So we both spent some time yesterday packing, and I’m pretty much done. The conversations we had about choices were illuminating and exposed two different (and equally valid) perspectives on how to make choices.
On the one hand, there’s a school of thought that attempts to bring the minumum one can get away with on a trip. Every item chosen must be versitile; clothing should mix-and-match across your selected wardrobe; items should be both durable and washable. I know people who travel and never check luggage – their selections always fit into the allowable carry-on sized bags. Indeed, I travelled for years for business and never checked a bag, although the carry-on restrictions were a bit looser then.
The advantages to this approach are
- No chance of loosing checked luggage
- No waiting for checked luggage at the carousel (obviously more important for trips with multiple flights or connecting flights)
- Less stuff to deal with in your room, especially when packing and unpacking
The major disadvantage is that you might discover you need something you didn’t bring. At best, this will be an inconvenience, where you either do without or need to go buy the item. At worst, you have a serious problem. For me, not bringing enough of my meds (or ruining some of what I brought), or missing a piece of photo gear (which is not replaceable in most locations we’ll be) would be pretty bad. Not having the perfect shirt for some occassion would be much less of a problem to me; I’m happy to compromise here. I’d be somewhat more unhappy if the weather turned very cold and I didn’t have stuff to keep me comfortable while we’re doing whatever we do.
The other school says that a trip is a special occassion, and one should bring as much stuff as you can manage to maximize your enjoyment of the trip. “As much as you can manage” could be defined by what fits in your suitcase(s). The biggest advantage of this approach is that you will almost always have what you want to wear or otherwise use. You’ll always have warm clothing, and clothing for warm weather. You’ll have a selection of shoes, pants and tops to wear each day. If something gets ruined or too soiled to wear, simply select another.
The disadvangages of this are
- You will never be able to avoid checking luggage
- At the extreme, you’ll have multiple pieces of checked luggage to deal with – increasing the risk of loss or delay
- Your luggage may be heavy and hard to manage
- You need to pack and unpack stuff at each stop
- You need to find a place to store all of your stuff at each stop (a surprising number of expensive hotels have minimal space to unpack into)
As you might guess, Sally and I approach the challange of packing from these two ends of the spectrum. What you might not guess is that we usually wind up with almost identical amounts of stuff as measured by the luggage we bring along. We use the same main suitcase as our checked bag. I usually have a backpack as a carryon, while she might have a small roll-aboard or bag.
Sally usually brings more items, but my items tend to be larger (think shoes or pants).
Sally might have an extra carry on bag, but my total luggage will usually be heavier (my clothes are denser, and my camera gear weighs a lot).
On any trip longer than a weekend, I assume I’ll need to do laundry. Sally’s threshhold for laundry is much longer – perhaps a week.
Sally likes to have a variety of looks to wear, while I don’t care so much about that. I’m happy to wear the same shirt or pants multiple times (subject to laundering, of course).
My rule is always: bring what you want, but it has to fit (whatever that means) and you need to be able to live with your decision. Other than that, I’m happy for us to make different choices.