kinds of painkiller (like Advil and Tylenol, andokaysometimesstrongerstuffpleasedon'tfriskme), antacids, Immodium, Dramamine, decongestant, Cystex, and allergy pills. Even if you don't suffer from any of these conditions, somebody you're with may and it will help keep their horrible human frailty from cramping your style. Especially the Cystex! Have you ever had a UTI on a trip? IT IS THE PITS. Also, Band-aids. Bring those.
The Perfect Outfit
I don't mean something that makes you look good, because I wouldn't be able to tell you what that is. (In addition to being a terrible packer, I know fuck all about fashion.) However, having not planned for weird weather enough times and having been extremely uncomfortable on long plane rides because I wore a dumb skirt, I've basically been able to distill the perfect traveling outfit through trial and error (mostly error).
Not-too-tight black jeans, a black t-shirt, a black cardigan and loose black motorcycle boots. I pair this with a moto jacket and a scarf that can be easily squunched up into a bag. This outfit is great because it is comfortable, with lots of removable and addable parts for temperature control. It's a lot of black, I realize, but that's how I dress anyhow. Black is great because it hides dirt and makes you look almost as cool as smoking or having premarital sex does.
If you guys have anything to add, please let me know, as I have more traveling coming up and, as we all know, I am stupid. Also need recommendations for a new suitcase, obviously.