Adjusting to an empty nest can be hard at times. You miss your kids, you miss the chaos, and you miss cooking for a small crowd of young people. But once you realize how much free time you have, you start to fill it with new hobbies or revisit old hobbies you didn’t have time for before.
And your bank account! You’ve raised responsible adults – now you get to spend your money on yourselves. Between graduation and grandkids, there’s a precious window of opportunity (and expendable income) to knock out a few of those bucket-list travel destinations. We’ve been traveling more, so I’ve learned a few lessons along the way.
Here are a few packing tips:
Make a list! I hate forgetting some crucial item. A (male) friend forgot to pack pants, so he had to wear jeans to the first day of an important conference. I started a list several years ago and still refer to it, sometimes adding a thing or two.
Bubble wrap: It holds space in your suitcase for your purchases along the way. You can throw out what doesn’t fit, or use what’s there to protect valuables.
Extra day bag: Pack a small, empty bag in your suitcase that can be used as a carry-on to hold the goodies you buy on the trip.
Roll, roll, roll your clothes: Fold your clothes like you would to put them away in a chest of drawers, then roll. You can fit a lot more in your suitcase. Better yet, wrap a whole outfit together – undergarments and socks in the middle, shirt in the next layer, then pants on the outside.
Colorful handle or tassel: I thought I was smart to buy a red suitcase. On one trip, there were four nearly identical red suitcases on the baggage carousel. A flight attendant walked off with my husband’s suitcase once. He caught up with her and thankfully it had a luggage tag with his name on it.
Index card with your name, address, and telephone number INSIDE the suitcase: Name tags fall off. Suitcases get mis-directed. If you have no identifying info in your suitcase, it can end up in the vast storehouse of lost luggage.
Shoes as storage: Put fragile items like a shaver, which can get accidentally turned on, inside your shoes. Put all your socks inside your shoes – it’s wasted space.
Scarf: A great multi-use carry-on, it can be used as a pillow, a shawl, or a sarong.
Baggies: I once had a bottle of cough syrup leak all over a shawl I brought home from Ireland. Baggies are also perfect for leftovers in countries that don’t encourage “doggy bags” and for liquids you may carry home.
AC adapter for other countries: Don’t assume you can buy one when you get there. My husband spent two days in Finland without a phone charger. The airport stores were closed when his flight arrived, and he had to travel another hour to his destination in a small town.
Eyeglass/contacts prescription: I lost a pair of glasses at the start of a vacation. I went for a romantic, moonlit walk along the beach and put my glasses in my pocket. The tide came and went before I realized it and had to spend the next ten days without my glasses.
Carry-on: Consider a backpack. It will save wear and tear on your shoulders, fit neatly under the seat in front of you, and can carry an assortment of snacks, reading materials, small blanket and pillow, etc.
Garbage bag: To keep your clean and dirty clothes separated, especially if you’ll be moving from hotel to hotel.
Here’s to embracing that empty nest syndrome. Bon voyage and happy packing!
Deirdre Serio has written for newspapers, non-profits, and her present “day job” as a technical writer. She loves the great outdoors, especially hiking and kayaking.