Quick Tip

There are a few weekends that are pretty much guaranteed to be busy travel weekends – Easter, Thanksgiving, etc.  And for these weekend trips, almost everyone has a suitcase carry-on for the (limited) overhead space.  Personally, I hate checking my baggage as well.  There’s always the chance something gets broken, you have to wait at baggage claim vs. being able to walk out of the airport immediately – all sorts of stuff like that.

So it’s best to keep your luggage with you if you can, but when everyone has a bag to put in the overhead, you run the risk of being one of the few who have to check your luggage.

So here’s the quick tip: Check in early online 24 hours prior (that one is obvious).  But more than that – if you know that the flight will probably be full and you have a carry-on that you want to bring with you, choose a seat in somewhere the middle of the plane.  That way you’re guaranteed to have some overhead room, even if it’s a few rows in front of your actual seat.  I normally like seats up front so that you can get off the plane quicker, but in the case of busy weekends, I’ll wait a little longer to get off the plane with my bag over waiting a lot longer at the baggage claim.

Trials and tribulations of lost luggage

Accepting that one might lose their luggage is an inherent risk that all travelers face.  Although it has rarely happened to me domestically, when it does the bags usually follow me on another flight and I’m able to get them later that day.  Flying internationally though is a different story.  Going somewhere abroad usually involves transfers, and when you have a layover, that’s the most likely time your bag ends up sitting on a tarmac somewhere.

The first rule of packing to try to follow is don’t pack anything that you’ll regret losing.  I know, sometimes it’s unavoidable.  You don’t want to have to go to Vegas hoping to get into the nightclubs looking like a scrub.  And sure, the reason why you bought that new bathing suit was so that you could wear it on the beach in the Bahamas.  But if you can avoid packing that dress shirt that fits you perfectly or that necklace that you got from grandma, then do it and keep them at home.

If you’re going abroad for a long trip, always, ALWAYS pack in your carry-on a spare shirt, pair of underwear, pair of socks and toothbrush/toothpaste.  It may seem simple and obvious, but its something that I had often failed to do and it bit me in the ass.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been stuck in another country, while my bags are 500 miles away.  Yes, I’m referring to you Alitalia – twice.  If you fly Alitalia, know that there’s an 80% chance they’ll lose your bags.  Go to any Alitalia lost luggage desk in any airport in the world and I guarantee you’ll see at least 15 people in line.  And its not just me saying this.  When my family finally received our bags back from one of our trips, our cab driver in Boston said “It’s always the Italians losing peoples stuff.  You’d think they were giving away free pizza with the amount of people at that [Alitalia] desk

So, back to the topic at hand.  You don’t want to end up like me, wandering around Prague in the height of winter with only the pair of underwear, pants, and socks you’re wearing, and a “Prague, Czech Me Out” t-shirt.  (Yes, I thought it would be funny to wear on the plane on the way there since it was a Xmas gift, and no, the locals didn’t find the American wandering around their city for 2 days in that shirt amusing.)  I know you’re thinking “he could have bought a new set of clothes while he was there.”  But in my opinion, why waste the money if you can be prepared.  You save a few bucks, and avoid the stress of having to have to find clothes when you should be enjoying the sights.

As a side tip:  If you don’t own a pair of those pants with the zipper on the knees, go buy a pair.  Though they can be on the pricey side, if you travel a lot the investment will be worth it.  Say you’re on a plane, and the air isn’t working well or you’re in a holding pattern on the runway waiting to take off, with the sun beaming through your window.  You’ll be happy that you can unzip the bottoms of your pants instead of being stuck with only a pair of hot, sticky jeans on.  Also, another advantage is if you’re traveling from a place like Wisconsin to maybe Mexico for the holiday, the beauty of being able to change up from pants to shorts once you land at a moments notice is really nice.