Packing 101: The Art of Doing Things Last Minute

It’s been a while, I’ve made my peace with Kobe’s retirement…sort of… I thought it’d be fun to post about my prep before a trip, as a preview of what (chaos) may ensue when I compare my Peru experiences with that of a close friend’s. So, here goes…

When traveling, we each have our own style of preparation. Some people like to make lists, some go with the flow. But regardless, everyone needs to pack something to be able to go on a trip. This how I prepare for a trip…once the actual planning/prepping/plane  ticket buying has occurred. I like making lists, and I’ve been told that’s one of my strengths at work. (Thanks Duke! Your $50k a year tuition has helped me excel at excel, making pretty pictures, and writing bullets…and sometimes I fancy it up by putting numbers next to the bullets)

duke surf

We also learned to surf on land.

I kid… I actually use the skills I picked up at Duke for my job. Which means, when I hit F9 to transpond code, I can free myself up to pack for that flight that’s happening in less than 4 hours. <- No lie, it happened, Miami 2013, crushed the last minute packing/early morning redeye game.

This brings me to my list — below  are things I need to throw into my suitcase before taking off for the airport, and the rationale behind my packing process. Think of this as my personal guide to efficient packing with an alpha (type I error) of 2.5% (woot there’s that Stat degree working again). It means there’s a 2.5% chance you miss something important, but with a trade off of no stress until maybe a day or two before a flight at the earliest? Hell’s yeaaaaaaa!

Time of Flight and Crap, where is the flight?

It’s like school, where you forget everything you crammed into your head for an exam the minute you exit the classroom. After I make plans, book hotels, book cars, tours, etc months ahead of time, all those details of when, where, and how just drop out of my head. Poof! It’s like magic — my brain autodeletes that information and only stores the date of the flight in my head. Once that date draws near, I dig through my emails to figure out the time of flight, and, since NYC has 3 airports nearby, the actual airport the plane is flying out of.

ross airport jfk

Monica: Flight 421, leaves at 8:40, Newark airport…Why? Where are you? Ross: JFK.

Typically, this doesn’t happen until a week or so before a vacation. And given work, gym, and lack of clean clothes, I probably start packing 2-3 days before a vacation if I’m lucky. In my opinion, you really just need to pack at least 3 hours before a flight, so you can have enough time to scramble, find that passport that you’ve stowed in the 2nd drawer of that night stand, underneath your copy of the Jordan Rules that you’ve never read. I’m not that stupid, haha, why would I tell you where my passport really is?

joey passport short

How long is that trip again?

Clothes! One must pack at least 1 day of clothes, in case you cannot find the time to go shopping to buy more clothes. Haha, on a real note, the next best skill I’ve acquired from Duke, besides Bayesian and Frequentist statistical analysis, is managing time efficiently by breaking down complex problems into simple, smaller steps…and guesstimating.  I firmly believe guesstimating is a fine art that, net, creates more efficiency and saves more time than any guesstimation error can hurt you. Observe as I apply it to packing for a trip.

hangover math

I can do anything in my head with guesstimation…you may also feel like this after a few beers and you’re calculating your trajectory for beer pong.

  1. Underwear & Socks -> it’s ok to overpack, count the number of days, add about 3-4 more and you’re set
  2. Outerwear -> How many different occasions are there and am I going out to drink? If yes to both, add 1-2 going out friendly outfits that can also work for casual day strolling and throw that in there.
  3. Shoes -> workout, casual, dressy if required, done. Wear workout to the airport and you’ve got more space in the suitcase
  4. Bonus: will laundry be done? If so, pack half as much as the trip, because stuff will be clean

More math for women

If the dreaded monthlies may hit you during the trip, curse at god for creating such a misery and then just pack enough for about 3-4 days because

  1. You can always buy when you’re there and you’ll be even more pissed if nothing happens and you’re lugging that crap back
  2. You never know when a hot guy gets a nosebleed and needs immediate medical attention. Channing Tatum and Eddie Peng can tell you, it’s life-saving


Other toiletries and the like that I throw into my suitcase include:

  1. Tissues -> some countries don’t have TP in the restrooms and planes might run out, so you always gotta be prepared…same can be said of some of your guy friends’ apts
  2. Contact Solution/Spare Contacts -> thanks Dad for the genes, couldn’t give me the non-Asian glow gene but near sightedness was definitely up for grabs…just thanks…
  3. Deodorant -> having been victim to sitting next to someone who did NOT use deodorant for a 15 hr flight to China, think of this as doing others a public service
  4. Hair Brush -> Oh the humidity

Other things you can easily buy, regardless of what country you’re in.

Tangled, and it’s not hair

I have too many electronics and I can’t live without them. I’m guilty of posting to instagram and facebook when I can because I do like the attention and I think my average life will seem impressive to others around me. For that, I need my iPhone. I also like to make sure I’m not too lost when I get back to work. For that, I need my blackberry. Sometimes you need to work during the trip, so I like to take my laptop…and it just gets worse from there. What does it mean to bring all this nonsensical crap that was not required 10 years ago for a trip? I need all the cables/plugs/chargers/adapters to power them.


The jungle underneath my desk must be transferred to my suitcase O.O

Usually all electronics now do not require converters. Any cable/plug used in the US, with 120V can also carry a current of up to 240V for Europe and China. Woot! Now all I need is an adapter that allows my 3 pointy plug to fit into 2 round holes. What’s even more convenient is, my Kindle, Fitbit, iPhone, Blackberry, and proper camera all use USB chargers. On my trip to Peru, I brought a multi-USB port charger and reduced the amount of plugs I needed to 1/4. Of course, because Apple is wonderful for photos and horrible for battery life, you need an external battery packet as well.

You’re probably bored with that paragraph. Essentially, what I said was, if you open up my carry on bag, I’m sure an electric engineer can craft a small bomb with the amount of wires, batteries, and communication devices in there. Oh, and I have a book sometimes, that’s like kindle for a fire (pun intended).

Gym Stuff…#EveryDamnDay

Vacations are great, but I have to stay active. Whether it’s hiking for multiple days or taking a jog around a picturesque river, I have to do something besides just walking around. I joined a gym for a week in Shanghai because I didn’t want to lose any gains achieved from 2 months of personal training last year. $50 worth spending, in my opinion, because I got to eat more as well.

nike bag

So many colors…Oooooh

So what do I mean by gym stuff?

  1. iPhone arm band -> Because running on a treadmill is painful without music, no matter what country you’re in
  2. Peanut, Supernova, Other mobility stuff -> to loosen up tight muscles, especially the calves, from a full day of walking, so you can workout some more
  3. Water Bottle -> also useful when you buy giant jugs of water to share amongst friends
  4. Headphones -> so you can sob like a baby as you watch Furious 7, oh and music while you run, must have music

Vacation specific gear

This is where I actually put some thoughts into packing. I’ve only started taking vacations to countries not named China in the last year. Before, it was always reserve a suitcase for the gifts you bring family. Due to the import tax for foreign goods in China, we like to bring goods into the country for our family and friends. What that means is, our checked luggages are pretty much mini Apple stores, pharmacies, and outlets for Nautica, Polo, Nike, etc. For this, I do plan ahead to make sure everyone’s gifts were packed and the weight of the luggage meets the restrictions for international flights.

For my non-China trips, it was much simpler. The Hungary/Austria trip didn’t require anything special; I just needed to make sure I had enough room for gifts for family and friends. The Peru trip involved hiking, so I added a day pack with a water reservoir, which will be used again in an upcoming trip to Norway. Each trip is unique and, therefore, you need that extra packing item for the trip.

peru gear

Air Jordans? Yes, needed for the trip. Oh yea, and the hiking day pack, that too.

I left out my passport. There’s a good explanation…I do remember I need it. I always remember where it is, and it’s the one item in my packing list that I check weeks, if not months, ahead of time, so that I can actually step foot into the country. Having had a Chinese passport before, I always make sure if a visa is required to enter a country. Ironically, it’s only happened to trips to China… -_-

Just make sure the passport is not expired, you’ve packed, and now it’s 3am and it’s time to leave for the airport to Miami, or it’s 1pm and it’s time to rush your butt to JFK (or was it Newark?) for China. Either way, you’ll probably spend more time browsing through movies on the flight than figuring out what to toss in your suitcase…Or you could also do this:

chandler joey packing

Packing is fun!


2 thoughts on “Packing 101: The Art of Doing Things Last Minute

  1. Pingback: The Underground Guide to Shanghai: Intro | WillLift4Food

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