Out of the Office (And Some Suitcase Essentials)

For the next two weeks I’ll be out of the country on Proper Holidays.

Proper Holidays, if you’re not familiar with this term I just made up, is when you take a holiday (vacation, American friends) and while you’re there, you actually take a holiday. You don’t read your blog comments. You let the e-mails build up. You avoid any work-related social media. And as a consequence of this, you actually manage to relax.

I’m imagining this is what a Proper Holiday is like, anyway, because I haven’t taken one in forever. Yes, I travel a lot, but the fact that I do it often means I can’t afford to abandon the To Do List every time I go. I always do some work, getting up a bit earlier in the morning to spend an hour with my laptop before sightseeing or an hour by the pool, racking up enormous cell phone bills thanks to the ridiculousness that is the price of data-roaming abroad and generally leaving everyone back here with the impression that I never left.

Well, sod that. I need a Proper Holiday. So although I do have some blog posts scheduled (yeah… I couldn’t help myself), they’re (probably) all you’ll see of me for the next two weeks, save for some jealousy-inducing sunny pictures of cocktails stood next to good books with the blue waters of swimming pools in the background.

In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at my suitcase essentials...


1. A Kindle (And, Um, Some Books)

I bought a ticket to the Dark Side at the start of this year, but I rarely go there. I think I’ve read maybe 3 books on my Kindle, and they were all during my last holiday. But we can’t have a repeat of what happened the last time I went to Nice, and books weigh a lot, which means less room for Eight O’Clock Coffee and Oreo Cakesters. So this is when Catherine’s Kindle has its day in the sun. (Or not, because it seems to get pretty hot when you sit with it in direct sunlight. And you can’t use it during take-off and landing. And it might run out of battery. And I might want to read while sitting in the pool. So I’m bringing some actual books as well.)

2. One-Cup Coffee Filter

I can’t be doing with those Fisher Price coffee ‘machines’ they have in hotel rooms these days that only take crazily-sized ‘pods’ that look like mutant tea bags and take an age to produce one tiny lukewarm cup of mulch. No, thanks. (Or no, you’re grand, as us Irish would say. Loosely translated and depending on the tone in which it’s delivered, it means are you f–king kidding me with this?) So I bring my own portable one-cup coffee filter and some paper filters to go inside it. Easily transportable, only needs hot water and coffee grounds to work and, hooray, you can try some new, proper coffee before you even get home again.

(This is technically a two-cup coffee filter, but that’s one cup to me. 2 cups = 1 Catherine mug.)

3. The Bag Within A Bag

If you’re planning on coming home with more stuff than you went out with, a bag within a bag is the perfect solution. It works in so many ways.

(Well, okay: three ways. I still think that’s impressive.)

  1. Extra room for the way back. Put the smaller bag inside your larger, checked luggage on the way out. (As I have above.) On the way back, fill them both to the brim and carry on the smaller suitcase, presuming it’s cabin-friendly. You can also put heavier and/or more delicate items in it.
  2. Force yourself to pack light. If you really want to pack lighter than you’ve ever packed in your life, ONLY use the smaller bag (but still put it inside your checked bag for the outbound leg of your journey). This results in maximum shopping space, but you might find yourself at the mall in your PJs.
  3. Lost luggage avoidance. I once landed in hot, sunny, humid Florida in clothes I’d been wearing in cold, foggy San Francisco since the morning of the previous day, and then had to spend a day hanging around the hotel when I could’ve been out at the pool because although I’d made my flight connection, my bags hadn’t. It. Drives. Me. Crazy. Especially because delayed luggage is one step closer to lost luggage. So if I have a bad feeling about a flight connection, I pack everything I need for one night and one day into my smaller bag, and carry it on. Then it still works for No.1 on the way back.

4. Zip-Lock Bags

I should have shares in whoever makes these bags, because I securely wrap every single liquid item that could possibly leak into one of them before it goes in my bag. When I’m being really organized I wrap individual bottles, because then any leaks will be completely contained. #NAILEDIT

They also double as a place to dump all the change you couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out how to spend for your way back.

5. Bubble Wrap

I know this might look strange and strangers going through my bags — and there WILL be strangers going through them, at least on the way back, because I always buy coffee and did you know drug smugglers use it to hide drugs?! They always leave me a polite ‘We rifled through your stuff’ note though. It’s a nice touch–but I always buy souvenir mugs on holidays and they never come properly wrapped. Even when they come in a box or with a slip of bubble-wrap, there’s rarely enough to make the journey back to Ireland safely and securely. So now, I bring my own.

6. Laptop

I said I wasn’t going to be working, but adding to my novel’s word count isn’t work, and considering the time I’ll spend waiting to board flights, on flights, waiting to board other flights… Well, I shouldn’t waste it.

And my hotel room has a pretty comfortable-looking desk.

20 thoughts on “Out of the Office (And Some Suitcase Essentials)

  1. kathils says:

    I’m seriously going to have to add “No, you’re grand.” to my repertoire. I may even be able to make it sound vaguely Irish, although I think my attempt at the accent probably sounds better in my own head. 😉 I’m positive I can give it the right inflection. Hee, hee.

    Great travel tips. I’ll have to remember that next time we fly.

    Have a safe, fun trip!

  2. lblivingbetter says:

    Enjoy… you pack very well. Here in the states we now have hotels where you can “check-in” your “crackberry” and they won’t give it back to you until you check out! Cheers

  3. Jamie Clarke Chavez says:

    Ah, GOD, a Proper Holiday! I knew exactly what you meant before you explained—because I’ve spent a total of 6 weeks during 2 trips within 7 months of each other in your country (would that be the Light Side?) with work I simply couldn’t leave behind (deadlines). Which I mostly did whilst others were sleeping. (sigh) So I am green with envy! Enjoy yourself

  4. Devon Trevarrow Flaherty says:

    Super idea with the bubble wrap. I love to buy dishes abroad, and after one disastrous mishap I always end up carrying them gently in my hands the whole way home. I’m going to take your idea, though, since it’s much better.

    My suggestion: a sizable fashion scarf and a bandana. They can be used as just about anything, and they have saved me countless times (from covering my head in an Orthodox neighborhood to wrapping up my camera in an unexpected rainstorm, from a make-shift sarong to keeping my sweaty hair out of my face while picking oranges).

  5. Kay Camden says:

    LOL at the end. Glad I’m not the only one still rabid to write even while on vacation. It would be even better to “accidentally” miss your flight so you’re stuck in an airport with more time to kill.

  6. James F. Brown says:

    Good luck on adhering to your “Proper Holiday.” IMHO, it will take enormous amounts of will power to avoid connecting to the Internet for “just a moment.” DAMHIK! You are aware, aren’t you, of the ubiquity of WiFi now? Not just hotels, libraries, and coffee places, but McDonalds, malls, department stores, supermarkets, etc.

  7. Eli@coachdaddy says:

    I suppose incredible new readers to your blog leaving overwhelmingly intriguing comments on your posts will just have to wait until you’re properly back.

    In lieu of such a reader, I’ll chime in with the advice to wear your swim suit under your skivvies so that should your luggage find a different destination, you can strip in the hotel lobby and go for a swim.

    Don’t forget to pick up a T-shirt for me that says “Catherine went to (fill in blank here) on vacation, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

  8. shereenielsen says:

    Catherine. Great advice. I’m already implementing alot of your suggestions. I got the travel bug at age 3; my parents loved to travel. A couple ideas. Facial wipes to remove makeup. (You can get those at Target or Walmart in U.S. Probably a local retail/food chain in U.K.) And hand wipes, the bacterial lotion kind. And if you run out of either, you can use the face wipes as hand wipes, and vice versa1

  9. Karen says:

    A proper holiday. Can’t remember what that’s like. Work comes everywhere with me (which, like you, is how I afford to travel so much, so can’t complain). My Kindle works fine in sunlight and I’ve sat in the pool reading it too. If I didn’t travel so much I’d never have got into e-reading but when you travel long-term… you just can’t put a hundred books in a suitcase and still fit enough clothes to not walk around naked on laundry day (horrible thought!) Have fun.

  10. drcarolcooper says:

    Fab ideas there, thanks for all of them. Your case looks a lot tidier than mine but then my cat is always trying to squeeze in as well. I laughed so much when I saw that you too take bubble wrap. Thought I was the only one! Have a great holiday. You’ll be missed.

  11. rilzy says:

    Have fun! Resist the urge to check social media though. I believe that it might be greater than you think. Look forward to reading about your Proper Hoilday.

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