Four wheels that changed my approach to packing

In the past, I’d always been a “checked bag, minimum carry on” type of packer. Even in the face of luggage fees. Especially in the face of luggage fees. Living in the US, my biggest travel pet peeve was arguing with airline employees about why it wasn’t fair that I had to put my backpack underneath the plane because the first 100 passengers had shoved these enormous suitcases into the overhead bins.

In Europe, though, the strategy is different. The budget airlines (RyanAir, EasyJet, and their ilk), have a VERY different approach to carry-on luggage requirements. Oh, there’s the usual fees to check luggage (which are heftier than in the US—it’s not hard for them to exceed the cost of the ticket), but then there are also size and weight restrictions on the carry on. Anything too big, and you’re forced to check—and pay. The same goes for something to heavy. To add insult to this, the allowable size is small—and getting smaller. Some of my American friends even go so far as to say they have carry-on bags in “US” and “European” sizes.

With those kinds of standards, I realised that my packing philosophy needed a serious overhaul if I was going to do any sort of budget travel in Europe.

Here to save the day!

Here to save the day!

Enter this little Antler suitcase. (Here’s a similar one at Amazon.) Picked up from a discount retailer for about ¼ its original price, lightweight, four wheels, and reasonably spacious inside. This thing is like Hermione’s bottomless handbag. It holds everything. A week’s worth of clothes, toiletries, and extra shoes? Done. Books, papers, computer, knitting? No problem.

The thing is, if you’re willing to wash clothes, the difference between packing for a week and packing for 3 weeks is quite small. Thinking in terms of capsule wardrobes, re-wearing a few pieces, and going easy on the toiletries (or buying at your destination) eliminates a lot of weight. If you’ve never tried it, I challenge you: pack for 3 days into your carry-on. Then pack for a week. What’s the difference on your ‘stuff’?

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