I was talking with my friend Cathy the other day about how we were stuffing all our luggage with gifts – used clothes, candies, toys and games – to bring to Vietnam and distribute among our family members.

She nods in understanding, “Hah, my family does that too. Immigrant families.”

This is how the luggage-packing ritual goes.

In the weeks before leaving for Vietnam, we slowly sorted and gathered all the clothing we had outgrown/were no longer wearing. We proceeded to transport (and abandon) them in their new home: our basement. We went all over department stores – Walmart, Sears, etc. looking for toys and games on sale, things that the kids might like.

On sale specifically, because my family is big. Really big. When the shopping list is for some 16-odd kids, their parents, their parents, and the odd extended relative, the cost of all those gifts quickly adds up. (And as we all know, the rule is: if you buy something for one of them, you have to get something for all of them).

Anyways, once we had gathered everything we wanted to pack up in the basement, we sorted the items out to see if each family member had at least one gift. It became a sort of mad, desperate Christmas-like distribution. (Oh, oh, did we buy something for Mei? Do you think Yuen will be able to wear this?). Once we had double (and triple) checked that we had everything in place, we re-sorted the items, to be grouped together by family units/households.

Now if that wasn’t already stressful enough, here came the hard part: fitting EVERYTHING into our luggage. Welcome to 3D Tetris. Multiplied by 12, for all the luggage, suitcases, carry-ons, and over weight items we were bringing. Did I mention how many times we had to weigh everything to make sure they weren’t over the limit?

Suddenly, I’m debating which of my essentials I can leave behind for a month. The argument in my head sounds like: “Is this an essential essential, or a non-essential essential? Hm, guess that’s one less shirt or pair of pants. I guess I can buy that stuff when I get there. I hope their clothes fit.” Good grief, I sounded crazy.

But after many weeks of work and planning, it was done. And, success! We weren’t charged for extra weight at the airport!

Let’s hope we don’t lose anything on the way…

So, what’s your packing session like before a big trip? How did your last one go? Have you ever (cringe) been charged for going over the weight limit, or lost luggage on the way?
Sometimes, there just isn't enough space

Sometimes, there just isn’t enough space

Photo Credit: Rob Faulkner