Pack light, even if you aren't restricted by a small airplane.

Pack light, even if you aren't restricted by a small airplane.

You’ve done it! You have decided to finalize your travel arrangements, confirm your flights, and start charging your credit card. You are likely spending thousands of dollars in hopes that you will achieve some advanced state of relaxation, experience a new thrill and adventure, or be captivated by the beauty and wonder of your destination. Why risk those hopes and dreams with poor luggage?

One of the biggest mistakes travelers can make is not investing in the right luggage. Notice I didn’t say “good” luggage, there is plenty of that, but rather the luggage that best fits you and your destination. This is a key distinction, and the reason why you can’t simply pull out that duffel bag in the back of your closet, pack it up to 50 lbs., and hope it fits in the overhead compartment. You will end up with an injured back sitting in your small economy seat sticky with sweat for the next few hours of your international flight. Wait, it gets worse. Once you arrive, you have to haul all of your belongings what feels like a marathon’s distance to get to public transportation systems that aren’t made to fit luggage of that size, followed by trudging through the picturesque village you will now be cursing because its “roads” are uneven, slippery cobblestone that prevent your roller bags from rolling, yet easily roll your ankles. Trust me, I am not exaggerating.

Three things you can do to ensure your travel doesn’t get off to a bad start due to taking the wrong luggage:

1)   Pack light, and do laundry

None of your friends or family will realize you’re wearing the same pair of pants in all of your travel pictures, so why bring more than that? And no, you don’t need that extra pair of shoes, they aren’t comfortable for walking all day over cobblestone anyway. If you only follow one of these tips, follow this one. You will thank yourself countless times during your trip that you did.

2)   Pick the right luggage

A good way to force yourself to pack light is by purchasing smaller luggage. Unless I’m traveling for business, I always prefer a backpack. It is infinitely easier to navigate towns and villages that weren’t designed for large, rolling suitcases (which is most everywhere in the world except for the United States). There are a lot of good options on the market, but just to name a few that I’ve used and found to be the right fit for me (full disclosure – I am not getting paid to mention these. I have simply used them and like them).

For long weekends:

This bag has been with me more places than I can recall, and is simply very well thought out in its design and organization. It is designed with protected compartments for all of my devices, with room for an extra pair of shoes and another set of clothes. The best feature: it can fit all of those items and then compress down to fit underneath the airplane seat in front of you!

Longer than a few days:

If you need a little more space for those longer trips, the Osprey Farpoint has it, along with a zip off day pack that allows you to carry everything on your back when you need to, but gives you the flexibility to carry a smaller backpack when you don’t. There are a lot of packs that do this, and the Osprey is simply the one I’ve used. Do your research and find one that fits you best, and make sure you consider the size and whether or not it can technically fit in an overhead compartment. I believe the Osprey technically cannot, but haven’t actually been prevented from doing so as you can use its built-in compression straps as needed.

3)   always bring a black pen. Always.

I have made the mistake more than once where I neglect to bring a black pen. Not only do you want to have one for journaling to remember your experiences, but more importantly you will absolutely need one to complete customs and immigration forms upon arrival and departure of your destination. You do not want to be that clueless traveler asking sheepishly for a pen as everyone else passes you in line because they came prepared.