Put a capful of bleach in each toilet after the last use. It prevents anything from growing around the edge.
Garbage. Go through the refrigerator and throw out or give away any items that will go bad before you return. If you don’t have an alley or a shared dumpster, ask a neighbor to take your garbage and add it to theirs so it isn’t fermenting in the house, garage or elsewhere while you are gone.
Thermostat and electronics. The day you leave, set the thermostat to save a little money on heating/cooling. Unplug appliances that draw power. I like to unplug TV and computers just in case there’s a power surge while I’m gone. Turn off the water at the knobs to the washer and dryer too, since those hoses are the ones most likely to develop leaks.
The ticket for the flight isn’t the real ticket. Consider it a loosey-goosey reservation. The real ticket is called a boarding pass. A person can print out the boarding pass from any computer having access to a printer about 23 hours before the flight, or arrive early at the airport and get it when dropping off checked bags. The two choices are not equal; the first is time efficient and safe, the second is risky and time-consuming.
To print a boarding pass, visit the airline’s website again to look for something like this CHECK IN button. Next to it, as an aside, there’s a button to check on incoming flights; if you know the airline, you can check whether the flight was weather-delayed along the way, saving you from driving to pick up guests hours before the plane lands.
Click the check in button, enter the information it requests, which will include the code, and send to the printer.
If you’re phone-savvy, you can get the boarding pass sent to your phone and they can actually scan the bar code on the phone at boarding.
Winter flights to warmer climates. The biggest enemy of packing light on trips to warmer places is the winter-appropriate outfit we wear from house to airport and back.
Leave the winter coat, gloves and boots (if you think you’ll need them when you return) in the trunk of the car. From car to terminal, wear only a warm hat and a fleece scarf along with the warmest clothes you’re bringing.
No matter how cold it is outside there’s no chance of frostbite or dropping dead from cold while walking briskly for five minutes in the parking lot to your car, or back again. Even if you’re in the remote parking, the shuttle bus is heated.
Hat and fleece scarf go in your bag for the trip. On the plane, the scarf makes a good shawl or balled up, a good pillow. I use the fleece for extra insulation for the arm against the window, which gets really cold.
When the climates are about on par, but cold, bring jackets, fleece scarves, sweaters and the like. A leather jacket cut something like a blazer is attractively stylish; it can look sharp and will work both indoors and out, even though it will be heavy. You could probably get away with no sweater at all.
The headband-style ear warmers can be very warm and ball up very small. With the right color, both men and women can pull it down around their neck where it looks something like a turtleneck to the casual eye. These can be very compatible with women’s hairstyles, not creating helmet-hair.
Airplane clothes. Consider wearing your best outfit to the airport. Doing this enhances the odds in any benefit-of-the-doubt situation encountered, whether trying to finagle a first class seat upgrade, having the flight attendant referee a dispute with a fellow passenger, or trying to pass off that you ‘forgot’ that bottle of liquor was in your carry-on luggage (it’s a goner).
Wearing your heaviest shoes onto the plane is also a good idea. You’ll see many folks wearing flip-flops in an airport. They do it to save twenty seconds at the scanners. But airplanes are cold. The tiny bit of convenience is not worth two hours of discomfort on the plane. The other reason for wearing substantial shoes in airports is the extremely high risk of getting your toes run over by someone’s luggage or stepped on by a passerby.
Dress for cool temps on the plane in all seasons, but in warm climates also be prepared for a long hot wait on the tarmac. Planes do not have air conditioning when not moving. Having a tank top under your clothes can be handy if you’re in for a spell on the tarmac.
Check bags or carry-on only? Sometimes a person simply has to check bags because they are bringing along items that can’t be brought in the carry-on. Those items vary by airline, country, even airport, so check the airline’s website prior to the trip for the full details.
If you are not compelled to bring any items like that, traveling with carry-on only gives you peace of mind and flexibility.
Some years ago an airline executive appeared on a talk show, and the host ambushed him with questions regarding airline baggage theft problems. Without a clue beforehand about what was going to happen, the host broadcast several hidden-camera videos of his airline staff pilfering from checked luggage. The video covered several airports over a few weeks, and the host said there was more than shown here. Asked to answer for that, he blamed the victim, and in the middle of it blurted, “Never check anything you want to keep.”
That is the most valuable travel information I ever heard.
Most articles and books on packing light lend the impression that none of your clothes are ‘right’ for packing light, so you need to shop for new clothes. Pshaw. You have all the clothes you need right now for packing light. Shop for one or two things only if you want to. The baggage weight choices aren’t nineteen pounds or forty-one pounds, they’re nineteen pounds or 19.4 pounds.
As of this writing, for overseas flights most airlines allow one free checked bag weighing up to fifty pounds. In the US, the checked bag weight limit can be forty to fifty pounds, depending upon the airline. Always check your airline’s website because baggage details change a few times per year.
Be careful about getting near the limit on the way out if you will acquire things during the trip. Also consider that while they allow that weight, there will be times you’ll have to heave-ho that suitcase into cars, up steps and so on. Unless you’re well-off and staying at luxury places or hiring handlers along the way, traveling with more luggage than your party can schlep up twelve steps or heave into a car trunk is likely to become a problem.
The reason to do carry-on only isn’t to save money. It’s to save your trip. If you have a non-stop flight and if you physically hand over your bag in the sweet spot of two and a half hours to forty-five minutes before the flight, then seeing your bag at your destination is reliable enough to gamble on. Any other scenario, including checking in four hours early or having only a 45 minute refueling stop, all bets are off.
Business travelers, people visiting relatives or people coming home can check bags. When it’s not a big deal if the bag shows up a day later, checking the bag is an option.
Bringing enough stuff in your carry-on to tide you through for two days hardly mitigates the damage. I knew one young girl who scrimped and saved for over a year for a trip to Mexico with friends. In what was to be an activity-filled six day visit, her tardy bag took four days to find her. Forever after, when asked about her trip to Mexico, she delivered the lengthy saga of hardships caused by the missing luggage. Was Mexico even there? Every bit of joy was sucked out of the trip.
When your bag is not there when the carousel stops turning, after your cold sweat dissipates and your spinning head settles down, your next two hours will be occupied with finding the proper office, filling out forms and muddling through the reporting process. I don’t have to tell you that this is hard enough in the US, but in a foreign-language-speaking airport it will be three times harder.
The stress will be murder. Yes, you’ll head off to your hotel with assurances that the bag is headed this way and they’ll bring it to your hotel when it arrives, but it leaves a bad, bad taste in the mouth and the possibility of pure joy for the next two days is shot.
The reason to do carry-on only is because you want an enjoyable trip.
Quote me whatever statistics you like, but snafus happen to first-timers twenty times more often than to experienced travelers. Frequent flyers have routines, change their modus operandi by airline, airport or time of day based on experience, and murmur reminders to staff at key moments so snafus don’t happen to them.
Checking bags on the return trip home is a different dynamic. One options is to put your dirty laundry in the checked bag, keep all the souvenirs and good stuff in the carry-on.
Make the decision by asking yourself this question: How bad will I feel if I never see that checked bag again?
A complete list of the major world airlines weight limitations, both checked and carry-on is at www.airfarewatchdog.com.
To travel light, starting with the lightest possible bag is vital. This rules out using twenty-five-year-old luggage for carry-on.
Sturdy travelers with good backs can consider a backpack or a light nylon duffel bag. Lands’ End has a great duffel line; I like the two cinch straps that can be snugged to relieve the stress on the zipper. A duffel meets the dimensional measurements easily – it just mushes into the available space. Some duffel bags have long enough handles so the resourceful traveler can put one over each shoulder and make a backpack out of it. Yet it will have about 40% more capacity than the largest backpack.
Wheeled luggage under twenty-one inches high is a common choice.
Airlines say you are allowed one piece of luggage and one personal item. They don’t say ‘two pieces of luggage.’ How you carry the second piece, that personal item, makes all the difference.
If you have a book-bag-size backpack on your back and are wheeling a rolling luggage, there’s a risk some staffer will call it two pieces of luggage. Obtain a cloth grocery store bag, plop the backpack inside it, carry it in the crook of your elbow, to make it visually less luggage-like. How you divvy up the bags between travelers matters. Why invite hassle by having one member of a pair of travelers boarding while in possession of the two largest carry-ons? You’ll get stopped, have to argue, and if you’re sharp, eventually you’ll convince the staffer that the person behind you with only one tiny bag is having one of these count toward their luggage allowance. But it’s a back-and-forth that could be avoided. Your fellow passengers will thank you for avoiding this hassle and holding up the line.
I’ve seen people stopped because they had two or three personal items. Even a fast food bag counts. Combine.
Weigh each checked bag and carry-on before you get to the airport, to prevent last-minute weight adjustments. If you don’t have a handheld luggage weigher or a large scale, use your bathroom scale to check the bag weight while still at home. Weigh yourself holding the bag and then just you, and subtract. You could simply prop your bag on it, but these scales lose accuracy at the edges of their range, meaning it will be less accurate in the zero to thirty pound range. Being a pound and a half off will be a hassle in the airport. You’ll have to pull out some heavy items and wear them.
Fanny packs, or waist packs, as tacky and unpopular as they are now, offer the best protection against pickpockets. Think hard about ruling out using a waist pack for your purse or daybag when traveling outside of the US just because it isn’t sexy. Maybe being sexy to passersby isn’t really a good goal. PacSafe makes several ultra-secure travel bags with cables in the straps and wire mesh around the bag, protecting it from bag slashers who slice and then dive in to pick up what falls out. Having a trip unmarred by theft or even an attempted theft is a good goal. Walk around with your lock-secured fiber safe around your waist with a two-handed latch mechanism on cable-reinforced nylon and you’ll swear there are no pickpockets at all.
Money belts. These come in the standard under-the-belt form as well as shoulder harness or lanyard style. They’re meant to be placed under your clothes against your skin. They are not a good place for your ID, all your cash, and papers you need to produce promptly while in public. They are good for larger bills, valuable jewelry/coins, and important stuff you won’t need until tomorrow or can get during a trip to the restroom. It goes without saying that hiding valuables but then whipping it out in public defeats the purpose.
When using a money belt in hot weather, put paper items in Ziploc bags to prevent getting damp with sweat.
Carry-on bag. A bag for passport, money, credit cards, sunscreen, maps, tickets, phone, charger, pen, adhesive bandages, ibuprofen, medicines, jewelry, face powder, spare glasses, sunglasses, pack of facial tissue, earbuds (for phone, audio tours or hotel exercise equipment), a few hand sanitizer packets, safety pins, floss sticks, tube of Carmex, baseball cap/eyeshade, and items that might be used today.
Ultra Light travel. This book is for vacations and longer trips. For two or three day business trips, my 99¢ book Briefcase Travel details how to travel super light on short trips that are basically there and back. As the title gives away, even when the briefcase, tote, messenger bag, or backpack is mostly full of computer and work stuff, you can fit everything you need into a 2” depth in one bag. This gives the business traveler freedom, flexibility, stress reduction and most of all, more time. No backtracking to fetch luggage, or turning down a spontaneous dinner invitation because you left your medication in the hotel room. Everything’s with you every minute of the day, and you still look professional.