travel in style – keep calm and … ?

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One commenter asked in last week’s post what the big deal is about traveling with only carry-on bags vs. checking luggage. That’s certainly a valid question and one I wanted to explore in a bit more depth. This is one of those topics that seems to generate rabid intensity on travel sites and forums (and at times, no small amount of sanctimony). The bottom line is there’s no one right way, there’s only what works best for each of us.

Two early travel experiences made me starting thinking about the idea of becoming a carry-on only traveler. The first was on our initial trip to Paris in 2007. We’d booked air travel using Frequent Flyer miles, and had to do so with connecting flights as there were no non-stops available. On the return trip, our first flight leg was delayed, then we had to claim bags, go through Immigration and Customs and re-check the bags before catching the next flight home. We might have made that second flight had the bags not taken over an hour to appear on the luggage carousel. We were lucky to be able to rebook the same day; it only took an additional two flights to get us home, almost 12 hours behind schedule and after we’d been traveling for over 24 hours straight. The second was a far simpler (and far more common) scenario: we arrived in Paris but one of our bags did not. It showed up 2 days later; fortunately our itinerary didn’t include a lot of destination-hopping that trip.

Personally, I enjoy the challenge of putting together a well-edited travel wardrobe that will fit in a carry-on bag. On our last three trips, we’ve taken trains and other public transport between destinations, and I’ve been glad to have a smaller bag that was easier to maneuver up and down stairs, on and off trains and busses. I’ll confess though; I still haven’t converted le monsieur, who prefers to have more clothing options and check his larger bag. (I will sometimes check my own bag on the flight home if we’ve purchased bottles of wine, jars of mustards, or other food-type gifts that can’t be carried aboard.)

Due to my recent back troubles, I’m now in the market for a spinner type bag to further reduce strain on my shoulders and back (4 wheels and can be pushed rather than pulled). Spinner bags, or any wheeled bags for that matter, make zealous “pack light” travelers froth at the mouth but again, we all have to make choices that work with our preferences and limitations. There are so many great options and styles of luggage available in durable and lightweight materials, there’s something for almost every style and budget.

So checked bags or carry-on? A larger, checked bag might make sense if:

  • You have a single flight, no connections, or connections are on same airline.
  • You have a single travel destination…if your luggage does get lost it will be easier for the airline to get it to you than if you’re moving around.
  • You prefer to have more clothing options, or your planned activities require special clothing or equipment.
  • You don’t want to be limited on the amount of liquids you can bring along.
  • You don’t want to have to bother with toting luggage through the airport and on board.
  • You’re OK with the possibility of checked bag fees, or are in an airline mileage program that offers a free checked bag.

Carry-on makes sense if:

  • You have multiple connections, or tight turn-around time to make connections.
  • Your travel includes multiple destinations.
  • You will be taking public transportation with your luggage.
  • You prefer to keep your belongings with you.
  • You don’t mind carrying smaller sizes of your lotions and other liquids, or purchasing once you reach your destination.
  • You are able to put together a capsule wardrobe that will comfortably work with all of your planned activities.

There’s no right answer for everyone. As a carry-on traveler though, I must make the following pleas on behalf of us all: PLEASE check airline carry-on guidelines and be sure your luggage is compliant. Please don’t be a bin-hog…that second personal item (if you have one) goes beneath the seat in front of you. We’ve noticed that gate attendants are paying much more attention to what people are trying to bring on, and enforcing gate check of oversized items, but that still holds up boarding and everyone in line behind them. Please don’t take it out on the flight attendant if you are asked to gate check your bag! Please don’t run over other people’s feet with your wheeled suitcase.

Right now I’m auditioning spinner carry-on bags, and will have a report within the next couple of weeks.

Do you check bags or do you travel carry-on? Any tips to share with fellow travelers?



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  1. Pasunejeunefille
    February 5, 2014 / 4:26 am

    Just found out that I will be spending a week in Berlin in March. I plan to use your packing posts as a guide as I really want to only bring a carry on. Any advice about packing will be appreciated!!!

    • une femme
      February 5, 2014 / 5:51 am

      Hi Pas, I’ll be doing weekly packing/wardrobe posts between now and April. Are you looking for wardrobe suggestions, or “how to pack” ideas?

      • Pasunejeunefille
        February 5, 2014 / 10:04 am

        Both! Also, what’s appropriate wear in an European capital city. I’m starting to go thru your old posts for ideas.

    • February 6, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      You’ll find a lot here. Of course you know that Berlin can be chilly in March. It is a fascinating city.

      Pseu and others, I’d have no problem travelling with a carry-on alone in terms of clothing. If I’m arriving in Paris, I know I can get copies of my little “sharp” travel essentials such as a sharp folding knife (opinel or similar) or a waiter’s corkscrew – and I doubt they’d confiscate my tiny microplane or my “julienne tool”. I will inevitably be given books (by author friends) and buy a few that I haven’t seen here. I guess I’d just have to suck up the postal fee.

      The problem is arriving in places where I can’t buy such (inexpensive but essential) supplies as easily. The corkscrew shouldn’t be a problem, but a good small knife can be. I also carry a slim, flexible chopping boardat the bottom of my bag. Love markets, and self-catering.

  2. February 5, 2014 / 4:27 am

    I have one of the Dash spinner wheelies from Brookstone ($99 in any airport anywhere). I had the first one for 8 years of lots of travel, and I just recently had to get a new one after a wheel on the first one broke. I had no hesitation in buying essentially the same item over again because I’d had such a good experience with the first one. Highly recommended — if you’re not auditioning one of these you should! I did try out a Hideo Wakamatsu Jelly Bean last time I was in San Francisco and if I ever wanted to change the look of my luggage I would go for one of those. They’re a bit more expensive though.

  3. February 5, 2014 / 5:12 am

    Hmm, I tried to comment but there was an error, so I hope this is not a double. I have had one of those little Dash spinner wheelies from Brookstone and for most trips I travel with just that bag. I had one for 8 years of much travel, until a wheel finally broke, and I had no qualms about just buying another one (and it was convenient because Brookstone is always there when you really need them, i.e. when your luggage breaks in transit). Anyway, I would highly recommend auditioning one of those if you hadn’t tried one already. I also tried out a Hideo Wakamatsu Jelly Bean last time I was in San Francisco. More expensive but I definitely considered it. A very cute design-y modern look. I find that unless I’m traveling to a cold place in deep winter, I can do for 5-6 days with what I can fit in the Dash.

  4. Jean
    February 5, 2014 / 5:23 am

    My only experience with a spinner bag was awful. The design of the bag meant the weight from the contents was not distributed correctly and it required two hands to push and maneuver. It also couldn’t be tipped and pulled along like a regular wheeled bag. It was a nightmare. I was this ‘-‘ close to buying a new piece of luggage, at any cost!, while on that trip. I’m sure it was because the bag was an inexpensive brand that was poorly designed. My suggestions are to buy quality and, more importantly, load it up and take it for a spin long before a trip.

    • Argie
      February 5, 2014 / 6:20 am


      In testing the 4-wheelers in the store, I’ve had the same experience and I’ve tried several brands. From an engineering standpoint, it seems pushing is harder than pulling and trying to keep a bag on 4 wheel while on a sidewalk requires more work.

      • Jill Ann
        February 5, 2014 / 4:23 pm

        I have a set of Bric 4wheel hardside bags, received as a gift. They are extremely easy to “drive”! I can push or pull them with no effort. So I don’t think it’s a design problem with 4 wheel bags in general; unfortunately you got some bad designs apparently.

    • Argie
      February 5, 2014 / 6:35 am

      Apologies if this post is repeated

      In testing the 4-wheelers in the store, I’ve had the same experience and I’ve tried several brands. From an engineering standpoint, it seems pushing is harder than pulling and trying to keep a bag on 4 wheels while on a sidewalk requires more work.

  5. Duchesse
    February 5, 2014 / 5:42 am

    You can go anywhere (and any length of time) with a carryon if you have laundry facilities where you’re going. The hotel service can be expensive, but we usually rent short-stay apts. One barrier to carryon travel is attitude; once you realize no one at your destination(s) cares that you wore the same black jersey pants for dinner most evenings, you’re set. I have also traveled with two flat-fold boxes so I can shop and send things back. (Having the box saves you a hunt for them.) This relieves me from carrying a bigger bag to hold those purchases. Also, many foreign shops will ship. Again that’s not cheap but if you don’t want to check a bag, it’s an option.

  6. February 5, 2014 / 5:49 am

    Ah yes, if only good manners prevailed as we are boarding the plane! I am a carry-on woman myself as I like to know where my things are, and hop in a cab at the airport asap.

  7. Jaye
    February 5, 2014 / 6:10 am

    I have found that I’m packing lighter and lighter with each trip. I color coordinate, take more tops than bottoms, and add lots of interesting accessories. Thoughtful curating allows one-bag travel that truly suits my style and planned activities. My travel clothes are the same clothes I love and wear at home so I feel confident and comfortable on the road. Souvenirs tend to be scarves and jewelry which take up very little space on the return trip and are a great reminder of my travels. Most people really don’t notice (as Duchesse said) that you wore a pair of pants more than once. Even my scrutinizing sisters paid more attention to my necklaces and earrings than they did to my clothes on our last trip together.

  8. Louise
    February 5, 2014 / 6:21 am

    I’ve ONLY traveled with one small no-wheels bag since 1986. I can get by for weeks and weeks with a well curated wardrobe — and with a visit to a launderette or use of a hotel laundry, etc. I take a small cross-body bag (inside a small, collapsible tote on the plane), a raincoat, black pencil skirt, black dressier pants, a second pair of pants (somewhat more casual/sturdy but NOT jeans), black cardigan sweater jacket, black turtleneck, two dressy tops, two somewhat causal tops, base layer (unless summer), undies, sleepwear and robe, two pairs of shoes, flip flops, scarves, and some inexpensive jewelry. In summer I add a swimsuit (I use the robe as a cover-up) and omit the turtleneck. I never lose my luggage, never miss a connection due to luggage issues. I’ve used this wardrobe & luggage for business trips in the US and China, for vacations all over the world. I use packing aids to keep my clothes flat and as wrinkle-free as possible and to prevent everything from shifting. It takes almost no time to pack and get out the door.

  9. February 5, 2014 / 6:30 am

    I hate the carry on bag trend , even tho I do it. This all became de ringer when the airlines started charging for checked bags. You used to be able to walk through an airport, and grab a coffee or do a little shopping in relative comfort, picking up your heavy stuff right by ground transportation. Now you can get whacked and run over with other peoples’ wheels, have to drag your suitcase along if you need a bathroom, have your elbows busted as people roll down the aisle, and get whacked in the head by backpacks bigger than their owners. All this so you can dead lift 40 lbs. over your head. We’ve been made into mules by the airline industry. It’s not to make boarding or travel more efficient! It’s to save the cost of employing baggage handlers!

    It would be far more efficient in boarding if the airlines checked bags for free and charged for carry on. And provide some jobs, too.

    • February 5, 2014 / 6:41 am

      I know it’s de rigeur but autocorrect doesn’t.

    • February 5, 2014 / 2:00 pm

      Couldn’t agree more Danielle, flying is not what it used to be – and I’ve tried both methods of luggage and really try hard to minimise but haven’t got the knack yet! I hate having to take my bag to the bathroom with me – ugg. Bring back the days when air travel was for the passenger!

    • Ming
      February 5, 2014 / 4:55 pm

      I am a baggage checker. I hate to have to lug my bag through the airport. My traveling has been non-stop flights – and I pay the fee. My complaint is the bin-hoggers. On my last flight to Maui I put my small carry-on tote in the overhead bin. I was asked 4 times by passengers to move my tote under the seat in front of me. Each time I politely declined. The last time the other passenger called the flight attendant to “make” me move my tote. I told the flight attendant she could move the tote anywhere she wanted – but I would not put it under my feet. I paid to check my bag, and paid for my ticket which included space in the overhead bin. To keep the other passenger happy – she found someplace for my bag!

    • Louise
      February 6, 2014 / 7:38 am

      My PACKED bag weighs 13 lbs. — or less. The bag is 13x21x9″ bag and weighs 1.2 lb. empty. I started taking only a carry-on almost 30 years ago (long before the current checked bag fees business model gained a foothold) after arriving on vacation in foreign countries and on business trips without ANY luggage. (Yes, airlines may give you $$ for an essential clothing purchase but if you arrive after the stores are closed, how does that help?) Even on escorted group tours there are times when you have to manage your own luggage — and I find that I can quite easily. My bag fits under the seat on most planes. I can maneuver in subways, on city streets, and in stairs-only B&B’s. I don’t pack what I can’t carry.

      • yumyummoany
        February 6, 2014 / 7:59 am

        What sort of bag is that Louise?

  10. Riesie
    February 5, 2014 / 6:42 am

    I have both an older, straight-wheeling bag and a newer, spinner-style bag, both carry-on size and both made by Samsonite. The outside dimensions are basically the same but the inside of the spinner style is noticeably smaller, so be sure to check out the inside of any bag you’re considering to make sure it’s adequate. Very happy with the Samsonite quality.

    • Pamela
      February 10, 2014 / 5:35 am

      Also have Samsonite spinners. Very happy with them as they move really easily. In addition have for years had Samsonite oysters. Not quite as easy to move around as spinners but more secure as they have combination locks as well as key locks. We use one in hotel rooms as a kind of safe for things that won’t fit in room safe – we can fly with it because we’re not travelling to or from US.
      We fly British Airways (BA), Business Class so can take 3 suitcases around 22 – or 23 kilos each, no extra charge. Usually take 3 between us as check-in baggage (on outward travel – sometimes buy an extra bag for homewards) as we travel for 2 months or more and also need to take medical equipment (in late 60s). BA seems to be very reliable with baggage.
      Believe we’re much less likely to lose bags if we check in early (giving bags plenty of time to reach plane) and never book tight connections, always plenty of time in case flight is late. So far so good – and we travel long haul quite a lot.
      As we fly Business we can use the lounges while in transit and if enough time, take a shower and freshen up for final flight from Heathrow to Paris or wherever; next time it’s Berlin. Our checked bags are labelled priority and generally come off among first. Have read about people putting on 3 layers of clothes so they avoid baggage charges. This really isn’t an option if you’re flying long haul to Europe from Oz as travel time, including on ground at airports, is usually at least 24 hours (with actual flying time from Sydney to Heathrow about 20 hours). It’d be very uncomfortable and also could be hot at transit airports in 3 layers of jackets. Plus we generally fly on to another destination in Europe.
      Have flown other airlines over years but choose now to fly BA as its Business flat bed seats are v good and it has such a generous baggage allowance. Finally, we always pre-book a car transfer to our hotel from final destination airport. That way bags are handled for us most of the time. Didn’t always do this but at our age we need to be prepared to spend a little extra for comfort and health reasons. Best wishes and good luck with the spinners.

  11. February 5, 2014 / 6:46 am

    Theoretically, I would like to pack in a carry-on but every trip, find it won’t hold all I want to take. I think it’s a combination of taking too much and not packing efficiently. However, on our return from Hawaii this January, I ran into a new limitation – the airline was imposing a 16 lb. limit on carry-ons. This was causing problems for a lot of passengers because 16 lbs is not much. This limit may result from one of the issues another reader raised, that of being whacked on the head or shoulder by another passenger’s bag. On another flight, I was hurt when hit by a passenger’s large backpack. I was seated on the aisle, the backpack was going down the aisle hanging loosely from passenger’s shoulder, knocking seats and all else in its path. I had pain in my shoulder and limited mobility for over a week.

    I have a Samsonite spinner and find it easy to maneuver.

  12. Jill
    February 5, 2014 / 6:48 am

    Great travel post! It has reminded me why I’d rather get somewhere by car. There are so many rude people who are convinced they are entitled to all the overhead bin space that I despise traveling by plane anymore. You sound like a travel pro and I can imagine the hard work that has gone into knowing such wisdom! XO, Jill

    • February 5, 2014 / 11:01 am

      Best of all is rail, of course, but you have to be doing a journey that has good rail service at each end.

      • yumyummoany
        February 6, 2014 / 7:36 am

        I so agree. I am going from London to Avignon on the Eurostar in July, my little case will be easy on the train to and from London and at the other end to and from the train.

  13. February 5, 2014 / 6:51 am

    Interesting questions. As you note, there’s no one right answer.

    I’m used to packing tight since normally I travel by motorcycle, not plane. For long trips, I tell my wife she can bring anything that will fit in a saddlebag, which is about 8″x12″x16″.

    When traveling by plane, I bring my Tumi luggage. Tumi costs a lot more than other brands but the quality is so high it’s worth it. Not only their construction but also their design. Very smart people create their products.

  14. February 5, 2014 / 6:59 am

    Thanks for this post. I never manage to get everything I need into a carry-on unless I am flying to a single destination, which is rare. It’s the variety of activity = variety of clothing that limits me. This year we travelled to Costa Rica for two weeks and could have managed it, but we opted for one checked bag between us and enjoyed strolling the airports without heavy bags. Not to mention the extra leg room at our seats.
    Thanks, in particluar, for the admonition that there are rules for carry on. It seems that so many travelers think the “But it’s me” argument justifies their ignoring the rules.

  15. Ellen
    February 5, 2014 / 7:11 am

    I have a hard sided spinner by Hey which I bought at the Container Store. As many others have noted, the spinners don’t push forward very well. The hard siders usually divide in the middle, which disrupts my usual packing order, and mine has no pockets. It is however, light and easy to get up top in the bin. I note that some of your samples do not meet the 20″ standard for European flights.
    At the end of every trip, I review what I packed so I can do better the next time. My carryon wardrobe is nearly identical to yours when I am traveling to another country or on a short trip. When I travel to a single US destination, I usually take my 24″ bag (that is my largest one) and check it. More importantly, if I do check my bag, I have an extra tshirt and underwear in my carryon, just in case…and sadly, they have often been needed.
    I wish you could develop a carryon wardrobe the the guys!

  16. Mara
    February 5, 2014 / 7:16 am

    I almost always travel with only a carry on. After lugging a giant suitcase through multiple Mexican airports (for my sister’s wedding) I was convinced. I will check it if I have free checked bags though. Then I can be one of those lucky people relaxing at the gate. Almost all toiletries are now available in solid forms, so that is a non-issue (I have loads of hair so the hotel toiletries are never enough).

  17. February 5, 2014 / 7:17 am

    I’ve been travelling carry-on only for years and have several times done 4-6 week stints out of that single case. As Duchesse notes, if you have basic laundry facilities (or are prepared to rinse items in a sink), you can do that easily, although it does require an attitude shift. I generally find it quite freeing.
    I switched my old wheeled carry-on for a Rimowa spinner last year, and while there are some conditions (cobblestones particularly!) where the old one works better, I find the Rimowa so much easier on my shoulder which can tend to seize up. So easy to walk with it right beside me, so that I don’t end up hyper-extending.

    • une femme
      February 5, 2014 / 7:24 am

      Frances, which size did you get? I looked at the 19-inch “international” size but the capacity was so much less than my previous carry-on.

      • February 5, 2014 / 11:42 am

        Sue, mine’s the Salsa Air Cabin, at 21.7 x 15.7×7.9. It’s called International, IATA. So far, I’ve had no trouble carrying it on, and it’s fit easily into the overhead bins.

  18. February 5, 2014 / 7:26 am

    I didn’t get any images when I loaded your page.

    But as for carry on vs. checked, on our last trip our connection from LA to Eugene was canceled, so we had to stay overnight in a hotel. We’d already been traveling for about 18 hours, and I wanted to get our checked bags, which took over an hour to be found (actually that doesn’t sound too bad for LAX). If we’d had carry on we could have gone straight to the hotel.

  19. Marg
    February 5, 2014 / 7:50 am

    We are devoted carryon travelers for all the same reasons. I had some elbow issues after a long trip with many destination changes. Pulling a 40 lb. bag can physically damaging. I decided to try out a spinner for this reason. I ended up returning it, as the bag that would be carryon size was much smaller on the interior because of the wheels. Could not afford to lose that space. Love your travel posts

  20. February 5, 2014 / 8:02 am

    I’m definitely a carry-onner. And I use a decades old Hartmann that’s finally coming apart. Looking forward to your reviews:).

    • February 5, 2014 / 9:17 am

      I’m a carry on only as well. Ditto about using a decades old Hartman and ditto about looking forward to your reviews. No images loaded on your page for me either.

  21. February 5, 2014 / 8:13 am

    Great Post! Now that I do a lot of traveling I have found that a carry-on piece of luggage is the only way for me to go. I finally broke down last year and purchased tumi luggage with spin wheels. The only thing I’m wondering is why I didn’t buy this sooner.

  22. SallyJ
    February 5, 2014 / 8:21 am

    The first time I went to Paris in April 2007 I took a big bag that had to be checked. We took the TGV out to Annecy and that bag was a big pain in the butt to cart around! Never again…my husband (who travels a lot for work, including 10 day trips to Australia) and I both have carry-on Samsonite spinners and are very happy with them. Different models but essentially the same thing. I pack only what will fit in the carry-on. We went to France for 10 days last June and found a laundromat – made a fun evening out of it with friends, drinking beer and ordering pizza:) I have learned to simplify my packing tremendously and only bring comfortable clothes and shoes that I know I will wear over and over. Above posters are correct – no one notices that you’ve been wearing the same black pants three times…just dress them with a different top, sweater or scarf and voila! A new outfit!

  23. February 5, 2014 / 8:29 am

    I alternate between both methods. It really depends on why I’m traveling and for how long. A six week work assignment Australia is different from the a three day business trip with three legs starting on the east coast to the midwest and then back to the east coast. And a vacation is different too from a business trip in terms of wardrobe.

  24. Nancy
    February 5, 2014 / 9:38 am

    My default browser is Chrome, and I did not see any of your images there. I tried Firefox and could see them all. This happens with other blogs as well.

  25. diane
    February 5, 2014 / 10:25 am

    Although this would now work for everyone, I prefer to Fedex my luggage ahead to my (first) destination. It’s at the hotel waiting for you when you arrive. I travel light but still hate dealing with the luggage while I am being treated like I am in a cattle car, which is what airline travel has become (IMO).

  26. Hedy
    February 5, 2014 / 11:32 am

    There is one issue you may encounter with carry on bags on European low-cost airlines. They are now restricting the number of bags that can be brought onto the aircraft and may put some in the hold (at no cost). This is unlikely to happen if you are carrying a soft bag.

    I cannot see any images on my ipad.

    I’ve been reading your blog for some years, not least because we are physically very similar, although I am an Englishwoman a couple of years older. My 25 year old daughter thinks this is hilarious.

    • February 7, 2014 / 1:09 pm

      Yes! I had a horrible trip to and from Copenhagen to England on EasyJet as everyone had carry ons and there just isn’t enough room in the overhead cabins. On the way there we had to check both our carry on bags. On the way we queued agressively to be able to fling out bags into an overhead locker. Stressful!

      I don’t think airlines are handling this very well at all. There needs to be clearer rules about what goes in overhead lockers, what goes under seats and not just a ‘first in, first served’ rule that makes everyone pushy and stressed.

  27. Patty
    February 5, 2014 / 12:20 pm

    We travel from a small airport, so we always have to make a least one connection. And sometimes those connections are so far away. For this reason, I always check a bag; I just cannot run from one gate to another pulling my entire wardrobe. That said, I really admire those of you who can get by with a carry-on. How liberating, especially if you are traveling from spot to spot during a trip.

  28. Ginny
    February 5, 2014 / 1:24 pm

    We are car travelers, but I still prefer a one bag, one tote approach. There are four of us, so luggage space is limited (even more so if we bring the dog). Also, I enjoy the simplicity once I’ve arrived at my destination. Sometimes space is limited. Sometime the room is many, many steps from the car. Plus, the fewer items I bring, the less likely I am to forget something when gathering up for the return trip.

  29. February 5, 2014 / 1:33 pm

    As the wife of a commercial pilot, I have become a master of packing for a week’s vacation in my carry on. My trick, has always been to tell a color story with my wardrobe. I choose my base color and work from there, adding accessories as necessary. I wear my jewelry for the trip and carry a pashmina to wear on the flight. My large tote holds my zip lock bag of liquids as well as a small, cross body bag which will serve as my purse upon landing as well as all my electronics. I always dress for comfort, wearing knits and such, and shoes that slip on and off easily. Luggage is almost always checked on the way home.

  30. (Not That) Joan
    February 5, 2014 / 1:41 pm

    Do have a look at the Lipault 22″ Spinner. I treated myself to one last year and it is wonderfully lightweight and sturdy. It holds more than you think it possibly could, and is easy to maneuver. The only problem I have found is that I can’t get the handle to lock at a good height for me (I am 5’7″). But you are shorter than I am, so it might work out okay for you.

    • une femme
      February 5, 2014 / 1:49 pm

      Joan, that one’s on my short list. Do you find the wheels are sturdy?

      • (Not That) Joan
        February 6, 2014 / 7:33 am

        Yes, or at least I haven’t had any trouble with them. I use my Lipault for short-haul flights or the TGV. It’s been as cooperative on Parisian cobblestones as it has in airports or train stations. For me, the only annoyance is the inability to adjust the handle to the best height for me. It’s light, sturdy and beautifully crafted. And the colors are pretty too!

        • Jen
          February 6, 2014 / 11:10 am

          That’s great to hear–I’ve been looking at the Lipault, but wondered how it really performed. And it is nice that if I had to check it, it comes in other colors than black so I can find it easily at luggage claim.

  31. yumyummoany
    February 6, 2014 / 12:18 am

    I don’t fly but the ease of a small suitcase makes a journey so much nicer and less stressful. I first learned how and about the magic packing cube here and I have never looked back. When I see posts like these it all adds knowledge. I’m off to Avignon in the summer – via Eurostar – and a small hardshell suitcase will be quite enough. Anything I buy I shall send home by post in one of those magic pre-paid boxes from the French Post Office.

    • Patty
      February 6, 2014 / 5:34 am

      Can you explain how the packing cubes help? My first impression is that they would cut down on packing space. Thanks!

      • yumyummoany
        February 6, 2014 / 6:02 am

        What I do is get my cube open on the bed. I lay out what I’m taking and fold them into cube shaped sizes putting things like jeans in the bottom and working up to more light items. When I think the cube is full I put the top on and see if it zips easily in which case more goes in. I also squeeze small things down the sides, wasting no space.

        I did an experiment to compare the cube to simply putting clothes straight into the case – cube won. You are right it does keep thinks nice and neat and when I arrived the items were not creased to death. My daughter in law travels a lot with work, all over the world. She uses the three cube system, buying them after I lent her mine to try out.

        They fit so neatly in the case and you are right they leave lots of space. Have a look at the links where she shows the case packed for both summer and winter.

  32. yumyummoany
    February 6, 2014 / 12:28 am

    For washing clothes try some of the no rinse products like Eucalan. Only a tiny drop is used so a small bottle will do a lot of stuff. Worth while.

    Also the packing cubes are fantastic. One for bottoms, one for tops and one for underwear. I also have one for used.

  33. Mary
    February 6, 2014 / 5:41 am

    Although I love the idea of carry-on only, I tend to check bags because I’ve been on flights where first class and elite status passengers use all the overhead space so my bag ends up being gate-checked…then your bag is out there without a bar code if there’s a problem.

  34. Kris
    February 6, 2014 / 6:23 am

    I’m going to Switzerland, Germany and Austria in September and love the thought of just a carry-on, especially for the number of transportation changes that we will make. But I don’t know if I can pack sufficiently for a 10 day trip with just a carry-on. It would be a challenge. You probably have noted this somewhere in your post, but how long will you be traveling? I will be interested to hear how taking just a carry-on worked for you.

      • k
        February 6, 2014 / 8:44 am

        Thanks so much.

        • Jean
          February 6, 2014 / 1:48 pm

          Last summer, I spent a month in Europe with a carryon bag and a small backpack (to hold my purse, iPad, books, miscellaneous items). I didn’t do a real load of laundry until after 2 weeks. I did hand wash a few shirts, undies, and socks as I went along. I had 3 pr pants, 2 skirts, 8 undies & 3 bras, 6 pr socks, 8 shirts, one pair of shorts, bathing suit, pjs, hiking shoe, sandal, ankle boot, flip flops, 2 pashmina sized scarves, a raincoat, a cardigan sweater in white, and a black knit zippered yoga style jacket.

          • Kris
            February 7, 2014 / 5:11 am

            You are a master packer!

  35. February 6, 2014 / 9:01 am

    We are going to Marrakech for 6 days at the end of Feb. to a posh hotel and my husband is insisting I only have a carry on. This will be challenging as I will need walking stuff as well as evening ensembles.

    • February 6, 2014 / 2:53 pm

      It is because he doesn’t want you to buy a carpet and a caftan… There are very pretty things there.

  36. February 6, 2014 / 1:21 pm

    I’m kind of late to the post but I’ll chime in anyway. I try to carry on if at all possible. I always plan to wash things and re-wear them, and sometimes also like to purchase a couple things on the trip itself if I need them anyway and then send those back by post before flying home.

  37. February 6, 2014 / 2:39 pm

    I’ve been traveling light for years now, and only check bags when I’m carrying special equipment or am taking things for expeditions. I say traveling light because people can pack 40 pound carry-ons, and that is hardly light travel!

    In my blog I note the following “Five Key Principles of Light Travel”
    1) Carry a capsule wardrobe of washable clothes that you love (I love coming here to see the suggestions)
    2) Decant toiletries to the smallest container possible or go for solids – I try to carry 2-1/1 weeks worth of product. If you don’t go that route then try the “buy it there” method. A quick detour by the store will provide lots of product.
    3) Plan on doing laundry – either sink wash on occasion or pay someone to do it for you. Many hotels have drop-off services so you can have your laundry done while you are out sightseeing.
    4) Layer clothing for controlling temperature and creating multiple looks. A tee can be worn alone, under another shirt for warmth, etc.
    5) As much as possible go for USB devices. USB is dual voltage, so you only need an adapter for the plug. Phones, kindle, iPad, headlamps, camera battery chargers, UV water sanitizers – they are ALL available in USB. USB is so much smaller and lighter than regular electronics. If you do need a curling iron or flat iron get a dual voltage one – again, you’ll only need an adapter plug.

    As far as getting purchases home – I like to use flat rate shipping. Less than $20 here in the US, and less than $50 in Europe.

    But please don’t overstuff your carry on bag. You are NOT travelling light if you have to do that!

  38. February 6, 2014 / 6:03 pm

    I just bought a new carry-on bag, and specifically didn’t get a spinner. If you are walking and stop on a slight hill, they will roll down the hill. (I saw this happen.) Also, I was on a flight and saw a man with a spinner leave it on the jetway for the ground crew to put underneath like they do, and it rolled down the jetway away from the door where the crew was. It would have been just sitting there in the middle of the jetway, but I got his attention so that he could take it back. I do a lot of international travel, and I just don’t think the spinners are practical.

  39. Pain-au-Chocolat
    February 7, 2014 / 3:28 pm

    I take a three week business trip to Europe every summer, which has been known to extend to as long as six weeks. I check a 26 inch hardside spinner, and carry on a cross-body bag that holds my computer and important paper files. I use packing cubes, and the spinner has room left for purchases. Cannot abide the thought (and back pain) of heaving all my belongings overhead, or of keeping up with them in an airport restroom. Lucy

  40. February 7, 2014 / 8:42 pm

    I only check because of a bad back but it is very liberating. More clothes, more choices and a much easier flight.

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