Pack Light Pack Right Stay Safe

Last updated on April 30th, 2021

The only time I take a chance on a checked bag is when I absolutely have to

by Evelyn Hannon, Founder, JourneyWoman

With more and more airlines charging for baggage handling, ‘Packing Light’ has become a hot topic.

This month I received a call from CBC radio asking me to chat on-air about packing light.

‘CBCInfoRadio 89.3 FM announced on Twitter — WestJet will charge $25 for checked luggage. But don’t worry! Next, @Journeywoman tells us how to beat the fee & pack light.’

I began by telling the audience that I’ve been travelling the world solo for over 30 years. My tips are based on my own experiences and, of course, the tips that are sent into Journeywoman.com from women all over the world who read our newsletter.

After the distress of the airlines losing two of my bags in the last two years, I now try to travel with only a regulation-size carry-on. Believe me, the hassle of arriving somewhere without your personal clothing as well as the hassle of getting the insurance to pay for your loss just isn’t worth checking bags (whether there is a fee or not.)

Now, the only time I take a chance on a checked bag is when I absolutely have to. For instance, trips to the Arctic or Antarctic require heavy expedition clothing that just don’t fit a mini bag. That’s the time for a large bag that requires much extra lugging.

The 10 facts that guide my decision…

1. I don’t need to be a fashion plate. Ideally, we travel to observe not to be observed.

2. Especially as a woman who travels solo, plainclothes in plain styles allow me to fly under the radar and not stand out in a crowd. Social deviants and criminals are attracted to ‘glitter.’

3. I know the feeling of fumbling with a purse and backpack, trying to pull a large bag along the uneven cobbled streets of Europe.

4. Ditto, I know the feeling of shlepping a heavy suitcase up and down the stairs of subways and guest houses.

5. I understand how quickly passengers must climb unto a waiting train while trying to gracefully bring the heavy suitcase on board as well.

6. For safety’s sake, I want to always have one hand free and be able to move quickly and easily. I learned this when a group of street urchins in Florence surrounded me trying to get at my belongings. I shouted and used that empty hand to swat them away. They quickly disappeared and I didn’t lose a thing.

7. I know that as long as you are clean and dressed modestly you can fit in anywhere. You don’t need countless changes.

8. If you are on a multi-city itinerary you can rest assured that one city doesn’t wire ahead to the next to describe what you wore. You don’t need a different outfit for each event you attend.

9. Pack light and you will have room in your suitcase to bring back a few small souvenirs.

10. Pack light and you won’t need to spend a fortune on taxis from the airport. You will be able to use public transport. Bonus tip: See www.ihatetaxis.com

BONUS: Pack carry-on luggage and save on baggage fees that will otherwise probably pay for five glasses of red wine in Paris or five cups of coffee elsewhere in the world.

Going to a concert in Amsterdam

I was lucky enough to receive a last minute ticket to hear the Royal Concertgeboaw Orchestra in Amsterdam. I wore a black turtle neck sweater with plain black pants. To dress it up I wore a shawl with big red roses on it and I put a glittery bobby pin in my hair. I was appropriately dressed and fit right in and those clothes minus the shawl were perfect for a walking tour the next day.

(Evelyn Hannon, Editor, Journeywoman.com)

12 packing tips…

1. Pack in two basic colours. I favour black and gray and I include one white wash-and-wear shirt to brighten things up.

2. I bring the clothes that I am most comfortable in. (1) a skirt, (2) a pair of pants, (3) a nice pair of jeans (4) tights (5) add appropriate tops (one a bit dressier if you feel you are going to need it for evenings out).

3. Go to the Dollar Store and pick up two plastic rain ponchos that fold down to nothing. Keep them in your purse along with a small lightweight umbrella, just in case.

4. Include three scarves that can accessorize any of your outfits but are also designed to keep you warm if the weather warrants it. Make one a bit sparkly for when you need a wardrobe pick-me-up.

5. Take along inexpensive jewelry. Never take anything you are afraid to lose. Both scarves, baubles and bangles will help you be a creative and stylish traveller. Besides, you can probably pick up some ‘fun’ necklaces or earrings as you travel.

6. Never take anyone thing that can only be worn one way. That’s a perfect waste of space.

7. Add a lightweight pair of silk long johns to wear under anything if you need an extra layer to keep you warm.

8. Pack drip-dry underwear that dries overnight. I buy both my long johns and my underwear online at kimallansilk.com.

9. I wear my heaviest pair of shoes/boots (usually a walking shoe) on the plane and I pack one other pair that suits everything in my travel wardrobe.

10. I wear on to the plane my heavy sweater or sweatshirt that takes up a lot of room in a suitcase. It acts as my blanket or pillow during the flight.

11. Hotel rooms are usually highly air-conditioned so I pack a long-sleeved heavy cotton nightgown that doubles as my bathrobe.

12. Once you get these essentials into your bag you can gauge how much extra room you have and then fill in with the other things you need or want.

BONUS! Backpacks – a female invention?

We're so smart!

..The backpack is probably the most practical piece of luggage ever invented by man. Or more likely woman, who probably devised the first one to lug babies around in. Consider the advantages of a backpack:

It leaves your hands free so you can fumble around for your tickets and passport more easily.
It usually has neat little pockets that are ideal for hiding dirty socks.
It can often pass the carry-on-luggage test at airports.
And you don’t have to put it down on wet dirty floors whenever (and however) nature calls

(Source: Paul Waters, Travel Editor, Montreal Gazette, May 1998)

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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