4 Things to Take and Leave When on Vacation
June 21, 2010
By Christopher Elliott
Connie Langdon is a pack rat. Especially when she's on vacation.
Hotels are a collecting opportunity for Langdon, a court reporter from Springfield, Mo. "I always take pens and notepads and then use them for work," she says. "That way, when I'm in a rut and wishing I was someplace else, I can look at my pen and smile about some sweet vacation memory."
But it doesn't end there. Unused soaps, shampoos, lotions - all disappear into her carry-on. She lifts packets of ketchup and mustard from room service trays left in the hallway. And, of course, she brings home the hotel key cards.
"Not only do they remind me of where we've been," says Langdon. "But they also make good little scrapers for the side-view mirror of my car. And emergency screwdrivers."
Maybe you know someone like Langdon. Maybe you are someone like Langdon. Either way, you probably also know that there's more than ever to collect while you're on the road, from cheesy T-shirts and coffee mugs to boarding passes and key cards.
What to keep?
Professional organizer Jamie Novak says it's normal for travelers to pocket a "physical representation" of their vacation. But before they snatch up that porcelain figurine or sombrero, she advises that they remember the acronym CUTE, which stands for "Can't Use This Ever." For example, the sombrero is useless (unless you belong to a Mariachi band) but salt-and-pepper shakers might be useful.
"If you feel compelled to bring an item home, try to make it something useful and not CUTE," she says.
Oh, that's cute.
Can't decide what's worth holding on to? Here's a helpful list:
THINGS TO TAKE
I've written about the airlines' insistence on being shown an actual boarding pass when you try to collect award miles, particularly on a codeshare flight. Better hold on to those stubs if you need the miles.
Hotel key cards
But it's probably better that way. I can't seem to completely debunk the rumor that hotels encode the cards with your personal information. The best way to make sure no one gets the card is to just keep it.
If you are a business traveler, or part of your vacation is a write-off, you definitely don't want to throw anything away. Take it from someone who's been audited by the IRS and was lucky enough to have all the receipts. I shudder to think what might have happened if I didn't.
Actually, he's on to something. Several professional organizers I spoke with for this story also recommend taking photos when you're on vacation.
THINGS TO LEAVE
Odds and ends
This is classic "pack rat" behavior, and you'll pay for it when you try to check in for your flight home and find that your bags are overweight.
Items resulting from 'vacation shopping disorder'
For her, it's a matter of separating yourself from the emotional attachment of that "must-have" merchandise. I've traveled with compulsive shoppers, and I know how difficult this can be.
Something you already have back home
Collect only what you can use. Remember - be CUTE.
Something you shouldn't have
There's a whole online community of mileage pack rats that forage for deals and award offers online. Some of these travelers are perfectly reasonable and pleasant, while others are rabid elitists. The latter probably shouldn't be collecting miles. Playing the mileage game brings out the worst qualities in them. They should also be kept away from the computer. But that's a topic for another time.
Next time you're on vacation think twice before pocketing that bottle of shampoo, buying the velvet Elvis, or claiming the frequent flier miles. You may be better off without them.