Tuesday, May 6, 2014



Back in the good old days before baggage restrictions, I invested in the biggest suitcase Costco had to offer. A huge black monster, it was guaranteed indestructible even if thrown around by a gang of gorillas. The only trouble was the danged thing weighed 15 lbs without a stitch of clothing in it. By the time I stuffed it with half my wardrobe, I couldn't lift it! I literally took my life in my hands just getting it downstairs from my bedroom; the suitcase and I alternately sliding and stumbling until we ended up in a heap at the bottom. And, that was just the beginning of the ordeal--even with rollers, it was hideously heavy to lug around. I speak about that suitcase in the past tense because by now Goodwill has hopefully found it a new home. Now that I’m older and weaker, I realized that time had come to change my ways as far as packing goes.

Another good reason to toss that beefy suitcase (as if not being able to lift it isn't enough) is the baggage charges. If a suitcase weighs over 50 lbs, the charges get obscene! I learned that first hand: The scene is a British Airways ticket counter in London’s Heathrow Airport a couple of years ago. I managed to heave my enormous Gorilla Bag onto the scales and was told it was 3 kilos overweight. The ticket agent looked at me with pity and asked if I could take anything out. “No, that’s OK. I’ll just pay whatever it is.”  For goodness sake, what would I do with 6 lbs of extra stuff after I took it out?  I looked nervously over my shoulder at the humorless mob waiting their turn behind me and asked, “It couldn't cost that much, could it?” To my immense relief, he just shook his head and let me through without charging me. After I got home, I researched the charges on-line and realized just how nice he had been. Those 6 lbs should have cost me $100! (Any bag weighing between 51-70 lbs costs an additional $100, 71-100 lbs is an additional $200!)

I’m going back to England this year and I am determined to take ONE carry-on bag (plus a good size tote). This will take supreme packing skills, but I think I've learned a thing or two over the years.


(Men: you can heed this advice as well!)

1.   PICK A COLOR, ANY COLOR: Decide on a basic color scheme and stick to it. It can be black, brown, gray or navy, whatever you like. All of your basic clothes like slacks, jackets and shoes should be one of these neutral colors. Blouses, shirts or scarves are your opportunity for accent colors, like yellow, turquoise or coral. Color coordinating your wardrobe this way insures that everything goes together and you are guaranteed to turn a few heads! (I’ve chosen navy as my base color, with yellow, lime green, orange and pink as accent colors, and of course, good old white.)

 My mix and match travel wardrobe.

2.     SIMPLE AND TAILORED: Make sure that each item of clothing can be worn with every other item, and that at least a few of your basic items can be dressed up, depending on the occasion. For example: Ladies, a silky blouse or shell can dress up a blazer, slacks or skirt. And don’t forget scarves; they can change or dress up an outfit instantly.  Men, a nice shirt and tie worn with a dark jacket and pants will pass for a suit.

3.   THE LIGHTER THE BETTER: Choose clothing that is light weight and washable. I’m always on the hunt for poly-blend clothes that I can hand wash and will dry quickly. Pure cotton is OK, if you like ironing or wrinkles, plus it’s heaver. (Nearly all my clothes, including my wardrobe staple—a navy blue blazer, can be wadded up, thrown into a suitcase and emerge fairly wrinkle free.)  Good tip: Wear your heavier pieces on the plane, like your blazer or coat and walking shoes.

4.   BUY THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD: Since the object is to take as few clothes as possible you might as well invest in some nice quality pieces. A  well dressed friend of mine has a wardrobe of a miracle fabric called Tencel. It looks expensive, feels like silk, yet wears like army fatigues. Plus, made out of wood pulp, its bio-degradable! My favorite travel wear are from a famous line of travelers clothes, but any label is good as long as the clothes are wrinkle free and fast drying. 

(Pictured is my new carry-on by International Traveller. It weighs just 3.5 pounds! I'm proud to say that I managed quite well in England for three weeks with it and a tote. I felt sorry for people who struggled with their heavy, over-sized bags while I practically sailed through the airports and streets of London!)    
5.  JEWELRY: My advice is to take some cute costume jewelry but leave your expensive stuff at home. However, if you do want to bring a few nice items, there are things you can do: (1) store them in the hotel safe when not wearing them, (2) never take them off (3) or, carry them in a pouch hidden somewhere on your body. Whatever you do, don’t leave them in your hotel room.
6.    KEEP SHOES TO A MINIMUM: Shoes are my downfall. I want a pair for every outfit, but shoes are heavy so I have to leave my vanity at home. Most trips I take require miles of walking that can’t be done with fashionable shoes. I’ve finally given up trying. At my age, I need sturdy lace-up walking shoes that offer comfort as well as support. (I just have to ignore the fact that they look like I’m wearing combat boots.) Wear your good pair of walking shoes on the plane and pack one or two more for casual or dress.

7.   TWO OR THREE PAIRS OF SLACKS OR PANTS ARE PLENTY: You are going to need a lot more tops (shirts and blouses) than pants. Just be sure they pass the wash and wear test. TIP: Unless you can’t live without your jeans, I’d leave them at home. Don’t get me wrong, I love jeans, but for travel they are heavy, too casual, and in my opinion, worthless in the cold. Besides, I think it’s better to dress up than dress down on a trip. You'll get better service for your efforts!

8.    THINK LAYERS: I travel mostly in the spring and fall, so layering is essential. I bring my light-weight pants, but I also bring at least one pair of thermal underwear and leggings for warmth. A thermal top adds warmth without weight or bulk—couple that with a light rain resistant wind breaker (the most fashionable you can find, of course) and you’re ready for any cold, rainy day.

9.  LEAVE MOST TOILETRIES AT HOME: Take only what you absolutely need. For years, I’ve brought my own special shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste etc., etc. but no more! I haven’t been to a hotel that hasn’t provided these items along with a hair dryer, iron and ironing board. In fact, most hotels now have a little “convenience store” in the lobby stocked with everything from snacks to shaving cream.  I’d rather buy whatever I need and leave it there. That way I can avoid the weight, and the inconvenience of stuffing little leaky containers into a quart bag for airport security.

10.  CARRY ANYTHING YOU CAN NOT AFFORD TO LOSE ON THE PLANE WITH YOU: That includes your camera, extra batteries, prescriptions and all of your ID’s—passports, keys, credit cards, cash etc., as well as phone and camera chargers. After I check in, I put my passport and all valuables in a hidden pouch somewhere on my person.  If you check your baggage, carry a change of underwear. When I flew to Italy, the airline lost my luggage and I was very glad I had a few days of clean undies! (**For overseas travel, you must have a Voltage Converter for your electronics. Carry that with you also.)

FINALLY: When thinking about whether or not to bring an item, just ask yourself, “Do I really want to lug this around?” A quick check of your back and bunions will give you your answer!


These days, if you don’t mind how much it costs, you can let UPS or FED EX ship your luggage (check companies for details) and it will be waiting for you at your hotel or home. How nice would THAT be? Again, this takes some preplanning, but worth it for hassle free travel. And, for what airlines are charging in baggage fees these days, it just might make more sense to do it that way.

Other luggage shipping companies:
Sports Express: www.sportsexpress.com
Luggage Express: www.usxpluggageexpress.com
Skycap International: www.skycapinternational.com

 I just heard on the news that Frontier Airlines will now charge for carry-on luggage: $25 if you pay on-line with your reservation, $50 if you wait until you show up at the gate! They did say they lowered their ticket prices by 12%, but still. Shipping those bags may be the way to go in the future.


(**Photo of large suitcase courtesy of Google Images)


  1. This is wonderful advice. I traveled with you on a Collette Tour to Cape Cod and noticed how nice you always looked with your mixing & matching. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  2. I'll preparing for a transAtlantic cruise in September, and this advice is priceless. Thanks, Barbara.

  3. Ok so I’m a total cheapskate and don’t want to spend extra money if it’s not absolutely nessesary. I will be traveling to New York in a week and this will be the first time I have ever been on an air plane. In order to save money, can I wear any clothes that won’t fit into my suitcase onto the plane? Any tips you can give me would be extremely helpful. Thank you so much! I found your article very interesting and helpful!

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