Packing light is one of the biggest challenges facing Cat 6 space a travelers. While larger aircraft allow two 70lb bags per passenger for checked luggage, there are also many that limit bags to 50, or even 30lbs total! The heavier your bags, the more limited your flight opportunities, so it’s important to learn to pack light. No matter where we travel, we stay below the 30lb threshold!
Aside from the checked baggage issue, there is also the reality that throughout Europe and most other countries, schlepping heavy suitcases up and down steps for trains or buses, through hotels with many floors but no elevators, and into, out of, and around numerous terminals and stations is no picnic. The less you have to cart around, the happier you’ll be.
I’ve developed a set of rules for myself to help me stay within weight limits and still have sufficient clothing and supplies for my journey:
Rule #1: Never pack for more than a week, no matter how long the trip.
Rule #2: Every single item of clothing must work with every other item.
Rule #3: If I’m not SURE I’m going to wear and item at least three times, it doesn’t go.
Rule #4: Take the skirt; leave the dress.
Rule #5: Two pairs of shoes – total! No more!
Rule #6: Don’t pack any supplies I can find on the local economy (see below).
Rule #7: Layer! Layer! Layer!
One thing to consider before starting on the suitcase is what to wear on the plane. The decision can either expand your options beyond what’s in your luggage, or cause you to spend your trip lugging around clothing that is destined to languish in the suitcase, taking up space and weighing it down. I cannot advise strongly enough against traveling in schlumpy sweats or other similar items! They may seem comfy, and they may be all right for a quick trip to Wal Mart or if you’re traveling domestically and being picked up directly from the terminal. But, really, outside our borders, they’re a “NO”. Do you see yourself strolling down the grand boulevards of Europe in this type of clothing? You shouldn’t! Consider your travel wear part of your packing. Make sure it conforms to rules 2 and 3, above.
Speaking of what not to wear and in keeping with Rule #6, here is a list of things that are, for me, things not to pack:
Shampoo – I buy it as needed on the road
Hair dryer – most hotels have them or I do without (I do take a travel-size curling iron)
Contact lenses and supplies – just wear glasses!
Health and beauty products and toiletries (tooth paste, mouth wash, hand lotion, hair spray, etc.)
Separate navigation device – I download maps onto my smart phone and use that
Books and travel guides. Yes, I know you like a “real” book, but accommodation must be made. I download books from my local library onto my mobile device instead. I also download digital travel guides, podcasts, audio tours (again, Rick Steves is a good source: www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-tours ), maps, and other pertinent information. The Triposo App ( www.triposo.com ) is a FABulous resource!
The type of luggage you use can make a difference for the weight allowance, before anything is even packed into it. My suitcase is an extremely lightweight Traveler’s Choice Freedom series (available at several web sites) hard-side 21” rolling case. In addition, I carry an Eagle Creek mini day pack I got at REI (http://www.rei.com/product/866261/eagle-creek-rfid-travel-bug-mini-daypack ) as my carry on. My Sponsor checks a small, soft-sided suit case – which is really more like a multi-compartment, glorified heavy duty packing cube – and uses a small duffel bag (our “C 17 Bag”) which contains our cargo plane supplies: self-inflating camping pad, fleece throw, fleece vests, small camping pillow, and his long underwear shirt and lightweight windbreaker, as his carry on. His supplies all fit in the leftover interior room and outer pockets (one on each end, a larger one in front). Everything we need for our adventures fits into these four bags. The total weight for each of us ranges between 24 and 29lbs. We can get on any plane that comes our way, and have no trouble wrangling luggage while on the ground.
Next (Later today! I promise!): the Packing List!