Throw out the Stanley Steamer, please!

Dear Gals,

Crossing oceans is no longer calculated in weeks, but in hours. We know this. Then, why is it when the conveyor begins regurgitating our luggage, the size of the bags looks like we’ve run away from home forever?  These bags could easily stow away two small children.

Toss the big bag.  You may think you need 5 pairs of shoes, 2 sweaters, 2 coats and enough face cream to open your own Este Lauder counter. But, it is so not true.

Let’s begin with Why Not.

Simply, it takes your time and it drains your energy.  Your travel goal is to arrive back home exhausted with a bag full of dirty, smelly clothes in tow.  If there is one thing in that bag that is still in pristine condition, you have failed the baggage exam. If it has only been worn once, you’ve barely made a passing grade.

Let’s talk Time:  monster bags are your master. They take more of your time than a four year old. Never, never, never count on assistance. As Cher would say…it’s all you, babe.  OK, that’s not exactly what she sang, but close enough. That bag is in your constant care for fear it rolls away, gets abducted, falls and hurts itself or just behaves in an unruly manner. Why put up with it when it doesn’t deserve your TLC?  The morning after you lug this behemoth up the stairs of the train station, your back will convince you the error of your ways.

Bag Rule 1:  If it doesn’t fit in the overhead, it doesn’t get to come out and play.

Let’s talk energy:  you are not strong enough. Regardless of time in the gym, you cannot slay the Bag Monster. That cabbie won’t dump it into the trunk for you. Public transportation is insurmountable. The weather won’t cooperate when your slugging down the boulevard. Bottom line…that baby ain’t worth it. By the time you arrive at the hotel, all you want to do is crash. Big Bag, counter-productive.

Bag Rule 2:  If you can’t lift it, toss it.

Bag size:  if it qualifies as an overhead, buy it.

I hear that scream. Yes, there really is enough room in that tinny-tiny space for everything you need.

Packing essentials:

  • 1 pair of walking shoes
  • 2 pair of dark, washable pants (no jeans – I’ll explain in the next post)
  • 2 tops (washable is your friend)
  • 1 wrap or coat (depends on weather)
  • make-up or creams
  • underwear
  • 2 pair of socks
  • curling iron if applicable
  • electronic devices will go in your carry-on (a separate post)

Beware the Christmas Spirit!  Every Christmas around the 22nd of December, I become infected with the Christmas Spirit. This is where I decide I haven’t bought enough kitsch for the family. I run out to the nearest mall and begin passing around my credit cards to my favorite merchant friends like licorice candy. This is a contagious disease and often infects us just before the closing-of-the-bag ceremony. We think: “what if I need those red spiked sling pumps?” And, in the bag they go on top of another sweater, pants, purse…..  Soon the bag won’t close, we find a larger one and we’re a goner.  The monster is ours to raise, feed and educate for the duration of our journey.

The cure is to throw out the Bag Monsters. Donate them to your neighbor’s next garage sale. Put them on the curb. Visit your local Salvation Army. Think of Bag Monsters as Belgium chocolates. Out of reach, no pounds on hips.  If you don’t have it, you don’t pack it.

Pack lite!

Pack Often!

Go Gals!


Filed under Travel: managing luggage

14 responses to “Throw out the Stanley Steamer, please!

  1. skilly2009

    Great advice! I have spent far too many trips wrestling with giant bags full of clothes that I will never even unfold. I think I go into some weird delusional state when I pack. I really think I’m going to wear all of those different shoes and clothing items when I’m packing them.

  2. Skilly, you are so correct about “delusional state”. We build future events in our minds and pack in anticipation of their occurrence. I just returned from 10 days in London and Paris. My only piece of luggage was a small carry-on. My clothes reeked so badly upon my return that next time I either need stronger deodorant or more frequent visits to a laundromat.
    I hope you return to Gad About Gals often to watch the blog grow and develop. Welcome!

  3. bjp

    Great article!

    For my part, the walking shoes generally go on my feet when I’m traveling (which I don’t get to do often enough!), and the space in the luggage is for that one other pair of slip ons for those nicer dinners or whatever. I just about always want to take some sandals – thong type – which can do double duty as house slippers and generally are flat and take up less space than a real pair of shoes. 😉

    • Good idea about the sandals serving a dual purpose. Anytime something can take on multipurpose functions, it’s a good deal. Thank you for your comments. There is a new post every Sunday, so come back often to see what’s new.

  4. John Bradford

    The lack of weight and size makes life so much more enjoyable when traveling. The ease of movement and the reward of NOT having to find a temporary home for a large bag is reward is a grand feeling.

    The same idea with a slightly different twist, instead of a carry on bag, carry your back pack. It offers the same capacity but is more easily carried.

    • Backpacks have another advantage in that your hands are free. Travelers are always having to produce docs, sign things, handle money, move up and down stairs. All these things make it easy to set down a belonging and in the rush, leave it or lose it. Also, thieves watch for opportune moments when activities are distracting us. The more confident you are about what you really need to pack, the more you will appreciate a backpack.
      Every Sunday is a new post. Please visit Gad About Gals often.

  5. Mary Frances

    The informality of today’s traveler makes it a much more enjoyable task—I remember carrying a waist-wallet for the first time about fifteen years ago–it was such a relief to know I had more control of the money I was spending….at least I had it near at hand ! But, I have carried it everywhere on me – in my bra and sewed inside a pouch in my belt, in a money clip, etc.


  6. NinaB

    Wonderful blog. I’ll always keep that packing list for future traveling. Good luck to you!

  7. OK ,ready for a man’s perspective on women’s baggage??Why do we(men) have heart attacks young,die first,and walk around with sore back hunched over.You got it!From carrying his wife’s,girlfriend’s,mother’s ,grandmother’s,and/or daughter’s bags around the world about five times,each.Usually it’s wives,cause arguing over the bags causes at least one divorce.
    Woman,there are cleaner almost everywhere in the world.You’re going to shop everywhere you go,so get a grip on this baggage thing.
    I can’t speak for other men,but I want to have my first heart attack starting my chainsaw,outboard motor,lawnmower or something manly.
    BEWARE,the first time you pack light,he may grab his chest in shock.
    As for backpacks,find someone you don’t like on the plane?Just spin around real quick,it will knock’em out cold.

  8. A.E. Swift

    When we were right out of college and touring with our all-girl band (picture four girls in a Toyota Camry on the road for a month)… we were only allowed a small bag each. Christine, the guitarist, had three or four of these cute little summer dresses made of some synthetic material that didn’t wrinkle. They would literally ball up to the size of a thick pair of socks. She just switched between them. Love you post and your travel tips 🙂

    • LOL! I can just picture four girls in a Camry. Great point about the non-wrinkle material. One of my favorite on-line travel stores is TravelSmith ( for clothing and accessories. You pay a little more for the items, but it’s well worth it. My first purchase at TravelSmith was a white shirt. I would wash it in the hotel sink at night, put it on a hanger and in the morning it looked like I’d spent a fortune having it professionally laundered.

  9. Janie Halderman

    Great info – especially about the replacement theory with clothing! Less is always more, huh…

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