I am a notorious over packer. (And I blame this on having been a Girl Scout – I am prepared for EVERYTHING.)
For our honeymoon in 2010, TheHusband and I travelled to Europe for nearly three weeks. After researching and planning, we purchased a lime green clamshell three piece luggage set with intent to take the two largest pieces with us. In addition, we each had our own messenger bag and I had a purse. We did laundry in the bathtub of our hotel room in Brussels half way through our trip as we had planned. We hardly bought any souvenirs. I think a Swatch, a few tshirts, a hat.
At Amsterdam airport, we were charged $150 USD for having overweight luggage. “Can you pack some things somewhere else?”, the airline person said helpfully. No. No, we couldn’t. Our messenger bags were bulging, our luggage was bulging. What in the sweet name of Satan happened?
In the spring of 2012, I flew to England, solo, for a few weeks to visit friends and see some concerts. In an attempt to not repeat the honeymoon incident, I tried to pack as sparingly as possible. I was bringing over items for friends, which I anticipated was going to be weighty, but I didn’t anticipate coming back with even half the number of items that filled that space.
Weight of my suitcase going TO England: 67lbs. Weight coming BACK from England: 71lbs.
This does not include my purse OR my tote bag filled with enough electronic gadgets and gewgaws to entertain a small nation.
Once arriving in England, I had to schlep my shit on the Tube from Heathrow to center of London, then to the south east of London where Karen lived (and so to apparently do dragons). When it was time to leave for Alice and Jon’s, I schlepped all my shit solo again to King’s Cross to catch the train up to Biggleswade, except a wheel had broken on the bag. When they met me at the train station, poor Jon almost killed himself carrying my crap to their car. No matter how much I thought I was paring down, I could never get my luggage light enough with only useable content.
Overweight surcharge when I left England for those 71lbs? £125 or about $190 USD.
And it wasn’t just plane trips, but any kind of trip. A train trip to Chicago in 2012 for two conferences I was attending that were right after the other, almost had me in tears at the Amtrak station. My duffle bag was over 60lbs, plus my tote bag, plus my purse. I had bought so much shit at the second conference, I almost bought a second duffle to drag all my treasures home but my clever repacking saved me.
While trains do not have weight limits or luggage limits, travelling solo with a 60lb duffle bag, plus a jammed tote bag, and a purse is just as frustrating. Even more so when the luggage areas in the train are filled with other people’s possessions or you’re blocking traffic getting up to the second floor because you can’t physically carry everything at once and you’re relying on the kindness of strangers to help you. (Thank you kind strangers.)
After my final trip last year, I decided I had enough. I was no longer going to pay outrageous luggage surcharge fees, or find myself in a situation where I couldn’t handle my own bags because they were so heavy.
While I was laid up last summer, I became obsessed with the idea of traveling with less. And found a sub-culture based on the idea of packing less and creating packing lists that catered to just about anyone.
While the curation of a list varies from person to person, there seems to be agreement on two things:
- The gear should be light weight and multifunctional
- Items should have multiple purposes
I decided I had a new goal: Next time an opportunity arose where I needed to travel, regardless of by plane/train/automobile, I was going to do it with a carry on and a messenger bag. That was it. No excuses.
Towards the end of 2012, early 2013, my conference dance card was beginning to fill up. Starting March 1 and ending July 2, I would be attending seven conferences and speaking at four of them. Some of them were one day affairs or held locally, so there would be no need to pack, but the remainder would require travel either by plane/train/automobile.
This was perfect.
I asked around on the social sphere what did people use for travel? The number one response was: Tom Bihn. After spending hours of reading packing lists on the Tom Bihn site and the internets, I knew I found my bag.
Since all but one of our combined luggage pieces (purchased together and what we had before we got married) had fallen apart or were in the process of falling apart, TheHusband and I were in the market for new luggage. He was intrigued by my research and reviews, so for Valentine’s Day he bought me the Aeronaut in Aubergine/Wasabi with the Absolute Shoulder Strap. The idea being if the bag was as impressive in person as on the site, we’d pick up accessories and pieces as needed later on.
The bag was incredibly impressive in person. The Absolute Shoulder Strap worked with TheHusband’s 6’6 frame comfortably, the backpack straps also were comfortable over his 52″ chest and shoulders and could be adjusted to fit my measly 5’11” frame. There was a lot of thought to the organization of the bag, such as the generous central area bookend by two external, fairly large pockets. Overall, it is very well constructed and designed.
A few weeks later, I bought the Imago in Plum/Olive, 3D Clear Organizer Cube in Azalea, large Packing Cube, and the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in Wasabi.
Here was my thought: The Aeronaut would be the one piece of luggage, with clothing organized by the large Packing Cube. The 3D Clear Organizer would act as the container for TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. Instead of carrying a purse and a messenger bag, I would use the Imago as the messenger bag and use the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as a packing cube until I got to my destination. Then I would use the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as a daytime bag since I can dump all my smaller items from the messenger bag into it. For night time events, I have a clutch, that is very thin and flat, I always bring with me so I was covered for purse needs.
On Tuesday I fly to Minneapolis for Library Technology Conference and return home on Thursday night. I need to sort out clothes for Tuesday as the travel day, plus the two days for the conference, and maybe an extra outfit. Plus pajama jams and other clothing accouterments, then add in toiletries and sundries.
Below is the Aeronaut and the Imago, fully packed for Tuesday’s trip. Weight of the Aeronaut: 15.2lbs. Weight of the Imago: 9.7lbs. (Weight of the pug: 20lbs, but she’s not coming.)
Now the fun part! Let’s unpack the Aeronaut and see what’s inside!
- Packing cube with two pairs of pants, a tunic, leggings
- Bra (I’ll be wearing one and bringing one.)
- Doc Martens, which are my dressy shoe (One of the few pairs I can fit into post-surgery)
- Two t-shirts, pair of yoga pants, and a long sleeve t-shirt
- Belt, glasses in case, curling iron
- Drugs, toothbrush in case, prescription receipts for said drugs
- 3D Clear Organizer filled with non-liquid toiletry sundries (According the site, the 3D Clear Organizer was built specifically for 3-1-1 but I could not get the same amount of items from a quart bag into the Organizer.)
- Loofah in a plastic bag, lady time essentials in the drawstring bag
- Plaid pencil case, teal clutch, assorted Air adaptors
- Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, that will hold four pairs of panties, three pairs of socks, a scarf, and a tank (and the aforementioned belt)
- Pug paw.
Over to the Imago:
- Macbook Air in case
- iPad 2 in case
- Business card holder, Epipen, plus “What to do if Lisa has an allergic reaction to LONG LIST OF ALLERGENS” from my allergist.
- Quart bag of liquids! All your usual sundries here.
- Makeup bag and bag of Lactaid/benadryl. The TSA’s stance on the website about makeup is vague, so instead of using precious quart bag space, it’s in its own bag as it always is. I only use mascara, gloss, and liquid eyeliner so it’s not like there is a lot. The makeup bag also has Tylenol, glass cleaner, and few other sundries.
- iPhone/Pad USB cable with wall wart, ear buds, work ID badge
- Two pens, two liquid pencils, stylus for the iItems, ratty nail file, even rattier hair pick
- Pug making her move.
Total weight of both pieces: Roughly 30lbs.
And I still have room for another complete outfit or two in the Aeronaut.
Missing from pictures: Phone (used to take said pictures), strap for the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, charger for my Air, coat (I’ll be wearing it on the airplane), hat/gloves (see coat), boots (see coat). Granola bars. Small jewelry bag (I leave off all my rings/earrings/necklaces until after I get through security).
On Tuesday, I’m wearing a tunic, tank, leggings, and a cardigan that goes with all my other outfits. I have a pants outfit and a tunic outfit planned for Wednesday and Thursday. I also packed an extra pair of pants and two t-shirts so if I’m not feeling something, I’ve got options.
I had planned on wearing dress boots that went with everything and only bringing that one pair of footwear, but I can’t fit into them post-surgery. As snow is on the horizon, I’m wearing my green Hunters on the plane and packed my Docs as the dress shoe since they have foot traction. The Hunters work with both tunic outfits and pants outfits.
As much as I love my plaid pencil case, I’ll probably leave it home and only take the few pens/pencils. I’ll probably also leave behind my sunglass case.
I’m bringing the Air and the iPad as the conference is requiring us to bring our own equipment for presentation (the Air). The iPad is going to be the reading/gaming/entertainment machine with better battery life.
My goal is to do a packing list entry for every trip to see what changes from trip to trip. But if I can pull this off, you have no idea how pleased as punch I will with myself.