Spectacles, testi…

When I travel – especially when it involves airplanes – I try to pack as light as possible. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly put together a travel capsule wardrobe that makes packing easier and gives me a number of mix-and-match outfit choices. My capsule is primarily made up of three colors that work well together and integrate with my clothing at home (most of these clothes are part of my everyday wardrobe, not ones that I only wear when I travel). My chosen travel colors are navy, gray, and purple/raspberry. Others might choose black, white, and red (or some other accent color). Pinterest and certain fashion blogs are a great resource for more information.

One thing I don’t usually carry when I travel is a big purse. I much prefer a small cross-body bag for my cash, a small notebook, and (minimal) personal items. I also carry a smaller cross-body pouch for my iPhone (which I like to keep handy for picture-taking).

Because these “accoutrements” – the two smaller bags in place of one larger purse (plus, whatever else I might have, like a map or my DSLR) – are not what I’m used to carrying, I have to be careful not to misplace anything along the way. After eating a meal in a restaurant or attending an event, I try to be extra-deliberate about gathering everything up before I leave.

I call this mental sweeping process I go through to assure I have everything: “Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this saying, here’s the background (hopefully no one is offended):

A priest and a rabbi are on a plane, when the captain makes an announcement: “We are experiencing engine trouble and have to make an emergency landing. This could be rough.” As they are landing, the turbulence is terrible and the priest notices the rabbi making the sign of the cross.

Fortunately, the plane lands safely and, as they are disembarking, the priest says to the rabbi, “so, when the chips are down, you acknowledge Jesus?” The rabbi looks confused, so the priest says that he saw him making the sign of the cross. “Oh that,” says the rabbi, “I’m just checking my inventory: spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.”

Apparently, the line is also found in at least two movies: Nuns on the Run and an Austin Powers film.

Although not anatomically correct for me (nor do I carry a watch), this little ditty runs through my head as I check to make sure I don’t leave any of my items behind.

So far, it has worked every time and has helped to remind me more than once to grab my sunglasses before leaving.

Whatever works.

Author: Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

80 thoughts on “Spectacles, testi…”

  1. Since, as we approached the Swiss border, I found I’d left my small handbag (with passport) hanging on the back of a chair in France 100km away, I definitely do that sweep you’re talking about. It was still there when we drove back…

  2. I think I recognize your jacket. I have one like it that I use for travel cause it has lots of pockets. I once went to Europe for three weeks with my carry-on and a tote. Love to travel light.

    1. Unfortunately, it’s not one of those with the multiple pockets. I’ve heard good things about “Scottevests” that are supposed to be great for traveling – especially with the size/weight restrictions on airplanes.

  3. You have stirred a wonderful memory of the man who first told me that joke. He made the sign differently, ending with the boy-parts, and he used a thick German accent. It was good to think about him. Thanks for the memory jog.

  4. You nearly outshined the bougainvillaea 🙂 I agree with your travel advise. As you know, we have to accommodate four seasons into our one bag each. It is easy. Just have to be good at wearing the same top for a while!

    1. Accommodating four seasons would be tough. Normally, the most I have to worry about is two… and that can be a challenge. I have noticed that in some of my posts about various travel adventures, I’m wearing the same top… that’s what I get for having one travel wardrobe that I keep packing 🙂 .

      1. Had to laugh at the top been in quite a few photos, yes we have the same problem. Not quite a problem, it just looks like we don’t change our clothes, we do 🙂

  5. Funny, I was reading a book last night that included the same ditty. Imagine my surprise to see it as a blog title this morning 😀

    I am the WORST for not travelling light. Even a day trip by bike, or hiking, has me packing for every possible scenario, including 2 of everything … you know, just in case. I acknowledge I need to take a lighter approach and I like your idea of a standardized colour palette of mix-and-match items.

    1. That is funny! Quite a coincidence. I’ve gotten better about traveling light but I still pack too much of one thing, and not enough of another. Shoes are my biggest downfall. Standardizing colors has really helped me.

  6. Cute story have never heard of it. I must say I was wondering what this story was about when I read testicles.. Of course as a woman I would have thought don’t forget your Husband 😉 I have a small bag with a long strap that I use similar to yours but mine snaps into a larger bag which i do take that one too it holds my reading material, water, tissue, a wrap and other needed items !

    1. I’m always rethinking and adjusting my travel gear for the optimum ease and convenience. Your bag within a bag sounds interesting. I do include my husband in my sweep to make sure he has everything too… and that I don’t leave him behind either 😀. Thanks for your comment!

  7. LOVE the joke. I’ve been using that mnemonic for years – but not for myself – for hubby – it is he who has a need to carry his watch, wallet and cell phone everywhere – even if we are going for a walk around the block.

  8. Oh, that’s a keeper! I have never heard that phrase before, but it is already embedded in my brain. While only three of the four inventory items are relevant, the fourth can be a stand-in for all the other items I allow to scatter around me as I travel. Thanks for giving me a big smile this morning, Janis!

    1. Since my cross-body bags all hang more or less around that region, it still works for me! I hope the ditty will help keep you organized while traveling… it has saved me from leaving things behind a few times.

  9. When I traveled I always did the coordinating color thing too. Eliminated unnecessary shoes too. In fact, I have those same shoes you are wearing.

    1. I bought those shoes from The Walking Store just before we left on our trip – they were great for walking on cobblestones. Having a color pallet when I’m traveling has really cut down on the number of shoes I bring (and on the packing disagreements my husband – who doesn’t understand the importance of having the right shoes for every occasion – and I had).

      1. Not the same shoes. Mine were Easy Spirits. I keep looking at The Walking Store and they look like wonderfully comfortable shoes. I know about the disagreements. My husband couldn’t figure out why I needed 5 pair of shoes for a week long beach trip. Truth be told, I couldn’t figure it out either except that they were different colors and of course a pair of sneakers and water shoes.

  10. That’s so funny, Janis. Now, do you make a cross or another hand gesture as well? I recognize the feeling, when I carry a small purse around. I”m not used to anything other than stuff in my pockets or a backpack – which Mark usually carries, so I have to be mindful as well, when leaving benches or restaurants. I did lose my sunglasses in Iceland recently, because I was not used to carrying them with me. Maybe I should start using your line… I love the color combination with purple, my favorite!

    1. It is so easy to get distracted when traveling. The ditty helps to focus me on making sure I have everything I need. Just think, if you started out with “Spectacles…” you would have remembered your sunglasses! I’m a big fan of purple too… such a happy color.

  11. I love it! I can’t remember when I first heard that little ditty, but I think it was in the earl 70s and I had never heard its origination story. Try as I may to come up with the perfect travel wardrobe, I always seem to have too many or too few clothes. Usually, too many.

    1. It’s so hard to estimate all the clothes (and shoes) you’ll need on a trip – especially when you expect a change in weather. After the trip, I normally have a few things I didn’t wear, and several things I wish I had brought with me. When I started to use a specific color combination, it really helped to streamline the packing process.

  12. Good tips. I usually do the same with pieces that mix, match and layer well together. Enjoyed hearing that joke again, it has been awhile.

    1. Mixing and matching is key! And, layering when the weather changes is definitely the way to go. I love that silly joke, and the ditty has helped me not to forget things – especially my glasses – more than once.

    1. For some silly reason, my husband doesn’t like it when I try to pack my whole shoe collection (especially when we are traveling in his sports car). Now, I can take just a few pairs (although I always try to sneak in more if I can get away with it) for a multi-week trip.

  13. That’s too funny! Love it! And, as hard as I try to limit my packing, my biggest issue is also shoes. This time we went hiking so I needed hiking boots. I always taking tennis shoes so I can power walk. I had to take two kinds of sandals (brown and black), and comfy shoes for indoors. It’s more fun to go by car so I can include everything I want. Kudos to you.

    1. Road trips do make packing a little easier. I am in awe of those who can pack everything in a carry-on that they need (and, of course, we do need that many shoes, right?) for a multi-month, multi-climate trip.

  14. I HAVE heard that before but not in a LONG time so thanks for reminding me. I never carry a handbag when we travel ( which is often) so when we stop somewhere for an extended time or we are visiting in the U.S. and I use one, I inevitably leave it places !! The sweep idea is a great one- great approach!

    Traveling light means less choices and less choices means easier! Ha


    1. You are so right about that! When you only have a few things to choose from, getting dressed is a breeze. Even at home – where I have a whole closet full of clothes – I end up wearing a small percentage of what I have.

  15. hehehe yup. I have a hiker friend who calls his routine the “wanderer wiggle.” It’s not as ceremonial-more of a wiping/patting/wiggling motion to kale sure nothing important is going to fall out when its time to get moving.

  16. I’m also a light packer (pink, white and tan for summer trips, pink, gray and black for winter trips). I, too, never use a big purse when I travel (or ever, really). I prefer a backpack (even when I am not hiking) or a small cross/body pouch. I am very familiar with the spectacles/phone/watch/wallet inventory….as I do it all of the time for my husband (who has a tendency to leave things behind)! I hadn’t heard this joke before…I will definitely be borrowing it. Enjoy your travels. Please share lots of pics!

    1. I’m not surprised that you have travel packing down to a science. I like carrying a backpack too – it holds a lot and is easy on your shoulders. Hopefully both of us will have lots of pictures and memories to share after our summer travels are over.

  17. Love the joke, Janis, but especially appreciated your accounting of what you pack for travelling. I’ve done a ton of travelling for both work and pleasure and pride myself on fitting everything into a carry-on softsided Lug bag that is small enough to go under the seat in front of me. My favourite travel under these circumstances was two weeks in California where I took underwear and socks that were nearing the end of their lives and, at the end of each day, threw them away. That emptied my bag so nicely that I could buy new underwear, new socks, and a few new t-shirts and gifts to carry home. It was so much fun!

    1. That’s a good idea! I try to pack undies that can be hand washed and dry very quickly. I wish I had known about travel capsule wardrobes when I was traveling for business. I was always envious of my male colleagues when could pack one suit and just change their tie each day.

  18. Interesting to see how you and some others put thought into what you pack. I guess I am not as organized – maybe I should be? I just make sure I have the correct clothes, not so much color coordinating.

    1. I didn’t used to be so organized but I discovered that having a color capsule helped so much, especially in the number of shoes I need. Now, it’s a breeze to pack (although like I mentioned to someone else, I tend to be wearing the same thing in my travel photos from trip to trip 😀). Thanks for your comment!

  19. I don’t carry a big purse when I fly, either. But then I don’t fly much, precisely b/c I’m worried about the engine trouble and the emergency landing.

    1. Flying isn’t my favorite thing, but I do it to get somewhere I want to be. I usually end up carrying a backpack on the plane – way better than a purse (and it would go better with the rest of your outfit 😀).

  20. Your post covered the packing clothing issue well! I just wrote a post on long-flight essentials  http://www.sixsaturdaysandasunday.com/test-travel/ Check it out!

  21. I’ve never heard that saying before… which is saying something considering the name of my blog. I’m not good at packing light, I worry too much about not having the right things so I overpack. You inspire me to do better.

    1. I’m not the best at traveling light, but my husband says that I’m in charge of lifting my own suitcase, so I do my best. And, in reality, I can get by wearing just a few things – it’s surprising how little attention other people pay to what I’m wearing 🙃

  22. Just back from a 20 day trip where we had a limited luggage requirement (33 pounds total – checked and carry-on). Unfortunately it was also no dark blue or black – my go to colors – because those colors attract tsetse flies nor any bright colors (safari requests khaki and beige so you blend in). Quite the challenge on packing. I choose lilac as my color pop, with quick dry as my must-have element for overnight washing/drying. I had a small, lightweight cross-body bag that I never removed during the day. Cargo pockets on my pants for reading glasses and the (might need, did need) packet of tissue and hand wipes. I am thinking of investing in larger cross-body for future; I ended up carrying a lightweight back-pack most days – camera, binoculars, small med-kit (helpful multiple days for either me or a fellow traveler), rain jacket some days/light polar fleece others, lightweight scarf (useful for so many things). I was surprised how I could get by with 3 pair of pants, 4 T-shirts, 2 long-sleeves and 2 pair of foot wear (walking shoes & flip flops) for almost 3 weeks! I’ve never been a light packer, but this forced it on me and I think it will help for future trips. I like your “travel capsule” phrase.

    1. I hope that you write a separate post just about what you packed and what did and didn’t work. I’d love to travel to Africa one day and your packing suggestions would really come in handy – for me and others.

  23. Janis, I am glad you clarified the ritual at the end. I kept rereading to see if testicles referred to a descriptive nickname of another product. You are a smart packet for either gender. Keith

  24. Haha, love your priest and rabbi story. For years when I was working (but I am retired now — yay!), I always carried three things with me when I left work at the end of the day. Usually they were my briefcase, my purse, and my keys. If, for some reason, I had a fourth item, like sunglasses, or a sweater that I needed in the morning but was too warm to wear home, invariably I would forget the fourth item. My brain was programmed for three things only! When I had more than three items, I learned to reduce the items I had to carry to three — e.g., put the sunglasses on my head; stuff the sweater in my briefcase; put the keys in my pocket — so that I would not have to backtrack from the parking lot to go get my missing item.


  25. I have never heard that saying but roared when I read this and will remember it always from here. You offer very wise packing advice. I had to become a pro at packing light when I brought most of my belongings (including foul weather gear) to SY Amandla in one suit case. Of course, I have accumulated a bit since then, but I tend to throw something out when I buy something new, and only buy something new when the old is hanging together by threads. We are doing a bit of land travel now usings backpacks (The Captain’s idea not mine, but surprisingly, it is working out better than I thought) and so again I am forced to travel light. Lovely to see your smiling face in this post!

    1. We just returned from another trip where that little ditty again came in handy. Because this latest trip had several different climate zones and levels of dress, I packed a bit more than I should have (“you never know…”). I’ve never packed my stuff in just a backpack… I wonder how I would do?

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