How not to overpack when you travelWritten by Charles on February 25, 2019 in Blog.
Picture this: My wife, two children and I are in Seoul, South Korea, concluding a wonderful trip with extended family. In 3 hours, we have to get on a bus to the airport to catch a plane to Tokyo, our next destination.
We leave our accommodation and get into a taxi with 4 roll-on carry-ons, 4 backpacks and 2 large check-in suitcases filled to their 50lb capacity.
Our taxi driver mistakenly drops us off 4 blocks from the bus stop, but we don’t know that yet.
We get out of the taxi and start walking. We have no idea where the bus stop is and end up taking some wrong turns.
After 30 minutes of walking around and asking locals for directions we finally find our bus stop — just a mere 2 blocks from where we started.
This story isn’t a big deal until you realize it’s mid-August and one of Seoul’s hottest days ever on record — 102 F. Those were the most 30 hellish minutes we’ve ever experienced: zig zagging the streets of Seoul while dragging our 250-lb. caravan of luggage in the scorching heat, soaked in sweat and panic-stricken about missing our flight.
Somehow we made it to Tokyo…only to experience the same disorienting, luggage-dragging heatwave walk from the Tokyo subway station to our address half a mile away.
After that day, I made a promise I’d never overpack again.
The problem with not traveling light
Traveling with excessive luggage is a burden and will inevitably, at some point, suck some joy out of your trip. Consider these 2 key factors:
It’s no secret that airline carriers earn huge profits from baggage fees. Most people have gotten used to this and end up paying an average of $50 extra per segment without really thinking.
Don’t let this be you. $50 seems fairly reasonable until you start traveling more frequently and farther away from home. A family of 4 paying an extra $50 over 10 flights adds up to $500 just to haul their stuff around (possibly in a heatwave, sweating and utterly fatigued).
Airlines rely on luggage fees to add to their bottom line. Be extra cautious of discount airlines, which are notorious for ruthless baggage fee rules and penalties.
Carriers like EasyJet (Europe), AirAsia (Asia) and JetStar (Australia) may be popular for their cheap fares, but they make up their revenue with a bunch of other small fees, mostly notably baggage. This includes both check-in and carry-on bags that exceed a small weight limit (usually about 15lbs).
If you’re taking a discount airline and you absolutely must purchase baggage, always do it when you book online, otherwise they’ll make you pay ridiculous fees at the airport. This happened to us when we left Japan: I was forced to check in a carry-on bag that was 7 lbs. too heavy. The cost? $100USD!
Also, don’t rely on the “lucking out” on that nice airport service rep to let your overweight bag slide by . It’s just a matter of time before you get the “wrong” person who doesn’t believe in your luck. Trust me on this one.
The weight, the bulk, the energy
As you move from accommodation to Uber to airport to airplane and back to Uber, etc. — would you rather glide or limp?
In the case of Seoul and Japan and Bali after that — we developed a severe “luggage limp,” going from an energetic family of world travelers to a grumpy, lethargic caravan of bag handlers.
After weeks of traveling on planes, subways, trains, taxis, staircases, escalators and sidewalks, the excessive weight of our bags started to literally weigh and slow us down.
Also, overpacking not only slows you down, it also slows down all the other people who help you along the way. For example, nearly all of our Uber drivers spent an extra 5 minutes helping us figure out and load all our bags into their car.
Traveling takes energy. Paying extra to haul around and watch over all your stuff can drain precious energy that can be otherwise spent…enjoying the moment.
To succeed at packing, think light
To me, peak light travel means bringing one solid carry-on and that’s it. Getting to one carry-on is not easy, and many times it’s not possible. I’m not there yet myself.
The first step to travel light is to shift the ways you think about travel:
- experience vs. stuff
- movement vs. sedentary
- essential vs. everything
Start thinking this way and pretty soon you’ll be able to remove half the stuff you’ve packed for your trip. You’ll realize that you don’t actually need to bring “everything you think you need,” but rather “only what you need, and maybe slightly less.”
After traveling for 9 straight months with my family, we’re finally “getting it.” Thankfully, we’ve had a couple of stops at home in Hawaii, and each time we passed through, we cut out more and more stuff…and we’re still overpacked!
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