Pauper Travel

A blog dedicated to ultra-cheap travel. Based on my book "Travel Cheap-Travel Well!- Confessions Of A Travleing Pauper. You can learn how a Pauper travels like a King---all the time!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Don't Over Pack!


I've seen people going on a ONE WEEK bus tour to Holland and here's what they carry into the check-in line at the airport: a large hardside suitcase on wheels, probably 40-50 pounds, a backpack stuffed to it's fullest extent, say another 25 pounds, and then some kind of cosmetic case, hand bag or carry-all, let's say another 10 pounds. All this for a bus tour of one week's duration in Holland, one of the most modern of European countries!

I'll have a backpack, 20-25 pounds max, and the clothes on my back and I'm set for THREE WEEKS. I'll be first out of the airport, first ready to go in the morning. Porters look at me with disdain and look for fatter fish to cheat out of a large tip. Con artists figure I'm too cheap to bother with. In fact, most of the time I don't look like a tourist at all and that makes for those serendipitous meetings with the locals that can make the whole trip! After you've tried travelling light once, you'll never go back.

I like this line I read once (I think it was in one of Rick Steeve's excellent tour guides): You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.

When you travel, make a decision before you start; lay out on your bed or on the floor what you think you'll need, then leave at least half of it behind. And then go through the remainder and chuck most of it aside.

Your motto for happy travel should be: Pack light and pack smart.

Most of my travel has been to Europe, some guided tours, most not, so what I'm going to say applies to European destinations. But I can guarantee you that if I was leaving tomorrow for Australia, Thailand, or Hong Kong just to travel around, see the sights, meet people, I'd still have my 25lb backpack, and that's all. We're not talking business travel here, or deluxe tours. If you can afford a deluxe tour, or you're traveling on the company's dime, then I guess you can afford to pay for all the extra luggage, porters, etc.

First off, if you don't already have one, get a 9" x 22" x 14" carry-on-size bag. I favor the new backpacks this size with the two wheels fitted into the bottom with an extension type handle so it can be pulled along. Even though I'm a reasonably fit 56 years, there's times when I don't feel like carrying 25 pounds around on my back for extended periods. Even on bus tours, you would be surprised at how much walking you may be doing towing and/or toting your luggage along with you. Some cities there may be no parking available at the hotel where the tour has you booked into. Your bus will pull into a parking lot four-five blocks away and then the tour guide will gaily chat you up along the way, hoping to distract you from the distance you have to schlep to the hotel.

Here's a good hint. Pack your luggage, then go for a half-hour walk. Pretend you're walking along the Champs Elysees in Paris on a hot summer afternoon and practice being a tourist. How does it feel? Fully loaded with everything you intend to take, would you enjoy window shopping, shepherding your luggage while you stop for "un 'tit blanc" at that quaint café, battling your way across an intersection between dueling Deux Chevaux? If not then rethink your packing and get rid of the excess.

Since 9/11, travel of any kind has become something of a hassle, if you don't or aren't willing to adapt to the new conditions. One of the many benefits of my backpack is I usually get waved through at the customs, while other seniors with suitcases, etc., will get the examination. Another benefit of travelling light is the avoidance of the baggage carousels, porters (again with the porters - I distrust them instinctively), and guess which prospective passenger the taxi driver is going to pick up first, me with my single little pack, or that guy that looks like he's packed for a month's safari.

I hope I've convinced you to at least try traveling light.

Meanwhile remember our motto. Pack light and Pack smart!

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