9 April 2015

Travelling light - the pros and cons

Small blue suitcase, carry-on luggage
My trusty carry-on bag,
weighing in at 1.6 kg empty.
The colour has grown on me.
Having a daughter who lives overseas and a husband who would like to do the same means I've done quite a bit of travelling in the last few years. By a process of trial and error, I've learned the benefits of travelling with a single carry-on suitcase and a small handbag, no matter where I'm going or for how long. Heck, I'm famous for it!

On my recent unplanned trip to Turin I was thankful for this experience. I was able to pack my bag and go with hardly a thought, and knew I'd have what I needed, even though I wasn't sure how long I'd be staying. Getting through airports was the least of my anxieties.

Lots of websites have lists of things to pack for one-bag travellers, along with hints and advice, so I won't give you my full packing list. Instead I thought I'd give some insights from my own experience of the pros and cons of travelling with only a carry-on bag:

  • You have full control of your belongings - no lost bags, or bags that go to a different airport to you, or suitcases with broken wheels after they've been tossed around by savage baggage handlers.
  • Not only can you use what's in the suitcase, but you can use the suitcase itself as a footrest while you're sitting in airports.
  • You can change clothes as you're travelling - if the plane is too cold, if the airport is too hot, or if you spill gravy down your front, no worries.
  • No tedious waiting at the baggage carousels - you can walk straight from the plane to the customs desk and out, while looking smuggly at everyone else.
  • You have less luggage to handle outside the airport. If need be, you can walk quite a way with a small wheeled suitcase. You can easily take it on buses or trains. Taxi drivers won't scowl at you.
  • It can act as a damper on the urge to buy lots of souvenirs and gifts, if you need some restraint.
  • Some airlines that advertise "cheap flights" don't have a free checked-in bag allowance. You can avoid their not-so-cheap checked-in luggage fees if you only have carry-on luggage. 
Oversized dress, difficult to pack
Not the ideal dress
for travelling light
  • If you have an airport stopover, you'll have to drag your small suitcase around the airport with you. It's no big deal.
  • Unless your trip is very short, or you're staying with someone who has a washing machine, you're committed to hand washing clothes and drying them overnight, or using commercial laundry services. I've never found handwashing a problem - I take a traveller's clothes line with me, (one with hooks at each end rather than suction cups) and choose clothes that will dry easily.
  • Every airline has different limitations on the dimensions and weight of carry-on luggage. If you're using more than one airline, you're stuck with the allowance of the least generous. It pays to check carefully.
  • If a flight is full, airlines are more likely to weigh and check the dimensions of your carry-on bag. "Cheap flight" airlines make a sport of checking. Don't assume they won't notice an extra kilo or two.
  • You're unlikely to have room for carrying many souvenirs and presents (see above). Small, light items like jewellry or scarves are about the limit. But if you really need to, you can use your checked-in luggage allowance on the return trip. Some people advise taking older clothes and ditch them, if need be, to make room for take-home goodies.
  • Travelling light may not be practical if you're a large person, have small children, or you're going to be attending a formal occasion such as a wedding. 
  • It's also more difficult if you're travelling from the middle of an Australian summer to somewhere with a very cold climate - wearing a thick coat and your heaviest clothes and shoes on the outward trip could get very uncomfortable (as well as looking rather silly!).

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