My best thoughts on dressing and packing for an international trip to a warm climate, based on my Thailand trips (if you fly to Europe in freezing winter, packing is a lot harder to do light and right):
1. If you depart from a cold USA location (like a winter flight from the North East), you will need warm clothing just for your bus, subway, or car ride. I find a simple full-zippered, compressible puff jacket in a thinner model (like the new "fashion" down jackets) to be ideal - your choice of down or synthetic, the Nano Puff Jacket from Patagonia is a good example but there are a ton of alternatives to choose from.
A thin puff jacket may not be enough if you have to stand outdoors on the curb in frigid Chicago waiting for your ride, but the flip side is, you won't overheat in the terminal and will sleep very comfortably on the typically all-too-cold night flight.
My alternative "warm gear" combines a thin Polartec 200 jacket, like the Patagonia R2, matched with a thin or ultrathin windjacket - I prefer ultrathin, like the classic hooded Patagonia Houdini at just 4 ounces, or pretty thin, like the Columbia Windbreaker Jacket you often find at outlet malls.
Two pieces, while ultimately eating up more space than one, give you more wearing options than a single puff jacket - on a hot flight, just wear the windbreaker, medium cold just the Polartec, super cold wear both.
And at your tropical destination, the windbreaker doubles as thunderstorm jacket, while dressing up a simple black tee shirt when you have that inevitable dinner at an upscale, and usually overly air conditioned, hotel.
Whatever you do, don't get pullovers, even a 1/4 zipper isn't enough to fine-tune your temperature at your seat. And buy darker colors, since one day you will spill some food on yourself while trying to eat in the tiny space allocated to us at our seat.
2. Always wear your thickest and heaviest clothing for the flight, to save valuable space, not to mention weight, in your luggage. Don't fly in shorts and pack your jeans! Reverse that, wear the heavy jeans.
3. If you are a guy and like a military or UFC short haircut, carry a watchcap - often it will provide the extra warmth you need without anything else besides a light windbreaker. Little science fact: the capillary blood vessels in our scalp don't constrict to save warmth, unlike on other sections of our body - so to stop the heat drain, wear with a hat! Even a baseball cap helps a lot.
4. The ideal number of luggage pieces is TWO - one goes under the plane, the other goes in the overhead bin at your seat.
The overhead bin piece holds, at minimum, change of underwear and socks, contact lens solution and any medicines (plus toothbrush and floss, etc.), cellphone and any other theft-worthy electronics, a pair of light nylon travel pants or shorts, and a spare shirt or tee shirt. You should think like this: if my baggage gets lost, or if another volcano grounds planes in Europe, can I live out of my carron bag for a week? If I sinkwash?
A corollary is to try to wear wool, or one of the new silver or other treated synthetics that slow the growth of bacteria, and let you go a couple of extra days before becoming stinky.
5. Even though you carry just TWO bags, if there is probably stuff you will want at your seat during the flight, so stick that stuff in a smaller, light, "pull-out" bag - maybe a hiker's stuff sack - and pull it out of your overhead bag before settling down in your seat.
Corollary: years ago I gave up on treating my overhead bag as my "reservoir" of extra items during a flight. I hate going into the overhead during my flight. In an emergency I am willing to open the overhead bin, but not because I planned poorly.
6. A large - 5.0" or larger - phone in your pocket is a lot handier than a full-sized iPad in the overhead - or even at your seat. It may be too late to change the size phone you favor this phone cycle, but start to think of your phone as more of a tablet than a phone, you'll be happier later if you travel a lot.
7. Buy, or refill, a 16oz water bottle for the flight. Thirst is miserable. If you manage to drink the whole bottle, you can ask the flight attendant (politely) to refill it for you, better at the food station than buzzing him or her. Airplane water tank water is pretty miserable, but better than suffering thirst.
8. Don't overpack your overhead bag. You might need room for purchases post-security or at your transit airport. Not to mention needing room for your jacket when you get to your tropical vacation destination.
9. Between your carryon and checked luggage and what you wear, you should have the following minimum essential clothing: jeans; thin nylon travel pants, like the REI Adventure or ex Officio Nomad; shorts; 3 pairs of underwear and socks; something warm in case your room is aircon and it knows only one thermostat setting, "very cold."
If you sinkwash nightly, that minimal clothing kit will see you through weeks and weeks of travel. Travel pants are much easier to wash, and dry much more quickly, than jeans, but I once actually washed my jeans in a tiny hotel sink and hung them out the window to dry. Socks and underwear are a breeze, especially if you reserve one of your (usually) two bath towels to roll around your underwear, socks, and tee shirt to squeeze out the rest of the water.
(How to dry in 12 hours: sink wash using hand soap, body shower wash, or shampoo if you don't have anything better; rinse thoroughly; hand wring firmly, but not so firmly you stretch or tear; then lay flat on your spare and dry bath towel, and carefully roll the bath towel up with the clothing sandwiched between towel layers. Finally, either wring the towel, or lay it down on the floor and stomp up and down it like you are making wine in an old La Dolce Vita movie. There will be so little water left in your hand washed laundry that it will be dry in 8-12 hours IF you hang it up in the air conditioned room instead of in the usually non-air conditioned bathroom.)
That's it! Add whatever "luxury items" you want beyond the minimal - maybe some shower shoes or flip flops that double as shower shoes, just don't go so crazy you can't make all your transits (home to airport, counter through security to seat on plane, transit airport, arrival airport to hotel) with all your bags by yourself, without a cart. That's key: by yourself, up and down stairs, from home to hotel, and across 7,000 miles.
- BNP Paribas Financial ServicesSenior Software Developer, 2013 - presentMaintaining, enhancing, and developing business-critical software and solutions.
- ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, Inc.Programmer, 2000 - 2013Developing and maintaining custom software and integration solutions. Helping to manage and configure technical infrastructure.
- Digital Equipment CorporationPrincipal Software Specialist, 1985 - 1997Solving the "It can't be done" problems facing enterprise software developers.
- DECPrincipal Software Engineer, 1978 - 1985
- CompaqPrincipal Software Specialist, 1997 - 2000
erect and sapient: before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends—
if by God's mercy progress ever ends
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course by changing of a name.
I will not tread your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by "this" and "that";
your world immutable wherein no part
the little Maker has with maker's art.
I bow not yet before the iron crown,
nor cast my own small golden scepter down.
- Poetry (especially if you've memorized some)
- Creative thinking
- Dramatic outbursts
- Dogs (we have two) and dog training
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