Friday, May 17, 2013

How to Pack: Swedish Grandmother Style


I'm a pretty good packer. It doesn't matter if it's a quick weekend or a week's stay, I make it all fit in my rolling, fits-in-the-overhead-bins bag. It's the stand-by thing – don't take more than you can carry on. I think packing well is genetic, though, because no one will ever beat Farmor (Father's mother) at packing.

She didn't just pack, she “prov packade” which translates from Swedish to “try packing”, as in a full dry run. I think part of her (some may say overkill) method was due to their long trips to the US throughout my childhood. “Must fit as much as possible, I'm going to be gone a long time.” The other was that she spent all those trips carefully bringing us our heirloom china, one precious, carefully packed piece at a time.

To “prov packa” she'd get out everything she was going to be bringing, and then spend HOURS trying different ways to make it all fit her suitcases. Shoes always contained something breakable, inside a sock or stocking, rolled up, and shoved into the toe. A pair of underwear might fill the rest of the shoe. Shoes were nestle-wrapped in pajamas. Farfar's shirts were meticulously folded to preserve the careful ironing she'd done.

When she had it all the way she wanted it, she'd make notes, sometimes a quick sketch, before she put everything back. I think all this work that we might see as unnecessary also made her feel more in control. She had fibromyalgia and traveling was very hard on her body, as was the climate change to the US. Being prepared was something she did in every facet of her life, but it came out in spades when traveling.

She also knew the carry-on rules by heart. They were different back then (thanks a lot TSA...) and she took full advantage of all she was allowed. One of her carry-ons would contain precious china, meticulously wrapped. Her traveling purse was always the biggest she owned. More china. One was also allowed a small bag of reading material. She loved her magazines, and knew that I did too, and missed them, so she'd fill that “small bag” as full as she could. Of course one could carry on a coat. Pockets were full. Farfar was of course similarly outfitted.

I learned a lot from her. When I travel, my suitcase contains more than you would imagine could fit. Not quite Harry Potter walking into the small tent at the Quidditch World's Cup and discovering an entire apartment, but it's impressive.

I've also given up on the “big purse” idea and take a very large laptop bag (on wheels, thanks DataBoy for upgrading and giving me this treasure – it's Swiss Army – LOTS of pockets) instead. My very small purse is IN the laptop bag. Laptop bag fits easily under the seat in front of me.

I do enjoy traveling. I don't enjoy the rude travelers I so often encounter. But if you're well packed, once you reach your destination you can put that behind you and enjoy your vacation.

Do you do a trial run of packing? Have you ever heard of it before? What bothers you about traveling today? What's your favorite thing about traveling? Did your grandmother pass on some neat skills to you?

15 comments:

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. I learnt to pack my trunk for boarding school terms, then camping trips with the Guides, before that and during those years we made long car journeys to Cornwall and to the Lake District .. my parents must have been good, and probably 'scarce' packers, as we never were packed around in the car - wartime travel I guess.

No I don't do a trial run! I'm pretty hopeless probably now -shoved in the car and off I go .. but air travel - I'm so unused to it and forget what Ineed to do re liquids etc ..

Sad you've posted this I'm off to a wedding in London later and I need to pack!!

Wonderful to know your Farmor and Farfar were able to bring so many precious items across for you - Swedish family memories ...

Cheers and have a lovely weekend .. Hilary

Rachel said...

You made a Harry Potter reference. That means you are unbelievably awesome and nobody can ever deny it.

Also, I only did a dry run one time, because I didn't think the suitcase I ordered was big enough. I was correct so I returned it and got a bigger one before my trip, which held everything I needed with room to spare. I'm going to be moving (via a plane) sometime in a few months so you should totally give me all the tips you have. haha

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I go on faith - the laptop bag IS my carry-on. My wife jams essentials in hers, but mine is full of the electronic gadgets. Guess those are my essentials.
Wrapping things in socks? My wife does that as well. And every sock has a surprise...

Brian Miller said...

i have never heard of this...haha..i can pack in 3.5 seconds...one pair of jeans, one shorts, 2 t shirts, a button up shirt, deoderant...i am set for a month....

shelly said...

I usually pack the night before. My Sweetman on the other hand makes it into a serious deal. ***eye roll***

Hugs and chocolate,
Shelly

JoJo said...

I try to avoid flying so I pack whatever I want in however many bags I need b/c they fit in the trunk. When I flew east to visit my mom, i'd usually pack up a box with my pants, shirts and anything else I wanted to bring east and ship it 2 days b/f my flight, and then ship it home before I left. That way my carry on had room for my grundies, any breakables & toiletries and wasn't too heavy.

LD Masterson said...

My only trial run comes for long trips if I'm worried about the weight. Now that the airlines simply won't accept a bag weighting over 50 lbs. (you used to be able to just pay extra), if I think we might be nearing the limit, I'll bag the bag and weigh it. Too close to 50 and I split everything between two bags and pay the extra.

Andrew Leon said...

I don't think I've ever gone with more than carry-ons. I've always been really good at distilling down to the essentials. Except with books. I always take too many books. Just in case. Not that I've done any real travelling in the last 15 years.

Silvia Villalobos said...

I'm a big fan or carry-ons only. So, I do a lot of practice runs and bring only what is absolutely necessary. Your grandmother's style reminds me of my mom. She is very efficient that way.

Maggie Winter said...

I'm like your granny, every little bit of spare and weight filled and the coats trick I pull that too!
I may even have the same swiss army laptop bag on wheels with loads of pockets, it's so fab and takes so much stuff:)
Oh I want to pack for a trip now. Nice post, thanks.

CA Heaven said...

I always use a fits-the-overhead-bin sizez suitcase too, and never bring more than I can get into it without problems. Hence, no need to "prøve pakke" >:)

Cold As Heaven

Another Clean Slate said...

Yikes! I usually pack the morning I am leaving! Need to take a tip or two!!

Jo said...

I leave all my packing to Matt, I am terrible. However, I did learn the trick of stuffing things in shoes and packing them down the sides of the case. Haven't flown in quite a while, its too expensive and too much of a hassle these days.

We drive to North Carolina, much easier.

JO ON FOOD, MY TRAVELS AND A SCENT OF CHOCOLATE

Carol Kilgore said...

This is so cool. I've never pre-packed, but it's a great idea. If things get more stringent, I will give it a go.

klahanie said...

Hey Tina!

Yay n'stuff, I'm finally here to comment! You sure um packed a lot into this posting :)

Actually, I have pre-packed on a trial run before. One time, I thought I had too much weight in my luggage and so I put this tub of peanut butter in my carry-on bag. When my carry-on bag was screened at Vancouver airport, they confiscated my peanut butter because I could of evidently used it to make something dangerous. True story.

I find the bestest travellers fly on "Blog Air."

Have a lovely Sunday, Tina.

Your adoring fan,

Gary