Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Please Pack Less!

As I mentioned before, I currently sell luggage for a living and have been doing so for the past 18 months. In that time, I have not found a charming way to advise my customers to pack less. Packing less would make travel easier in multiple ways that I will discuss here. If I ever mentioned it before to a customer I felt really comfortable with, I was met with a blank stare. Americans sure like to take everything with them. How dare I suggest such a thing! And you know you don't use half the stuff you pack! Is there a way to give this advice and not seem so offensive? I feel like it is important travel advice and a disservice not to be offering it. At least I get to dish it out on my blog!

When people come to see me, they primarily fly when they travel and are very concerned with not incurring an overweight baggage fee on their future trips (think $50 each way). So, as a solution, they ask for a lightweight suitcase. Perhaps the last time they purchased luggage was 15 years ago and their piece topped 18 pounds so shopping for a lighter one is logical. Lucky for them, the industry is responding to this demand and is making lighter luggage, so I am happy to show my guests lightweight options. But, currently the lightest 28" piece of luggage in my store is 10 pounds and the heaviest 29" is like 16. That's not a major difference. (Duffels do not provide as much protection for your stuff as a suitcase, but without material plastic structure, they weigh even less.)  The way to take significant weight off a bag is to pack less.

The airlines are being ridiculous with their a la carte fees. That's true. ...but I just don't see that changing, so why don't we adapt? Effectively. Plus, why would you want to go on a relaxing vacation only to be burdened by your heavy luggage? Make it easier and cheaper on yourself by packing less. This is your golden opportunity to be creative! To make most of what you pack do double duty. Business trips and cruises can be challenges because they require both nice and casual clothing, but you can still do it. On my business trip in September, for example, if I wore a sweater, jeans and boots to get there, I simply traded the jeans for a skirt for dinner, and that's just an example from the first day. I only packed half a 25" tall suitcase for the whole trip, a three-day conference where not once did I feel deprived. My female guests jokingly wonder aloud if a piece can possibly hold all their shoes. Shoes are heavy, ladies! Coordinate outfits with fewer shoe options. Neutrals go with anything. On a trip, you can limit color in the clothing you take so you can easily mix and match. ...which is in line with my latest values of a minimalist closet. If you're going someplace tropical, how much clothing do you need? I mean really.

I am thinking of taking a small 19" carry-on for a weekend trip later this month, and that would include taking an elaborate wedding gift, though maybe that'll go in another bag? One of my cute totes. It is just train and bus travel to get there, no dealing with airlines and their restrictions. I am also debating whether I should just take my carry-on or that plus an empty checked piece for my trip to Italy, which would be 6 days, 5 nights including travel time. A larger checked piece would be intended for souvenirs or the clothing displaced by souvenirs in my carry-on, but being on such a budget, I might not end up buying a lot. Plus the souvenirs I want to buy are glass which I would ever have shipped with insurance or pack in my carry-on.

I work in a luggage store and don't even own a 29" suitcase (which is a standard large and is not considered oversized by the airlines. And, yes, there such a thing as a oversize baggage fee too.). Through my travel experience, I've learned to pack less and just wouldn't use that size anymore.  If I went abroad for a long while, I still wouldn't. I'm a skinny girl, I couldn't lift a heavy, packed 29" case to put it over my seat on the train to go from one city to the next! I would take a week's worth of clothing and hit the laundromat. While there I could ask a local for a great restaurant recommendation, which is very through the back door. I recommend the next size down, a 25". A 29" invites you to fill all that empty space and when you fill it completely, you may be overweight. You want everything to be snug because when clothing is condensed, it doesn't have a chance to change shape, creating folds and wrinkles in transit. Having wrinkle-free clothing when you arrive is nice.

I leave you guys with the golden rule of packing:

Lay out all the clothing and all the money you want to take on a trip on your bed. Then, take half the clothing and double the money.


  1. Great advice! Packing makes me a nervous wreck. I like the convenience of the rolling carry on, but sometimes prefer to take my longchamp large zippered tote with a shoulder strap. It's heavy to carry around in the airports but the trade off is, it fits under the seat in front of me and I don't have to worry about the inevitable running out of overhead bin space that happens so often. Sigh...I wish flying were as chic and glamorous as it once was so long ago.

  2. Grazie Stephanie! Travel is hectic enough, I hope I can help make it more fun. I think this series will turn out well...

    Just taking a carry-on or even one that fits under the seat in front of you is another post! I wish flying was as it used to be too... And I hear so many horror stories about how baggage handlers destroy luggage at work that if I can get there by bus or train fairly easily, I will.