The Unforgettables

At Across the West, we’re always ready to get on the road. At a moment’s notice, we’re ready to go. It’s a lifestyle. We embrace it. Of course with every trip, no matter how short the notice, there will be some packing, but veteran Road Warriors often have a bag or two that never gets unpacked, a kit of essentials that gets stored at home in a travel-ready state. The items in those bags are the subject of this week’s discussion. I call them the Unforgettables.

You obviously have to bring along a change of underwear and socks, but that’s not what this discussion is about. This is about the dozen or so little items that may not get used on every trip, but always go on every trip, because when they are needed, they’re needed right now. I carry mine in two separate bags, a backpack and a toiletry bag which I have mentioned elsewhere. It’s the contents of those bags which I will be examining today.

Fingernail clippers.
I can’t count how many times I’ve used my fingernail clippers for clipping things other than my fingernails. But I’ve used them for my fingernails even more. Buy a Trim brand Deluxe Fingernail Clipper with file. It’s well-made, and will last for years. It’s available for about a dollar or two, and is about the best value in personal care you’ll ever find.

Back-up lip balm.
Whatever your brand of preference, keep a second tube in your travel bag. I don’t want to think about how many times I’ve lost my pocket tube of lip balm, without which I never leave the house, and have been unable to find my preferred brand while out on the road, and had to buy a cheap tube of flavored wax from a gas station. It’s a small annoyance, but small annoyances add up on the road. My brand of preference is Dermatone Medicated with SPF 23. It’s available from Amazon in a 2-pack, one for my pocket, and one for my travel bag. I also carry a small tin of Dermatone Z-Cote facial sunscreen with SPF 30.

A clothes pin to keep hotel curtains closed.

Clothes pins.
Old-fashioned wooden clothes pins or their modern metal counterparts have a simple but important purpose in my kit: keeping the curtains closed in the hotel room. I have a couple in my bag, and I also carry a half-dozen thumbtacks. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of quality sleep, and one of the best ways to enhance sleep quality is by improving the darkness of your sleeping quarters. If I’m fortunate enough to be waking up after the sun, I try to ensure I’ll get to enjoy that extra time by closing up that curtain gap with a clothes pin or two, and sometimes even tacking the sides of the curtains flush with the walls. It’s a small step that can make a big difference in your sleep quality, and they take up almost no space in your bag.

Dental care items.
You’ve finally found a use for that tiny little dental floss you got from the dentist. Throw it in your travel bag! Of course if you’re one of those special human beings who flosses every day, you’ll want to have a full-size floss in your bag, but for the rest of us, a small one will probably do. The point is, have a dedicated floss that never gets unpacked. It’s a small item that’s easy to forget if you’re constantly having to pack and unpack it, so just throw it in your permanent bag, and forget about it… until you need it. And speaking of dedicated travel items, have a dedicated travel toothbrush of the same brand and model as your home one, along with a dedicated tube of toothpaste. Just get the full-size one. The small travel-size tube is going to run out exactly when it’s least convenient. Forget about packing and unpacking those items. That’s for weekenders. Leave them in your ready-bag and be done with it.

Medical care items.
I keep small bottles of Ibuprofen, Meclizine, and chewable antacids (calcium carbonate tablets) in my bag at all times. And a few Band-Aid Tough-Strips. I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. Consult a physician before taking any medication. The Ibuprofen and Meclizine come from Costco, one I take for pain, and the other I take for travel sickness, which I usually only get on boats. Meclizine is generic for Bonine, which is available in a box of 8 for $7 from Amazon, or a bottle of 100 for $4 behind the pharmacy counter at Costco. Seriously. $4 for 100. Just go to the Costco pharmacy and ask. A side effect of Meclizine is drowsiness, and I’ve heard, though I do not recommend, that some people use it as a sleep aid. Use only as directed. Meclizine, not mescaline. Be specific about that.

Phone charger.
Pony up and get a dedicated travel copy of the wall charger for your phone. Never take it out of your bag unless you’re using it on the road. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s easy to leave behind, either at home if you take it out of your bag, or at a hotel, if you forget to grab it from the nightstand before you check out. If that happens to you, don’t despair! Just ask the front desk at your (any) hotel if they have a spare charger you can borrow (keep). They will probably have a box full of them, left over from other poor saps who left them behind. Like a penny in the tray at a convenience store, it’s always there when you need it.

Portable power bank.
While we’re talking about our mobile devices, grab yourself a portable battery charger. One of the best is the Dulla M50000 portable power bank. Its solid construction and 12,000mAh of power ensure you’ll have plenty of juice to charge even your most power-hungry device, anywhere, any time.

Laundry bag and portable hamper.
This is an odd one, I’ll admit, but I always travel with a laundry bag, and if I’m staying in a place for two or more nights, I also bring a pop-up mesh hamper. I hate looking at dirty clothes piled in the corner of a hotel room, and I don’t want my filthy, stinking socks mixing in with my clean items, so I bring a little bit of home with me on the road, in the form of a portable hamper. Why both the hamper and the bag? I store the dirty stuff in the hamper over the course of the trip because it’s more convenient to use on a daily basis than the laundry bag by itself, but at the end of the trip, I just dump it all into the laundry bag, cinch the top, and cram it into my luggage. Fast and easy.

Flushable wipes.
A small comfort of home. ‘Nuff said. I occasionally bring my own toilet paper, too.

Most of these items aren’t do-or-die items, but they do make travel a little more civil, a little more manageable for those of us who live on the road. They’re comforts, conveniences, or in some cases, inconveniences if you don’t have them. Obviously any seasoned traveler will have their own list of Unforgettables, but whatever they are, take steps to make sure that you never leave them behind. For me that means leaving them packed and ready to go at all times. That ensures that I never get on the road without all of my Unforgettable items.

Idyllwild

Of Southern California’s major mountain towns, the smallest and most isolated is Idyllwild. Other notable mountain destinations like Wrightwood, Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, and their various neighboring localities all have much to offer, from skiing and snowboarding to lakeside activities and boating, but what sets Idyllwild apart is that is doesn’t have much of any of these to offer. There’s so much less to do in Idyllwild, in the best possible way.

Straddling Highway 243 in the San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild has been popular travel destination since the 1890s, but it was once the summer time home for native bands of Cahuilla Indians who migrated to the area to escape the summer heat of the desert valleys below. With summertime temperatures peaking in the mid 90s, the cooler mountain air is a welcome relief.

The locality that most visitors would call Idyllwild is actually several neighboring communities, each with its own personality and charm, though the largest and most central of them all is Idyllwild. The others include Pine Cove, Fern Valley, Mountain Center, and Garner Valley. The majority of these “Hill Communities” are mostly residential, but they have their destinations and their charm. But in general, it’s acceptable to group them into one destination which, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll call Idyllwild.

There’s not a lot to do in Idyllwild. There’s no skiing, unless you enjoy cross-country skiing on dozens of miles of marked trails. And there’s no boating, unless you enjoy the 470 acres of pristine alpine lake and 12 miles of shoreline on Lake Hemet, stocked with rainbow trout and catfish. And there’s not much for entertainment, unless you enjoy world-renowned jazz artists appearing annually at the Jazz in the Pines Festival, or the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. And the rock climbing really isn’t great, unless you love massive big-wall climbs on Suicide Rock and legendary Lily Rock (also known as Tahquitz Rock), second only to Yosemite in the west. And the hiking, well there is at least one taller mountain in Southern California. Just one. At 10,834 feet, the view from San Jacinto Peak was described  by John Muir as “the most sublime spectacle to be found anywhere on this earth.” Its north escarpment rises over 10,000 vertical feet in elevation in over just 7 horizontal miles, and is one of the sharpest elevation gains in the contiguous US. But still, there is at least one taller mountain in Southern California. So I guess the question is, why even bother going to Idyllwild?

Lily Rock above Idyllwild

There’s shopping at countless quaint boutiques and shops, offering everything from antiques and home-made arts and crafts, to fine works of local art. And speaking of art, the arts community in Idyllwild is one of the finest in the region, bolstered by the Idyllwild Arts Academy, a world-recognized college-preparatory institute for education in the arts. Dozens of fine art galleries and studios featuring works in a variety of media to suite any taste color the community with a cultural richness and an artistic sophistication rarely seen in a town of this size.

The lodging choices are surprisingly diverse. Choose from any of the 20 or more local properties, with options ranging from bed and breakfasts, cabin rentals, and lodges, to sophisticated hotel properties with a full suite of services and luxury amenities. Most offer excellent rates, especially for non-peak weekends. Favorite spots include the Grand Idyllwild Lodge for luxury accommodations including private decks and in-house spa facilities, the Silver Pines Lodge for secluded cabins and a comfortable, homey feel, the Idyllwild Inn for themed rooms and a variety of studio, 1-room, 2-room, and 3-room cabins for any party size, just steps away from the most popular shopping and dining areas in town, and the Fern Valley Inn to get away from it all and relax in any of the 10 comfortable cottages. Most properties offer in-room fireplaces, and many of the lodges and cabin rentals welcome pets.

For those with simpler tastes in lodging, there are a dozen or so public and private campgrounds offering everything from primitive camping to RV resorts with pull-through sites and full hookups. Idyllwild County Park has a large number of wilderness and developed campsites which are open to the public, and private resorts like Thousand Trails offer a larger selection of amenities, and membership is not required to make a reservation.

Strawberry Creek through Idyllwild in Winter

The dining options are nearly as diverse as the lodging choices. Cafe Aroma is an Italian focused bistro on North Circle Drive. La Casita also on North Circle has excellent Mexican food. The Red Kettle in the center of town offers hearty breakfast classics and sandwiches, but isn’t open for dinner, and Mile High Cafe on Highway 243 at Saunders Meadow Road has many of those same classics, in a slightly less rustic, slightly more polished setting, and has a dinner menu as well.

The Gastrognome in the center of town is an Idyllwild standard for more sophisticated dining, and offers well-prepared American fare with a focus on fresh seafood, chops, and steaks. And the bread is legendary. The setting is refined but comfortable, and the service is without reproach. Fratello’s Ristorante offers authentic interpretations of traditional Italian pasta and meat dishes, along with wood-fired pizzas. The selection of red wines is ample, and includes a notable range of Italian and California wines.

Of course for many visitors, the best places to eat are more casual. I’ve been eating at Idyllwild Pizza Company for as long as I can remember. They make a great pie, and they’ve got a respectable selection of Southern California craft beers on tap. And speaking of local craft beer, in the same parking lot is the Idyllwild Brew Pub, a delightfully current food and drink place, with a large selection of beers made in-house, along and the most well-stocked bar in town. The menu is elevated pub food, excellent salads, and some surprising desserts. Standouts include the calamari sandwich on a hoagie roll with shaved cucumber and ponzu mayonnaise, and the bread pudding smothered in bourbon caramel sauce. It’s an easy walk back from the Brew Pub to your cozy cabin at the Idyllwild Inn.

One of Idyllwild’s biggest attractions– literally– is the trees. Most of the massive Jeffrey Pines that once covered the mountains were felled in logging operations in the early 1900s. There are still a few remaining Jeffreys dating from the pre-logging era, mostly those specimens which were not suitable for lumber due to their twisting, spiral trunks. Many of those survivors are now absolutely massive. You can tell them by their bright orange bark and staggering size. Smell the trunks and you’ll find a sweet, alluring vanilla scent.

The mountainsides have all but been reforested in the intervening years by dense stands of Ponderosa pines, which soar to slightly less lofty heights, but are majestic and fragrant nonetheless. The Ponderosas are however, slightly less hearty, less drought-tolerant than their colossal cousins, and have been stricken across the west in recent years by bark beetle infestation due to the lingering drought.

The only remaining questions one might be tempted to ask is, “Why Idyllwild?” For those of us who have been going there for our entire lives, it’s an easy answer.  It’s a small town take on mountain destinations. And let’s be honest, when you’re visiting the mountains, a small town feel is right. If you want alpine skiing, go somewhere else. You come to Idyllwild for the stunning natural beauty of the mountains and the trees, uncluttered by urban encroachments.  If you want quiet, tranquil beauty– which is what mountain destinations are all about– then Idyllwild may be the place for you.

San Diego Craft Beer

We’re living in a Golden Age of beer.

Craft beer has exploded across the country and around the world, growing far beyond its counter-culture roots. It has established itself as a new paradigm of quality American beer, and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry. New breweries open every week, and the area with the greatest concentration of breweries is the region around the city and county of San Diego, California.

Brew Kettle

San Diego County has over 150 breweries, and one of the hottest brands on the scene is a rapidly-growing brewery called Second Chance Beer Company (www.SecondChanceBeer.com) located in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area of San Diego. While this brewery may only be celebrating their third anniversary in 2018, the people running it are certainly not new. Partners Marty Mendiola and Curtis Hawes worked together for nearly a decade at a favorite San Diego brewpub, Rock Bottom Brewery near the UCSD campus, and, along with co-founder Virginia Morrison, the trio are now living their dreams of operating their own label.

Mendiola is a veteran brewmaster, past president of the San Diego Brewer’s Guild, and one of San Diego’s most well-respected brewers. The San Diego-native has nearly twenty years of experience making some of the region’s finest beers, bringing home 13 Great American Beer Festival medals and 6 World Beer Cup awards during his tenure. Noted for his English-style browns and Irish-style reds, Mendiola is also well-versed in San Diego’s signature beer, the West Coast-style IPA.

Second Chance Beer Company’s Marty Mendiola and Curtis Hawes

Hawes, the business manager, is a consummate professional, and life-long craft beer enthusiast. His business card actually reads “Chief Tasting Officer.” He’s a numbers guy, with an MBA, and 20 years of experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. “It’s a perfect partnership,” says Hawes. “Marty is one of the best brewers in the region, and it’s my passion to help bring our beer to the world. I feel pretty lucky to get to work with him every day.”

Last year the company opened its first satellite taproom called the Second Chance Beer Lounge in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego, the heart of the craft brew social scene. “The neighbors are pretty happy we’ve moved in,” says Hawes. “The whole neighborhood is like a beer lover’s dream.”

The Second Chance Beer Lounge in North Park San Diego

Their work isn’t all hype, though. Second Chance posted back-to-back Gold medals from the Great American Beer Festival for its Tabula Rasa Toasted Porter in 2016 and 2017 (only the second time in history a beer has been awarded consecutive Golds), and grabbed a Silver for their Legally Red American Red Ale as well. The rest of their line-up features a range of seasonal and specialty beers, and an expanding core line of IPAs, Red and Brown ales, and even a notable Lager, brewed in partnership with the World Over the Line Championships, hosted annually by the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club.

San Diego has become an important destination for beer tourism in California, and Second Chance’s location close to the I-15 corridor puts them right on the map for the many of the beer tours that travel up and down that vital thoroughfare. “People come from all over the country to visit breweries and tasting rooms in San Diego,” says Hawes. With Mendiola’s record for award-winning beer, there’s little doubt that this growing trend will continue to bring beer lovers to the region.

Beer tourism is nothing new to Societe Brewing Company (http://societebrewing.com). Founding partners Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith were both life-long craft beer enthusiasts and home brewers before meeting in 2009 at, of all places, a brewery.

Troy Ashburn, Pintsman at Societe Brewing Company

Constantiner moved to California from Texas specifically to work in the craft beer industry, choosing San Diego because of the number of breweries in the region. Smith began his career at the highly-acclaimed Russian River Brewing in Northern California, and came to San Diego for the same reasons. The two became fast friends, and after a year or so of conspiring, decided to set out on their own.

The pair began production in 2012, focusing on making the best beer they possibly could. “From the beginning we’ve focused on quality, rather than quantity,” says Constantiner. “We don’t want to be a mile wide and an inch deep.”

Smith admits that demand for their beer is constantly growing. “No one can make enough beer,” he says. Remarking on the importance of quality, he says, “Every day, there are people trying craft beer for the first time, so it has to be good every time.”

Constantiner has a refreshing take on the relationships he and Smith have developed with other brewers in the region, who consider themselves colleagues, rather than competitors. “We owe a huge debt to breweries like Stone, AleSmith, Pizza Port—everyone that came before us,” he says. “They blazed the trail for us, and opened the world to craft beer. But they’ve also set a great example about being open and honest, keeping craft beer fun, and doing good things in the community.”

The barrel aging room at Societe Brewing Company

The partners identify four categories of beer they produce. Their “Old World” line features European-style beers, their “Stygian” line features a number of dark, heavy stouts, their “Out West” line heavily favors big, hoppy, West Coast-style ales, and a newer collection, the “Feral” line includes a selection of rich, interesting sour beers and other wild, unpredictable flavors.

“We’re making the beer we love, and the craft beer lovers in the region are loving it with us,” says Constantiner. And it seems that the rest of the world is enjoying it, too. Their Ferel beer dubbed “The Thief” took home a Gold Medal at the 2018 World Beer Cup in the Mixed-Culture Brett Beer category.

One of Societe’s noted influences is AleSmith Brewing Company (http://alesmith.com). Opening in 1995, AleSmith is the oldest stand-alone craft brewery in San Diego not connected with a restaurant (the only older brewery is the Karl Strauss brewpub in Downtown San Diego).

Like many of San Diego’s native brewmasters, owner Peter Zien began as a home-brewer, and a member of the local brewer’s club, QUAFF (Quality Ale and Fermentation Fraternity). Fellow QUAFF member and close friend of Zien, Skip Virgilio, founded AleSmith based on the strength of a now-legendary Belgian Strong Ale, the first San Diego beer to bring home a Gold Medal from the Great American Beer Festival. Zien worked with Virgilio early in the process, working for no pay, but enjoying being part of something that hadn’t been done before.

“It was like Tom Sawyer painting his fence,” says Zien. “We helped wherever we were needed, corking bottles, cleaning up, doing whatever we could do on a shoestring.”

Mash Tun at AleSmith Brewing Company

When AleSmith came up for sale in 2002, Zien took a hiatus from his legal career to make his hobby and passion for beer into his profession. At the time, AleSmith was producing around 400 barrels per year. In 2015, AleSmith produced 22,000 barrels, but after completing their 2015 expansion posted 65,000 barrels in 2016, with continued growth to 80,000 barrels in 2017, and is on track to produce 100,000 barrels in 2018.

“For 20 years now, we haven’t been able to produce enough beer to fill all the orders,” says Zien. “We’ve gone through 3 expansions now, and after every one, I think ‘this will be my last,’ but I’ve always been wrong about that. I can’t imagine needing to expand beyond our current capacity, but in this industry, never say never.”

That 2015 expansion and increased capacity ten-fold, while maintaining exacting standards for quality. The brewery (on AleSmith Court in San Diego, named for the brewery) services the largest taproom in San Diego, and is also home to the Tony Gwynn Museum, which opened in 2016.

Zien values the friendships he has developed with the region’s other brewers. “None of us feels like we’re in competition with each other,” he says. “We’re all trying to brew the best beer we possibly can, and make a few more barrels than we did the year before.” He also acknowledges the influence of Stone, both in the quality of their beer, and in their distribution network. “Without Stone, there probably wouldn’t be an AleSmith. They’re that important. I probably learned everything I know about this business from (Stone Brewing founder) Greg Koch.”

AleSmith’s line focuses on world-accepted beer styles, with Zien’s own unique spin, and a good measure of West Coast influence. “We maintain a regular line-up of classics,” says Zien. “I like beers that stand the test if time. We brew a huge variety of specialty beers, and people love to try new things, but in the end, they usually come back to the classics.”

With regard to the newer breweries which continue open every year, Zien is supportive and encouraging. “More breweries are good for the industry,” says Zien, “and what’s good for the industry is good for us all.”

Craft beer has become the modern standard for excellence and innovation in beer making, and nowhere is that revolution more prevalent than in San Diego and the region. The culture that has developed around craft beer in San Diego is a powerful, creative force that fosters and supports new breweries and new ideas, and enables veteran and new brewers alike to experiment with novel techniques, and rediscover traditional methods lost to time, creating a better beer drinking experience for us all.

The Last Sunset: Kauaʻi’s Keʻe Beach

There’s a place in Hawaii on the Island of Kauaʻi that I like to think of has having the last sunset in the United States. The place is called Keʻe Beach, and it forms the northern terminus of Highway 560, the Kuhio Highway, part of the hodgepodge of highways and roads which partially circumnavigates the island. Partially.

First, a point on pronunciation. To pronounce words in Hawaiian, you pronounce all of the letters, including the [ ʻ ], called the ʻokina, which is a little pause or technically a phonemic glottal stop. If I call the place Kee Beach, most readers would incorrectly think of it as a monosyllabic word homophonetic with the English work “key.” This is wrong. The correct pronunciation is closer to kay-eh, as two syllables. The ʻokina also informs the pronunciation of the Hawaiian dress the muʻu muʻu, which most non-islanders would call a “moo-moo,” but which is more accurately pronounced moo-oo moo-oo, with four syllables.

Keʻe Beach is not the last sunset in the United States. First of all, it’s not as far west as the Aleutian Islands, and it’s not even the furthest west spot on the island of Kauaʻi (did you notice the ʻokina? Yes, you pronounce and spell Kauaʻi with an ʻokina). And it’s not even the western-most of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands, with the “Forbidden” island of Niʻihau, home to some 200 or so native Hawaiians, lying 18 miles off Kauaʻi’s western shore. But when you’re at Keʻe Beach, knowing you’re at the end of the highway, watching the sunset over the beautiful but poorly named Pacific Ocean, knowing that this is no mere channel between islands, the sunset feels like one of the last ones in the world.

Kauaʻi is the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands, and stands apart from the others in many ways. The Hawaiian Channels are the waterways that separate the various islands, and they are all named. The Kaiwi channel separates the islands of Oʻahu and Molokaʻi, and is about 26 miles wide. On a clear day, you can see Molokaʻi from eastern stretches of Oʻahu. Likewise, the Alenuihaha channel separates the islands of Maui and Hawaiʻi Island, and is some 30 miles wide and a few thousand feet deep, frequently with treacherous currents and heavy seas. From many places in Northern Hawaiʻi Island, you can see the towering peaks of Maui’s massive Haleakala, the great shield volcano that rises in the east of the island. But even this great channel pales in comparison to the Kaʻieʻie Channel, separating Kauaʻi from Oʻahu. At 72 miles wide and over 11,000 feet deep, this channel, sometimes called simply the Kauaʻi channel, is essentially wide open ocean.

Kauaʻi’s moniker as the “Garden Island” stands in tribute to the strong agricultural influence on the island, and importance of the rugged natural beauty of the island in its history and today. Visitors can see countless taro fields forming a patchwork across the island, growing the plant known in Hawaiian as kalo, from which is made the traditional Hawaiian dish poi, among other foods. There is great tradition and symbolism to the kalo and the poi, linked to the Hawaiian concept of ʻohana or family, which comes from the word oha, the young green stalk that grows from a kalo root.

Taro farm on Kauaʻi

Kauaʻi is separated from the other Hawaiian Islands by vast stretches of open ocean, and by rugged, diverse ecology. Kauaʻi is so rugged that there is no encircling highway as there are on the three larger islands. There is a 16-mile stretch of shoreline on the northwest coast of Kauaʻi that is utterly inaccessible by car, and can only be seen on foot, from a boat, or from the air. This place is called Na Pali, and it is one of the most spectacular, dramatic coastlines in the world. No road can or ever should mar this beautiful coastline, so visitors by car can only travel as far as Keʻe Beach in the north, or Polihale Beach in the south (though road access to Polihale is questionable at times). Beyond there is a vast wilderness of jagged, steep canyons and wild open ocean. You have traveled as far as the roads in Kauaʻi will take you, lending the location a remoteness, a feeling of isolation, of distance. That’s why Keʻe Beach feels like the last sunset, the last place that will see the sun until tomorrow.

Na Pali by helicopter

There is much more that can be said about the island of Kauaʻi. I’ve spent a great deal of time on Kauaʻi (though not as much as others), and there are many more stories to share about the beautiful, remarkable locations on the island.

Packing for the Journey

No matter the destination, nearly any journey begins with packing. How and what to pack are essential questions, from the selection of the right baggage, to managing the load once the journey begins. There are countless factors that influence what to bring on your journey, and how to pack it all, so a little forethought can help to ensure that you’re prepared on the road.

The first choice to make when packing for your trip is the baggage. For me, the choice depends on where I’m going, for how long, what my mode of travel is, and whether it’s for business or pleasure.  And while this is not a discussion of the best brands or models of bag, some strong consideration should be given to what sorts of bags you need, and how they can be used for different kinds of trips. On short trips for pleasure, I’ll usually go with a small roller bag and a backpack with necessities. Longer trips obviously require larger baggage. And trips for business often require a slightly different configuration, depending what materials or equipment I need. Regardless of my destination, I have two bags that I always bring along, and which in fact I never unpack: my backpack and my toiletries bag. The backpack contains cords and cables for electronic devices, ear plugs for noisy flights and loud hotel air conditioners, a pair of back-up sun glasses, ear buds, a pen, and a few other comforts and accessories. My toiletries kit contains travel-dedicated copies of the standard items I use at home, including a full-size tooth brush and proper razor, tooth paste, deodorant, hair product, nail clippers, and other items. By never unpacking those bags, storing them at home in their pre-packed state, I ensure that I never get on the road lacking any of these essential items.

After selecting the proper luggage, it’s time to actually begin packing it. I pack in reverse order: the first items to go in are the last ones I plan to use.  Seasoned travelers should be skilled at predicting what they’ll actually need on the road. I pack in outfits– pants/shorts, shirts, ties, jackets, and outerwear– making a plan for each day’s needs, and factoring in days when I’ll need more than one outfit. Consider the weather, as well. Wet socks are a miserable experience. In fact, depending on the nature of the trip, I generally bring a complete set of extra undergarments (socks, undershirts, etc.) beyond what I actually expect to use, in case things don’t go as planned. I often don’t use them, but they’ve saved me countless times, and they barely take up any room. And don’t forget something to sleep in. If that means your skin, then so be it, but I generally travel with some kind of sleep or lounge clothes, for one main reason: if I need something from the hotel at the end of the day, and a valet, housekeeper, bellman, or other hotel worker has to bring it to me, I don’t want to have to put on regular clothes again to answer the door (and whoever is bringing it to me doesn’t want to see me undressed). Not all hotels have robes available to use in the room, so a comfortable pair of sleep pants and a soft shirt are generally enough to protect your modesty and that of the hotel staff.

I usually have at least 3 pairs of footwear. First is comfortable athletic-style shoes which I generally wear for the travel portion of trip, and which are easy to slip off and on in airport security. Next are my “utility shoes,” by which I mean the appropriate footwear for whatever situation I’ll be in, related to my reason for travel. They could be dress shoes, work boots, or any other shoes for conducting your business on the road. Finally, I always bring along a lightweight pair of flip flops for lounging around when the day is done. I don’t do slippers, but many people do, and they can be a welcome comfort for road-weary travelers. For dress shoes, I generally select in advance one color of shoes, and coordinate my clothing selections based on that, to prevent having to pack multiple pairs of dress shoes. Black is highly versatile, but other colors may be appropriate, depending on your style. Men often have it easier in this regard than women. But regardless of your shoe selections, I shouldn’t have to tell men to match their leathers. Finally, when packing shoes, I always either wrap my shoes in a plastic grocery bag, or pack them in a dedicated shoe compartment in my bag. I don’t want my clothes rubbing up against my shoes. It’s rough on the clothes, and unsanitary.

Once I finish packing, I assemble all of my baggage in one place and make sure everything is secure, that the zippers or closures all function properly, and that I can carry and manage it all myself. I can usually handle two large suitcases, a backpack and laptop bag, but I rarely travel that heavy. Self-sufficiency on the road is important for me, but individuals who require assistance in transporting their baggage should check for arrangements for assistance in advance.

Finally, I double-check that I have any required travel documents, identification, or other important articles, make sure my phone is charged, and that I have my watch, wallet, keys, and other pocket-necessities. I double-check the locks on the doors and windows, turn off the lights, and walk out the door.

One last note: I make no effort to pack light for the sake of packing light. Some people consider packing light to be a goal unto itself. I don’t. I favor, rather, packing efficiently. I don’t want to bring things I don’t need, but neither do I want to need things I didn’t bring. I generally don’t re-wear clothes, and I take no pride in packing for 10 days in one small bag. I pack the things I need and want, and they take up the space that they take. Other travelers differ on this point, and you should make up your own mind.