Bringing Home the Goods

Posted by Brette in Travel Shopping

luggageWe just returned from a two week trip to France and Ireland. If you’re familiar with this blog, you know that I love to shop while traveling. I’m all about finding unique, locally made items to bring home that will make the memories of the trip a concrete part of my home and my life.

There are some places where I just know I’m going to hit the mother lode. Hawaii was one of those places. Ireland was definitely another. I knew before I went that I would like find many treasures that would appeal to me and I was right. Finding the treasures is the fun part. Getting them home safely takes some thought and planning.

Ship Your Shopping

One of the first rules of travel shopping is to have the store ship your items when possible. This is especially true when buying breakables – they wrap it properly and it’s insured. You don’t have to worry about how it will fare in your luggage. In Ireland, shipping ended up being free at a few places and at others it was the same amount as our VAT (sales tax) refund. In fact, one clerk told us shipping to the US was cheaper than to the EU. If I’m not buying something fragile or not buying a lot at one store, we bring the items home ourselves.

Shipping Revelation

As my purchases began to pile up, we realized we just weren’t going to have enough space in our luggage. We stopped at a Mailboxes, Etc. in Ireland, intending to ship some items home. The cheapest rate was 380 Euros, which is about $500. Yikes. Definitely more than the value of what I’d bought. We came to the realization that it made far more sense to buy an additional suitcase (50 Euros=$66) and pay the $100 airline fee for an extra bag. In the future I will likely do this again. It made the most sense.

Tips from the Packing Master

There is a clear division of labor in this family. I do the shopping and my husband does the packing. The man is a genius. I brought home many breakable items. Not a single thing was damaged this trip because he is so careful. Here are his secrets:

Bring bubble wrap with you. It’s light and adds no weight to your luggage on the way there. It is essential for bringing home delicate items. Layer sheets of it in your luggage.

Never throw anything out. This was a lesson well-learned when somehow in Puerto Rico a necklace my son bought for his girlfriend disappeared. We think it got thrown out in the bag it came in since it was light. So the rule following that debacle was that my husband brings home every single bag. He uses them as additional wrapping materials or layers them along the bottom and top of the suitcase (when the suitcase is lying down since this is the way they are stacked by the airline) to provide additional cushioning.

Make a bubble. My husband uses clothing to completely surround the items he is packing. Fragile items are wrapped in bubble wrap then cushioned in the center of this clothing bubble. Nothing fragile is near an outside edge of a suitcase.

Use double zipper bags. After last year’s Italy trip when one of my daughter’s bottles of limoncello burst in the suitcase, the rule is that anything liquid must be double bagged in a zipper bag. This year she brought olive oil and jelly home from her study abroad session in Croatia. The olive oil leaked, but it was double bagged so we were fine. My husband also recommends tightening screw caps to make sure they are sealed and wrapping tape around the cap if possible.

Use boxes. If the item you buy comes in a box, use it. It is tempting to think it is just taking up space in your luggage, but it provides stability and prevents crushing. He uses socks and underwear for extra padding inside the box if needed.

– Get cardboard for art. I always buy inexpensive prints or a small piece of original artwork that depicts the place we visited, but getting unframed art home is a challenge. My husband asks for cardboard at the store and layers the art between the layers of cardboard, which he then tapes together.

Toss to make space. If your suitcase is too full or over the airline’s weight restrictions, throw out things like shampoo, contact lens solution, shaving cream, etc which you can easily replace when you get home. At the end of your trip, these bottles are likely nearly empty anyhow, so it’s not that much of a loss. I also leave my travel guide books behind in the hotel room since they are quite heavy. A shirt I brought on this trip snagged on a fence and tore – that got left in the hotel room as well since it was not repairable, so why bring it home?

– Bring a tote bag. I have a big fabric Vera Bradley style overnight bag that weighs almost nothing and completely flattens. We always bring this in a suitcase as an emergency carry on. Sometimes you may think you are fine with space and weight only to weigh your bag the night before your flight and discover you have a problem. This tote is perfect for this emergency. I stuff my purse or wallet in my regular carry on and bring this bag for my two pieces of on board luggage. We also often use this tote to manually carry items we are very concerned about. I’ve carried framed art work, pottery, and glass home in this bag. Pad it well with bubble wrap and clothes and place it in under your seat if possible. If it has to go above you, carefully wedge it between the wall and another carry on of your own, so no one else can shove something up there and damage your items.

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