Keep in mind that there are many ways to pack strategically. And the items that I believe to be essential, may not seem so important to you. This will become quite obvious in this installment of our series designed to help you pack for your trip.
It has taken me three decades to do it, but I have finally refined the kit of little things that I need for little trips. Some of these essentials go with me daily and reside permanently in my daypack. Others wait for me back at the hotel. I do not consider any of the little things discussed here to be electronic; I’ll save those for another discussion likely titled, “Little Electronic Things.” Clever, eh?
Remember, our goal is to bring just what we need for a short trip to Israel/Palestine during the Spring/Summer season. We do not want to bring so much that we are encumbered by stuff, but we want to bring enough to be comfortable. Striking that balance is what it means to pack strategically.
So here we go. I’ll divide these little things into two groups for discussion. The first group are little things that tend to stay in the hotel. The second group are little things that go with me everywhere that I go.
Little Things that Stay in the Hotel
Contrary to popular opinion I live a very hygienic life. The reason that you may believe otherwise is because I have little interest in devoting hours of perfectly good time to silly things like trying to keep my hair combed or matching my socks. Just because my hair is unorganized and my socks come from different color families does not mean that I am dirty person. My priorities are just different.
But to stay hygienic and live happily in community with other people, there are some little things that ought to be in everyone’s kit. Consider the following image.
Start in the upper right hand corner and move clockwise through this picture with me.
I suppose a brush would be preferred by some, but I find a pocket comb to be altogether sufficient for keeping things reasonable. This is because the comb is always assisted by the hat. In fact, the hat can almost make the comb completely useless, save for the fact that it is essential for men to take off their hat in churches and because it is polite to doff them charmingly when encountering a lady on the trail. These are the only two reasons why I keep a cheap plastic comb.
While many residents of Jerusalem’s Old City would disagree with me here, I believe that antiperspirant is essential. Please bring yours and use it. Of course, if you want it on the cheap, go to a good outlet like Ollie’s Wally World back home where you can get the big stick for $1.79. If weight is an issue or if you are only using a carry-on bag, you will probably want to go with the “airline” size which will cost you the same as (or more than) the big stick. There is an upside though: it will not be lost to the airport security people who never have to buy their own antiperspirant because they go their entire working lives using only stuff they have confiscated from others. Needless to say, airport security people are some of the most hygienic people on the planet.
Razor and Shaving Lube
Why spend any more for a razor then you have to? Ask yourself, how often am I going to shave on a 14 day trip? How many shaves can I get out of a cheap disposable razor? Do the math and you may discover that you need no razors at all! Whoo-hoo! On the other hand you might just need a couple. If that’s the case, don’t pack the whole blasted bag, just pack a couple. As for shave stuff, I have tried just about everything on the market: creams and jells as well as jam. My favorite lube at the moment is a wondrous little bottle of stuff called “Shave Secret” (check it out here). Try it and you’ll never go back.
Actually this one is a fraud. The bottle says “Johnson’s Baby Powder” but inside the bottle is a supergrade product called “Anti-Monkey Butt Powder.” Because it is so amazingly potent, I keep it innocuously hidden behind the Johnson label so the airport security people don’t take it for themselves. Anti-Monkey Butt is simply the best stuff for all the body parts that never see the light of day. A generous dose before you get on your 12 hour flight does wonders (Just sit down gently on the plane so you don’t go pooof!).
Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Floss
No secrets here. Just be sure to get a little plastic toothbrush cover. It keeps the suitcase lint out of your teeth. Get the “airline size” tube of paste at the Walgreens. Always ask for extra floss samples from the dentist. If you go every six months like you’re supposed to, you may never have to buy a single inch of floss.
If you check on your bag, throw one of these in. If you are only going with a carry-on, leave it at home. I find a multi-tool helpful for many reasons. You can clean your ears, pick your teeth, peel carrots on the curb or do all three at the same time with one of these babies. For me the fingernail clipper is the most valuable instrument of the set. Of course, I am quite particular about my cuticles. Just be careful. As in airports, pocketknives are a problem in security checkpoints in Israel/Palestine. Save the grief and leave it the hotel.
Little Things that Go with Me
Some items ride in my daypack and go everywhere I go. Consider the following image.
I know this is slightly out of context with this discussion, but I consider a small light essential. I keep it in the front pocket of my pack where I can always find it, even if I fall into a deep cistern. Sometimes, when I think of it, I carry extra batteries too.
You never know when someone is going to kiss you. Be prepared.
As a graduate student I used to just steal this from restaurants. Now that I have a real job and am a contributing citizen of virtue, I buy the little Kleenex packs and carry one with me everywhere I go. Did I say “everywhere”? Did I say “I go”? You betcha. I do. And when I do, do I throw the used stuff down the toilet? No! (the systems here don’t handle paper very well). Instead I fold it neatly and place it in the waste bin that is provided for this very reason. Carry your own t-p in case none is available. Why would none be available? Hmmm. Maybe a graduate student was in line ahead of you!
Need this? I say yes for a billion germy reasons inside just one squatty potty.
Don’t mess around with the sun. It wins every time. Pack some 50 SPF and use it.
First Aid Pack
While not everyone will buy one of these, consider the kinds of things I carry for boo boos. Neosporin cream, assorted bandages, tweezers, clotting sponge, regular sponges, insect sting wipe, liquid bandage (for blisters), and ibuprofen. This would not be adequate for extracting a loose kidney, but hey, if this doctor is doing surgery on you with his multitool, a post-surgical infection is the least of your worries.
Duct tape (not pictured)
“Kentucky chrome” can fix many problems. Tear your bag? Tape it! Hide a valuable? Tape it! Break your arm? Tape it. The list goes on and on.
Of course, a roll of duct tape is too enormous (and heavy) for a strategic packer to carry. My solution is to save a plastic straw from McDonalds (they offer really hefty straws in the States). Cut it to a length just slightly larger than the width of your duct tape. Now spool fifty or so turns off the big roll onto the straw. Wham-Bam! You are ready to fix the bus when it breaks down. Your fellow passengers will admire your crafty ways. Your driver will buy you lunch. Fellow Kentuckians will ask to borrow your truck.
And in sum . . .
These little things do not take up much room, but they may make the difference between being comfortable or being very uncomfortable on a short trip. Still to be discussed are issues of medications and laundry. I haven’t forgotten. We’ll try those another day.
For now, this is my field-tested kit and I recommend it to you.