First of all, how one packs should depend on the type of trip one is taking. If you’re trekking across many countries, whether First World or Third, and you’re carrying all your goods in a backpack, then yes, you should pack lightly. If you don’t, your spine will pay the price. And navigating with a heavy weight on your shoulders is simply no fun. However, when traveling, we’re not always trekking across many countries with a backpack, are we?
Frankly, I enjoy having a wide variety of clothing choices when I travel. Indeed, I adore clothing, hats, shoes, and accessories. If I’m dining in nice restaurants, visiting museums, or tooling around large cities, I don’t want grubby jeans to be my only clothing option. If our visage screams "tourist," locals may react to us differently--and not in a good way. Also, when going through customs, I think smartly dressed travelers get hassled less than scruffily dressed ones. And sometimes my destination’s weather turns unseasonably warm or cold, and I’m thankful to have the extra tank top or sweater I threw into my luggage.
IF YOU MIGHT NEED IT, PACK IT
Below are tips and important points to consider when deciding whether you should pack lightly or pack every little thing your heart desires:
- Are you willing to pay more? An extra suitcase or one over-weight-limit suitcase will probably cost you additional money. If you're flying, it mostly like will; if you're traveling by train, it may or may not cost extra.
- Make a decision: Is the luxury of multiple clothing choices worth the burden of a heavy suitcase or multiple suitcases? If the nature of your trip requires lots of clothing—or you simply prefer a large selection of clothing—then don’t let those who espouse “packing lightly” make you feel guilty. Pack and enjoy! Don't let guilt about an alleged "proper way to pack" cloud your picture. There is one important caveat, however: In the end, you are responsible for you own bags and must be able to handle them by yourself. But if the struggle is worth the payoff, then go for it!
- If traveling to only one place, fret less about carrying a heavy case, because you won’t handle the case often. In my circumstance, the taxi driver who takes me to the airport will lift my suitcase into and out of the taxi. If you’re driving yourself to the airport, then you must obviously be capable of lifting your bag(s) in and out of the car trunk. However, at the airport, the only time you will lift your luggage is at the bag-drop counter—and then only a few inches off the floor. And upon arrival at your destination, you’ll lift your luggage again, but only a few inches up off the baggage conveyor belt. Presumably, your luggage has wheels, and you'll now wheel your goods to a taxi stand where the taxi driver will again lift your bag. (Of course, paying a few dollars for an airport luggage cart is always worth the price.)
The next obstacle will be your lodging, which may have flights of stairs rather than an elevator. Lodging can be the great unknown when analyzing your ability to handle your luggage. Fortunately, most hotels have baggage carts and/or personnel to help you--but small independent hotels and B&B's may not. (Find out this information when you make your reservation.) However, in the end, you must be able to carry you own bag(s)…but that burden is mitigated if you’re traveling to just one place, because of the infrequency of moving the bags. Worse case scenario: You'll struggle with heavy bags going up steep stairs, dragging your bags one at a time, struggling with each step. If need be, remove the heavier items from the luggage and make a separate trip with them.
- Shop abroad. For many tourists, shopping abroad is a great highlight of their trip. Indeed, those desiring a large selection of clothing for their stay are oftentimes the ones who enjoy shopping most. (There are exceptions to that presumption--and I must cite myself as one of them!) One technique to employ if you do plan to shop abroad, is to pack lightly traveling to your destination (thus saving you a little money and strain on your back), and then expand your wardrobe as you shop abroad. One has several options for carrying home newly purchased goods. Nowadays, most travel shops and department stores sell large, lightweight bags that roll into a ball, taking up almost no space--yet the bags are sturdy. Buy one abroad for toting home your goods. Or, if you've been needing a new suitcase, buy it abroad. Or, leave room for packing extra goods into the luggage that you do take. If there's a will, there's a way!
- Always carry small bills to pay bellhops and skycaps to assist you. Their aid is a great luxury for a small price! And tip these folks well. They help make your trip pain free and deserve your gratitude--in the form of a gratuity.
- Never carry more than you can personally lift, carry, or roll. I can’t emphasis this enough. Even if you struggle with your bags, you must still be able to handle them. Test handling the heavy, loaded bags before leaving for your trip--and allow time for repacking, if that is necessary. In the end, if you feel comfortable rolling two cases simultaneously, then do it! If you’re okay heaving a heavy bag, then do it! But ultimately, you alone are responsible for carting your luggage….
ADVICE FOR PACKING LOTS OF GARMENTS and PACKING LIGHTLY:
- One of the most important rules for “packing everything but the kitchen sink” is to select one color palette for all your clothing. For instance, bringing only clothes that are black, gray, or white. Or beige and white. Or red. Sticking to one color scheme allows easy mixing-and-matching of clothing, thus providing you with multiple choices of outfits. The one-color scheme also reduces the number of shoes, handbags, accessories, etc. that you must pack. (And for gentlemen, fewer sports jackets, ties, shoes, etc.)
- Take “thin” clothing and forget the bulky sweaters and robes. Even multiple thin, lightweight garments generally take up far less space than one bulky item, and you'll be able to luxuriate in all your (thin, lightweight) clothing options when you're abroad! Especially important is bringing along a pair of silk or rayon long underwear (both top and bottom). These invaluable items can save the day! Wear the thin top beneath a thin, lightweight sweater or two, and you'll stay as toasty warm as wearing a bulky sweater. Or wear both the top and bottom pieces under your nightclothes for extra warmth. The great advantage of bringing along silky long underwear is that it weighs nearly nothing and takes up nearly no luggage space!
- Take an eReader. Oftentimes when traveling, I’ve carried a small library with me. And books. are. heavy. How fortunate we are nowadays to have eReaders! Whether you’re taking an iPad, Kindle, or the Next-New-Thing, they’re all worth their weight in gold!
Happy travels, dear Anglophiles! On your next trip, may you be the dandiest, smartest dressed tourist in the the room!