PUBLISHED: 4:08 PM on Wednesday, March 28, 2007
What not to do when traveling

My shoulder has a bright red welt on it and I've developed a distinct limp on my left leg. "Why oh why did I bring this bag?" I mutter to myself.

I see the bright lights of an ice cream kiosk beckoning to me on the right-hand side of the crowded Seattle airport corridor and veer toward it, dragging my lovely carry-on baggage.

As I sit consuming (in self pity, of course) my cold chocolate and caramel confection, I muse if I really need that extra fifth pair of high-heeled sandals.

"But they'll look so good with that new outfit you just bought," argues the evil voice of wannabe fashion inside my head.

I haven't been on a vacation in a long time; my excitement spilled over in chaotic array to the proceeding categories: packing, organization and overall planning.

Thrilled to stay over in Seattle at a hotel; I have a big night planned.

I'll drop off my luggage, catch a bus downtown, do a little shopping and enjoy a fabulous "big city" dinner by myself-I can't wait.

I call the hotel and they say a shuttle is already on its way to pick up guests, in about five minutes. In about three minutes a shuttle with my hotel name emblazed all over it shows up, and I hop on.

I show up at the hotel, wait 15 minutes in line, talk to the front desk woman and she says, "Oh dear, you are at the wrong hotel location, honey."

I somehow forgot in my na?ve small-town way that there are several chain hotels in different locations dotted around the Sea-Tac Airport.

Eighty minutes later, I'm finally at the hotel I was supposed to stay at. The shuttle driver shushed me by saying, "It happens all the time." Moral of this story: always ask what and where questions.

Concerning organization, there are reasons why people have these weird items called planners-they're actually quite helpful. For instance, instead of cramming tickets, car rental and hotel reservations into the fathoms of your purse or carry-on, try a zip-up planner/organizer. It has pockets and safe slots all over the place.

A family member showed me her strategy of organizing trip elements into a "travel binder" that is categorized by activities, dates, tickets, locations, etc. I was blown away by such a nifty idea.

When leaving for my return trip home from Kona, Hawaii, I made my hosts drive back to the house (after cruising for about seven minutes) where I quickly dug through the pile of bags left behind for my connecting paper ticket. As we all know, getting back to Juneau takes many connecting flights.

As usual, the ticket wasn't there but tucked away into my carry-on bags in what I deemed was a safe pocket.

As I sheepishly heaved my luggage back into the trunk and we sped off into the warm night; I profusely apologized. The planner/organizer is definitely a good thing.

Targeting the packing issue: don't wait until the last minute because that's the worst thing to do. I recall putting everything I "needed" into a big pile and then proceeded to stuff it all into my luggage. When in a rush, we sometimes make bad decisions and packing is one of them.

Besides what you do need for a vacation, most people buy goodies, clothes and so forth. If you're one of those people, consider room for the trip back.

I've learned that after compiling everything I wanted for the trip, it pays to go back and re-pack. Look at every clothing piece and clunky item and then consider the thought, "less is more" with great respect.

When I arrived to Kona, I opened my cumbersome suitcase and looked in dismay at the ridiculous amount of clothes packed.

I actually packed three jackets and three sweaters; I was still in winter mode. Obviously, the 80-degree weather outside begged to differ.

On my return trip, we get to the checkout line and I seriously start to squirm in my pinching cute shoes. "Uh oh, my bag is starting to feel way over 50 pounds," I stutter aloud and quite frantically. In fact, I think my bag is 20 pounds overweight. We get to the counter and of all horrors, my bag is 29 pounds over and my other bag is ballooned already.

To the irritation of everyone grumbling behind me, I get down on all fours and start slinging shoes, jackets and even a hairdryer over my shoulder into a plastic bag. Luckily, my mother is going home in a few days and agrees to pack a bag for me.

If it wasn't for her saving grace, I would've been hit with a 100 dollar fee. Moral of the story: pack light and remember shoes are heavy.

During my layover in San Francisco, I pass time by shopping. Stores galore dot the airport, and I amuse myself at The Body Shop. Purchasing several bottles of lotion, body wash and other deliciously indulgent items; I was a happy girl.