Woohoo! You got to your flight on time, spent a few hours in the air, and officially made it to your destination … but unfortunately, your luggage didn’t. Nothing puts a damper on a trip faster than damaged, lost, or stolen luggage. Keep reading for tips from one of our awesome alumni, Bettina Gyr, on how to avoid the checked-luggage blues.
“It will be seen, that if one is traveling simply for the sake of traveling, and not for the purpose of impressing ones’ fellow passengers, the problem of baggage become a very simple one.” – Nellie Bly, 19th century American journalist, upon embarking on her record setting 72 day around the world trip with a 16×7 inch leather satchel.
You only need to have the airline lose your luggage on the way to an important event once to seriously consider never checking a bag again! I have been traveling this world for many years…often solo. Massive luggage quickly became a burden and stymied my independence. It is challenging to change plans on the fly if you have to schlep along a 50-pound suitcase!
Several years ago, I made the liberating decision to travel only with a carry-on bag whenever possible. I have been everywhere from a medical mission trip to Africa to a week-long wedding celebration in Europe, with just a carry-on. This did not seem unusual to me until my recent Zephyr trip (2015 Chile and Argentina Multisport and Wine Adventure) where it seemed to cause quite the stir. I got lots of questions about how I was able to pack for a 10-day South American adventure with such a small bag, and was asked to provide some answers.
I have broken my packing advice down to 5 basic “truths”:
1. I am not here to impress anyone with my outfits.
2. No one knows (or probably cares) what I wore to dinner 3 nights ago.
3. I am not climbing Mount Everest or riding the Tour de France (most people in the world walk or bike miles every day in their local environment, to and from the market, to and from school, or over the mountain to the next village, without technical gear).
4. Choose colors and items that mix and match, and layer, easily.
5. A couple of scarves take up little room and go a long way to change up an outfit.
So with that in mind, the first thing eliminated from the packing list is technical gear and “uni-taskers” – those items that we bring along that only serve one purpose. Turns out, I can ride a bicycle or hike through a vineyard in the same pants that I wear for walking around town. Riding and walking slowly, and not working up too much of a sweat, allows me to enjoy more of the beautiful scenery, talk to my trip mates and the locals, and generally “smell the roses” (which were amazing in South America!). It is vacation, after all!
The following is a complete list of what I packed (see also the image above):
1 hiking pants (with zip-off legs)
1 capri pants
1 maxi skirt
1 mini skirt
2 light sweaters
2 “performance wear” zip tops
4 long sleeve t-shirts
4 short sleeve t-shirts
Down puffy vest
Walking shoes/low hikers
Socks, underwear, and bras are not pictured! These things are easy to wash out in hotel sinks, so there is no need for 10 pairs of everything.
Toiletries and medicines: small travel size, hotels have shampoo and soap, only bring the essentials.
(I wore one of the lightweight sweaters, a shawl, jeans, and tennis shoes on the plane.)
Everything gets tightly rolled and packed efficiently. Using the “negative space” is essential – stuff your shoes full of socks, underwear, and other small items.
As I plan to wear my items during the trip, I will wear one top to dinner perhaps for 2 nights (with a different scarf and different skirt…looks like a new outfit!), and then wear that same top for hiking or biking later in the trip. I wear my skirts primarily for dinners, and my pants for daytime activities. And hiking and biking in “regular” clothes has never been a problem! I usually don’t have a lot of room for bringing home extra items, which does cut down on my shopping. But I did have enough room on this recent trip for the awesome Zephyr sweatshirt I got on the last night for reaching Level 2 of the Zephyr high rollers club (and a few small souvenirs for friends and family)!
So as you get ready to go on your next Zephyr adventure, or any other trip, lay out everything you think you need to bring…and then put half of it back in your closet. You will appreciate this the next time someone tells you their woes of lost luggage while you are sitting there in your clean clothes, happily sipping a cocktail on some exotic adventure!
2 thoughts on “How to Travel the World with a Carry-on”
I often pack my worst underwear and t-shirts and on the last days of my trip discard them into garbage to make room for something I might have purchased.
I do something similar, Scott. As an inveterate library user, I will make sure to purchase books to read on my longer trips so I can give them away once rather rather than having to pack them home.