Packing luggage for developers

Recently, I moved from London, pending a further move across the ocean to Canada (hear that, recruiters? Stop calling me!). In the process, I had to sell, Freecycle and plain old recycle an astonishing amount of stuff. And also pack 3 suitcases worth of other stuff (that most mythical of substances). 105 kgs, if my sleep deprived brain is still any good at arithmetics.

In packing all this stuff, I learned a few lessons.

Architecture

When considering the task of packing so many clothes, I discovered vacuum bags. They are a really powerful tool in your packing toolbelt (along with extra large suitcases!) and can give you that extra bit of space you always need. Doing your research pays off later on (not doing it can hit you at the last moment but more on that later).

Iterate, iterate, iterate

This is easier said than done when it comes to moving around an extraordinate number of shirts and T-shirts and winter clothes and whatnot.

However, like in software, the process of packing can be massively optimised if you iterate over the initial solution. This way, you will reach the local maximum relatively quickly.

When faced with a bug, find the core problem

When writing software, it’s very tempting to work around a bug rather than fix the core cause. Is that a race condition? Just add a sleep() here and there and that will fix it.

The last night of packing, after a long, long day, I hit a roadblock. For some reason, I didn’t feel like I was saving space with these bags. In fact, I tested it out by taking out the items out of a few bags and they most definitely fit in the suitcase, whereas the full bags didn’t! Something was awfully wrong here!

Like in software, there is a simple solution to hard problems - just take out some clothes from their bags and stuff them in the holes your methodology leaves so that you fully use all the space. The temptation to do just that was overwhelming my exhausted brain but I resisted the urge.

Instead, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I saw my critical mistake. I was packing the clothes in piles, putting them in the bags and taking out the air. The result was a bag, hard as a stone, with a bumpy surface and space between the piles. Take two or three such bags next to each other and you lose a ton of space from the bumps and troughs.

The solution is simple - don’t fold the clothes but aim for a smooth-surfaced bag. I should’ve probably read the manual.

Shipped is better than perfect

When I finally found myself at Luton Airport (after a closed M25 due to a lorry on fire and an insanely good driver who knew the back roads like the back of his hand), I thought I was Done, capital D.

Nope.

The digital scale that I used to measure my luggage must be really innaccurate (or is it imprecise?) since one of the suitcases ended up being 34kg. As the WizzAir lady kindly informed me, it is the Law, good sir, and the Law says that anything above 32kg is illegal in the UK, whether you are willing to pay for it or not and that’s that.

Flustered, I tore off half of the packaging on one of the suitcases, took out my toiletries and a few shoes out and stuffed them in my carry on. I was the last to check in on the flight, 10 mins to boarding, the lady informed me.

Running and facing security unprepared for liquids in my carry on, I had to dump most of them in the bins provided because of the stupid 100ml rule (I’m still pissed off about that!). Luckily, I have the little plastic bags ready on a moment’s notice, so laptop in hand, liquids in bag, removing my belt on the way, I rushed through the Priority Lane for security and was at the gate in no time at all.

Management lies

Yeah, we didn’t start boarding until half an hour later. Filthy liars.


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