My Mother and Father were planning a visit to Japan, with my Aunt. They were flying into Obihiro, in the middle of Hokkaido which is in the north of Japan and the city where I was living at the time. From there we were all travelling together by train back down to Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto, via Sapporo and Hakodate.
I advised that they bring one small suitcase each and a day pack, this would make us all mobile. Aunty Jenny listened and bought excellently matching luggage. My mother and father did what they always do and shared a giant suitcase, each carrying a smaller bag. It drives me nuts, and the fact that it drives me nuts provides entertainment for the rest of the family.
So this is for you Mum & Dad, this is the science behind my excellent theories about luggage.
Lesson 1. It depends on where you are staying when you get there.
Notes for Lesson 1:
For staying at a hotel or resort, travel with a suitcase. Hard shell offers protection for your valuables, clothes lie relatively flat, and you can pack a lot in! Carry-on is good but you can’t have all your essentials, including your multiple daily changes of clothes. Backpack and duffle bag – well you sort of arrive looking like Indiana Jones but I wouldn’t rule it out on those grounds.
Lesson 2. It depends on how you are travelling.
So anyway, we were in Sendai (a city that later tragically bore the brunt of the tsunami) and we had 15 minutes to transfer from the train from Hakodate to the Shinkansen, Japan’s famous ‘bullet train’. As we pulled into the station I had everyone in the go position ready to sprint across to the next platform. To my eternal shame, I made Aunty Jenny sprint as well even though she was due for a hip replacement three weeks after our trip. Dad struggled bravely on, with the giant suitcase and we made it! Hooray! But it could have been easier ….just sayin’. Noone listens anyway.
Oh, and wheels! Must have wheels. Backpacks and plastic bags are marked down because they don’t have wheels.
Lesson 3. Quality vs cost.
Pay the maximum that you can afford because this is not something that you are only going to use once. But having said that, substance is important over style. If you pay a lot for designer luggage that falls to pieces after the first knock it is not what you are looking for.
Lesson 4. Where do you live?
How much space do you have to store luggage that is not being used? Can you buy luggage specific for each occasion and put it in your immense storage space at home or do you need to find something that will best suit maximum occasions?
Lesson 5. Must have wheels.
Did I mention that?
Lesson 6. Can you lift it?
The first backpack that I owned was quite deep so that when it was full I looked a bit like a turtle, hunched over to offset the weight of the thing.
Lesson 7. It depends on what you will be doing when you get there.
Notes on Lesson 7
If the destination is a resort, then the more luggage you take the better. Maximum changes of clothes. If travelling for corporate work, then carry-on is the way to go – quicker to the office when you get there and far more convenient at airports. More than one destination = complications. Ideally if you have a stopover you can check luggage all the way through and have a change of clothes in your carry on. Recently I did some road trips and it meant being very comfortable with the weight and the mobility of the main bag, and actually packing a change of underwear and a Tshirt in a zip lock bag and carrying this in a day pack in case my main luggage and I got separated. Worked a treat.
Lesson 8. How important is security?
Travelling through South America in the bad old days one of the recommendations (that I never followed) was to put chicken wire on the inside of your backpack so that the bag couldn’t be slashed. Travelling by train in Mongolia and Russia in the early ‘90’s it was advised that you wrap sheets around the handles on the inside of the sleeper door (just locking it would not secure the cabin against the staff), and to chain your luggage to the bed. All interesting ideas and highlights the issue of the security of luggage. What about baggage handlers at airports?
Lesson 9. Demographics
Mainly about kids, but also see notes on parents above. Separate suitcases if you need to be mobile!
Lesson 10 – Separate compartments inside the luggage
Give some thought to separate space for liquids, and separate space for discretion when opening luggage in public.
Lesson 11. Personal preference.
Last but not least! Colour? Brand? Design features & enhancements. Remember – you’ll have to live with it for a few years.
The unsolvable problem is navigating the Paris Metro with heavy luggage. A lot of the stops don’t have escalators or lifts, you are likely to have more than carry-on because you want to look good in Paris and you will most likely be travelling to more than one place after Paris. Something has got to give and it will probably be your body as you carry your suitcase up and down, and up and down … up and down ….