The most luggage I’ve ever hauled was coming back to Japan after a trip to Texas over the holidays. Like an idiot, I had one oversized bag with wheels just about to fall off, a backpack, and a small roller bag. Maybe it was the energy required lifting these three up the stairs in train stations or the stress of the international flight and the consequent domestic travel, but when I finally arrived in Kyoto at 7:00 AM, I was already feeling the start of a fever. Just because I now wouldn’t be caught dead with so many bags at once doesn’t mean we can’t all learn from my mistakes.
1. Take the elevator and escalator when available.
We get it; you’re a big, strong, independent traveler. Suck up your pride and save your energy, especially when you’ll have multiple flights of stairs.
2. Think before you pack.
A pillow… really?
3. Expect no one is able to help you.
Flight attendants aren’t required to lift a 30-kg bag over their heads. Unless you’re in a cast or otherwise disabled, it’s pretty arrogant to guilt someone into helping you with the bag you packed.
4. …but pay a porter if you want.
If you’re staying in a nice hotel or climbing a mountain, it doesn’t hurt your pride or back to pay into the local economy.
5. …or take advantage of a strong friend.
As long as you let her know your expectations prior to traveling, this could work.
6. Everything can be ordered online.
This may not be feasible for a short vacation, but if you’re really in bind, shipping clothing in advance of your trip or planning to order something on Amazon can be a lifesaver.
7. Consider where you’re going.
Will you be in a developed country with smooth streets, or one where it’s impossible to use a roller bag?
8. Even a flight of stairs can ruin your day.
Not so much for the energy expended, but a little exertion in Southeast Asia can leave you sweating for hours and soaked for a long train or bus ride.
9. Use local transport.
Uber, taxis, and tour buses may be able to haul you and your luggage, but they can’t always reach places trics, tuk tuks, and minibuses can.
10. Train to travel.
Runners spend months preparing for a marathon. Are you willing to practice lifting your bags up and down for an hour each day?
11. Book swap.
Some travelers advocate e-readers to reduce luggage weight; I personally just bring one paperback and swap it when I’m finished.
12. Avoid shaving and bathing.
…to an extent, anyway. If there’s one thing we can do when we travel, is avoid the need to shower every day and dry out our skin. Removing shaving cream, aftershave, and soap saves a lot of room in bags.
13. Heavy stuff always goes on the bottom.
Whether you’re hauling a backpack across Europe or a roller bag through China, it’s always prudent to keep your heaviest belongings on the side of the bag closest to the ground.
14. Cleaners can be a lifesaver.
This isn’t always the cheapest option, but if you’re going to be in one place for a while, hand some of your nicer clothes over to a dry cleaners on separate tickets and pick them up at your leisure. Much easier than hauling everything over and back from the laundromat and repacking it.
15. When in doubt, just skip the luggage.
Rolf Potts did it. Nora Dunn did it. Take the no-baggage challenge. My life’s ambition is to land somewhere remote and when being questioned by immigration while I have no bags, I’ll simply reply: “I just came for lunch.”