Are You a “Just In Case” Packer? 10 Reasons Why You Want to Travel Lightly

Are you are the type to always travel with check-in luggage? Do you always take along a few extra things just in case? Do you feel insecure when you don’t have everything in your packing list included in your luggage?

Today, let’s look at some basics of traveling light.* Even if you might not be ready to shed all your extra bags, you can incorporate some of these into your philosophy for a less stressful way to travel.

Most travelers I’ve encountered seem to fall into two categories: The “bring everything you might need” traveload camp, and the “bring only what you use” travelite camp. I’ve talked extensively with those that fall into Group 1 to try to find out why they like to take everything. Oftentimes, it is because they like to be prepared for all types of situations. I can think of a few. How about losing your luggage? Or having your luggage broken into? How about having to go to the airport earlier than the traveliter, or having to wait around the luggage carousel long after the traveliter has caught a cab (or better yet–the swift train system for a fraction of the cost) to town?

What most people don’t realize is that a seasoned traveliter is just as prepared for most situations as the “traveloader.” For example, a trip to New Orleans to visit my in-laws a few years ago included attending a wedding I did not know I was attending. Instead of going out and buying a new outfit, I simply wore a set of black coordinates that I accented with a pretty scarf and I fit right in!

Reason #10: Nobody can steal your luggage

Don’t have to worry about someone stealing your checked luggage when your bag is always in your possession. Every so often we hear stories about checked luggage that is ransacked by airport personnel. Although you still have to put your carry-on through a security check, it will always be within your sight.

Reason #9: Be independent

By being light on your feet, you can get around everywhere on your own without trying to find luggage carts or someone to help you. Traveling lightly means being independent.

Reason #8: More time to get to the airport

These days, you can print out your e-ticket and boarding pass from home. And if you don’t need to wait in line to check in your luggage, you can save yourself as much as an extra hour before you have to head off to the airport. This is true going home, too. Enjoy the extra time soaking in the last hour of your tropical vacation instead of rushing off to the airport.

Reason #7: Volunteer to be bumped

Your flight is full, and the gate agents start asking for volunteers to be bumped. Maybe you’re on a connecting flight and you can only assume your checked luggage is already on this flight (since checked luggage doesn’t always travel on the same aircraft as the passenger), but are you eager to be bumped? If you just had your carry-ons with you, you can quickly hop over to the gate agent and let them know you’ll gladly wait for the next flight (even if it’s the next day).

Reason #6: Catch public transportation

You reach San Francisco International Airport and if it’s just you and your carry-on, you can easily walk over to the BART station connected to the international terminal, and before you know it, you’ll be checking in to your downtown hotel, and hopping on a cable car to visit Ghirardelli Square. OK, so BART will allow you to take your luggage… but do you really want to lug around all your check-ins and stick out like a sore thumb? Or maybe you’re going to Waikiki. You can take your carry-on from your arrival gate at Honolulu International Airport and walk outside to the hop on The Bus. And The Bus doesn’t let you take big luggage, so you’d have to catch a cab for $20 when that could be going towards paying for your mai tai.

Reason #5: Don’t wait

You know what I’m talking about. You get to the airport and you wait in line to check in your bag. Depending on the day of the week and time of day, this line could get massively long while you enviously eye those people who can just check in electronically from the automated machines nearby. To add insult to injury, when you arrive at your destination, do you get to immediately hit the BART station? No. You get to go to the luggage carousels, where you wait. And wait. And wait. Is your check-in a black rolling upright? Then you combine the wait with checking to make sure it’s your bag and not someone else’s. This could easily add yet another hour to your trip.

Reason #4: Avoid tipping

When you don’t have to check in your luggage, you can save on tips all over the place. You don’t have to tip a porter at the airport. You don’t have to tip the cab driver when he takes your luggage from the trunk of the cab. You don’t have to pay the bellman when he carries your luggage to your room. If you’re pinching pennies and being careful where all your vacation money goes, avoid taking check-ins.

Reason #3: Be environmental

Believe it or not, traveling with just your carry-on is actually being environmental. By traveling lighter, the airplane doesn’t use as much fuel. Same with the cab (or rather than catching a cab, by taking the city bus that runs anyway, you’re really saving on fuel). If everyone starts to travel lighter, just think about the lighter load on an aircraft.

Reason #2: Avoid fees

These days, airlines have been charging fees for a lot of different things. But charging for the privilege of checking in luggage (some airlines, for even just a single check-in) seems to really rile people. Now, trying to avoid check-ins by forcing your too-big carry-on onto the airplane is not the solution. The thing to do is to learn to travel without your check-in luggage. What a way to stick it to those airlines! By traveling lightly, a person can easily save $40 or more.

Reason #1: “Lost Luggage”

For some, this phrase evokes nervous smiles and sympathetic nods. For others, it’s no laughing matter. The thing is, this doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of air travel. If you don’t ever give your bags over to the airlines, you aren’t giving them the chance to lose your bags. You stay in control.

Just last week, a good friend of mine traveled to the Midwest, but his check-in luggage didn’t make it. He was very lucky; the airline found his bag just 5 hours after he landed. Even then, he had to wait for his luggage at the luggage carousel, file paperwork, phone the airlines, etc. He was on a business trip, he had to do this in addition to whatever work he flew there to do. Then, when they found his bag, he had to travel back to the airport to retrieve it. The airline may have given him the option to deliver it to his hotel room, but he may not have trusted the extra time that may have taken.

I’ve had other friends whose luggage has been lost, and they have not been so lucky. They lost their luggage on their way to their destination, and their luggage was not found for a couple of days. This can be extremely inconvenient when the checked in bag contains all the things you hope to use on your trip. In one friend’s case, she wound up going to the hotel gift shop and nearby convenience store to buy all the basics, and she was able to live on those for the few days until her bag showed up. By then, she was almost ready to go home.

If there is a best-case scenario for lost luggage, it’s when they lose your bag on your way home. Maybe it’s wintertime and your lost bag only contained tropicalwear from your Caribbean trip. So the airline takes five days to get your bag back to you; who cares, right?

But what if they never find your luggage?

*The basis of this blog post is one of my original introductions to my Travelite FAQ site here.