Expert Packing Advice for Your Post-Pandemic Vacation

The pandemic is not so much over as it is people are ignoring it because they've had their shots and survived Omicron, or because they no longer care if their loved ones live or die.

So people are beginning to travel, especially to and around the states where even more people no longer care if loved ones live or die.

Like Florida, for example. Tourists are swarming back to Disney World and Universal Studios and roundly complaining that things aren't the way they used to be. People are angry, prone to fly into a rage at the slightest provocation, and the customer service just plain sucks.

Just like at home, only four hamburgers and small sodas cost 78 bucks.

If you haven't traveled in the last two years, you've no doubt forgotten how to pack. You're eager to go on your summer vacation, but you're unsure what to take. You stare at your open suitcase, frozen with the sheer number of choices.

Do I need a light sweater in case it gets chilly? What if there's a freak snowstorm? It snowed on May 9, 1923, in Indianapolis, so should I take a parka just in case? What if the hotel doesn't have any shampoo, and every store in 100 miles is out? Should I take two bottles? And can we just use our everyday plates or should I pack the good china?

Not to worry. Traveling hasn't changed much except that it's needlessly expensive now.

Here are a few packing tips to prepare you for your summer vacation. I used to be a travel writer, so some of this advice is probably pretty good. 

Don't take a suitcase. Get everything you need into a carry-on bag. Gone are the days of steamer trunks and hatboxes. Nothing screams, "My last vacation was on the Titanic," like each family member lugging a large suitcase behind them, large enough to hide a dead body.

Next, don't take your own pillow; they have pillows where you're going. People who take their special therapeutic pillows from Dr. Snowflake are indiscriminate overpackers wasting hundreds of dollars in baggage fees. Just buy a pillow when you arrive and throw it away when you leave. It will cost way less than your baggage fees.

If you need another pillow, ask for one. If you need a thinner pillow, rip half the stuffing out of this one. Place the stuffing in a plastic bag, and hide it in the back of the closet. Play dumb if anyone asks you about it and say the pillow was like that when you got there.

Remember, take only photos, leave only footprints, and bury only evidence.

Vacation is also not the time to start new hobbies or make major lifestyle changes. This is the time to relax and eat until you pass out.

Thinking about starting that healthy vegan diet your friend has been nagging you about? Forget it. Those vegetables will be waiting for you when you get home.

Got the urge to start that new fitness regime you've been promising yourself? Unless it involves a lot of walking and complaining about how your feet hurt, hold off. Wait until you get home where you can sit down and wait for the urge to pass.

When my little brother was 11, my mom and stepdad were taking him to Florida for vacation, so he decided this would be a great time to work on his beach body and should take his 11-pound dumbbells along. He was so upset when my mom told him no, and she asked me to talk him down. He pointed out that he would be too busy having fun to start exercising. Besides, he could do it when he came back home.

He wiped his tears and left the dumbbells at home. Where they sat untouched for the next seven years until he moved out.

When you're ready to pack, set out all the clothes you want to take, then throw half of them back into the closet. You're not going to wear all of that. Hell, you're not even going to wear everything that's left. You've spent the last two years wearing the same clothes three days in a row, so now is not the time to start planning multi-wardrobe days.

It's OK if you wear a shirt or pants more than once on a trip. No one will point at you in the middle of the park and shout, "Hey, everyone, that woman was wearing this SAME EXACT SHIRT at Epcot three days ago!"

Trust me, it never happens. The last time I did it, the woman hid in the bathroom, and no one said a word. So you'll be fine.

You'll also be tempted to take a nice outfit with you "in case you decide to go somewhere special for dinner."

You will not go somewhere special for dinner.

Unless your entire vacation is about fancy restaurants and going to the opera, you'll just eat at the same kinds of places you normally eat and wear your usual shorts and t-shirt.

And maybe you can class it up a bit with a clean baseball cap, Lord Grantham. It's tucked under your therapeutic pillow.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (hey, that's me!)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.