February 1, 2003
All Systems Go
Even with the best of intentions to pack early and prepare for the trip, both of us are frantically going through our suitcases and packing and repacking everything at the last minute. I shouldn't be surprised.
I have lists....lots of lists. Clothing lists, medication lists, miscellaneous checklists of "things you can't forgot" and even a list taped to the door that has instructions to check that the heat is turned down, the coffee pot is unplugged and the door is locked.
Don't laugh. The door locking note is critical -- we honestly never lock the door and had to search for a set of keys to lock it when we left. We've actually had to call the local police to go lock up the house when we've gone on vacation before.
So...drop the dogs off at the kennel, gather all the right paperwork, try to get everything into a medium-sized Lands End duffle bags. One bag each, with an extra squishable one packed inside (since, for some reason unexplained by physics, everything expands when you travel. Even if you buy nothing on your trip, your dirty clothes will take up at least 1 1/2 times the space they did when you started.) One bag each -- I dread lugging huge bags around airports and up hotel stairs, so we limit ourselves to a bag and a backpack each. So far, we've managed.
We're a bit unsure what to pack -- the tour manager and all the books warned that "desert nights get cold", but that it would be hot and dry during the day. How hot? Well, February is still winter, but days can reach 80s or 90s in some places. Since shorts are pretty much out of the question, we're sticking with khakis and polo shirts and each of us packed a single long-sleeved shirt and a few t-shirts in case it gets cold. We figured on doing laundry at least once a week, so the list is actually pretty short. For suggestions on packing from a few experts (and a listing of what I brought), check the Packing Lists and dress code notes.
I bought a bunch of these Pack-it cube things-- rectangular nylon mesh bags -- to pack in. They come in about six different sizes (not one of which is actually a cube, now that I think about it) that modularize your luggage. I love them -- keeps my underwear from sliding around and keeps things mostly wrinkle-free. Supposedly, you can pack more into a suitcase with them, but I am a bit dubious. Since they are specific sizes, they don't really squeeze into the odd spaces in non-rectangular luggage very well. But, it's about as organized as I can get and everything still fits into the bag without risk of breaking or explosion.
Despite the standard gender stereotypes, it is Mark who tends to over pack, not me. Regardless of whether he's going for two days or two weeks, his luggage always looks like it's under pressure, stuffed too tightly with everything from jeans to jackets and extra shoes. He once tried to to argue that it was because he was the one packing "the dop kit" -- travel medicines, combs, tweezers, sewing kit, and all that. Yeah. Right. A tiny leather bag expands to 40 pounds of luggage. I don't think so. For this trip, he didn't pack jeans (which are hot and heavy and take up too much space), but he still managed to fill his bag to bursting.
Based on the long-negotiated rules of our travel relationship, I have to carry all the books. I can buy as many as I want, and bring as many as I can carry.
Paranoia sets in
We're bringing the laptop with us, so we can download the digital pictures from the new camera and write them to CDs "just in case." This is the first time we're traveling with a digital camera and we're both a bit nervous about losing the pictures because of some weird magnetic field or solar flares or something. Having them on physical media (CDs) makes us both feel better. There are optimistic promises of "Internet Cafes" touted as "all over Egypt", but we're not going to rely on possible connects and limited time to handle getting our pictures downloaded. Luckily, the camera and the laptop and all the necessary cables and extras fit into the backpack.
So, we have two bags, two backpacks, and I have a small over-the-shoulder bag (not quite a purse) for ticket, itinerary, and passports...we're ready. We figure that if we need anything, we'll buy it there. As long as we have the tickets, passports, and money, we'll be fine.
Laid in bed staring at the ceiling trying to sleep but too excited to manage it. Mark, of course, dozes off immediately. I feel like the kid in the Disneyland commercial: "I can't sleep! I'm too exciiiited!"