Packing for Italy and the Inevitable

On a recent weekend trip to Las Vegas, I was talked into taking a cheap flight instead of road-tripping it by a girlfriend whose status is now in question. I was assured that the price of the ticket more than compensated for gas, traffic, parking hassles, and speeding tickets. That a leisurely stroll through the airport sipping Starbucks was a better use of our time.

After clicking the “Purchase” button, my e-receipt popped up and with it came the fine print….for another three pages. Turns out, this airline is cheap for a reason and deviating from their rules comes with penalties. You may only bring onboard a single personal bag that fits inside exact measurements below your seat. A carry-on option can be purchased for an additional fee of $30. One-way.

“Oh, we’re just going for the weekend!” said my girlfriend, “How much do we need? I just take my little backpack.”

She showed up with her backpack and her purse. I raised an eyebrow. I had taken no chances and fit everything into a single tote, using magical Sherpa powers. Let’s just say that for all I was going to Vegas, I am not a gambler.

Six tops in a gallon ziplock, capris, shorts, two dresses…and I still didn’t wear half of it.

She went up to the gate-keeper just before we boarded and asked about her “two” bags. The man, well trained as a prison guard, attempted to charge her $65. There was an additional fee for waiting till the last minute to break the rules. She came back panicked.

I suggested she put all of her clothing on in layers and wear it onboard.

Instead, she jammed her purse into the top 3” of backpack airspace and called it a single bag.

Mission accomplished. With a little side-eye at the guard as he scanned our tickets.

My point is, that when one travels, one never knows what ludicrous situation will arise in which you wish fervently that you had packed with more efficiency. Our return flight, for example.

We arrived at the departure gate from Las Vegas to San Diego with plenty of time to get our last Starbucks of the weekend and lounge by the windows. We watched planes coming and going and discussed the merits of what age and what color one should get their hair dyed (the minute you start going gray and whatever you do, don’t end up “tweed”) when the loudspeaker announced our flight’s “final departure call”.

In a puff of smoke, my girlfriend disappeared. I stood up, torn by the decision to tidy up our table or take off after her, racing for our gate.

To whoever had to clean up behind us: I’m sorry.

To whoever watched our epic airport dash, flip-flops flapping, bulging bags bouncing, and gray hairs flying: You’re welcome.

Even my little bag felt extra-heavy during that sprint and I’m sitting here pondering a trip to Italy for September and asking myself, “Self, exactly how much baggage do you want to lug with you on planes, trains, and gondolas? Can you justify bringing a flatiron across the planet? Can you trudge along the cobblestones in flat, sensible shoes while the native beauties sashay by in stilettos?”

This is where my Self reminds me that probably they won’t. Probably stilettos get caught in the cobblestones, and I feel slightly better.


I took exactly one pair of sandals to Vegas. They went with everything and we walked for miles without a blister. But Italy is Olympic-size traveling.  I’m gonna need a bigger shoe. And a sparkly shoe.  And a high-heel shoe. And a sprinting shoe.

And a smaller bag.

Which Self will win? The Sensible Sherpa or the “Roman Holiday” Romantic?

I’ve been perusing travel websites, searching for a way to have my cannoli and eat it too, but I’d love to hear some advice in the Comment box!


Viva Las Vegas

You have to be careful at night in Las Vegas.

The Strip is full of tourists wandering around looking at each other and the sights. Glittered pink stretch limousines and wailing ambulances drive by. Casino lights flash, music wanders from doorways, and they still let you smoke like a chimney anywhere you please.

It’s entirely distracting.

If you pause long enough to visit Elvis, watch out you don’t accidentally end up married. They do that, ya know. One minute you’re talking blue suede shoes and the next minute he’s saying, “I now pronounce you….”

Don’t sign anything. It’s not a petition, it’s a marriage license. Now you owe him $100.

That lady in the fishnets, silver thong and the ten pound three foot tall orange-feathered head dress just finished her show at the Flamingo. She’ll pose with you for photos for $10.

So will Darth Vader.

So will SpongeBob.

It’s a little like Disneyland for grown ups. It’s just as phony and twice as expensive, and they make you walk further between attractions.

Plus, I’m pretty sure there are hidden cameras and whole underground areas we don’t even know about yet.

If you want to see the famous Bellagio water fountains, get there early and don’t lean too heavily on the concrete railing. It wobbles in places.

There is a duck that they paid to paddle out into the center of the lake just before showtime but never ends up blown 50 feet into the air.

Shame, that.

Who doesn’t want to see feathers flying to “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”?

And you certainly won’t leave Las Vegas without shopping all those shimmering malls, will you?

Each mall has it’s own entertainment; you won’t have to spend a dime to enjoy it.

Wander the Venetian and you will notice but probably ignore the tall silver toga statue on the pedestal. Your eye takes it all in as one big blur until the toga man winks at you.

That’s when you freeze, blocking the 30 or so marching tourists directly behind you and stare at him, frowning, because now you need to make him move again to prove it happened.

It didn’t occur to me until later that his pedestal had loose dollar bills sitting on it…toga man’s tips. So I reckon all I had to do was start gathering up his tip money to watch the “statue” gird up his loins and chase me down the aisles.

Caesar’s Palace has a show in the middle of its mall called “The Fall of Atlantis” that’s only so-so. The lions are gone from the MGM now and the Pirate Show from Treasure Island. But you can find everything from roller coasters to gondola rides to aquariums and zip-lines. Newest in the melee is the 550’ tall High Roller Observation Wheel. Um…no.

You want your best walking shoes in Vegas. Even if you make it through the Miracle Mile Mall, your feet will be begging for mercy.

Our Vegas get-away concluded with dinner at the Stratosphere Restaurant. We enjoyed eating at a Top of the World window seat, as the room subtly rotated 360* at almost 12,000 feet straight up. The nighttime city view was spectacular as were the lightning storms over the distant mountains.

After dinner, we went (further) upstairs to the open air walkway and watched the crazy people bungee jump off the rails.

The rest of the crazy people were riding the X Scream. I stood there, feet firmly planted on the floor, and screamed along with the riders every single time the ride tried to toss them off the building.

Every. Single. Time.

Morning people like myself can’t quite make the most of Vegas, although a nocturnal city makes sense in the middle of a desert. My bedtime hits around 10pm whether I like it or not.

I’ll leave it to Elvis and his buddies to keep the party going till dawn.

Wish I had a duck feather souvenir, though.