The 11 Stages of Packing Again. . .

Jul 02

Yes, yes, I know. Grief has only seven stages. But this is more complicated.

Stage 1: Regret: Why am I taking this trip?patnordam08.jpg
Why? Because it’s a Baltic cruise, a dream of mine, that’s why!

This cruise goes to places like Copenhagen, where I’ll finally get to see the Little Mermaid, to Gothenburg, Sweden, for which I have a handwritten itinerary from the only non-Irish waitress at Molly’s (her Swedish parents live near there), and even to the far off land of Helsinski. How many people go to Finland? Besides Trump and Putin, I mean. On the day they’re meeting, the 16th, we’ll be at sea. Seems fitting.

Plus it’s on the Queen Victoria, a Cunard ship, which is pretty swanky. Here I am on The QM2 a few years back.

By total coincidence, we’ll be in St. Petersburg on the very day of the World Cup Finals!  Wonder if the crowds at the Hermitage museum will be watching it on their iPhones.

So, with all this, tt does seem pretty petty to complain about having to pack. But for me,  packing is always traumatic.

Stage 2: Oh come on, it can’t be that hard
On one episode of Mad Men, Betty accompanied Dan to Rome at the last minute, and arrived looking as if she had stepped out of a “beauty parlor,” with a stunning outfit for every occasion. Characters in fiction tend to have little luggage and unlimited wardrobes, and spend mere minutes throwing things in a suitcase and getting on with it.

True, on Sex and The City, Carrie does agonize about packing for Paris (How does a girl chose between all those Manolo Blahniks?) and ends up with a lot of luggage. But the sheer number of ultra-chic outfits she wears couldn’t possibly have fit in all the suitcases at Bloomies, or on the plane itself, even if the other passengers voluntarily offered to give her their spaces.

For all the good it did her: although beautifully turned out, at one point The Russian abandons her to a bulldog. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Stage 3: Panic.
I realize that this is The Real World, not TV or the movies, and it IS that hard . . .

Stage 4. The making of the lists.
This calms me down because I realize I already have most of what I need. But it also sends me back to Stage 3, thinking of having to shop for rest of it.

Stage 5. The shopping
This time, I only went to one store, Ann Taylor, where I got some basic black cotton pants. That’s because I still have things from the last time I took a cruise, and a new formal that I got for a wedding back in October. Department stores are just too confusing, but I did get a few things on line like a nice cross body bag for my travels. Then there’s cosmetics and all the drug store stuff, which have lists of their own and will be gotten at the last minute. See Stages 3 and 4.

Stage 6. Asking for advice
People give you well-meaning but somewhat contradictory advice like: Don’t bring too much – but yes, you must take that smashing red dress even though you will only wear it once. Never ask for advice.

HOWEVER! This time I did something brilliant. I hired someone to help me pack. Really! Hey, it’s New York, you can hire someone to do anything. Nevertheless,, I still had to do some things on my own, including:

Stage 7: Taken to the cleaners
Whatever I bring had better be clean, so I sort out stuff to wash or send to the cleaners, and this gives me a false sense of security, of Having Gotten Something Done. But this quickly dissolves into . . .

Stage 8: Whoops! I forgot about that!
This is when I realize that I’ve forgotten something significant, like the swimming pool on board, which  requires bathing suits (oh nooo), a cover up, and flip flops. Where did I put those things?

Stage 9: My Life (Or At The Very Least My Apartment) is A Mess

Packing forces me to face the fact that my closets are a disaster, and that to find something in the apartment will take all the detectives of L&O to find. Check out this post:  Law & Order

(It also forces me to admit that I can’t wear 90% of the cute shoes in those disorganized closets because I can’t walk in them. On land, much less on sea.)

HOWEVER! In another brilliant move, my trusty packer/assistant and I put all the things I might take (Yes! Yes! I know that’s too many shoes, but no one is perfect ) on a clothes rack that was languishing in my storage unit. I could actually see what I had to choose from. Like a store!

Although . . . there was still . . .

Stage10:The Moment Of Truth.

I have to pack because I’m leaving on Thursday. Thank god the professional packer is here!

Now we are a whirling dervish of activity, laying out everything on the bed, picking and choosing, putting the things that didn’t make the cut into shopping bags to be dealt with “later,” and somehow, packing it all in, literally.

The case is closed, so to speak. Between now and the minute it goes out the door, there will be doubts, additions, subtractions, and substitutions. But once I’m in the taxi, it’s like sitting down to take a test. You’ve done everything you can, now let it rip.

Stage 11: Acceptance. (We did the best we could.)
Leaving my building I will know, or think I know, some of the mistakes I’ve made. Why did I insist on bringing those new sandals, even though they hurt, and why did I take that extra shawl, which I will probably end up wearing every night.

But it’s too late. It’s a fait accompli. I’ve probably got too much of some things, made a few reckless choices, but will have pretty much what I need. And what I’ve forgotten, I’ll either do without or buy on the ship.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to be packing a gun instead of a suitcase, like if I were a Mafia wife or something. But wait! These women have to pack suitcases, too. With guns in them, maybe. And have to get through Security.

Fugeddabout it. I’m on my way. Whatever happens it’ll be a trip.

Originally published as I’m Packin’ in November, 2009. This version is edited, but honestly, nothing much has changed.


  1. Diana /

    Just make sure you bring the charger for your phone so you can take photos. No worries, you have the rest covered! Relax and enjoy.

    • Pat /

      Charger? Phone? Did I mention that by now my brain has turned to guacamole? Ommmmmmmmm.

  2. After reading about your plethora of travel items I imagine those look-like-low-cost airlines would love your business. I’ve heard from a relative who flew Spirit (I refuse to even think of flying them) that the fee for the checked bag more than doubles between “checking” your bag during online booking to checking it at the airport. So that means the packing and weighting must been done months before leaving if you want a reasonable fee on a checked bag.

    • Pat /

      Oy vey, as we say here in New Yawk. I think that packing 2 days before the flight is too long. It gives me time to rethink everything. This is not good. I will avoid Spirit like the plague.

      • I’ll assume being a New Yorker you probably have visited more art galleries and museums than me. I’ve visited a few. Years ago I checked out the Tate Modern in London. I recalled that visit in a post written years ago. I was surprised recently that an online art company found that post and contacted me. So surprised that I posted an opinion about art. I’m seeking more opinions (about art not about all that other crap going on in the country). Oh any good art in Copenhagen beside the little wet mermaid?

        • I don’t generally go to museums when I’m on a cruise and only have a limited time to explore the city. The exception was the Hermitage. Magnificent!

  3. Kati /

    Loved this…..and boy, could I relate.

    • Pat /

      But you’re a good packer! As for me, it’s not that I’m that bad (although I usually over pack, I also usually have what I need), it’s more like I’m an insecure packer, always thinking I could have done better. Hmmmm. Sounds very Freudian, doesn’t it.

  4. Bon voyage, Pat! I had a friend who traveled throughout the world with a volume of Shakespeare’s plays and a ball gown, just in case she got invited to a fete.

    • Pat /

      So did she? As we used to say at Mega, “One lives in hope.” Still true.

  5. Colleen /

    You’re hysterical !! Have a blast but don’t fall overboard.

  6. Sharon /

    Fortunately ( or Fortunatoly if you prefer)
    you look quite smashing in anything
    you put on so all is good.
    Have a wonderful trip!

    • Pat /

      Although glamour is sometimes the issue, mostly what I obsess over is whether I’ll be too hot (Ha!), too cold, too wet. At this very moment, I can’t remember if I packed the mini umbrella that fits in my cross body bag, and I’ll be damned if I rummage around in the suitcase which was so carefully packed. Do they have street vendors in Copenhagen? We’ll find out.

  7. Carole /

    Enjoy your upcoming travels! We’ve done this trip. It’s wonderful. I know you’ve got all the right stuff. There is always mix and match of a few basic colors and I’m sure that’s what you’ve got. Safe travels and report back when when you return.

    • So the trip was wonderful, the wardrobe fine, had almost everything I needed (and could get the rest). And yet, I know deep in my heart that I will be just as panicked the next time! Some things never change.

  8. Jennifer /

    Have a great time!

  9. Carole /

    We did this trip a few years ago and loved it.
    Say “Hi” to the mermaid.

    • Pat /

      Just looked it up: It’s “Hej” in Danish, pronounced just like “Hi.”
      Now I’m all set for my trip. more or less.

    • The Mermaid is indeed little and is surrounded by tourists with cameras. Copenhagen was as lovely as they said.

  10. KL Jones /

    Pat, you look smashing wearing a bathrobe! Less is best so they say , but I always over pack…so leave what you know you don’t like anymore or those shoes that hurt for the staff with a note! It’s a nice gesture and makes room for all the new stuff that you purchased on the trip, like that shawl…!

    • I did. And I toss old underwear as I go. But I still pack too much. Mea culpa. However! I did manage just one (albeit large) suitcase and did use most of what I brought. Sigh. No matter how many times I do this, or what help I did, it’s never exactly right. We used to say, “Only Allah is perfect,” but that may be politically incorrect so I won’t say it. Had a great time though!

  11. Louise /

    I wanna see the final cut!!!!!

    • I missed your comment in the flurry of actual packing, but putting all the clothes on that rack was really a good idea. An empty closet would work too, but who has that???

  12. Clare Rakshys /

    Loved it Pat. I do lists too.

    Hope you have a great time.

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