Do you have a carry-on suitcase you love? I’ve spent hours researching the perfect bag: reading posts by seasoned travelers, watching You Tube videos about luggage, obsessing over the latest collaboration. Nothing ever seems just right for me.
So here’s the plan I’ve settled on as a frequent traveler and educated consumer:
Buy a bag with a single compartment.
It doesn’t have to charge your phone, or have a locking compartment for your valuables, or a place for your suit. Find a carry-on sized suitcase on sale, and then check for:
– Zippers with sturdy pulls that slide easily,
– Wheels that seem sturdy and roll smoothly.
– Handles or something baggage handlers can grab quickly on three sides.
And then buy the sucker. What makes the bag useful is how you pack it. Buying internal compartments separately, and assuming you’ll need to replace the exterior bag every few years, makes good sense.
Here’s how I subdivide a typical carryon:
– Two large packing cubes filled with rolled clothing. We have a different color set for each family member.
– One small packing cube for underwear, socks, PJs, and accessories like scarves.
– A rectangular dopp kitt.
– Shoe bags for my shoes (or you can put disposable shower caps over them)
I also pack three empty bags:
– A checkable duffle for purchases.
– A large mesh laundry bag for dirty clothes.
– A small mesh lingerie bag for packing wet swimsuits.
– A nylon travel purse.
If you buy an inexpensive, but sturdy bag, you won’t mind when it inevitably gets stained or scuffed because you were forced to gate check. You won’t be furious when you have to get wheels or zippers replaced because you paid too much to have the bag break so easily. You won’t suffer buyer’s remorse because one of the pockets isn’t the perfect size for your niche use. And you won’t attract attention to your blingy bag when ne’erdowells are looking on.
Buy a cheap, basic bag, and let each scuff feel as good as a passport stamp.
Did not meet expectations.
He asked if he could eat the whole thing, which of course. Cultural experience.
A slightly tired stroopwafel, but sandwiching four times the usual amount of caramel, drizzled in chocolate.
Well now we’re potentially ruining dinner.
I don’t think he was into it.
Kranky? More like amiable. Right you guys?
A condensed Kool-Aid powder gel, rolled in citric acid cake sprinkles, heightened with a thunderclap of high-fructose corn syrup.
A brief pause to consider the intensity of flavor.
Interest bordering on panic.
Hank expresses a strong preference for the diabetic stylings of Moritas!
Stay tuned! Tomorrow Hank expresses preferences for Mexican snack cakes.
We just got back from Sayulita, which is a small surfing town about an hour outside Puerto Vallarta. The town is tiny, the commercial district is only a few blocks square, but it’s oriented around tourism so there are lots of food options.
We were traveling with Ozzy (4 months) and Hank (8 years), so the places listed here are great for kids too if you have a family in tow. These were a few of our favorite things to eat and places to be.
Paletas from Waikika
Ave Revolucion, 63732
Paletas are ice pops made from fresh fruit, strawberry was my favorite. They’re like a heartier popsicle, and about half of them are made with cream as well. We went during the sweltering off season, and I could have had one of these for every meal.
A Bucket of Beers at Capitan Cook
Las Gaviotas Beach
An umbrella and beach chairs waiting for you with a bucket of beers in ice. My blood pressure drops just remembering it. The blue umbrellas at Capitan Cook were our go-to beachside camp on the main beach.
There were lots of vacationing families with kids here, so it was easier for Hank to make friends playing in the water where we could see him. The tacos, asada, and guacamole were fresh, there was always a chair for the baby to nap on, and Hank gives a thumbs up to the virgin Piña Coladas.
Sunset at Don Pedros
Calle Marlin 2, Centro
Don Pedros is an upscale restaurant overlooking the beach. It’s pricey for Sayulita, but the view is lovely, plus they have a great bar, a good selection of fish and veggies, and pizza if you have kids. Good way to treat yourself and ease into town if you’ve just landed after a long flight.
Handmade Pasta at Il Vizietto
Avenida Palmar | Next to Camping Junto del Rio
Ah, Mexico. Renown for its pasta.
We wouldn’t ordinarily try an Italian restaurant in Mexico, but we walked by this charming open-air restaurant every day on our way into town. The swing seats proved too much to resist.
Il Vizietto starts serving dinner at eight, and the setting is so romantic. The waiter pours you a cocktail while you watch the fireflies, and then you head up to the kitchen window. The owner shows you the three types of pasta he made for the evening and you pick one. The pasta is amazing, and the salad was good too. So if you get tired of tacos, Il Vizietto has a bar-side swing waiting.
Avenida Revolución 40C
La Rustica is a cute place with great coffee, in case you’ve been zombie-ing around in search. They’re known for their wood-fired pizzas, but we liked their breakfast. Chilaquiles were my favorite, but they also have good fancy pancakes, and the environment is calm.
Tacos and Margaritas from Yeikame
Calle Jose Mariscal # 10
Yeikame is an unassuming cafe with sidewalk tables, but it was my favorite place to eat in town. Great traditional Mexican food at reasonable prices. Everything on the menu is satisfying, and they have a wide selection of fresh juices and frescas.
While you’re there, try one of Yeikame’s Margaritas. It’ll take things down a few notches, and you’ve got no place to be.
If you’re looking for more suggestions, these articles were super helpful:
Have so much fun.
We headed up to Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville yesterday, and had a great day.
The Russian River beach has been in operation for nearly a century, and it feels exactly that quaint. They have everything you need for a day by the river, so you can just show up in with your suit and a towel for a day of swimming. We’ve been going for years.
There’s no charge for admission, but we rent a beach umbrella, chairs, and a couple of tubes for $5 each. You can also get paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks by the hour. The beach is rocky, so one of the guys comes out with a mallet and pounds the umbrella in for you. They also dredge out a shallow area where the tiny kids can wade.
You can bring a cooler, or visit the snack bar for lunch. It’s so chill, and easy, and Hank always finds kids to play with when we bring a little collection of squirt guns. If you’re a river person, it doesn’t get any more perfect.
I had about two minutes left to fly before potentially giving birth next to the drink cart, so Brad and I headed to Palm Springs. I took a carry on and a backpack, and this is what I packed for five days. Lots of this stuff I’ve had forever, so links are mostly to similar items.
• Tank Dress H&M | I’ve been living in non-maternity jersey stretch dresses so as to take full advantage of this nine-month period where a gut is adorable. Here’s a fancier one than mine.
• Saltwater Sandals | These are a million years old, impossible to destroy, and my go-to travel sandal.
• Romper PJs | I try to pack PJs I can wear out if I need to, and these are good by the pool. For romping.
The belly! See you soon, baby.
This is me just after we landed, I’d changed shoes, but otherwise this is a pretty typical travel outfit for me — stretchy and PJ-esque.
• H&M knit dress | Another stretchy non-maternity piece, the skirt was originally ankle length, but I stained the bottom, so I cut it off. Then I cut the sleeves off. Then I realized you can totally customize knit dresses just like you can T-shirts and why aren’t we all doing this constantly?
• Open Cardigan | I got this in Australia, and I’ve worn it a lot less than I anticipated because ironing. Pbbbbt.
• Maternity Swimsuit | I figured I’d wear this like twice, so I went with basic and cheap. I’d go bikini, but my belly button is a monstrosity. It’s like eight inches across, and I feel actual shame about it.
• Straw Hat, vintage | I got it in a consignment shop in San Louis Obispo, and it makes me feel all gaucho. That’s a bit of rosemary tucked in the band after a walk.
Normally, you could get away with packing two sundresses and a bikini to Palm Springs, but we’ve already discussed my belly button and it was February. It gets cold in the desert at night always, but in February? It actually rained all day the day I wore this.
• Black Maternity Pants | I’ll never live without black pants again. So much more versatile than jeans for me.
• Gap Body Long-sleeve T-shirt | Also not technically maternity, but I always pack it as an under layer when I travel.
• Metallic Pewter Tieks | This was the other pair of shoes I packed, and always pack, and may they never stop making them amen.
• Vintage Silk Scarf | Can you tell I’m falling asleep in this photo? This trip was 80 percent nap.
• Vintage embroidered Mexican shirt | You find these a lot in antique stores in California, but they’re all over eBay.
• Stretch jersey tube skirt | Not maternity, but if you don’t own one of these, get one. So crazy comfortable. The only problem is that they tend to turn inside out when you go to the bathroom and then you’re walking around with your tag out. Be ye forewarned.
I don’t normally wear purple, in part because that poem made me uncomfortable about it, but the embroidery on this was too beautiful to pass up, and it covers the yoke in back as well.
• Silk Scarf Top | I’d owned this lovely hand-painted silk scarf for years and never worn it. So I made it into a top by folding it into a triangle, cutting a slit for my head along the fold, and then hand-stitching a rolled hem. Took about half an hour, and it packs down to nothing. Makes a great suit coverup as well. Do this immediately.
• Black Tank Top
This is how I traveled home with pool hair.
• Vintage Silk Scarf
• Urban Outfitter Sunglasses
• American Apparel deep-V tee | My go-to for nursing.
• H&M Long Sweatshirt | Not a maternity piece, I think it was actually from the men’s department, but I wore this when I was pregnant with Hank, and kept right on wearing it until now. H&M men’s section has the best stuff. (Speaking of which, another option.)
• Muji Foldable Shoulder Bag | I bought this in France when I realized that I’d never make it all day on foot with a heavy leather purse. It’s nylon so it zips down to a little pouch I can throw in my luggage, and weighs nothing.
• My backpack with camera and electronics.
• My Dopp kit
• An extra, zip-down tote to carry home thrift store treasures.
And that’s it. You can do it! Thou shalt not check.