Thursday, April 9, 2015

Israel Travel - what to pack?

I am leaving soon for a long awaited trip to Israel.  This post is about what I'm packing to take, but I'll report back AFTER the trip and tell you how all my gear worked out. I also plan to blog about my adventures when I return.

Crocuses - just because they are pretty and might make up for the fact there is a photo of my old shoes coming up . . .

The details of the trip are that I'll be going in late April, traveling to many different locations by tour bus and traveling with a good friend. It's Spring and there will be varied terrain, so wearing light layers will be important.  The itinerary includes lots of walking on uneven cobbles, standing, trail hiking, opportunities for swimming and so many stairs. Did I mention the stairs? There are lots of stairs and then above those stairs there are more stairs.

I understand that casual dress is the norm in Israel, but also conservative, modest attire is expected at certain sites.  I'm not aiming for fashionable.  I'm aiming for comfortable, neat and convenient.  I have found quite a few blog posts and many capsule travel wardrobe photos on Pinterest instructing women to pack nothing but high heels so they can look great all the time. I think those might all be written by teenage girls. I will not be bringing heels. I will not look fabulous. Instead I intend to have the time of my life.

I had planned to fit everything in a carry on bag, but I finally decided that was a bit sparse for a two week trip, although it could be done.  That scenario also involved me washing socks and underwear by hand so I moved on to Plan B. Instead I decided to take a small checked bag and carry a day pack. It does make me a little nervous that the airline will loose my bag, but I'll put what I can in my day pack. The airline allows 50 lbs for a checked bag, but I should have half that.  There will be plenty of space left over in the checked bag so I can do some shopping on my trip, right? I'm not entirely sure what of interest there will be for sale in Israel, but I'm bound to find out along the way.

The blue bag is the Eddie Bauer Expedition 26 inch rolling duffel.  It has a hard sided compartment on the bottom which is completely separate so it's good for shoes and laundry and anything you don't want to get broken. This one has already been in seven countries around the world with my husband and doesn't show signs of wear. The day pack is also Eddie Bauer and it's the type that doesn't really have a structure so it can fold up very small if you need it to.  I like it because it's very light and simple. I have a higher end backpack I bought for another trip, but it ended up being too heavy and hard to get into. I think the day pack will stay on the bus most days and I'll carry my smaller shoulder bag.  The water cups on the sides are Tupperware Eco Tumblers and are fantastic.  They seal tight, have drinking spouts, and are quick and easy to clean and refill. I like that they are only 12 oz so I can balance the day pack and still have 24 oz of water with me.

Let's face it, shoes are the most important consideration.  If my feet aren't happy I'm going to be miserable. I'm splurging and bringing four pairs of tried and true, non-glamorous, non-Pinterest-worthy shoes.  The blue Easy Spirit slip-ons are my airplane shoes.  They are super light and airy and easy to take off for security check points. They'll also be good for days when we have a little more bus time and less walking or if it is rainy and I don't want my leather shoes to get wet.  If the airline looses my checked bag the Easy Spirits will be the best all around shoes. The leather Clarks are probably the most comfortable shoes I've ever had.  I can walk and stand in them all day so the airline better not loose them! The purple Crocs are for changing into when we get back to the hotel after a long day and do multiple duties as slippers, pool shoes and shower shoes, plus I can wear them with the one skirt I am bringing.  The black pair are inexpensive water shoes.  I'm told the salt crystals on the bottom of the Dead Sea are like shards of glass and we'll also be wading through water in Hezekiah's tunnel. I need water shoes that won't come off my feet. My friend is only bringing 2 pairs of shoes (Tevas and Keens) so we'll compare notes and see what works best.  I'll let you know in my follow up post.

Because we'll be gone nearly two weeks, and I don't want to haul around that many changes of clothing, I searched clearance racks for simple, fitted running t-shirts that are light and dry quickly.  I can wash these out in the sink at night and they'll be dry by morning. They take up very little space and don't wrinkle very easily. I was able to find several for $3-12 each. One of the white ones is long sleeved and the Monet print is a tank top.  I'm also bringing the melon colored scarf on the right which coordinates with most of the tops. A scarf can serve as a blanket on the plane, a sarong at the beach, shoulder or head covering at religious sights and, well, it helps keep you warm when it gets chilly. This one folds up and fits in a sandwich bag so I can keep it clean and snag free in my day pack or jacket pocket and pull it out when needed.

I'm just taking three pairs of pants.  Like the tops, they are all lightweight, performance fabrics with stretch and can be washed and dried overnight.  The long pants are both Mountain Hardware Yuma pants, but one pair is convertible. I love these because they have super soft micro chamois around the inside of the waist and stay comfortable all day. The stretch factor will come in handy for those stairs. They all have draw string waists which are trim and allow room for my money belt underneath and make it so I don't have to pack a belt. The black are my favorite Bliss Capris by Prana.  Neutral colors make putting together outfits easy.

You need one nicer outfit, right? The maxi skirt does not wrinkle and the lightweight cardigan makes a nice light layer with many outfits. The skirt has a fold over yoga style band on top which means my money belt can easily be worn underneath. The shirt is one of the ones also pictured above.

For outerwear I'm bringing a Columbia fleece jacket and a raincoat shell I can wear with it or separately. Also, there is the cardigan pictured above.  I suspect the fleece won't get much use, but I will want it on the airplane and they say it can get cool in Jerusalem at night. The raincoat is also good as a wind breaker and folds up small. And I cannot forget my favorite Tilley hat. I could really go on and on about the Tilley hat, but I won't. Almost all the blogs I found about packing for Israel stressed bringing a sun hat . . . well, not the ones by the high heel girls, but nearly all the others . . .

I don't do that much swimming these days, but there seem to be plenty of not-to-be-missed water activities available to do.  We'll be at hotels on beaches on the Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, will be wading down Hezekiah's tunnel in Jerusalem, have the opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River and swim in a natural pool at Ein Gedi. In addition, the hotels all seem to have pools and saunas.  I would like to note that the bikini is for wearing underneath the other things in case anyone who actually knows me sees this.  The rash guard shirt and surf leggings (black and yellow) are from Lands End.  I purchased Boys' board shorts from Target because women's board shorts were either shorter than I wanted or rather expensive.  I prefer the on-sale-for-$5 ones for an item I probably won't wear much, but these can double as regular shorts.  The towel is a microfiber yoga towel I'm bringing because it is small and quick drying.  They say the Dead Sea is so salty that you absolutely do not want to shave your legs before you go in.  I think those surf leggings are going to come in handy.  When I tried them on at home, my husband told me I looked like a super hero, which made me want to return them, but he likes them.

A couple of pair of comfy pajamas from Jockey:

Miscellaneous items:

My Eagle Creek shoulder bag is on the left. The clasp is halfway broken, but it still works and is tried and true. That is what I'll be carrying most days. It has room for a water bottle, small camera and a few other items and has a outer pocket for easy access to maps and brochures. Top to bottom: travel clothes line (black), blow-up travel pillow (green), and sleep mask which I made myself.  Rume fold up tote bag (blue patterned) for a beach bag or shopping or stowing items on the bus. Something I forgot for my last big trip (Peru), since I usually check the time on my phone, is a travel watch.  This one is an inexpensive Timex, but it shows two time zones, has a light, and I can set an alarm on it. Travel umbrella (green). Head lamp (black and red) for light in Hezekiah's tunnel and night time reading. Swiss Army money belt (black) because I have had pick pockets try to steal from me in the past while on vacations. Ziploc bag with snacks - I'm bringing mostly KIND bars and Trader Joes trail mix because they are filling, but low sugar.

I'll leave all the outlet adapters, devices, toiletries, socks and other misc items to your imagination, except to say I'm bringing good sunscreen, Burts Bees peppermint foot lotion and elderberry tablets for an immune system boost. I cannot forget my favorite Badger balm for any aches and pains because I'm not one of those young girls who can breeze through life hiking in high heels and did I mention the stairs?

I am a jewelry designer, so I'll bring a few pieces.  I'm probably overdoing it, but jewelry is small and the outfits I'm bringing are plain.  I'm not bringing anything expensive. My dad carved the wooden cross. I think it needs to go on a walk down the Via Dolorosa with me.

And something to draw with in case I can find the time and energy to do a few sketches.  I'm just taking a small drawing book, but have to have all my Conte Crayon colors.

I've been taking these photos with the new, small Nikon Coolpix S9700 camera my husband got for me to take.  Maybe by the end of the trip I'll get better at that.

I hope to update this with a follow up post within the next three weeks and then to begin blogging about my trip so check back. This will be similar to the series of posts that I did on our Peru Trip.

You can now view my follow-up post on what actually worked and what didn't work from what I packed.