When I first met Alan and we started traveling stand-by, it quickly became obvious that the key to successfully negotiating flights, connections and the like was to travel with just carry-on luggage. Luckily, Air Canada has a generous carry-on policy – it allows for two bags, plus a personal item (which could be a purse) – and we have been traveling with what I call our “flight attendant kit” comprising of one small suitcase with wheels and a smaller bag that fits on top of the suitcase. I’ve mastered the art of packing to the point where I can fill up my little carry-on suitcase with enough clothes to spend three weeks in Brazil without needing to wash my clothes all the time (and I didn’t even wear half of what I took with me!).
But a combination of higher fuel prices, which makes airlines more conscious of the weight people carry into airplanes, and heightened concern over security, has meant that more and more airlines are adopting a one-bag policy for carry-on luggage. This means that if I want to keep bringing the same amount of stuff I carry usually, I need to either optimize my methods or check one of my suitcases. The latter is not an option as far as I’m concerned since once you get used to traveling with only carry-on luggage, you can never go back. There’s nothing quite as liberating than being able to get off a flight and immediately look for the nearest exit. It’s also a plus to be able to easily take public transit and negotiate stairs and the like easily.
So I’ve started doing some research. Apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Rolling suitcases are NOT the way to go when you want to optimize what you can bring on board of an airplane. The simple fact of fitting a suitcase with wheels makes them 2-3 times heavier than a comparable suitcase without wheels and takes away half of the space available for your stuff. Doug Dyment, the travel light guru at onebag.com, has made a very effective comparison of the two systems. So what to get instead? After combing Doug’s site as well as the One Bag One World blog, I’m leaning towards Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut bag. I haven’t ordered it yet but will probably do so before we leave for Spain in May. My challenge is to manage one month in Spain with one carry-on bag.
In order to do that I’ve started doing research beyond the bag to optimize also what goes in it. Clothes shouldn’t be too much of a problem since it will be summer in Spain and I can bring mostly light clothes. One cool idea I found is to replace liquid shampoo for Lush’s solid shampoo bar. I bought one today to test and I am quite pleased with the result. Worth it even if you are not traveling. They also have a line of solid perfume, which contain no alcohol.
I was a little worried about the possibility of scaling down to one bag but I’m now a bit more optimistic. Anybody else out there would venture traveling carry-on?
Mark Verber’s tips on traveling light
Other links under “travel” on the right-hand column