originally wrote this article for the September 2004 Wide World Books & Maps
Newsletter. If you click on any of the links in the article, you'll find
yourself at Wide World's gear site where you can purchase the items mentioned.
That Excess Weight
Light Advice from the Travel Sages
it happen again this summer? Did you throw some things
in a suitcase for your vacation and then find that you were
lugging around too
much weight? Did you throw your shoulder out of joint
carrying that heavy duffel bag? Did you not buy that
fabulous ethnic carving because there wasnít any room in
your luggage? You have seen the error of your ways and are
ready to learn the secrets of packing light, but where to
begin? Fear not, gentle traveler, the Travel Sages of Wide
World Books are here to
enlighten you so that your future journeys will be
First Secret: Choose the right bag. We
know itís easy to just use whatever luggage you have on hand
or can borrow from a friend, but it is amazing how bad the
wrong bag can be. A bag thatís too big can cause lots of
problems. It encourages you to pack more than you really
need. It can be difficult to lift on to trains or up stairs.
It probably needs to be checked on the airplane, which opens
up a big nasty can of worms, which weíll talk about in a
minute. On the other hand a bag thatís too small may cause
you to leave behind things you really do need.
some things to think about when choosing a bag:
want wheels? Itís great to be able to roll your bag but
they do add weight. Consider whether youíre going to be
carrying that bag for any reason.
want back pack straps? If you decide youíll need to
carry your bag a lot, being able to convert a suitcase
to a pack can be wonderful. If youíre planning to carry
a lot of weight or go a long way, make sure there are
also interior supports and a waistband in addition to
the shoulder straps and forget about the wheels.
the bag suit your style of travel? Many bags are
designed for casual travelers who donít mind rolling
t-shirts and jeans into a duffel. If youíre packing
suits and dress shirts, look for more structured sides
and a book-style opening for easy, stay-in-place packing.
vs. price? Your bag is not the place to skimp. Pay the
price for a quality bag. Youíll be glad you did when
your zippers donít break, your wheels donít crack and
the handle stays where it should. As I heard someone say
recently, youíll remember the quality long after youíve
forgotten the price.
Second Secret: Prioritize. You really
donít need to take everything, but there are some things you
really will need. Trying to figure out what these things are
may require some tough decisions. Sage Nadia tells me that
itís so important to her to have art supplies with her that
she sacrifices clothes to make room.
some guidelines for setting priorities:
on your upper weight limit. Fill your bag with something
heavy and weigh it. Try carrying it. Remove weight until
it feels comfortable. Now carry it around the block.
Adjust your thinking and the weight in the bag. If you
have kids carrying their own bags, make them do it too.
When everybody is comfortable with the weight, you can
start planning what to pack.
if you are willing to check luggage. All of the Sages
prefer to 'carry on' going there and check some things on
the way back. Losing checked luggage can mean staying
several days in your arrival city waiting for it to show
up, being stuck without clean clothes, maybe even having
to do without for the duration of the trip. Checking may
be a necessary evil, though, under current security
regulations or if youíre staying a long
pile of the things you really canít live
withoutómedicine, underwear, camera, Tommyís teddy
bearóso you can see how much room you have to work with.
If youíre checking a bag, make sure these items go in
your carry on.
what activities youíll be participating in. Donít take
clothes for the opera unless you really plan to go to
the opera. Donít put your hiking boots in the Ďmaybe
pileí if youíre heading to the Australian outback. This
doesnít mean that you have to plan every minute, just
rule a few things out.
Third Secret: Practice makes perfect. The
Sages do know what to pack from long experience, but thatís
not what we mean here. We mean that you should actually
practice packing what you plan to take. When I was little,
my parents would take six or seven kids on month-long car
trips. My mom managed the packing by having each kid lay out
all the things they planned to bring a week before packing
commenced. Then we had three or four days to change our
minds or be overruled by a higher authority. Once the
suitcases were packed there were NO last minute changes.
are some ideas to keep in mind while you practice.
lots of underwear. Most of the Sages gave this as their
first response when being interviewed for this article.
Even if you wind up wearing dirty clothes, youíll feel
fresher with clean underwear.
organized as possible. Whether you choose to use
aids like Eagle Creekís cubes and folders (and yes, the
Sages all use them) or go low tech with ziplock bags,
keeping things together helps especially if you are
moving from place to place, packing and unpacking a lot.
things. Trying to decide between two pairs of shoes?
Weigh them. A few ounces here and there can add up to
jeans are bulky and weigh a lot. Think about learning to
love wash and wear khaki slacks instead.
do laundry. Take a
sink stopper and
small packets of
soap (and fewer clothes).
coordinating separates. Everything should mix and match.
really need to straighten or curl your hair on vacation?
Leave behind the electrics if you can.
ďpackableĒ bag to fill with the things you buy over
there. Then check the extra bag on the way home.
youíre planning a long term stay somewhere (more than a
month), consider mailing bulky items to yourself.
Definitely mail bulky items home. It may take a while
to get here but itís a lot better than carrying them.
my brothers and sisters. You have learned the secrets of
the Way of Traveling Light. Peace and happiness will be upon
your travels always.