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July 14, 1991|JERRY HULSE

I travel light. One carry-on bag/a garment bag. That's it. Period. Makes customs a breeze when my flight arrives overseas (or back in the United States). While others stand in line waiting for their luggage to be off-loaded, I slip through customs in a flash. Most travelers pack too much (unless they're on a cruise where you unpack once and the hassle is over until you disembark). Flying or traveling by land is something else. Loads of luggage can ruin an otherwise well-planned trip. If you're doing Europe and traveling to a different destination daily, you'll need only a couple of outfits. The hotel where you're staying tonight won't have a clue as to what you wore last night. So wear the same outfit if you wish. My rule is one suit, a sport coat/slacks, plus a couple of pairs of casual slacks, a few wash-and-wear shirts. This goes in the garment bag. Shoes, shorts, toilet articles are packed in the carry-on bag along with a camera and other incidentals. The same rule applies to women. Two or three (well, maybe four) outfits in the garment bag and everything else in the carry-on bag.

Besides the daily frustration of packing/unpacking, you'll have extra room in your rental car. Or if traveling by train, you'll save on tips to porters (who frequently aren't around in the first place).

Here's a tip for packing: Lay out everything you feel is necessary, then begin eliminating. You'll be surprised how much you'll lighten the load. The one item, though, no one should leave behind: a pair of comfortable walking shoes. But get in the habit of eliminating unnecessary clothing while packing.

Checklist: I've mentioned it before, but it's worth repeating: Prepare a checklist. Write down everything you'll need for your trip. Frequently, travelers leave behind such simple items as toothbrushes and bottles of shampoos. And such necessary items as passports and traveler's checks. Mentally dress yourself head to toe, listing items as you go. Afterward, make another list of daily needs and add these (shaving cream, cosmetics, hair brushes, etc.). At the same time, leave behind a separate list reminding you of tasks that will await you after the trip is over: bills that must be paid, telephone calls that must be made, the start-up of your newspaper, etc.

Islands: It's called Island Dreams Travel and the company is based in, of all places, Texas. But don't let that discourage you. Island Dreams spans out to dozens of destinations. Aruba, Belize, Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, the United States and British Virgin Islands, Cozumel, Australia, Micronesia, Melanesia. This is one of the nation's leading dive operators. Both land and live-aboard (boat) adventures. High on the list of exotic destinations is Borneo. Cozumel and Grand Cayman are heavily favored with divers. Owner Ken Knezick of Island Dreams has logged more than 1,500 dives. Knezick employs only experienced divers in his office. (Manager Kathryn Nichols began diving off Cozumel four years ago.) Knezick's personnel have dived every destination sold by Island Dreams. The company offers water-sports adventures worldwide. Individual itineraries or group travel. In Hawaii, a one-week dive package aboard a sailing vessel to the major islands figures out to $1,900, including accommodations, all meals, diving equipment. Yachts carry 14 to 20 passengers.

Details from Island Dreams Travel, 8582 Katy Freeway, Suite 118, Houston, Tex. 77024, (800) 346-6116.

Jamaica Holiday: A new resort on the beach in Jamaica. Small, intimate. Only 15 rooms. It's at Negril. Driving time: about 90 minutes from Montego Bay International Airport (five minutes from Negril's airport). This is on the island's west coast. The resort is called Sea Splash. A two-story, colonial-style building with a red tile roof. Surrounded by palm trees. Faces a sugar-fine white-sand beach. Magnificent sunsets, starry nights. Rooms (named for island flowers) feature balconies, kitchenettes, central air conditioning, ceiling fans, color TV. Daily maid service, complimentary bicycles, a swimming pool. The menu at Sea Splash lists European/classical dishes, Jamaican specialties. A friend tells how he "feels at home" at Sea Splash. Informal dress. Occasional live entertainment.

Sea Splash Resort, Negril, Jamaica, West Indies, (809) 957-4041 . Rates: $115 single, $175 double, plus tax/service. Add $52 per person for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Other details on Jamaica's resorts from the Jamaica Tourist Board, 3440 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1207, Los Angeles 90010, (213) 384-1123.

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