Thinking of what to pack for ease and security; Philadelphia's Pridefest; three cheers for American Airlines.
Above: Pack Light! It's always good advice, and if you try to board this gondola with three suitcases, you'll know why.
The author: Sasha Alyson is the founder of Alyson Publications, the country's leading publisher of gay and lesbian books. He sold that company in 1995 to start Alyson Adventures, which specializes in active and adventure vacations for gay men and lesbians.
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Pack light! That's common travel advice -- and it's good advice. But packing smart is equally important. I asked several experienced lesbian and gay travelers for tips about what to take along. Here are their best non-obvious suggestions.
Marie, in Chicago, never hits the road without several large Ziploc bags for wet towels, bathing suits, bottles of shampoo or suntan lotion that might leak, and as a guaranteed dry spot for books, wallet, and other valuables.
Brian, in Boston, sings the praises of a solid black t-shirt and pair of pants. "It never ceases to amaze me how dressed up you can look wearing something so simple," he said. "Plus black doesn't show the wear as much as lighter colors."
Melissa, an Australian friend, once had everything stolen on a train in India. She now photocopies her passport, plane ticket, travelers check numbers, and credit cards. One photocopy goes with her, but separate from those items. Another she leaves with a friend at home.
Cliff, in Calgary, rips the necessary pages out of his guidebook rather than carting along the entire book. "The books get outdated so quickly you generally buy new ones for your next trip anyway."
Most travelers keep travel documents and valuables in a fannypack or moneybelt. Fannypacks are more comfortable and convenient; a moneybelt, worn under your clothes, is most secure. If you leave your moneybelt in a hotel safe, put it in a sealed envelope first to prevent the hotel staff from undue temptation.
Two things to leave at home are expensive jewelry and original address books. Jewelry is too much worry, and irreplaceable address books get lost all too often. In this computer age, put your address book onto the computer and take along a print-out or labels for the people to whom you'll send postcards.
Peggy, a friend with the propensity to shop, always takes an empty canvas bag so that purchases can be carried aboard the plane in a single sturdy sack.
One final travel tip comes from my friend Doug, in Atlanta, who travels with clothes he no longer wears and discards them along the way. He leaves the clothes next to the waste basket in his hotel, in the event the maid wants them. He marks them in the local language for "garbage," a practice he initiated after a hotel in Italy mailed his discarded clothes back to him, billing his credit card for the postage!
The City of Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love will host the fifth annual Pridefest Philadelphia, from Wednesday, May 7 to Sunday, May 11. The five-day festival bills itself as the one of the most comprehensive gay and lesbian events in the world.
This year, PrideFest '97 will feature more than one hundred workshops, parties, athletic competitions, religious services, speeches, and dances. Last year's event attracted more than 30,000 people, and organizers expect a significant increase this year due to national promotion efforts, and because the event overlaps with the annual convention of the International Gay Travel Association (IGTA), also being held in Philadelphia.
Athletic events will include the national gay and lesbian body-building competition, a national Frontrunners "Race for the Cure" to benefit breast cancer, and a FINS swimming competition.
Social highlights will be the parties held each night, especially the separate Girl Fever and men's Midnight Rites parties on Saturday night. SundayOUT! is the all-day street fest that closes Pridefest.
Pridefest has also organized a major collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which will host a major exhibit of the works of Michelangelo, arguably history's most famous and talented gay artist.
A $5 registration fee enables PrideFest goers to take part in most activities, with parties and social events costing extra. The fee is waived for those unable to pay. For information call (215) 732-FEST; a website and toll-free information line will be set up soon.
As a growing number of companies recognize the size of the gay marketplace, American Airlines has become the first airline and the first company in the Fortune 100 to have a specific marketing department devoted exclusively to gay and lesbian consumers.
American, which has been named the top gay-friendly airline two years in a row by the gay travel newsletter Out & About, now has five full-time sales managers concentrating on the lesbian and gay market.
Other airlines and companies will undoubtedly follow suit. But American is first. Let's give a tip of the tray table to American for their efforts.
Next Month: Gay Hawaii and International Mr. Leather Festival.