Save Money And (Maybe) Time With The Right Luggage, Packed Efficiently

I am one of the lucky ones: a traveler who has never experienced the inconvenience of lost or damaged luggage. I like knowing that but have never dared talk about it out loud, for fear of jinxing the luck or angering the luggage gods. Instead, when others tell their tale of woe concerning luggage mishaps or go on about inadequate reimbursement from airlines, I politely nod in sympathy. Still, I know that luck does not hold out forever. Wanting to go out on top, combined with a need for speed and a love for saving money, I tried a different approach on a trip to Amsterdam recently; I checked nothing and carried on all of my luggage.

“Back in the day, checking your bag on a trip only cost you 20 minutes of your time after a flight. Now you’re lucky if it only costs you $20,” says Adam Dachis from Lifehacker, a website with tips, tricks and downloads for getting things done.

My thoughts exactly – but as more air travelers try to beat the system by carrying on more, less space is available, making packing efficiently a must. Picking the right bag, rolling clothes and taking only what we actually need make for a good start. But getting your head in the game can score some of the best results.”Problems occur when you start thinking of everything you pack as “single use” items,” says Dachis in “How to Fit Two Weeks Worth of Luggage Under the Airplane Seat in Front of You,” urging us to realize that most clothing can easily be worn more than once, some many times.

Dachis recommends a flexible duffel-style bag that gives up little space to padding, protection or aesthetics. Been there, done that, not for me. Spending a lot of time in airports I had seen businessmen with stackable luggage. A medium sized bag that fits overhead and a smaller one that fits under the seat. These were the road warriors I needed to pay attention to. Many had rollerboard-style luggage with four wheels too. I liked that idea as well. These were my personal luggage idols. They had crossed the finish line with a huge luggage win.

In my case, the search was long and tedious to find the right luggage. After years of searching, trying and eventually adding failed bags to a spare bedroom we call “the luggage room,” I may have found a good fit.

TravelPro’s 21-inch Spinner Suiter combined from their Crew collection can easily go in overhead storage and holds plenty of clothes for a week. What Travelpro calls a “business brief,” from the same collection, has extra room for more clothing too and fits easily under an airline seat. On my trip to Amsterdam, home for a day then off to Venice, I don’t want to unpack and pack again. This looks to be the right tool for the job – for me. Everyone has different needs.

“You can’t have a perfect packing system,” admits Dachis, placing his greatest emphasis on efficiency. “Good preparation makes for better travel.”

I couldn’t agree more. The down side? I still have to wait for those I travel with to collect their checked luggage. So much for saving time.

Looking for more reasons to change your thinking about the luggage game? Watch this video:

[Photo credit – Canadian Pacific]

Galley Gossip: Crew luggage, rolling vs folding & lifting heavy bags

I just read the New York Times article about your packing advice for travelers. What is the brand and model of the carry-on luggage that you used in the slideshow? – Michelle

The bag featured in the article is a Travelpro 22″ flight crew series 3. My company also provides airline personnel with an 18″ rollaboard. For whatever reason neither one of the bags are featured on Travelpro’s website, but they do offer something similar – a 20″ and 22″ expandable rollaboard under the Crew 7 Series. If you’re looking to buy a new suticase, my advice is to play it safe and go with the smaller one. While I like my 22″ suiter and use it whenever I’m taking long trips, commuting to work for a week straight, or on vacation with another family member using only one bag, I prefer the smaller 18″ suitcase for the majority of my travel.

Savvy travelers know how to pack light. I do this by planning outfits around two pairs of shoes. While the suiter works well when I need it, it’s too big and bulky for shorter trips. Fully packed it doesn’t always fit inside overhead bins on smaller, older aircraft – at least that’s what I’ve been told. Though it does fit just fine on a 767. As for the 737, I’d been warned repeatedly by coworkers it wouldn’t fit, but I was able to get it inside both a regular and reconfigured overhead bin. That said, I didn’t have anything packed inside the suiter section of the bag. Who knows, maybe I got lucky. Maybe my colleagues pack too much. All I know is I got it inside the bin without a struggle and didn’t have to check it.


Rolling is definitely better than folding, but I find that clothes which don’t need to be folded at all are better off packed flat. I usually pack everything flat except for pants and heavy shirts and sweaters. I make sure I’m wearing my heaviest clothing on the plane. Even thin shirts are packed more efficiently by lying flat and folding the sleeves over, alternating them north and south so the folded parts don’t bulk up. Of course, the rolling method is more convenient once you get there if you are going to be living out of your bag rather than operating from a base. Pulling out clothes packed flat is a pain – Ray

I, too, prefer folding my clothes to rolling on shorter trips because I have less clothing to pack. To avoid wrinkles, I lay uniform items flat in the bag, ends of the dress, pants, or blazer hanging out on one side. Then I’ll place folded items on top. When I’m done, I flip what was hanging out of the bag on top of the folded items. To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about check out photos 9-11 in The New York Times slideshow.

By using the rolling method I’m able to pack more inside my bag. This is why I always roll my clothes on longer trips. And just like you said, Ray, it is easier to get in and out of a bag when clothes have been rolled without creating a mess. As for avoiding wrinkles, make sure to roll your clothing really tight, pulling out the sides and then smoothing the material every three rolls. Or just pack clothes that don’t wrinkle easily. That’s what I do. Certain fabrics are your friend. Think cashmere and jersey. If I do end up with wrinkles, I’ll hang my clothes in the bathroom while I take a hot shower. If that doesn’t work, I’ll call down for an iron. Most hotels have them.

How much did your suitcase weigh when you had finished packing? Can you lift it into the overhead rack by yourself? Thanks. I look forward to reading your blog. – Nancy

I didn’t actually weigh the bag on a scale, but I can tell you this, Nancy, it was heavy, very very heavy! And yes, I could lift it by myself into the overhead bin. Though I’m not sure if anyone else could. For the record, I would never bring on board a bag I couldn’t lift on my own. Why should anyone other than myself be responsible for what I’ve packed? If for whatever reason I can’t lift my bag (like back when I was pregnant or when I broke my toe and wound up on crutches), I check it. Which brings me to a little pet peeve of mine – Flight attendant pet peeve #3: You want me to do what!

How to lift a heavy bag into an overhead bin:

1. Bend at the knee, using leg muscles not back muscles

2. Keep the bag close to your body, distributing the weight of the bag evenly on both sides.

3. Avoid twisting. Pivot with the feet instead

4. If possible, place bag flat on a seat back and then lift the bag using both hands into the bin.

Your bag looked big. It’s worth noting that International airlines have very restrictive weight limits for carry-ons – they range from 13 to 22 pounds – far less than the more liberal weights allowed in North America. – Steve

This is true. International carriers are a lot more strict with what passengers bring on board. But I’ve been pretty lucky in terms of traveling with my 22″ suiter overseas. Last year I visited Italy – Venice, Positano and Rome – with a bag just as full as it was on the slideshow, if not more so, and I was allowed to roll it on board both Ryan Air and Air One without a hassle. My husband takes it to London twice a year and he’s never had a problem either.

A miracle in a carry on – but no underwear? – Marie

I can not tell you how many people, complete strangers, have emailed me about my underwear! Or lack thereof. Even my own mother had something to say. Here’s the deal. I wear it. I pack it. I just didn’t want the entire world seeing it! I felt weird enough rolling a nightie, let alone my skivvies! Underwear is small and easy to pack so just throw it in and be done with it.

Galley Gossip: Packing Light – Rome, Italy

“Okay,” said the husband, shoving his cell phone into the back pocket of his blue jeans. People, all of them very fashionably dressed, whizzed by us while we stood on the cobblestone street outside a large glass window displaying freshly baked pizza. We had just exited the train station in Rome and were looking for our hotel, The Gregoriana. “The guy said to walk up the Spanish Steps, turn right, and the hotel is at the end of the block.”

“At least we’re close,” I said, eyeing a slice of pizza. It looked amazing. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one.

Sighing, the husband grabbed his black rolling bag, slung a backpack over his shoulder, and said. “So…any idea how many steps there are?”

“A lot,” I said with a laugh. Though I did not know the exact amount of steps (I do now), I had an idea there would be more than we’d like.

We turned a corner, walked a good ten feet, all the while taking in the history and beauty that surrounded us, and five seconds later found ourselves standing at the foot of the steps. “Oh. My. God,” said the husband.

“Good thing we packed light,” I said, and meant it, because we had, in fact, packed light, very very light for a ten day trip to Italy. And then I laughed, because all I could do was laugh, as I took in ALL THOSE steps, as well as all those people sitting on the steps. There were well over a hundred – People and steps! I’m not sure which frightened me more -the people or the steps!

One thing a flight attendant knows how to do is pack light. We do it every day. My secret to packing light, wearing only black, white, and brown, along with a couple colorful accessories. That way everything goes with everything else, creating several mix and match outfits from just a couple basic pieces. Of course, the other secret is to roll your clothes, not fold.

“Roll them military style,” advised Dee, a flight attendant I worked with from Dallas to La Guardia a few months ago after I told her I was going to Italy for ten days and would only be taking along my flight bag. “You can get more in the bag that way.”

I’m not sure what she meant by military style, but I figured it had something to do with rolling my clothes tight, really tight, which is exactly what I did, getting way more than I anticipated into my crew bag.

“You are not going to need all that,” said the husband, as he watched me on the floor from the bed.

“You don’t know that,” I said, as I proudly zipped up my bag – one bag. And a tote.

That was not the first time I had uttered that particular phrase, “Good thing we packed light.” Nor would it be the last. The first time I said it was in Venice. We had just arrived at our hotel in Cannaregio after walking the winding cobblestone streets for a good twenty minutes, going over bridges and across canals and through narrow alleyways, too many times to count, making our way from San Marco Plaza to Cannaregio, also known as the Jewish Ghetto. The last time I had mumbled that one particular phrase had been that very morning as we lugged our bags up the steep flight of stairs on-board the Eurostar train that would take us from Naples to Rome, after having visited Positano for a couple days, which is now one of my top five favorite places to go in the world. I do hope to make it back soon.

“Give me your bag,” ordered the husband, his eye on the prize as he wiped the sweat from his brow. We were still standing at the bottom of the Spanish Steps.

“I’ve got it!” I said, grabbing the black plastic handle of my Travelpro bag a little tighter, because I did, indeed, have it. Though at that moment I must admit that I kind of wished I did not have it, even though all I had was just a rollaboard and a small tote bag. But since I was the one who had packed it (okay fine, over-packed it!) I’d been prepared to carry it. That was only the fair thing to do.

“Give it to me!” demanded the husband, who had become, upon arriving in Italy eight days prior, very macho in the bag carrying department. Before I could resist he grabbed my bag, and with a rollaboard in each hand and a backpack over his shoulder, he began his long journey to the top of the stairs.

Behind him I followed, huffing and puffing the entire way up as I carried that one little tote-bag, which, as I took each step, began to feel not so little, along with a beautiful black leather briefcase the husband had found in a quaint little shop under a bridge in Amalfi. Together we zigzagged between all those tourists sitting on all those steps. For sure there were well over one hundred steps. I never thought we were going to make it to the top.

Finally, we dropped our bags and took a break, looking down from where we had just come, before continuing on to the hotel which was just a short block away. I’ll never forget the look on my husband’s sweaty face when the desk clerk greeted us with a curt glance and said, as his fingers typed away on a keyboard, “I forgot to tell you, there’s an elevator in the train station.”

Forgot to tell us? Yeah right.

Nor will I forget the sight of my husband as he stood, panting for air, behind a junky souvenir cart at the top of the Spanish Steps trying to catch his breath. For a good ten minutes. Maybe longer. Or course I took a picture. I’d love to share it with you, but he’d probably kill me, so you’ll just have to settle for these….

(Been to Rome? Share your favorite places to go and things to do here by posting a comment below)


Galley Gossip: Flight Attendants Walk off the Plane

“Why in the world did you bid that!” I asked my mother, who is also a flight attendant (yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a freak show over here), when she told me about her nightmare trip from New York to Miami. “I haven’t worked that route in years.”

The New York to Miami flight is by far one of the worst trips to work if you’re a flight attendant, which is why, I imagine, when it comes to seniority, it tends to go a little junior.

“It looked good on paper,” my mother said, who is not all that junior, even though she is junior to me. And then she went on to tell me all about the irate passenger who freaked out when she, my mother, also a flight attendant, asked the passenger to put her very large purse (not that size matters) in the overhead bin, a purse that was lying on the floor in the bulkhead row, the same bulkhead row the flight attendant making the announcement kept referring to in her PA, the one that distinctly states carry-on items may not block aisles or exits and may not be placed on the floor at the first row of each cabin.

“You’ve got to stop working those flights!” I said, interrupting yet another story about another irate passenger. How many were there you ask? I lost count. I was too stressed out just listening to her talk to pay attention.

Really, I do not know what it is about that particular route that makes it so unenjoyable to work, but the New York – Miami crowd is tough, which is why I stopped working that flight as soon as I had enough seniority to hold something else, something better, something good, something flying west like San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, or San Francisco – simply put, something with a lot less drama. I take pride in being nice and polite to my passengers. I actually enjoy providing a good service. But that’s not always so easy to do from New York to Miami. Trust me, those flights can get ugly – very very ugly! And since I don’t do ugly, not anymore, it’s off to another destination for me.

Hey, just being honest here. That’s all

With that said, imagine how unsurprised I was to hear about the New York – Miami flight on Sunday night where the crew refused to work the flight due to the hostile environment. Apparently the crew was late to the gate. No where does it mention WHY the crew was late, but they could have been late for several reasons, like a late inbound flight they were working, or perhaps the original crew went illegal and this crew was called out at the last minute, who knows, but whatever the reason, they arrived on the scene over an hour late and passengers booed and things just got ugly.

Trust me, it takes a lot to make the crew walk off an airplane. I’ve never seen in it 13 years. Flight attendants, for the most part, are pleasers, which means they would never do anything that would put their job in jeopardy (like walking off a flight), so that hostile environment must have been pretty darn bad, much more hostile than you and I could ever imagine. And so they walked.

Of course I can’t help but wonder how far those flight attendants walked? Did they just walk off the airplane and go to flight operations or did they actually go all the way home? And more importantly, did they ever come back?

Honestly, if this were any other flight going to any other destination, I wouldn’t believe what I was reading either. But this was a New York – Miami flight, therefore I believe, I truly believe that things got so bad the flight attendants broke down and disappeared. Something tells me you might actually see those flight attendants still walking, walking in a daze down the side of the road, a rag tag bunch wearing navy blue polyester and pulling their Travelpros behind them. Poor things. So if you happen to see a worn out group of four or five dressed in blue, show the love and honk your horn!


And while you’re at it, go ahead and show the love to all of your flight attendants! And we’ll show the love right back. Happy travels to all and to all a good flight.