[video] Travel baggie hack!

[watch Travel baggie hack on YouTube; running time 3:01]

Amazingly simple tip that has helped quell my (considerable) anxiety about arriving or departing without mission-critical dongles, USB cords and other electronic doodads when traveling.


  • the appropriately-sized zippy freezer bag for electronic crap
  • an index card and writing device

What you do:

  • make list of the crap that goes with your crap on index card
  • stick in bag
  • check list ITEM BY ITEM when packing on either end

As I show in the video, you want to account for all moving parts, as it were. So I don’t just list “remote”, I also list “USB stick for remote” and “hideous foam case for remote.” (Well, I abbreviate.)

And don’t forget: putting your name and number on all your stuff makes you a nerd, but it makes you a nerd with a much higher chance of being reunited with your crap if the two of you become separated.

Questions? Comments? Improvements? Leave them in the comments!

Thanks, and safe travels.


Tip via my pal Sean Bonner, who probably doesn’t use it anymore because he is a mad-crazy citizen of the globe and travels light.

Maximum-value packing: getting from here to there in one attractive piece

close shot of suitcase buckle

This past trip to Tacoma was significant in more ways than just initiating me into the TEDx experience: for the first time in too long to remember, I got from here to there (and back!) with something resembling ease.

Some of my new-found attitude can be traced to exactly that: attitude. While I will likely never be worry-free, I’ve whittled it way down just by acknowledging I’m the worrying kind. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but just giving my worry a little bit of voice, rather than my old way, of ignoring it and/or telling it to STFU when it got loud-ish, has made all the difference. Because when I pause to listen, (a), I feel heard, which takes care of a lot of the problem; and (b), I actually take steps to deal with some of the wacko problems that come with being me, which, in turn, makes many of them go away.

Worry #1: What will I wear?

On the surface, this always seemed nuts, as I had more than enough clothes to wear right there in my closet, most of which I really enjoyed wearing. But they were rag-picker clothes, the wardrobe of one who views value shopping as sport, and clothes as a mode of expression.

I cannot believe it took a twentysomething straight male to point out the glaringly obvious, but when I read this post by young Jesse Thorn on the dangers of buying thrift-store ties, it all fell into place: thrift-store acquisitions, however mint and spiff, are the pieces other people let go of because they couldn’t make them work. They can be fantastic sources of cool accent pieces, but the odds of finding cornerstone wardrobe items are razor-thin.

During the Great Purge of ’09, I unloaded everything ill-fitting, irretrievably stained/torn, etc. That removed some of the stress of packing; I no longer had to worry about bringing this sweater I always wore with that shirt to cover up the blotch/rip/etc. But after my trip to DC this year, I had a packing revelation when I realized the stress I was enduring over whether to wear the cute navy-blue thermal tee on the plane or save it for an out-and-about day could be completely eliminated with the purchase of identical cute navy-blue thermal tees. I immediately went online and purchased six. They did not arrive in time for SXSW, alas, but man-oh-Manischewitz, packing for Tacoma could not have been easier, style-wise.

The corollary to this is anti-worry is equally “no duh!” simple: most everywhere I travel to sells everything I need. Last summer, a friend’s mother died while I was in town on a jeans-only trip; amazingly, I found an Actual Department Store that sold clothes, and bought some appropriate pants that would not embarrass me or her family. A Christmas Miracle in July.

Finally, there’s a gigantic bonus-extra to this wardrobe methodology: dressing daily is equally mindless, with the same fantastic Style Quality Control. Gretchen, I should have listened to you sooner!

Worry #2: What if I miss the plane?

I am the daughter of one of the world’s most frequent flyers. Literally. My father is now deceased, but in his day, he was one of an elite group of lifetime AAirpass owners, a privilege for which he paid $250K (a pittance! a pittance, I tell you!). Said AAirpass entitled him to fly first-class on any American (or partner, back in the day) flight for the rest of his life, which he did for almost 20 years, sometimes six days per week. On a whim, he told us, he once checked with the airline to see where he stood in the pantheon of all-time big American Airlines frequent flyers. There were two people ahead of him and they were both professional couriers.1

For a guy who could get on almost any plane to anywhere, he was notoriously nuts about getting there early. I’ve already missed as many flights in my life (one) as I believe he missed in his (not owing to acts of God, anyway). I used to fry my circuits every trip over getting there in time, until I finally arrived at the magic number: two hours. Yes, I get to the airport two hours before every flight, no matter how early the flight is taking off. It is absolutely insane, but in a perverse stroke of irony, it keeps me from losing my mind.

I look forward to the “me” time, and, occasionally, will treat myself with trashy magazines at the airport. Which brings me to my final worry…

Worry #3: Everything is so expensive!

I am not exactly cheap, but I’m not exactly a carefree spendthrift, either. It chaps my hide having to exorbitant prices for staples like water, wifi and trashy magazines. (Okay, those cost the same everywhere, but I almost never buy magazines for full newsstand price.)

I used to carry my cheapskate mentality when I traveled. Then I discovered a miraculous new modus operandi: plan for what you can, and let go of the rest. As I do in my talk about communicating, I advocate a 99-to-1 ratio of planning to letting-go. I generally plan for snacks and sundries at least a week in advance, and with checklists, to coincide with the last regularly-scheduled trip to the store.

I also finally dedicated a Dopp kit and attendant Ziploc quart bag to traveling supplies. They are fully loaded and ready to go at all times (except now, when I just realized I rotated my toothbrush out, and, like a good Mormon, need to replace my stock).

Now that mostly everything is in there, I feel better about not cheaping out on the stuff I either left behind or want to treat myself to because I am at the airport two hours before a 5am flight. Good for me, good for the economy!


I travel nowhere near as often as Dad, or friends like the Chris-es Guillebeau and Brogan. If I get to that point, and a part of me really, really hopes I never do, at least by air, I’ll adapt further.

But these small things have made a mighty difference, both in how I anticipate a trip and how I enjoy it once I’m there…


1For you doubters, here’s a little story about some litigation around the fabled lifetime AAirpass. While it goes without saying my dad was scrupulously honest about using his own AAirpass, we did joke about how he should have gotten one with initials-only, rather than first-initial-plus-middle, so that I might continue to fly as C.A. Wainwright after he’d passed on to that great Admirals Club in the sky. Well, I joked, anyway.

Image cropped from photo by David Masters via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Bart’s Books

bart's books open-air used bookstore in Ojai, CA

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Roughly 15 years ago, when I first moved to L.A., I read a story in the L.A. Times Travel section about a little town tucked in a magical valley about two hours from town. (Okay, 90 minutes: traffic was better in 1995.)

I was looking for day trips back then, ways to escape the relentlessly suburban landscape I had yet to appreciate, without breaking the dwindling bank that was sustaining us. The article mentioned places to eat (fine) and hike (uh, no) and even spa, if you were so inclined, but what drew my attention, and ultimately me, to Ojai, again and again, was mention of a little open-air used bookseller named Bart’s Books.

I think I spent two hours and $75 I could ill afford there that day. I’ve spent many times more since, but now I’m savvy to the very drill the author mentioned in the piece: save up your books, bring to Bart’s for credit, come away with more books.

There are indoor rooms with finer books, but without question, what makes Bart’s Bart’s (and makes me want to buy it and live there one day) is the sprawling outdoor area. The books do get dusty, and in places, a bit moldy: there ain’t much precipitation here in SoCal, but we’re generally ill-prepared for what we do get.

No matter. The books are impossible to find and a delight to look for; mustiness just adds to the experience. I’ll confess to a slight dip in my interest level with a changing of owners a while back, but I have all kinds of problems with change, so let’s just say it’s me. Truth be told, there have been some nice, if subtle improvements over the past two years, chief among them how many more of my books seem to get accepted for trade-in. (Or hey, maybe I’m just reading a better class of book!)

If you’re doing a tool up or down the California coast, consider making a small detour inland to walk the magical streets of Ojai: maybe get a bite, maybe do some shopping, maybe even get yourself a little hot spa action.

But if you do turn off to Ojai, you must stop by Bart’s. All books are more enjoyable for being browsed under sunny blue skies…


Image by communicatrix via Flickr. You may reuse under this Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Hotel Vertigo

hockney-esque photo collage of hotel vertigo, san francisco

Once upon a time, I was a medium-big traveler.

I never did it as much as my friends Shane or Chris, and certainly not as much as my father (o, he of the fabled American AAirpass!), but for a goodly stretch of my life, say, 22 – 32, I got around, and when I got there, I parked it in hotels.

I am a big fan of hotel-staying over couch-surfing, even when the couch is a lovely guest room with private bath or a beautiful detached guest house all to oneself on Mt. Tamalpais. (Yes, really. Another lifetime, and of course, friends of my father’s.) Unless my generous hosts are nowhere near the premises, I have problems with staying in someone else’s space.* Real, serious, physical problems.** Travel is hard enough on non-hardy introverts; throw a lot of activities into the mix, even activities you really, really enjoy, like hanging out with beloved friends, and you have a recipe for fried circuits and an exhausted nervous system, especially when you’re talking Virgos with Cancer rising.

What I am not a big fan of is overpaying for comfort. I’m down with comfort, but when it edges into what I call luxury, I get uncomfortable. I like parking my own car, hauling my own luggage, brewing my own espresso. If I had my way, I’d either rent houses or have my own everywhere I went (which is a lot of houses, probably even Oprah wouldn’t want to do that.) And yeah, I know that makes me just as much of a Wussy McWusserton, first-world person of privilege as any fatcat who stays at the Four Seasons on expense account. I guess my style is more “do whatever you can to fly under the radar while still protecting your soft, chewy center.” If there’s a tag like that.

So what I do now when I travel, especially right now, when I’m feeling a little bit tender and I need to travel, is find a great place with the right kind of “luxury” that doesn’t break the bank. This means such critical stuff as clean, safe, sleepy-bye bedding and (premium) cable, basically, somewhere that is at least as nice as my humble little rent-stabilized one-bedroom in an undisclosed area of Los Angeles. (Which, now that I think of it, is exactly what I’ve always wanted from a home-away-from-home, which is why some of those places seemed Saudi-prince-level-luxurious back when I lived with drafts and vermin in my Brooklyn shithole.)

Enter the Hotel Vertigo in just-a-little-too-beautiful-for-me San Francisco.

Named after the legendary Hitchcock classic, the Vertigo is one of a fambly of charming San Francisco hotels, each of which seem to be hipster-rehabbed properties which might have fallen on hard times. It’s beautifully decorated, loads of hipster color combo orange-‘n’-brown, furry scatter pillows, and Vertigo art, with wonderful attention to Colleen-crucial details: kickass bed/bedding, non-chintzy bathroom and bath accessories, adequate setup for on-the-road computing. The wise folk who run it are exceptionally blogger-savvy: like the Roger Smith in New York (a place you can bet your ass I’ll check out next chance I get, and similarly tout if it’s great), they go out of their way to accommodate nerds, and as a nerd, I say, It’s about fucking time this got me something!***

But they’re nice to everyone, or at least, they were as far as I could see. Can I tell you what a relief it is to find service that is great without being obsequious or otherwise creepy? Because it is. Like my recent world-changing experience with Virgin America, I now believe that there is some way to staff up with normal, nice, smart human beings, and then empower and treat said staff well enough that they continue to act like nice, normal, smart human beings whose job happens to be helping you deal with life on the road.

Because then, not only do your customers get their reservations sorted out by an actual friendly human when they stupidly screw up their flight plans; not only do they¬† get their airport transfers handled with something bordering on elegance; you get wild, crazy evangelists to go forth and do all your promoting for you for FREE. ZOMFG, the world may end, it’s such a radical business plan!

In my perfect world, there would be a wonderful little hotel like the Vertigo in San Francisco, or the Camas Hotel in picturesque Camas, WA, or the Jupiter in Portland, OR (only maybe a little quieter, for us fogeys), in every town I ever stepped foot in as a traveler: affordable, enjoyable, accommodating, non-icky.

Maybe there is. But I won’t know about them unless we all start telling each other. How about it, nerds? Give ’em up in the comments?


*In case you’re curious, I actually have a few outrageously generous and well-to-do friends who offer up their cush cribs to me while they’re on the road, for which privilege I happily run out and buy them all manner of shit for their houses, from coffee machines to designer toilet brushes to wireless routers.

**There were times when The Chief Atheist or The Youngster and I stayed with his parents where I would not poop for a week. A WEEK. Thankfully, The BF was 100% fine with not staying on the family property; that he shared my convictions of “camping” meaning “staying at a motel without premium cable” was one of many reasons we lasted as long as we did.

***Seriously, they could not have been more delightful and accommodating at every turn

Image by karen.tkr via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Virgin America

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

I got a little carried away by my newfound love for Sir Richard Branson’s winged brainchild.

On my second trip in as many weeks, I plugged in the laptop, plunked down $12.50 for some in-flight WiFi and did a little screencast plug for the greatest thing to happen to commercial aviation since the 747 Lounge. Roughly five minutes; if you can’t see it on your screen, you can view it on the YouTube.


Referral Friday: Camas Hotel

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch’s Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


When I was announcing to people in L.A. and environs that I was heading up to Portland, they’d invariably ask, “Why Portland?”

When I’d announce to people in Portland that for a big hunk of the time, I was actually going to be staying in Camas, they’d ask, “Why Camas?” Or sometimes, in the case of my car-free and/or bike-happy friends, “Where the hell is Camas?”

Camas is a tiny Washington town just across the Columbia River from Portland. It sprung up around an old mill that’s still in operation, albeit with far fewer employees (that’s automation for you) and a new name (ditto, conglomeration). It’s got a mid-sized city to one side and another tiny town to the other, and a whole lot of natural beauty every damned place you look. It’s also home to one of the most adorable small hotels it’s been my pleasure to stay in for some time.

The 100-year old Camas Hotel had fallen from grace when its present owners, Karen and Tom Hall, fell in love with her beautiful bones and decided to restore the rest of her. They went above and beyond, by all counts, I got the lowdown from the wife of the town’s retired GP, a 52-year resident of Camas who was treating her husband to a night in one of the Camas Hotel’s beautifully appointed rooms in honor of his 80th, or was it 85th?, birthday.

Didn’t get a chance to grill him on the history of the town or the hotel: he was out for his regular morning constitutional. (Note to self: time to reinstate the regular morning constitutional, and to add hills.) But everyone in the town whom I did speak to, and I spoke to pretty much everyone I ran into, as they’re a friendly lot, concurred: the new and improved Camas Hotel is every bit of both. I can personally vouch for the meticulously rebuilt bathrooms with their period-style mosaics and HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP the beds! The beds. I slept the sleep of the dead every night, which was just what I needed to do for that week.

Once there, you’re a walk away from the awesome in any direction. I got a fine, $45 haircut at a nearby salon, plenty of good work time in at the gorgeous new Camas Library (which recently won an award for being the finest in the state) and had delicious Chinese food from the shop around the corner. There were at least three spa-type places, for them of you what indulges, plus a high-end pizza joint, a wine bar, several other tasty-looking restaurants, scads of cute shops and an old-fashioned post office that still smells good. Oh, and the corner diner, with its floor to ceiling windows on two sides (and they is some high ceilings, boy howdy), makes a fine borscht. So you know.

The time I didn’t spend in the above I spent at the world’s greatest coffee shop, Piccolo Paradiso. I dropped staggering amounts of money there, considering I mostly just indulged in the phenomenal Americanos. Pam, the owner, fell madly in love with Italy some 16 trips back, and Italian excellence pervades the joint: delicious pastries and tasty-looking snacks, fine wines from Italy (natch) and of course, that old Italian stand-by, free wifi! I also picked up several bottles of well-curated, locally-produced wine to give as gifts; my hosts thus far have let me sample and, um, I’m planning one last swing by there to pick up some more on my way up to Seattle today.

Should you make a trip up to Camas just to see Camas? Your call. If you are a lover of hikes in nature (or Pendleton jackets, factory is one town away!), possibly. But if you’re in Portland, or Portland-bound, or doing a Portland-to-Seattle tour, by all means treat yourself to a day and a night in town.

And tell Karen & Tom “hi!” from me…


Poetry Thursday: Happy trails


You will need sweaters
and books
and toothpaste
and a pair of socks
or two
or five
and one more pair of socks
just in case.

Add extra pants
and those three extra shirts
and your maps
and your earplugs,
your mints and phone
your playlists and away-messages
your doodads
lucky quarter
and you’re set
for at least a week
most likely.

Or maybe
you need nothing
but a hopeful heart
to be filled with adventure
and a mind
with a hairline crack
to let the light in.


Image by noizephotography via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.