Tuesday 1 Feb, 2011

Packing Light for Travel

Carry-on bag

We are very lucky here at Blog Central to have Gail Ingram writing for us, she has such a wonderful way of combining solid, practical information with charming anecdotes and a photo library that my wasteful memory can only be envious of. However, I am straying into part of her domain today by offering practical tour advice as a record has been set and I need to ensure it is never broken again.

I have been leading tours since 1993 and for many years remembered the girl who had the 70 pound bag for a 14 day trip. Sound too large? Well, if you like stats then sit back and enjoy. On my London, Paris and Rome tour last month (10 day tour) one girl checked in to go home at Rome Fiumicino with a bag weighing 39.1 kilos (that’s 86.2 pounds). I was expecting big and had actually gone for 40 kilos as we quietly guessed the weight as she approached check-in, frustrating to be so close. This testimony to the stretching capacity of standard suitcase material is, of course, freakish. There is no need to have such a bag. The airline only allow a maximum of 32 Kilos so she had to unpack, stuff her carry-on(s) with the extra and, amazingly, did not get charged any fee – on just about any other day I would have expected a bill well in excess of $100.


So, how do you avoid dragging something the size of Luxembourg towards check in? Firstly, don’t over-estimate the amount of times you will need to change outfits in any one day. Sometimes, one set of clothes gets you through from morning to night. Get one, good, light jacket that offers protection if heading somewhere where the winds will be cooler. Shoes (shoes, shoes, shoes….it’s always the shoes). Anyway, shoes, two pairs max. You really do not need anymore. I really cannot stress how little notice people tend to take of the clothes groups are wearing. Stuff will get re-used, more than once. Laundry opportunities, certainly on a shorter tour, are almost nil, but you will survive. Thin layers will work best.

Heavy suitcase
 Anyway, I do not want to get all paternal and practical, I merely wanted to share these hugely amusing photos of myself and Garrett (a Tour Consultant from our Boston office who had the good grace to almost get buried underneath the thing) trying to lift the beast after getting off the night train along with a far more acceptable example of how to pack for ten days. Before you ask, no, it didn’t fit in the overnight train compartment, it sat, quietly mutating on its own wedged between the bunks and the door until I persuaded the guard to find it a room of its own. Honestly, there are some places in the world here you would need a license to wheel something that size in a public place.

Airlines have limits on luggage, check them online. Buses certainly have limited space for putting the bags of 45+ people on. My arms have limits and the wide angle on the camera used for the photo has limits. In summary, know the limits and stay well inside them. Make life on tour a little more agreeable and go for the light suitcase option, you will want to fill up with souvenirs and the like, so give yourself a chance.

Anyway, a marker has been laid down, an average of 8.62 pounds per day of the tour – please don’t beat the record!

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)