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Grace amid chaos

Tracy L. Barnett
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Julie Brown

Veteran globetrotter Julie Brown always packs a few essentials in her magic Peruvian bag. In the words of husband David, there are two types of luggage: carry-on and lost. The lollipops are for crying babies on the plane. (Photo: lawellphoto.com)

There’s nothing like a holiday to bring us together, and that togetherness often means travel. With so many people on the road and in the air, it can all add up to a lot of extra stress – or not, if we know how to plan ahead.

Julie and David Brown and their four children are intrepid travelers; they’ve climbed Kilimanjaro, backpacked to Machu Picchu, trekked in Patagonia and driven through an ice storm in North Texas.

Angela Perry is an international flight attendant who likes a little more comfort when she sees the world, together with husband Carlton and her two children.

Julie and Angela took time from their whirlwind schedules to offer fellow Buzz residents some holiday-travel advice.

  • Prepare for the worst with de-icer, a scraper, paper towels for wiping off the window and headlights, a blanket, a flashlight and a satellite phone for emergencies in the dead zones. Julie remembers one trip when driving to Colorado she got caught in an ice storm; being from Houston, she didn’t normally carry such things, and ended up having to use her credit card to keep scraping ice from her car.
  • Pack all your essentials in a carry-on – including a two-gallon Ziploc bag with pajamas, a change of clothes, makeup, toothpaste and toothbrush. Anything that will ruin your trip if you don’t have it, put it in the carry-on – Julie ruefully recalls the Kilimanjaro trip, when they lost her hiking boots, and the Bahamas trip, when they lost her bathing suit. (“My husband says there are two kinds of luggage: carry-ons and lost.”)
  • The most essential item: patience. Julie travels with a Peruvian shoulder bag packed with three items that make any wait endurable: iPad, knitting and a book.
  • Dress for success. When the Brown kids were small, they would sometimes run off in all different directions. Julie would dress them all the same so that if she lost one of them, she’d know what they were wearing. David would wear what he called his “go to Hell pants,” crazy patchwork plaid. “Kids are like the eye level of pants, so they can look around and see those pants.”
  • Book your flight early in the day – that way if a flight does get canceled you have a better chance of making your connections. Go in early and make your seat assignment ASAP so you have a better chance of sitting together.
  • Pack light. The Browns are backpackers, so they’ve taken it to a high art form. Everything they’re going to need is what they’ll be carrying on their backs, so they’ve stocked up on special gear: lightweight shirts by Icebreaker (“a short-sleeved shirt and a long-sleeved shirt – they’re non-stink”), two pairs of underwear (you wear one, you wash one); quick-dry convertible pants; a Gortex jacket and an umbrella. For dressing up: “I take a little bag of makeup because it makes me feel better, and one black skirt – North Face – and a lightweight pair of Tevas that I hook onto my backpack, and a pair of earrings, that’s my thing.”
  • Pack food for when the kids are hungry and there’s nothing in sight. Angela likes to take kolaches.
  • Pack with a color scheme, Angela suggests, and keep prints to a minimum; this makes it easier to mix and match. You may have the perfect opportunity for a family portrait in front of the Eiffel Tower or whatever landmark you’re visiting; sloppy T-shirts are not photogenic.
  • Be careful when you pack gifts, says Angela. Remember not to take liquids or sharp objects in your carry-on. Wait to wrap your presents – the last thing you want is a TSA agent unwrapping your gifts in the security line and confiscating that nice bottle of French wine or fancy corkscrew.

But Rule No. 1 for travel survival is the same for both seasoned globe-trotters: Be nice. “Throwing a fit in an airport is not going to get you there any faster,” observed Julie.  “Be prepared for crowds, be prepared that they change aircraft on you – it doesn’t do any good to be angry with the agent,” added Angela.

In particular, be nice to the flight attendants, says Angela – who is in a position to know. “If you want a change in seat assignment, or whatever it is – when you’re nice, they want to do; it if you’re not nice, they say, ‘We’ll see,’ and then they often don’t do anything. But 90 percent of the time people will go out of their way and try to help you to make it better.”

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