Garance Doré recently posted this video of a stylist talking about how she packs. I love the incredulity in her tone “How many bags? One!” Her method is outfits one side, shoes and bags on the other. It really is that simple. It’s not complicated unless you take more shit than you actually need.
When I first started travelling frequently for business, I had not mastered getting my packing down to carry-on size, and even when I did, I couldn’t lift the bag into the overhead. So, I regularly checked a bag… and the airline regularly lost it. After the third time I had to live in an Air France t-shirt for three days, I resolved: never again.
Now I only check a bag if I’m returning home after a tactical overseas shopping trip, or outbound with gifts that are too large or too much liquid. Commonly I’ll be away for three weeks or longer with only carry-on baggage.
The biggest challenge is the variety of activities I have to pack for. It’s simpler for a holiday – but usually I need clothes that look good at work, options for a working dinner, casual things for dinner with friends or at the weekend, practical things to go hiking or running in, things to go sightseeing in. Depending on the trip, I may need clothes for cool conditions and hot in the same trip.
Exhibitionism is the next problem! Sometimes I have something that I really, really want to show off… but it’s only good to be worn once in a two or three week trip. If you pack too many pieces that lack versatility, you can’t get everything into a carry-on.
There are lots of tips for packing… and it may seem to you that this smells a bit of effort. This is true… which is why you do it at home, where nobody needs to see your careful preparations. Later, you will be basking in the sweet scent of competence, which is what looking the part is all about.
Why does one bag help you to look the part? OK, if you have one massive suitcase on wheels, maybe you can tow that through the airport no problem… but
- As soon as you have more bags than you can easily move by yourself, you’re at risk. What if there’s no luggage cart at your destination? That happened to me. What if you need a coin in local currency to get a baggage cart – and you only have notes and nowhere to split them? Happened to me. Now you’re figuring out how to get your damn bags away from the claim, asking people for help or money – and reeking of effort.
- If you’re taking the train into the city, turnstiles with a large bag are a hassle. If you’re getting on a shuttle bus to get a rental car, maneuvering multiple bags on and off the bus reeks of effort.
- Let’s say on the last day of your trip, you are at the office and going to the airport after your last meeting. You won’t have time to go back to your hotel to collect bags – and the hotel is too close to get a taxi with your bag. With a carry-on rollerboard, you can stroll to the office with your bag, and easily leave when it’s time to go. Towing a huge bag through the streets and arriving hot and discombobulated does not foster looking the part.
Apart from anything else, more and more airports are charging for the baggage carts – like JFK. Oh, they conveniently provide a credit card facility – but $6 for a baggage cart is outrageous!
Two more big advantages:
- If your flight is cancelled, you don’t have to wait for the airline to return your checked-in bag to you. Instead you can make your arrangements and go. If you’re unexpectedly presented with an overnight layover, you have all your stuff with you. I once missed a connection in Dallas due to the late arrival of my plane. I had checked in my bag and they were not able to retrieve it for me. Luckily I had packed the essentials in my personal bag, so I had what I needed at the hotel, but otherwise I would have had the clothes I was standing in plus the hotel shampoo and conditioner. No moisturiser, no makeup, no hair wax… doesn’t bear thinking about.
- Another very important advantage is that, depending on the country you’re travelling in and the airline policy, if you have your bag with you, you might be able to waitlist on an earlier flight. Many times I managed to get across an airport faster than expected and switch my connection to get home three hours early.