May 26, 2008

Traveling Light

You take for granted that you can check at least one bag when you fly on an airplane, but that is about to change, starting with American Airlines. They’ll be charging a $15 baggage fee for most passengers who travel with baggage. And that’s the fee for the first bag. As of two months ago, a second bag will set you back $25 on any major airline.

The airlines have little choice. Jet fuel costs more than gasoline, and airlines have to get something for the fuel costs of carrying baggage. By 2010, I have to imagine, most airlines will be charging according to the weight of your checked baggage. Now is a good time to learn how to travel light.

Many people already know how. Just ask my friend and colleague, economics journalist Suzanne Garland. “The change doesn’t really affect me,” she told me. “I have a suitcase, but I hardly ever take it with me.”

One key, Suzanne said, is knowing what will be there already at your destination. If your hotel room will have an iron, you can take clothes that might need ironing. That makes it easy to take low-bulk clothing that doesn’t take a lot of space in your bag. If the hotel provides shampoo and toothpaste, you don’t need to take that along with you.

When you’re traveling around, you don’t need as much clothing. The usual rule of wearing something different every day doesn’t apply if you’re going somewhere different every day.

Traveling without a suitcase, you’re less likely to go shopping or collect souvenirs. After you get to the airport for the flight home, you can go through your carry-on bag and throw away maps, notes, and other things you picked up along the way that you won’t be needing at home.

Baggage is not the only way to get your things from place to place. Especially when you’re heading home, you can mail a box of things to yourself. Now that airlines will be charging for the cost of baggage, it could cost less to mail your dirty clothes home than to take them on the plane. And you have a smaller chance of losing things in the mails than in an airline’s baggage handling.

What do you do to travel light? What keeps you from traveling light? Add your comments by clicking the Comments link below.


Anonymous said...

As long as my company keeps sending me to meetings where I have to wear a suit, I'm going to have a checked bag -- there's no way around it. And that's the only way I fly anymore. I used to fly on vacations, but the way the airlines work now, forget it! IF you have to go to an airport that's not really a vacation, is it?

Anonymous said...

Another recent view of traveling light, with a special emphasis on Europe:

Traveling Light: Literally

Anonymous said...

I travel very light. I only take basic things. However when it comes to cluster I have so much to look into at home. It keeps coming back.