by Dan Robertson
Like A Good Scout...
Be prepared with a flexible tour wardrobe
Have you ever planned your day around what the TV meteorologist predicted on the morning news? And have you ever been disappointed when that prediction turned out to be completely wrong? Have you ever been at a picnic or sporting event and you thought you were dressed appropriately and then the skies open up and you find yourself drenched, cold or otherwise uncomfortable? Most of us could probably answer ‘yes’ to these questions.
I will admit that weatherman was actually on my list of childhood dream jobs along side fireman, professional soccer player and superhero, so I don’t mean to disparage our friends in the field of meteorological science. But predictions are just that: predictions! Despite all of the technology that has made predictions better, and historical data that tells us that a particular time of the year (or even a particular week) should look a certain way, Mother Nature almost always wins by throwing curveballs at us. But alas, thanks to the knowledge of the experienced tour operator that you have chosen to travel with, you’re going to be prepared for those curve balls as well as you can be.
If you’ve ever been, or had a child who was a Scout, you know the old motto “Be Prepared.” As a general rule of thumb, this is a good motto by which to live, but being prepared while on tour with a group of school kids is even more important. If you read my article on hiccups, preparing for weather is just another hiccup that you should anticipate. A week in the springtime on the East Coast can have you wanting to sit by the pool, hit the ski slopes, or break out your canoe, so it’s important that you pack accordingly. Before you panic, I’m not suggesting that you will actually see wild swings in the weather, or that you need to bring a footlocker full of bathing suits, down parkas and life jackets. But with some strategic thinking and clever packing, you will be prepared for just about anything.
1. Rain Jacket
A light / mid-weight waterproof rain jacket or poncho is a must. Most raincoats can be packed down very small and if you end up not needing it while on tour, you haven’t wasted a lot of space in your luggage or added too much weight to the bag you carry day-to-day. A waterproof jacket can also protect you from the wind and provide a little additional warmth when it cools down at night. Check out this video to see a great way to pack a raincoat down to maximize space in your bags:
2. Shoes & Footwear
A comfortable pair of shoes and socks will make or break your time on tour. One thing that we always hear is how tired participants are at the end of each day. Even if you have a bus with a driver-guide, you will end up walking, a lot, every day. Obviously, a comfortable pair of walking or running shoes will help you at the end of the day, but most people don’t realize that socks are just as important. I prefer wool or synthetic athletic socks. Wool…even when it’s hot? Yes, just trust me! I quit wearing cotton socks years ago and it makes all the difference. Wool socks can be expensive, so a good pair of synthetic socks (anything non-cotton) will also do just fine. With cotton socks, you are more likely to get blisters and if they get wet, your feet will stay wet all-day; and wet feet often means cold feet.
3. Jackets, Hoodies, Sweatshirts
If you have one, I would recommend a light insulated jacket, sweatshirt / hoody, or sweater. This is just for warmth and comfort. Having something warm and comfortable on hand in case you need it could make for a good day or a rough one. If you have a lightweight insulated jacket, they pack down really small and have a great warmth-to-weight ratio. A comfortable hoody or sweater can also serve this purpose but may take up a little more space and add some weight. Either way, being ready for a cool front passing through, a chilly theater or restaurant, or doubling as a pillow on the plane, you would rather have this and not need it, than need it and not have it.
When you fly, you are allowed to carry on two small items. Consider making one of those items a backpack or satchel that you will also carry with you while on tour. If you pack that backpack with the items that you plan to take with you each day, you can make sure you have space for everything else in your checked bag.
5. Hats and Sunglasses
Just about every packing list you ever see will tell you to bring a hat. Although I don’t disagree with this, I always tell people that if you don’t wear a hat at home, you are not likely to wear a hat while on tour. Most people don’t change their personality or preferences while traveling, so consider whether or not you really want to take a hat, or if a pair of sunglasses make more sense for you. If you’re prone to loosing things, put a strap on your sunglasses so they’re always around your neck. If you prefer a hat (or both), make sure you don’t leave it behind at a restaurant or hotel room. We will make every effort to recover items left behind, but sometimes, despite our best efforts, items lost remain lost.
There is always a question of whether or not you should bring an umbrella. For traveling to Washington, DC or NYC, my recommendation is to not bring one. First of all, almost every street vendor or convenient store puts out $5 umbrellas on rainy days. Sure, you will get $5 quality, but for the most part, these umbrellas will suffice for a day or two (or three) while touring, and you won’t feel so bad if you lose it, break it or just decide to throw it away when you’re done with it. If you choose to bring your own, consider how you will pack it and whether or not you will be disappointed if something happens to it while on tour. If you have a good raincoat as mentioned before, you may not want to bother with the hassle of an umbrella after all.
7. Remain Calm & Hydrate
Finally, a good attitude and along side your preparation will get you by almost any surprises (or hiccups) that comes your way. I didn’t touch on the fact that it can also be really hot and humid while on tour, but with appropriate clothing and drinking plenty of water, warm snaps don’t usually cause as much discomfort as being unprepared for cold or rain. But, by remembering these few simple items and being generally prepared, external things like the weather won’t come close to ruining your trip.
Think like a Scout and “Be Prepared.” That’s all the batting practice you need for facing those curveballs from Mother Nature.