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Travelling Light!!!

In 1961, British Pop idol, Cliff Richard and The Shadows had a big hit with a song Travelin' Light - how good were the 60's!!! But I digress, and this blog and the song words have only vague contextual connection.

In my corporate life I travelled a lot - and I mean a lot! And whilst many of my friends thought I lead a glamorous "frequent-flyer" life, I have to admit that the many weeks away from my dear wife and children, in and out of airports, limos and hotels with monotonous regularity, often dining alone at both breakfast and dinner and living alone in hotel rooms, were far from enjoyable, let alone glamorous! It is true I got to see many fabulous places around the world - I've been to places many would only dream of ever seeing - but regrettably, I got to share precious little of these with She. She was able to accompany me to some destinations such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, London, Gleneagles ( in Scotland), Switzerland and San Francisco and these were very special business trips indeed. But many more are most certainly on my list of "must go back to" places with She in retirement and pleasingly we have already been able to cross off some from that list - Hong Kong and New York - and hopefully others will follow.

But the worst aspect of all that corporate travel was the packing process that had to occur before each and every trip. Because I often travelled at night or on weekends to make the most of my working week, I quickly learned the secret of "travelling light" in order to escape airports quickly upon arrival and to check out of hotels without the need for porters to assist. To achieve a light pack - I had found a wonderful double-fold, suit- carrier style, carry-on bag in which I could hang my suits, shirts and ties on hangers, making upacking straight into hotel wardrobes on arrival very easy, and it had special compartments for shoes, "smalls," toiletries etc - I would have to envisage my week or two ahead and plan the number of changes required between hotel laundry orders. Small detail I know, but if I were checking out of a hotel at 5.30pm for an 8pm flight to another continent, I could not risk having several shirts not back from the hotel laundry. So you can imagine how tedious this whole exercise was, especially if I were upto trip #12 in a year - I never became violent but She tells me now, it was far from pleasant to witness!! It always put me in an extremely bad mood!! Decisions, decisions - what to take, not to take - only two suits max,3 or 4 shirts and ties - a very restricted wardrobe indeed, only ever slightly compromised when liesure weekends featured in the itinerary.

So you would think that this strict regimen over many years would place me in excellent stead for my liesure travel in retirement. IT HASN'T - I HATED IT THEN AND I STILL HATE the whole packing process. And we certainly DO NOT travel light - we perhaps err on taking too much but we love to have options - will it be hot, but what if it's cold? We like to dress for dinner - and our choice of cruise lines have regular formal dining nights which we love - so to add to the mix, I dutifully pack my tuxedo, dress shirt, shoes, black tie and cummerbund!!

You've got to be joking, I hear you say - IT'S TRUE!

Now the great thing about cruising is there are absolutely no baggage weight restrictions - a shipping line once told us they did not really care how heavy our baggage was!!. But therein lies the trap - it's the connecting flights before and after the cruise that impose the rather rigorous weight restrictions - so if you are traveling by plane to meet the ship or flying home after disembarking, then you need to be VERY AWARE of your airline regulations regarding luggage. Usually, these restrictions become tougher if you are flying economy rather than business or first class but are slightly less restrictive if you are flying internationally (usually a bigger aircraft) than domestically. So the real trick is to do cruises which depart and return to your local port and we are often scrutinising cruise brochures intently for opportunities to do cruises which are "round trip Sydney". Sadly whilst there are some, it is rather limiting in terms of what is beckoning elsewhere in the world.

But recently, when packing to fly to Europe to meet our cruise, we actually weighed our rather large (but empty) suitcases on our bathroom scales - to our suprise they weighed a massive 7kg each EMPTY. So much for airline allowance of 21, 23, 25kgs - the first 7 you don't even get to wear! So now we are seriously contemplating ditching our trusty bags for new polycarbonate lightweight bags with some now weighing as little as 2.2kg!

I have mates who even in their mid to late 60s will gladly travel to the other side of the world with only shorts, beach shoes and a spray-jacket and good-on-them! But that's not like me - I like comfort and I like choice - for some, traveling light is fine but for me I think the lighter suitcase is a good solution, allowing me to take more (remember, I travelled extra light in my corporate years) but still remain within the airline limits.

My only other considerations in determining the weight and volume of our luggage are:

  • can I lift them easily? - whilst the bags these days all have wheel and extendable handle systems for easy manoeuvring, they often need to be lifted into cabs, buses, trains etc during the trip;

  • will they fit easily into a cab? - there is simply nothing more embarrassing - and in some countries the cabs are small 4 cylinder vehicles with almost no boot (trunk) space.

So my parting advice on this subject are:

  • Do what you are more comfortable with - travel light if that is your preference or take more (enough) to give you choices and sense of occasion along the way?

  • Always be well informed on the airline weight (and number of luggage pieces per person) restrictions for your flights, pertinent to your particular class of travel

  • Be mindful of your ability to manage the weight and volume of your luggage whilst travelling - we watched people literally fight with their luggage across cobbled streets in Venice - not a pretty sight!!


...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE!

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