(See what I did there?)
As befits a self-styled Writer on the Run, I travel a reasonable amount, and I like to think I’m pretty good at it. Only ever missed my train once, and my plane never, save for one very close call.
I do have a love-hate relationship with baggage. (Oh no, it’s getting all emotional again.) On one hand, I have some staple items I want to bring with me everywhere I go. Then again, any baggage-related parts of the following video are officially on my list of turn-ons. (The cheap sushi, less so.)
So, without further ado, let me share with you my 23 ways to stop your baggage getting emotional (because you had to leave it behind or pay extra):
1. Know Your Rights
However you’re traveling, make sure you know exactly how much you can bring with you: that includes how many bags, how heavy they can be, AND their dimensions. People tend to think only airlines have baggage restrictions, but actually, so do some long-distance buses. Also, remember that…
2. Size Matters
On trains in particular, baggage space can be limited. So it pays to arrive early to claim your rightful luggage rack space (there’s never enough space), or ask the train staff to store your stuff in the luggage car, especially if your suitcase is on the big side. Airlines, now, just love to impose restrictions on its dimensions, and to make you pay for oversized. Similar problems can arise with-
3. Specialized Stuff
Skis, surfboards, framed posters, musical instruments – different airlines have different rules for non-standard baggage. If your stuff is too fragile to be checked baggage, many airlines will have you buy a whole separate seat for it. Not something you want to find out when checking in.
4. Bundle Up!
A genius trick I saw people use in airports was to bundle two (or more) smaller bags into one piece of luggage using the bag-wrap service. It’s a legit method to get two bags checked even if your ticket only allows for one, provided the total weight is within the limit.
5. Get Clingy
Even if you only have one bag, it’s still a great idea to wrap it in cling film: professionally if you can afford a fee in the region of $20 (which often comes with insurance), or even with a roll of sandwich film and duct tape. It “deters” theft (meaning, it won’t stop a determined thief, but might discourage them enough to choose another bag) and saves your pretty suitcase some scuffing. Also, it provides a measure of waterproofing – on rainy days, I’ve received unwrapped bags in a positively dripping state. ALSO, it will stop someone else sneaking dodgy things into your bag.
Note: if you’re flying to the US or some other place with crazy customs , make sure it’s okay to wrap your bags, because rules change all the time.
6. Improvised Stabbing Tools
A fun challenge involving wrapped baggage is unwrapping it without sharps (because the sharps are inside), which you may need to do as soon as you get it from baggage claim. When knives are unavailable, pens or keys come in handy (provided you didn’t have to check your house keys because your keychain is a knuckle duster).
7. Wheels Up
The jury is still out on what kind of wheels get damaged the least when flying. This airline worker says that four-wheel “spinner” suitcases are best. I’ve seen the exact same kind of suitcase stuck on a luggage belt because its wheel got caught on the end, and I was told that’s how many of these wheels snap off. I remain a two-wheel person, because in my memory, nothing could ever go wrong with those wheels, except in case of…
8. Broken Axles
Here’s something you often don’t consider: the impact of your suitcase’s weight on the axle connecting its wheels. Once the axle curves under the weight, the wheels are basically useless, and the repair is costly. I guess that if you’re in the habit of traveling the opposite of light, four wheels may be better for you, since they allow for better weight distribution.
9. Lighten Up
Seriously, the best way to avoid broken wheels and bent axles is not to Pack So Gorram Much. I know, it’s easier said than done, but ideally, you should aim to have a luggage you can lift and walk with, and carry-on you can RUN with. Unless you have kids. Then may the gods have mercy on your soul. Then again, airlines will be a bit more lenient on you, too.
10. Let’s Talk Security
Based on the sheer number of people in airports, I assume people fly a lot these days. Yet not once did I pass security without someone within earshot having problems because they left something in their bag they shouldn’t have. (To be fair, once that someone was me and my knuckle duster keychain.) So take a moment while packing your carry-on, and evict sharps, liquids, and gels. Fun fact: honey, jams, and peanut butter also count as a gels, so stick those in your luggage.
11. Under Pressure
Or rather, lack of. The cabin you’re flying in is pressurized to resemble your daily life as much as possible. The luggage hold, though? Containers filled at or around sea level will be trying to burst from the inside, and flimsy shampoo and shower gel bottle tops are apt to open, spilling their contents all over your suitcase. So if you’ve got anything that can spill, wrap it up in an extra layer of plastic.
12. Bring a Bag
If, against your best intentions, you’re over the baggage allowance, you might be allowed to pay for the extra weight, but airlines today are more likely to allow an extra piece of luggage rather than extra kilos in an overstuffed single-piece. So it helps to keep a light zippable bag in your suitcase pocket, for when you need to step out of the check-in line and do some emergency reshuffling. Or consider…
13. The Ultimate Carry On
A dirty trick I used many times was to wear my heaviest items instead of putting them in my suitcase. Yes, sometimes it means sacrificing a measure of comfort, but if you’re stuck for choices, it’s better than having to throw things away. And if someone challenges you on wearing biker boots and a leather jacket at +30, just tell them:
14. Are You Gonna Use That?
On any flight under five hours, you don’t need that much in your carry-on. Bring documents, valuables and whatever you can’t bear to lose in case your suitcase gets misplaced, any sensitive gear, and your choice of entertainment for the flight. Everything else – stick it in your suitcase.
15. No, Seriously, ARE You Gonna Use That?
Tell me if this is familiar: you’re sitting comfortably in your aisle seat, when the person next to the window asks you to shuffle because they need to get their carry-on from the overhead bin. They take what they need, then put it back, because the bag is too big to comfortably keep under the seat in front of them. Repeat ten times during flight, and you’re risking murder charges.
Don’t be that guy. Even if the airline only allows one carry-on, pre-pack a smaller bag inside your main carry-on (a lunch bag or a plastic bag will do), with everything you might need during the flight: book, tablet, headphones, music player, painkillers, and snacks. When boarding, take that bag to your seat, stash the rest overhead, and enjoy your flight as a much nicer human being.
16. What’s For Lunch?
Today’s airlines like to skimp on everything, which often includes food and drink. I know better than to expect food from airlines officially marketed as low-cost, but recently, I found even full-price tickets cutting on-board meals. So take care to investigate if your ticket includes any food, and if not, either pre-order something (and earn miles white at it), or bring some snacks with you. If you’re hoping to buy something on the plane, make sure you’ve got cash on you: because card terminals are notoriously bad at high altitudes. Also, salty snacks are good for motion sickness, so it’s a good idea to stash some pretzels in your bag.
Oh, and remember that any food you bring on board counts as part of your carry-on weight.
17. Tomato Juice
Not exactly a luggage tip, but since we’re on the subject, ever wondered why people order tomato juice on the plane so often? This video has some fun facts about airplane food:
18. Eat Up!
Another food-related fact to keep in mind: your destination’s customs policies. For instance, if you’ve got a layover planned in Australia, you’d better eat everything you brought with you, because it might go in the bin otherwise. Especially all animal-derived foods, and any grains that haven’t been thoroughly killed through cooking.
19. Worried About Privacy?
Then don’t travel to the U.S. Like, ever. But if you really have to, then remember that the customs there are allowed to do whatever they want to your devices – including taking them away for a while. So you’d do best to back up anything you can’t live without. And, you know, don’t carry around any porn. Just saying.
20. Miniaturize or Buy
Put together all the toiletries you use on a daily basis. I’ll bet you that the resulting bundle will weigh in at several pounds. Do you really want to lug that around? Why not buy miniatures, instead? I’ll tell you why – because you can spare the environment and buy sets of empty reusable bottles (also helpful if you’re using some super-special shampoo that doesn’t come in mini). And for things like sunscreen, spare your back, spend a couple of extra dollars and buy it when you land (but not at the airport, gods, no).
21. That Said…
If you’re flying to a holiday destination, shove a swimsuit in your carry-on. If you’re going anywhere else (except home), include a pair of clean underwear and socks. Bags get mishandled. Statistically, some 97% of originally lost luggage gets found and delivered to their owners, but you can do better things while waiting than frantically shopping for clean underwear, or buying a bikini in the hotel gift shop.
22. Are You a Valued Customer?
Frequent flyer cards can come in handy even if you’re not that frequent a flyer. There are airlines that offer perks even to their basic club members: such as extra carry-on allowance, front of line boarding, you name it.
23. The Way Back
Finally, consider your return trip. Are you planning to bring back a lot of souvenirs, or continue moving your childhood books across Europe, one shelf at a time, like yours truly? Are you going to Turkey or Egypt, where you just gots to get that leather jacket? Wherever you’re going, think whether you’ll want to leave extra room in your back for the way back.
I think that’s enough traveling wisdom for today, so – happy packing!