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Ups + Downs: 8 Things I Always Travel With.

By: Jen Shoop

Well, we’re hanging in there after we made a huge life decision two weeks ago.

I say “hanging in there” half-facetiously and half-dead-seriously because, on the one hand, these transitions and dislocations and anxiety-inducing decisions we’re living through are not the kinds of problems that are unsolvable or particularly nefarious.  (We will find a place to live.  We will sell our house.  We will get ourselves and our baby and our dog and about 1/16th of our belongings to our new place in New York.  These things will happen.)

But, on the other hand, WHAT is happening right now.

I haven’t taken a deep breath in two weeks straight.  Once we solve one problem or logistical complication, another one crops up.  That, and we’ve had what feels like an unwieldy case of Murphy’s Law — delayed flights, flakey contractors, missing paint cans for minor touch ups, massive baby blowouts in the middle of Bouchon among well-heeled bankers and corporate types calmly enjoying their $36 bacon and egg breakfasts (no, really, that happened and it was heinous — somehow there was poop up to her neck?!  and all over the sleeve of my new white linen blouse?!?  and while we were out for the day in Manhattan?! —  I mean, I just don’t…I can’t even…someone please explain the forces — physical and providential — at play there).

In short, when Mr. Magpie turned to me the other morning to let me know, “Hey!  Small victory!  I was cleaning the kitchen and a fly flew inside and — get this! — I somehow managed to shoo it out of the house!” — we sort of stopped and realized that everything that can go wrong seems to have been going wrong.  I mean, we were clinging to the fact that we shooed a fly out our door for God’s sake.

But, it’s OK.  We will get through this one step at a time.  Mr. Magpie is exceptionally organized and up-to-the-task; he’s an engineer by training, so he’s methodical in his approach to these types of projects: spreadsheets detailed with task owner, due date, notes, contingencies, etc so that we make sure to prioritize the important tasks first and delay considering the other parts until later; tidy Wunderlists of daily to-dos; photocopies of all relevant documents on hand.  He’s also extraordinarily even-keeled and persistent — basically, THE best in these situations, and I have marveled at him many times over since we started this process.

I’ve been doing well despite a few tears over selling our home and losing our sweet nanny, with the exception of Wednesday night at 8:05 P.M.  Wednesday night at 8:05 P.M. was not my finest moment.  Wednesday night at 8:05 P.M. can go to hell.  We had just finished two insanely long and physically demanding days hunting for an apartment in New York.  It was unseasonably hot there (80s and blaring sun), and we had taken turns carrying minimagpie around in our Lille baby carrier since it didn’t seem practical to schlep her Nuna Pipa carseat and carseat carrier (I’ve written about this elsewhere, but it’s been a great and inexpensive solution to airport travel when we don’t want to bring our Bugaboo stroller base) all around Brooklyn and Manhattan, up and down walk-ups and what have you, especially since most of the units were about 10 minute walks from one another.  But guys.  We checked our iPhone fitness tracker and we walked 9 miles the first day and 7 miles the second, overheated and anxious and emotionally frenzied on top of the usual thrum of new parent exhaustion (minimagpie still wakes up at least once a night, and is then up for good for the day by 6, and I’m not sleeping well anyway thanks to a million and ten thoughts and to dos flitting in and out of the transom of my mind at all hours of the night).  And, there’s this weird frenetic energy that accompanies apartment-hunting there: the brokers are all appraising you and over-selling the amenities of each unit and pushing you to divulge information about where you’ve looked and how it compares to this one and meanwhile nudging you, pushing you, urging you to JUST TAKE THE UNIT OR IT WILL BE GONE IN A MINUTE.  BUT ALSO YOU PROBABLY WON’T BE ABLE TO GET IT BECAUSE IT’S SOOOOO COMPETITIVE AND THIS IS SUCH A FABULOUS GEM OF A PROPERTY, SO CHOP CHOP CHOP CHOP.

Anyway, Wednesday at 8:05 P.M., we were totally depleted.

We’d made it up and down the Upper West Side about ten times by foot, then to LaGuardia via an unpleasant non-airconditioned cab in bumper to bumper traffic (why why why), then onto a delayed flight, then through O’Hare (which can be sort of a maze of elevators up and down if you aren’t able to use escalators) and finally onto the little airport tram to take you to the parking lot.  I said to Mr. Magpie: “Oh man, we’ve almost made it.  We’re so close to our bed.  I’m so proud of us for keeping a sense of humor and perspective this weekend, even though it was so exhausting and stressful.”  I then texted my mom to let her know we’d landed and added: “I’m dead.  I feel like the wind could blow the wrong way and I’d burst into tears.”

Then I looked down and noticed I stepped my favorite slide sandals into a huge wad of gum.  Out of the hundreds of feet of mainly empty flooring on the tram, I’d picked the 1 square inch adorned by a wad of disgusting, already-been-chewed gum.

The wheels fell off.

I looked at Mr. Magpie and laugh-sobbed.

This little thing!  This stupid, insignificant, minor annoyance!  It was the coup de gras in a long and tiresome sequence of frustrations.  Has that ever happened to you?  You have all this pent up emotion and the tiniest, most inconsequential happening sets you over the edge?   It wasn’t my finest moment.

But, the bigger picture?  We put in an application for an apartment on the Upper West Side: we (hopefully) did what we set out to do.  Minimagpie was a dream come true — she hung in there like a trooper for several long days of travel and sun and sweat and charmed the pants off everyone before sleeping better in her hotel crib than she does at home two nights in a row (!!!)  So, there were a lot of pros and I somehow managed to forget about those while cry-laughing to Mr. Magpie about gum on my shoe.

But, we’re back — we’re back to high-fiving each other over flies shooed outside, over the fact that we managed to get our application together and submitted, over the fact that we had all the materials in our pantry to make a yummy bowl of oil and dried red chili pepper and parsley pasta when I staggered through the door, sweaty and tear-stained and a little worse for the wear.

PERSPECTIVE.  My new mantra.


Travel Pick No. 1: Packing Cases

I’ve written about this — possibly too much? — but I have learned to keep a very organized suitcase using these and these.  The transparent ones makes finding my stuff so much easier (super handy with a baby in tow), and I group related things together, like the smallest one is for my traveling medicine cabinet (after one too many last minute vacation trips to CVS, I never travel without Advil, Benadryl — Mr. Magpie is horribly allergic to cats and I swear we’ve needed this ten times! –, bandaids, and tweezers) and overflow cosmetics (like makeup removing pads and deodorant, which are too bulky for my actual cosmetic case), the middle sized one contains minimagpie’s toys and gears, the next size up is for my clothing, etc.  And you can pack a lot more into your suitcase using them — they compress clothes well, especially those Turtle Creek ones!  I also like to be able to segregate dirty clothes from clean ones using them; that way, the minute you get home, you can dump the dirty clothes into the laundry basket.

The Fashion Magpie Packing Cubes 1 The Fashion Magpie Packing Cubes Eagle Creek

Travel Pick No. 2: Hand Sanitizer

Straight-forward but oh-so-handy.

The Fashion Magpie Hand Sanitizer

Travel Pick No. 3: Truffle Clarity Pouch

I use this TSA-approved clarity pouch (shown in photo above!) to store my liquids/cosmetics.  They’re the best.  They’re super sturdy and double as a convenient pouch for my handbag at home.  (P.S. Mamas: what do you carry in your diaper bag?  Here’s what’s in mine.)  I also use one of these whenever I need to keep documents or passports organized/on hand on a trip.

The Fashion Magpie Clear Clarity Cluth

Travel Pick No. 4: Reusable Shopping Bag

I always toss one of these ($10 — how cute is that dalmatian print?) into my bag — they’ve come into handy so many times, whether because I end up buying something or need something to store muddy running shoes or find some other use for it while traveling (i.e., taking breakfast into Central Park and needing a bag to throw water, snacks, etc.)  Incidentally, with a baby, I am also never EVER EVER without these, which came in massive handy during minimagpie’s epic blowout — I was able to throw all her soiled clothes in a bag, tie it off, and stow it in my bag without soiling anything else, and it totally contained the smell!

The Fashion Magpie Baggu Reusable Bag

Travel Pick No. 5: Well-Kept Screen Wipes

Not specific to travel — they’re always in my bag! — but I use these for my eyeglasses, sunglasses, Kindle, laptop, and phone, which always kind of gross me out how grubby and dirty they can get, resting on random tables and countertops and tray tables.

The Fashion Magpie Screen Wipes


Travel Pick No. 6: Arcona Makeup Removing Pads

On short trips, I don’t even bother to pack face wash; I just rely on these, and man do I rely on them.  The first thing I do after checking in (and ceremoniously throwing the coverlets off the bed — they’re notoriously dirty!) is wipe my face down with one of these triad pads, which tone and cleanse and leave the skin so delightfully squeaky clean.   Big plus for travel: they don’t count as a liquid, so it’s one less thing to try to jam into your liquids baggie.

The Fashion Magpie Arcona Triad Beauty Pads

Travel Pick No. 7: Fully-Loaded Kindle

Delays, cancellations, trouble sleeping, long cab rides — enough said.  See my current reading list here.

The Fashion Magpie Kindle

Travel Pick No. 8: The Spare Jacket or Sweater

I promise — promise! — this will save you one unexpected trip, even when you’re traveling in the middle of summer.  You’ll wind up on a chilly plane, shivering while you idle on the runway for 23 hours, or caught on an unseasonably cool morning walk on the beach, or just wanting to curl up in your fluffy hotel bed under a big duvet snuggled up in an extra layer of coziness.  I always travel with either a spare cardigan/hoodie or anorak jacket (depending on what my trip will entail), because they fold up small and are easy to layer.  A few of my top picks for this purpose: this cashmere hoodie (or this one, for less, in the camel color), or, for a sportier trip, this; for a jacket, this is the best one for outdoor trips, and these are some of my favorites for more urban-centric trips.

P.S.  My packing list for my first trip with minimagpie hasn’t changed much between her maiden voyage and this most recent one.

P.P.S.  I tend to wear the same thing every travel day: distressed denim (I wear these year-round), a button-down that I can layer under a coat/sweater if need be, a pair of Tod’s loafers (these are on sale!), and huge sunglasses (still obsessed with these, which look much more expensive than they are!)

P.P.P.S.  Even though I usually keep all my jewelry in a separate pouch, I recently bought a pack of 100 of these and they are SO handy for keeping my individual necklaces/earrings separate and organized!

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16 thoughts on “Ups + Downs: 8 Things I Always Travel With.

  1. Keeping my fingers crossed that your apartment comes through! Congratulations on a productive visit to your new home city, and I have DEFINITELY been there re: the stepping-in-gum moment. When I’m stressed & tired, sometimes it just takes one little thing to set me off into a tear spiral!

    I love these packing tips, too. As someone who is obsessed with separating dirty & clean clothing, those packing cases really speak to me. I end up using thinner tote bags to pack my shoes, but I could round up some of my Baggu totes to do the same thing, as I am not a fan of how they sit on my shoulder. They’d be perfect for shoe bags!

    1. Glad I’m not alone in that. It was not my finest moment — but it was the accumulation of a lot of stress and anxiety. Sigh. I’m SO with you on keeping dirt and clean items separate! So much better when you get home and can just toss a big bag in the laundry basket…

  2. Yes to all of these! Best of luck with your move and I hope you find a place to live soon! With our move, that has been the most unsettling aspect – we want to buy, but don’t know San Diego well enough, so are renting an AirBnB for a couple of months while we try to find a place. And to complicate things, shortly after we get out there (we are driving cross-country with our baby! Taking it slow, and so far so good – thank goodness for a plethora of packing cubes!), we go to France for vacation. Ah well! It all works out in the end, doesn’t it?

    1. GIRL. We need to meet up for a stiff martini at some point to unload about these times of chaos. But, you’re right, and that’s been what I’ve been thinking to myself the last week — “it all works out in the end.” I’m 100% sure we’ll get everything done and, come December-ish, be like, “What move?” (OK, maybe December is wishful thinking, but you get my drift.) Smart idea to rent the AirBnB so you have time to get to know the area! I hear SD is BEAUTIFUL but a tough house market, too. Sending you lots of good vibes and a virtual martini.

  3. Yes, lots of magic to be found in New York 🙂 And I can’t speak to the challenges of managing a little one in the city, but it absolutely can be done and you will learn all the secrets. And what a cool experience for mini, I think she will love it!
    And yes, back to school! I started an MBA program this fall. It’s verrry different to jump into this left-brain world (I have a BA and MA in art history) but fun so far. And my Excel skills have improved 1000% 🙂

    1. GET IT, Alison! You are the ultimate package — left AND right brained! AKA, you will rule the world. xo

  4. The Eagle Creek bags are the BEST! I just invested in 5 of them and adore them for travel. I’m definitely going to pick up some of your other recommendations, I need some good new accessories to keep in my bag. And that crossbody Truffle case needs to be mine immediately. Thank you for sharing, I can’t even imagine your anxiety in this move, but imagine how frazzled you would be if you didn’t have such amazing organizational skills!

    1. Thanks, Nicole!!! I appreciate the encouragement! You’re sweet to write that. YES, Truffle stuff is GREAT for travel (and not travel, too). Great to hear from you! xoxo

  5. Jen,

    Thanks for being so vulnerable and sharing your ups and downs with us! We’re rooting for and cheering on you and your family!

    You’re going to love the UWS! It’s the greatest neighborhood and the energy is infectious! In those moments that you need to retreat, Central Park will be the perfect haven! All the very best with your upcoming move!

    Welcome to New York!

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this, Jacinda! I’m coming around to the same perspective on the UWS — excited to see what awaits us around the corner, and the Park is soon to be such a spectacular part of our life. You’re making me very excited 🙂 Thanks for reading, for the well-wishes, and for the warm welcome!

  6. Aaah, I’m a bit behind on my blog reading (just started grad school and poof, there goes all my free time) and I missed this NYC announcement! Congrats, so exciting!! I had to chuckle a bit as I read your update (laughing with you, not at you of course!). That sounds very, very…par for the course in New York. And even though it is unpleasant, I think that it is good that your relocation journey has been a bit of a roller coaster. Because while NYC is for sure my favorite place on earth, the greatest city in the world (“greatest city in the wooorld!”), it can also at times be a very hard place to live. And it’s best to go into it with eyes wide open and realistic expectations. Real estate (as you are learning) is absolutely insane. The subway system is a miracle but it is also falling apart and can try anyone’s patience (and nearly impossible for strollers, such a shame). Grocery shopping can be a full body contact sport. Everything (the restaurants, apartments, stores) is too small. Garbage days in August are a special kind of hell. BUT. There is an energy in NYC that is like nothing else in the world. And the best of absolutely everything — museums, theater, restaurants, shopping. Exploring all of the neighborhoods, meeting great people, having an amazing night on the town — such a rush. And you will have many days of strolling up Broadway or walking past the park and think “I can’t believe I live here!!”. My first apartment in NY was on the UWS and it is an excellent choice. A relatively soft place to land, convenient to everything, traditional but not too stuffy. And fall on the UWS…so romantic! You will fall in love, it will be the best — can’t wait to hear all about it!

    1. AH, so much wisdom here, Alison — I love you for writing this: “It’s best to go into it with eyes wide open and realistic expectations.” It’s a good reminder to keep a sense of perspective. So much of NYC feels like pure magic from afar (and, I’m sure, up close, as you noted, too) — but there are lots of complexities and nuances to wrap my head around, especially with a baby in tow. (I will say that the number of moms I saw making it work gave me a lot of hope — I will figure it out, I will do it!) Will definitely keep eyes AND heart open with this move!

      ALSO — grad school!!! What are you pursuing?!?!

  7. Omg, Bouchon At least you were conveniently located near a J.Crew?! Those are the moments I try to embrace and look at as an excuse to go shopping.

    Good luck with the apartment! I was listening to T. Swift’s “Welcome to New York” the other day and thinking of you!

  8. 1) Welcome to the UWS! If you need any help with kid’s classes, best times to go to Whole Foods, and restaurants, I’m here for you.
    2) These are all travel picks. Packing cubes are my jam.
    3) My Kindle is my favorite thing ever. Currently reading The Rise And Fall Of D.O.D.O and it’s hilarious, strange, and completely addictive.

    1. Hi Hitha! Thanks so much for the kind offer — I will need to hit you up for all of these things and more. Had not heard of that book but have added it to my ever expanding reading list!!! Thank you!

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