Packing your suitcase for a trip is the moment that brings all of the future planning into the present. It’s the last part of the trip that you can completely control. You can’t be sure the plane leaves on time or what the weather will be, but you can pack a good book to read whilst stuck waiting or a favorite sweater to keep warm in the evenings. Looking into your closet you have to decide what to take from your world into this new world you are visiting.
For me, packing throughout the years has become a study in minimization and being more agile when I travel. The first trip that I orchestrated was our honeymoon to Jamaica and St. Lucia for 9 days. With naivety we packed two large suitcases, two carry-ons, and a backpack. Looking back it was amazing the amount of stuff we felt we needed to bring with us on that trip, especially considering we spent the majority of the time lounging on the beach. What happened is that we fell into the trap of convincing ourselves that we needed a different outfit for everyday and we should have an outfit for any situation.
For our next trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for 7 days, we still packed an excessive amount of stuff! We essentially dragged along half of our closet with us across the Gulf of Mexico. What made these trips unique in our young traveling lives is that they were to resorts, which is a very stationary way to travel. We were picked up at the airport and dropped off at the resort for the duration of the trip. Any additional tour we took would be day trips from the resort, so we would only be bringing along a backpack.
However, that all changed after coming home from our Mexican trip when I realized that I only used half the stuff I brought with us. What spurred me on further and gave me the inspiration to try to limit myself to a carry-on per trip was when I stumbled upon Rick Steves’ guide for Ireland. His idea of just bringing a carry-on bag piqued my interest because I’m a stickler for efficiency. Another reason this idea appealed to me was that, in Ireland, there would be no resort, no pick-up at the airport. We would be responsible for each bag we brought with us. This was the beginning of our more open style of travel. From the airport we would be taking the city bus from the airport to our hotel, so we would be in charge of dragging along our own bags. Additionally, we would be visiting three cities and staying in four different hotels, so being more mobile would be critical.
So began the difficult task of cutting our luggage by more than half. I took to Google with fervor to learn the ways of efficient travel. These are the most important facts I’ve learned so far:
- First I learned was no more packing for what-if’s or having a multitude of outfits to choose from. It was supposed to be cool on our trip, so no packing shorts; I would just be stuck if it got hot, which it did for a day.
- Second, was to choose clothes that would all go together. Leave your bright Hawaiian shirts at home and select neutral shades such as black, tan, white, gray, or navy blue. Or like my wife did you can choose a color scheme of three to four colors and ensure that all of your clothes are interchangeable.
- Lastly, the normal way of folding clothes into luggage was inefficient and to get the most out of the space, rolling the clothes would be best.
I’m proud to say that packing for that trip went off without a hitch with our rolling carry-on suitcases. We didn’t miss any of the extra clothes and the portability made getting around Ireland that much easier.
For those worried about not bringing your usual checked bag, here is some information that has consoled me in shrinking my luggage. First and foremost you can purchase almost anything you need at your destination. With TSA rules in place about liquids and aerosols, I just purchase shaving creams and other toiletries at my destination. If there is a sudden cold snap buy yourself a souvenir coat/sweater. Rick Steves made the point that he would rather buy something new in the location he visits versus dragging it around with him on the off chance that he might need to use it.
After Ireland our next trip was to London and Paris for two weeks, so we would have the added adventure of doing our laundry on the road. This simple task was made more exciting by trying to figure out what laundry detergent was in French, leading to the purchase of fabric softener. Unfortunately, unlike in Ireland this trip didn’t go off without a hitch. In London we were fine, although it was tough to squeeze our bags with us on the Underground. Paris meanwhile, was not so smooth. If you have ever traveled to Paris then you know the Metro has a lot of stairs. The stairs seem to go up, just to go back down for no reason and it got incredibly exhausting. Dragging along these carry-ons wore us down and the decision was made in a silent majority that we would be using backpacks next time.
So currently I am in search of a quality backpack that will last and will meet the size requirements of airline carry-on.