Packing Light – especially on an itinerary where you will be moving and changing locations a good bit – cannot be underestimated. In fact, it can be the difference between an enjoyable vacation and a miserable one! You will never meet anyone who says “I wish I had packed heavier” when they return from a journey. Rick Steves, the Public TV European travel guru, only allows the members of his escorted tours to bring 1 carry-on size piece of luggage per person…even when the tour is 3 weeks long! Can’t be done? Yes it can…and it should! I’ve done it myself, and schlepped all over Europe with my husband with one carry-on each for a month!
Admittedly, I was ready to make a big bonfire and burn the clothing in that carry-on when we returned home from our journey, but the advantages outweighed the disadvantages by a huge margin!
Every morning we would dress quickly in whatever outfit was clean and appropriate for the day. I started thinking of my wardrobe as my “travel uniform”. We were there to learn and expand our horizons…not worry about what we were going to wear. Doing a little laundry along the way won’t kill anyone – in fact, it can be a real adventure!
We could move quickly from place to place….No worries about big suitcases and where we would fit our luggage on the train or bus or taxi. A lot of European hotels have no elevator, so lugging heavy bags up and down stairs can be a real bummer.
Having too much luggage “marks” you as a typical tourist. Con artists figure you’re helpless and you become a serious pickpocket or scam target.
We saved enough money in checked luggage fees to treat ourselves to some special “extras”. We also saved time by not having to wait around at luggage carousels in strange airports. We were off and starting our adventure while everyone else was standing around waiting for the bags to arrive.
Here are my suggestions for cutting back on the amount of “stuff” you think you need on your next trip:
Spread out everything you think you might need on the living room floor. Pick up each item one at a time and ask yourself, Will I really use this enough to justify carrying it over the Swiss Alps? (or wherever you are heading) When in doubt, leave it out!
Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario…Pack for the best-case and buy yourself out of any jams along the way. Risk shivering for a day rather than taking a heavy jacket. Buy a cheap umbrella from one of the many street vendors who "miraculously" appear when the drops start to fall. If you think it “might come in handy”, it should stay home.
Pack exactly the same whether you’re traveling for three weeks or three months. Rather than take a whole trip’s supply of toiletries, take enough to get started and replace them along the way. Believe it or not, Europeans use toothpaste, lotion, hair gel, soap and (sometimes) deodorant! It’s fun to go into a general store and stock up on local brands on the fly!
Invest in a good quality piece of luggage that fits your needs. Rick Steves offers a few options in his travel store at www.ricksteves.com/travelstore that are reasonably priced and come with or without wheels. If you are healthy enough to carry your bag, do it…suitcases on wheels don’t get along with cobblestone streets very well….
So weed out the unnecessary, pack your bag and go walk around the block a few times to get a good idea of what you will be dealing with. You will thank me later!
Remember, in your travels, you’ll meet two kinds of tourists – those who pack light and those who wish they had!