Packing, planning and winging it

I love planning trips. Almost as much as the trips themselves.

Planning for our Epic Adventure to Africa (aka South Freaking Africa) began the morning after our auction purchase. I woke up, dazed, asked Scott if we’d really just purchased a safari, and immediately did two things: emailed the lodge to see if they allowed children as young as A, and googled “malaria.”

Thus began the obsession. Every night for 15 months I poured over tripadvisor forums and google maps and restaurant reviews. We couldn’t very well go all the way to Africa for only four nights. So… Where else to go while we were there? Which route to take there? How best to avoid jet lag?

This is not to say I’m particularly good at it.

Don’t get me wrong. I excel at picking a great hotel or novel itinerary. We decided a few months into planning the Epic Adventure to skip the tour guide and do it ourselves. Seven flights, eight hotels, two rental cars. Done.

However, it’s the follow through I lack. I read hundreds of restaurant reviews, but did I print out a list of restaurants to try on our trip? I did not. I read all about the “city pass” in Amsterdam that covers the cost of admission to dozens of museums and unlimited public transportation. Did I remember to buy it? I did not.

This applies double to packing.

I had 15 months to plan what we’d bring. I compared the best swimsuits and camera gadgets and mosquito-resistant clothing. But, like every trip I’ve ever taken, I forgot to pack basic essentials.

This is not a new phenomena. This scene has repeated itself in Targets, Walgreens, tiendas and farmacias in New Orleans, Denver, Cancun, Zihuatanejo, Chicago, Miami… I once searched all of Long Island for sleep diapers at 11pm with a sleepy kid in the rental car. My last trip to Kansas, I carefully packed a new toiletry bag with everything I’d need, placing the stuff I wouldn’t need in an old toiletry bag – and then took the old bag on my trip. The only trip I can recall where this didn’t happen was in Cuba – because there are no convenience stores in Havana.

And thus I found myself scouring Amsterdam for lip balm, hand lotion, kleenex and tampons. I’d packed all of these things. They’re sitting at home in a little bag with my makeup.

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