Don’t check your luggage; take carry-on


There are plenty of good reasons for not checking your luggage.

You won’t lose it if you’ve got in your hand rather than in the hold of the plane.

It can’t be tampered with while you’re in charge of it.

When you arrive at your destination, you’re good to get going; no waiting at a luggage carousel for ages in the hope that your gear did make it onto the plane and isn’t sitting back on the tarmac somewhere else.

But it’s about more than just protecting your precious gear and not having to wait for it.

Packing for carry-on necessitates packing light. Packing smart. Thinking each piece before it gets the green light. It’s about being freer to move about when you get to your destination. No one wants to be lugging a bulky backpack or wheeling a cumbersome case along footpaths, country roads, up hills, through city streets.

And although you might think it’s no big deal having weighty luggage, it’s not just about the plane trip. Once you’re There (wherever There is) chances are you’ll be catching a train or a bus or manoeuvring all your stuff about on stairs; all of which is a lot easier when there is not a 20-kilogram monster alongside you.

It’s also a luxury to not have much choice when you’re travelling. We all know that situation where you stand in front of your wardrobe at home, its door wides open, a multitude of hangers groaning under an avalanche of dresses and pants and shirts and tops and jackets, and there’s not a thing to wear.

Pack lightly and the choice is reduced significantly. And you won’t care because your expectations of having exactly the right thing to wear at the right time are significantly lower. When you’re faced with a huge choice at home, you’re looking for exactly the right combination of clothes. When you’re shopping for an outfit among a handful of things in your teeny tiny luggage, you’ll find it way easier to cobble that outfit together and you’ll be happier with it, because it will seem almost like a miracle.

And as if that isn’t enough, because you’re travelling with hand luggage only, you won’t be able to go shopping. Well, not unless you throw something out first. Which you might want to do after you’ve been traveling for a while. Leave that shirt at the BnB or in the hotel room to make space in your luggage for that treasure you couldn’t resist picking up at the market a or the shop, knowing that by choosing it you had to make a choice to lose something.

(If you do this, leave your discarded item clean and folded in your room knowing that it could well be a treasure for the cleaning staff changing your room. It’s more dignified and respectful to do it that way and you’ll feel better knowing that the piece you’ve discarded to make room for the new piece is not going to be wasted but will be appreciated again.)

All that time you might have spent shopping you can now do something else, knowing that siren call of the conspicuous consumption is not working its magic on you. Think of the extra time and extra money you now have. Time and money you can now spend on experiences rather than possessions.

Okay, so there are good reasons to be bringing carry-on luggage with you rather than packing to the weight limit your airline ticket comes with. But is it possible?

I’ve just come back from almost three months in Europe. I needed summer clothes for the south-west of France where temperatures were in the early thirties (that’s Celsius) and I needed warm clothes for the Wild Atlantic Way on the west coast of Ireland where a dog could be blown off a chain with the cold  ferocious winds coming in off the Atlantic Ocean and where temperatures would be in single figures.

There was not just the different weather to contend with. There was a heap of other factors. I needed to dress for different conditions. I was going to be performing at a comedy festival, so I needed stage clothes. I was spending time at a $65,000-a-week house in the company of a group of people who I would see each day and I imagined I would be dressing nicely for dinner, a day trip to St Tropez and lounging about the pool. I was also going to be house-maiding, cooking and gardening; learning at a multi-day conference where I needed to look business-like,;and then holed up in a castle with a bunch of women writing memoir.

And I wanted all this to fit into carry-on luggage for the reasons I listed earlier and for the very important one that when I can heft my luggage easily I feel bolder, more in charge and more like a traveller and less like a tourist. Given all the things I was going to be doing, I needed to do what I could to build my confidence.

So, was it possible?


You want to know how I did it?

I’ll tell you next time.

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